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Friday, February 19, 2016

7 Blogging Platforms for Teachers Compared and Ranked

Last week I published an updated version of one my popular ed tech tools comparison charts. That chart was about creating multimedia quizzes. This afternoon I updated my chart of seven blogging tools for teachers. The chart is available as a Google Doc or as a PDF embedded below. Unlike some of my other charts, at the bottom of this one I included my ranking of the tools. That ranking is also written below the chart embedded into this post.


1. WordPress.org - If you have the technical accumen or the time to learn it (it’s not that hard), self-hosting a blog that runs on WordPress software will give you the ultimate in control and flexibility. You will be able to create and manage student accounts, have a nearly infinite variety of customizations, and you’ll be able to move your blog from server to server whenever you want to. That said, you will have to pay for hosting (or convince your school to give you server space) and you will be responsible for maintaining security updates and backing-up your blog regularly.

2. Blogger - It’s free and easy to set-up. It can be integrated into your Google Apps for Education account which means that you and your students can use the same usernames and passwords that they use in all other Google tools. You can make your blog private (up to 100 members invited by email). The drawback to it is that a lot of school filters flag it as “social media” and block it on those grounds.

3. Weebly for Education - It’s free to have up to 40 students in your account. You can manage your students’ accounts. You can have students contribute to a group blog and or let them manage their own individual blogs.

4. Edublogs or Kidblog - Both services allow you to manage your students’ accounts. Both require you to pay for a subscription in order to get the features that you really want. Those features include embedding videos and other media from third party sites. Both services are powered by WordPress. I give a slight edge to Edublog because they have proven, outstanding customer support. Edublogs also offers mobile apps while Kidblog does not.

5. SeeSaw.me - SeeSaw was originally launched as a digital portfolio tool. The addition of a blogging component was made in January 2016. The blogging component of SeeSaw allows you to import and display your students’ digital artifacts publicly or privately. There is not much you can do with SeeSaw in terms of customization of layout and color scheme. SeeSaw is free for teachers and students to use, but charges parents for access to see their students’ digital portfolios.

6. WordPress.com - It’s easy to use and is free, but with some serious limitations at the free level. The free version displays advertising on your blog which you cannot control. The free version also doesn’t allow embedding content from many third-party sites.

The Instructional Technology Tool I Recommend in Email More Than Any Other

Every week I receive at least a handful of emails from readers who have watched one of my Practical Ed Tech tutorial videos and wanted to know how I created the video. Often those people want to know how I get the yellow circle to appear around my cursor in my videos. The answer to both questions is, I use Screencast-o-Matic to create my instructional videos.

Screencast-O-Matic is available in a free version and a pro version. The free version allows you to record for up to fifteen minutes at a time (that is plenty of time for most screencasts), publish to YouTube in HD, and save videos to your computer as MP4, AVI, and FLV files. The pro version ($15/year) includes video editing tools, unlimited recording lengths, a script tool, and removal of the Screencast-O-Matic watermark. Both versions of Screencast-O-Matic include a highlighted circle around your cursor so that viewers can easily follow your movements on the screen. A webcam recording option is included in the free and pro versions of Screencast-O-Matic.
Click image for full size. 

Screencast-O-Matic won't work on Chromebooks. I recommend using Screencastify or Snagit for Chrome to create a screencast video on a Chromebook.

On a MacBook you can use QuickTime to create a screencast video.

Applications for Education
Screencast videos can be helpful in delivering instruction on how to use a program on a computer or how to use a website. You can also use screencasting tools to create short flipped lessons by capturing yourself talking over a set of slides that you display on your screen.  

13 Google Forms Tutorial Videos

Last week the new version of Google Forms became the default version in many Google Accounts. But, as many people have pointed out to me, not all Google Accounts have made the transition. This is particularly true in Google Apps for Education accounts. Therefore, I put together a new playlist of Google Forms tutorials that includes videos demonstrating features of the new version of the Google Forms and the older version of Google Forms. By the way, for the time being, you can revert to the older version at any time.

In my new Google Forms tutorials playlist you will find videos demonstrating how to customize both the old and new versions of Google Forms, how to install Add-ons in both versions, and you will find tutorials on some of my favorite Google Forms Add-ons. The new playlist is embedded below.