At Edcamp Fort Worth, I had the pleasure of facilitating the semi-round table discussion on blogging. I felt like I cleared up so many of my own thoughts and that was exciting. However, it was more exciting to hear how others felt that the discussion gave them points and tasks for the upcoming year. I’m splitting this reflection unto several parts in order to give more feedback.
How do you choose a platform?
There are many platforms around for blogging. Choosing a platform for blogging is like choosing your wardrobe. It is all about personal preference. What is easiest for you and more convenient to update? Below are the platforms that we discussed during our session.
I chose to build my personal blog using the wordpress software. It’s called having a self-hosted blog. In order to do this, you need to have hosting, meaning a web space that you pay for to hold the software. Hosting can run anything from $60-$150/year depending on how much space that you purchase and the hosting company that you choose. After building wordpress sites for others, it was important to me that I used a host that included a wordpress auto-install function. There are plenty around that offer hosting. Click here for suggestions from WordPress.
My 2 cents: I would only suggest self-hosting if you are okay with “figuring things out” for yourself. There is support but you’ve got to find it. You will need to be semi-versed on customizing everything from layout to graphics. I started with zero knowledge and have learned by doing it. In addition, you will need to download your own plugins which are what give each WordPress site their own uniqueness and a great deal of functionality.
WordPress.com offers wordpress blogs hosted on its site. It is free to use but does not offer an LMS feel like edublogs, run from the same platform. (See below). You literally just sign up and start blogging. With that said, some have expressed concerns that it was not as intuitive as they liked, even difficult. I did not have this experience but that could be because I am familiar with my own self-hosted option.
Edublogs is customizable platform built on wordpress. It is wordpress for education. There is a “free to try blogging” account but the true value comes from paying the $39.95 for an Educator pro acct which comes with 50 student accounts. What I like about edublogs is that where I have to manage the “back end” of my wordpress self-hosted, the good folks at edublogs handle all of that for me.
For class blogs with students, I am in LOVE with the ease of kidblog.org. It is free and setup is less than 30 seconds. As a former HS teacher, I love kidblog because there is no limitation of student accounts. It is kind of annoying to see limits of 30-50 because typically I had anywhere form 120-160 students. Students can also customize their individual pages. Even with the “kidblog” name, older kids like customization!
Weebly is a free platform that allows teachers to build class websites and blogs in a drag and drop format. With a free acct, teachers can basically build a protected LMS equipped with 40 student accounts. There are additional features like uploading media that can be purchased for $39.95 as well as blocks of additional student accounts at 10 for $10 each. For most teachers, the free account is feasible. There is also an app which enables blogging on the go. It’s a great way for students to create digital portfolios along with their reflective blogs.
I probably should’ve started with Blogger as it is one of the most widely used amongst teachers, especially those with Google Apps because blogger is a google application. This is probably the #1 place that I send teachers new to blogging because you literally just sign up and write. Like the others, there are templates for you to customize. There is zero cost involved unless you choose to do a custom url, which most do not. I actually LOVE this blogger tour because it teaches you about blogging!
Squarespace is a neatly done interface that is NOT free but does allow you the option to try before you buy. This would be more for a personal space and not for student spaces as it does not offer a free option.
Regardless of what you choose as your platform, it needs to be what best suits you. The most important part of blogging is your content. Understanding that one thought is what helped define what and how for me.
Ideas that were NOT a part of the session…
Edbean.com is a collaborative blog for users to add their ideas. You may not want your own personal space but you just want to post ideas as you have them without the commitment of consistency. Edbean may be the place for you. It’s built on wordpress but the content is built on a collective crowd of educators. I have created a space and will post one day soon. I LOVE this idea because it takes the pressure off of “going it alone”.
Postach.io is a platform that enables you to turn your evernote ideas into a blog. Once you connect to evernote, it’s a simple as hitting publish. No additional service or system is required.
My Big Campus is an LMS system like edmodo. Unlike edmodo, it has blogging built in. For MBC schools, student blogs can be protected within the MBC environment or public if enabled by the teacher.