22 February 2014

Blogging Options for Teachers

I offered a challenge to the Web 2.0 Resources course I’m teaching for teachers in my school district – start a blog and reflect on your journey.
Ar least one of them must have been interested, because just a heartbeat after I issued my challenge “homework,” they asked, “Which website would you suggest?”
Touché. I had not considered that question. :)
So, without further ado, here’s my take on leading blogging platforms for teachers who want to share their craft – both successes and failures.
Note: While I enjoy it as a blogging platform, i did not include Tumblr in this list for teachers because we block it on the filters in my district (and i assume thats true for others).
Blogger is (for now) my platform of choice.
  • Integrated with Google, so it plays well with images you may have saved in other Google services, and can track your user stats easily with Google analytic tools.
  • TONS of options for customizing your layout or design, whether you know HTML and CSS or not.
  • mobile user focused layouts available. (You dont want your blog to be a pain for someone to navigate on their phone or smaller tablet
  • One-step sharing to Google+ helps get your post in front of an audience
  • Add widgets to your site with javascript. My Twitter feed is right over there on the right (if you’re reading this on Blogger)
  • It’s a little difficult to find other teachers to follow within Blogger, which would also mean its a little difficult of other teachers to find YOU.
  • How many people “follow” my blog? (Subscribe to it such that when I update they receive an email, or it is fed to them through an RSS feed) I have no idea. This is hard to track in Blogger.
  • The only thing you can do on the iOS app is publish basic text and plug in photos. Not even any embedded HTML, so I really must ALWAYS write from my desktop or macbook.
While Blogger is my main squeeze, I cheat on it with WordPress because my wife uses it and sometimes I get blog tool envy.
  • Reblogging. Did you find another blog post that is inspiring you to add commentary on or write your own on the subject? Reblogging puts that post along with your own text onto your blog. I think it builds community as other teachers share ideas, and it can drive a little more traffic to your own blog.
  • Following other blogs and finding your subscribers. WordPress has a reader built within it, which makes it easier to find other teachers, read other teachers, and find out who else is subscribing to you. This is what I most wish Blogger had.
  • Built-in user stats are more easy to use AND more extensive than Blogger. All or most of the data on the stats page of WordPress is available for Blogger bloggers if you also use Google Analytics, but who wants ONE MORE TOOL to check? I mean, you just added blogging to your list, right? :)
  • AMAZING iOS app
  • Short on HTML and CSS customization. If you use the free version, you’re pretty stuck in the official WordPress templates
  • No custom widgets on the free version. (although there are some official WordPress widgets you can add)
Edublogs has been around since 2005, so they certainly have the most experience with teacher and student blogs, and (in my opinion) have a lot of polish on the product. The platform is built on the bones WordPress publishes for companies, so operationally, it quite similar.
  • COMMUNITY. Edublogs has a tab on their home page that takes you to a page organizing the community of edubloggers according to interest. Whereas I can do a search on WordPress.com and find many relevant teacher blogs to my interest, the Edublogs community page lists TOP blogs in that category. I see value in that because I don’t want to sift through potential junk.
  • Professional development. New to blogging? Take the “Edublogs Teacher Challenge.” It’s like a self-directed online course in blogging.
  • Mobile-friendly. I set up everything on my iPad.
  • COST. Unless you pay $7.95 a month to get a pro account, you might as well have a WordPress.com or Blogger account. The power of Edublogs is in organizing all of your students’ blogs in one place and having control over who sees your posts and their posts, but you have none of that power with a free account.
The favorite thing about Kidblogs is how they market themselves. Essentially its, “Do everything you would on Edublogs, but for free.” There’s a chart on this page spelling all of that out.
  • WordPress platform. Just like Edublogs, its built on WordPress’ product for hosting your own blogs, so the platform is easy to use and manage.
  • TONS of privacy settings. If you’re writing only for your class and your students’ parents, you can completely lockdown privacy by making your blog visible only to individuals who login from that class. The younger your students are, the more important this is, obviously.
  • Have your students blog and reflect with you. (For free this time, as opposed to Edublogs). Set up accounts and blogs for your students and manage their posts, comments, and privacy setttings.
  • There’s an iOS app, but it’s slow to be updated.
  • It’s called KIDblogs. My high schoolers are always super sensitive to being “grown,” so I don’t know how jazzed they would be with sharing their super thoughtful reflection from their Kidblogs account.
  • Just like WordPress, a little short on the customization of the layout and design. That’s a con for me as a teacher that likes that, but it might actually be a positive for kids who are going to spend all of their time on the layout instead of writing.
Whichever tool you choose is up to your needs. Giving each of these an honest assessment, I would feel comfortable using any of them, with a slight reservation with the kidblogs name. I’m a grown man, for crying out loud. :)
If you’re going to write WITH your students, I would strongly suggest Kidblogs, but I would at least peek over at the Edublogs community and professional development pages. I know I will.

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Thanks for sharing!