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Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Choosing a Blogging Platform and Why I Stayed With Blogger

If you're a teacher just beginning to explore the use of technology in the classroom, one of the most useful first steps you can take is to create a blog. Your blog can be used for any number of things including posting assignments for your students and sharing information with parents. Once you've decided that you want to write a blog for classroom use or for your personal use, the next step is to choose a blogging platform. There many good, free, blogging platforms available to teachers. The three most popular blogging platforms I see used by educators are EduBlogs, WordPress, and Blogger. Each platform has it's pros and cons which are outlined below.

Edublogs, as the name implies, is designed with teachers and students in mind. Edublogs currently hosts more than 260,000 blogs. Edublogs offers a wide variety templates, plug-ins for podcasts, and great video tutorials to get you started on the road to blogging. Another benefit of Edublogs, that should be noted if you're district has a strict filtering policy, is that Edublogs have .org urls in addition to the "edu" name. This might be helpful when trying to convince an administrator to unblock a site. The downside to using the Edublogs free platform is Edublogs is advertising is inserted into your blog. Until recently this was not the case. For $40/USD you can have a blog that is advertising free.

WordPress has the most flexibility, templates, extensions, and plug-ins of the three blogging platforms I've listed. If you see yourself developing a large student/ classroom blog the myriad of options available through WordPress are good to have. WordPress.com offers free, reliable hosting for bloggers. WordPress is a very popular platform which means that there are a lot of tutorials and help discussions available on the Internet if you need them. For what it's worth, if I was going to start a new blog like Free Technology for Teachers I would use WordPress.
Update: it was just pointed out to me, by Sue Waters, that another difference between Edublogs and Wordpress is the acceptance of embed codes. I should have mentioned that WordPress.com doesn't always accept embed codes as easily as Edublogs or Blogger. In fact, now that I think about it, on TeacherTube a separate embed code is offered for Wordpress.com blogs.


Blogger is the platform that I use for this blog. Until this fall, I also used Blogger for my classroom blogs (I now use a combination of Edublogs and Drop.io). Blogger is powered by Google so if you have a Google account, starting a blog only takes a minute. Blogger blogs are free and free of advertising unless you choose to insert advertising. The drawback to using Blogger for a classroom blog is that a lot of school filters block Blogger. Blogger has "followers" option which in some school district policies qualifies it as a social network.

When I recently purchased the domain freetech4teachers.com I considered moving all of the Free Technology for Teachers content onto a WordPress blog, but in the end I stayed with Blogger. It was cheap ($10/yr) and easy to buy the domain and have all traffic from freetech4teachers.blogspot.com automatically redirected to freetech4teachers.com. A short video from Blogger explained it and made it simple.