Showing posts with label educational blogs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label educational blogs. Show all posts

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.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School - 81 Page Free PDF

Since 2006 I have used Blogger for many blogging projects including this blog and many classroom blogs. Over the years I've introduced many teachers to blogging through Blogger. Blogger is easy to use and flexible enough to support you when you're ready to start using some advanced blogging strategies. I've covered the basics of Blogger and blogging in various blog posts over the years. This week I finally put all of those posts together with a series of annotated screenshots in one cohesive package, A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School.

A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School covers everything from blogging terminology to blogging activities to the nuts and bolts of using Blogger. You'll learn where to find media to use in blog posts, how to use media in blog posts, and get ideas for media-based blog posts. You'll also learn how to set-up your blog for multiple authors and how to manage comments.

A Complete Guide to Using Blogger In School is embedded below. (The file is hosted on Box.com, if you cannot see the document embedded below make sure that your filter isn't blocking Box.net. You may also need to be using Chrome or a recent version of Firefox, Safari, or IE as outdated browsers may not support the Box viewer).

I'm going to allow downloading the guide for the rest of the month. Downloads should be for personal, non-commercial use. Please do not redistribute it, including for workshops / faculty training, without my permission. I've used Box.net to host the file (81 page pdf). Box does not put advertising on the page while still allowing me to track downloads.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Best of 2013 So Far... A Guide to Mobile Blogging Apps for Students & Teachers

We're half-way through 2013. Like I've done in years past, this week I'll be featuring some of the best new tech tools of 2013 as well as some of the most popular posts of the year.

One of the blogging activities that I often suggest in my workshops is having students record and share on-the-spot observations during field trips. To do this your students should have a mobile blogging application on their iOS and Android devices. If your students don't have iOS or Android devices if they have a mobile device that has a web browser or email client they can post via email to Blogger. Here's a short run-down of mobile blogging options on the blog platforms that I usually recommend to teachers.

Blogger: Google offers mobile apps for Android and for iOS. The apps can be found here http://www.google.com/mobile/blogger/ You can also post to Blogger via email if you have enabled that feature in your Blogger settings. You can find directions for activating post via email here http://www.freetech4teachers.com/2013/02/how-to-post-to-blogger-via-email.html With post via email activated you and your students can blog through any email app that you have installed on your phone or tablet.

WordPress: If you are using either WordPress.com or a self-hosted WordPress blog you can post to it through the free iOS app https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/wordpress/id335703880?mt=8 or through the free Android app https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=org.wordpress.android&hl=en learn more about the Android app in the video below.


EduBlogs: Edublogs currently offers iPhone and iPad apps, but does not offer an Android app. You can find the iOS app here https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/edublogs/id526466328?mt=8

Kidblog: Kidblog doesn’t currently offer their own Android or iOS apps, but you can enable mobile publishing and use the WordPress iOS and Android apps to publish to your Kidblog. You can find directions for enabling mobile publishing on Kidblog here http://support.kidblog.org/entries/21682463-Publishing-via-the-iOS-WordPress-App-for-iPad-iPod-Touch-and-iPhone

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Three Ways to Turn Your Blog Into a Book

The end of the school year is quickly approaching. If your students have been blogging all year one way to show them, their parents, and others how much they've written is to turn the blog into a book. Here are a few methods for turning a blog into a book.


1. If you have a relatively small number of posts (25 or so) you could just copy and paste the text into a Word, Pages, or Google Drive document. Then you can export it as a PDF and or print it.

2. BlogBooker is a free service that allows you to turn your the contents of your Blogger blog into a PDF. Using BlogBooker is a fairly straight-forward process. BlogBooker walks you through each step of the process except for the very first step which might sound a little too "techy" for some Blogger users, but it's actually quite easy. The first step in using BlogBooker is to export the contents of your blog as an XML file. This is actually easy to do in Blogger. Step one is to open the "settings" menu of your Blogger blog. Step two is to select "export blog" under "basic" menu. Step three is to click "download." Don't worry, exporting the contents of your blog will not remove any content from your blog. After you've completed the export process, jump over to BlogBooker and follow their directions for completing the transition from XML file to PDF.

3. Anthologize is a free WordPress plug-in that allows you to take your posts and arrange them into an ebook. Anthologize features a drag and drop interface for arranging the layout of your ebook.  Anthologize will only work for self-hosted blogs not on WordPress.com blogs.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Persistence- The Key to Successful Classroom Blogging

My mom and brothers in 1990
I've been fortunate to have been invited to speak about blogging at a number of schools and conferences. One of the points that I always try to make in my talks about blogging is "keep blogging even if only your mother is reading your blog."

Teachers (and many others) often give up on blogging because they think that no one is reading their blog posts. It takes persistence to make a blog work if you're the only author. Keep writing even if only one person is reading it. That one person may tell another about your work and then you'll have doubled your readership. But if you stop writing because you think no one is reading then no one will be reading or sharing your blog posts.

To take this idea to classroom blogs remember that it takes time and persistence to get students and their parents to regularly check your classroom blog. These are the pitfalls to avoid that I'll fully admit I fell into the first time I tried to use blogging in my classroom. My first use of a blog was simply to distribute information and have students comment on it. The pitfall here was allowing to students to email comments instead of posting them on the blog when they forgot their log-in credentials. My second use of blogging was having students write reflections of what they had learned during the week. The pitfall here was, again, letting students email their reflections instead of posting them on the blog. The whole point of having the classroom blog was to have students share with each other and comment on their classmates' ideas. When I didn't have the persistence to say, "no, you need to reset your password" then the blogging activity lost its momentum. When I started saying, "no, you need to post to the blog" then my classroom blogging activities became successful.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

A Simple Yet Powerful Student Blogging Activity

One of the questions that often comes up in my workshops about blogging is, "what should I have the students write about?" There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of possible answers to this question. The suggestion that I often make is to start with a simple reflection activity.

Set aside time in your Friday schedule to have your students sit down and write a short reflection on what they learned during the week. These reflections don’t have to be long, a few sentences will do in elementary school. Simply ask your students to share one thing they learned and one thing they still have questions about. To extend the activity have each student comment on at least one other student’s post. Students’ comments could be the answer to a question or a simple “thanks for reminding me about that.” The point is to get students in the habit of reflecting on what they learned. You should do the same.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Picking the Best Platform for Your Classroom Blog

A couple of days ago I shared ideas for managing academic blogs. If you haven't started a blog yet, choosing the right blogging platform can help you manage your classroom blog in the long run.

Before we answer the question of which blog platform to use we need to understand some terminology commonly used when talking about blogs. Understanding the terminology will help you make an informed decision about which platform is best for your situation. I wish I had known some of this when I started blogging.

Hosted Blog: A hosted blog is one whose software is maintained by a company for its users. Services like Blogger, WordPress.com, and Tumblr are examples of services on which you can create hosted blogs. The advantage of using a hosted service is that you don’t have to worry about installing software, software updates, server maintenance, or bandwidth capacity. The disadvantage of using a hosted service is that you don’t have access to the servers hosting your blog, the service may limit some customization options (WordPress.com in particular does this), and if the service closes you will be looking for a new place to blog (see the panic that ensued when Posterous announced its shutdown).

Self-hosted Blog: A self-hosted blog is one for which you own the blogging software, you install it on a server or shared server, and you are responsible for all technical maintenance and updates. The advantage of having a self-hosted blog is that you can customize it to your heart’s content, you have access to the server(s) hosting your blog, and you can move your content from one hosting service to another if you choose. The disadvantage of a self-hosted blog is that you do have to feel somewhat comfortable installing the software on a server. Fortunately, most hosting companies have good tutorials on installing popular blogging software. Another disadvantage of self-hosting is that you are responsible for performing all updates and other maintenance tasks. This can be time consuming for new bloggers. Finally, to have a self-hosted blog you will have to buy a domain and pay a monthly or annual hosting fee for your blog. I pay roughly $200 annually to MediaTemple.com for hosting and I have eight domains on my plan. If you decided to go the self-hosted route, Media Temple is my recommendation for a hosting service. They offer excellent 24/7 customer service and I’ve never experienced any downtime since I started using them in April of 2012.

The best blog platforms for teachers.
Blogger: This is Google’s free blogging service. It takes just a minute to start a blog through Blogger. Blogger offers a nice selection of colorful themes and templates to choose from. Customizing the layout of your blog is as easy as dragging and dropping elements into place. You can add additional authors to your blogs. There are mobile apps for Blogger and you can post to your blog via email. If you have a Gmail account you already have a Blogger account. Just sign into your Gmail account and in the top menu select Blogger from the “more” drop-down menu. Google Apps for Education users can have Blogger added to their domains too. The drawback to Blogger is that the only customer support that you’ll find for it comes in the form of Blogger product discussion boards and some YouTube videos.

KidBlog: KidBlog is a free hosted blogging service designed for teachers to use with students. Teachers can create accounts for their students to use to write blog posts and to write comments on blog posts. Students do not have to have email addresses in order to use KidBlog. And a great feature for those times when students forget their passwords is teachers can reset their students’ passwords. KidBlog blogs are run using WordPress software, but it’s a limited version of WordPress so you won’t have the full customization options that you would have if you used the WordPress software on your own on your own paid hosting service.

Edublogs: Edublogs has been around for quite a while and is well known in the educational technology community for offering good customer support. The free version of Edublogs is rather limited in that you cannot include videos, use custom HTML to embed items into posts, or manage your students’ accounts. You really need to purchase the “Pro” version of Edublogs for $39.95/year in order get the features that most teachers want.

Self-hosting a blog with WordPress: WordPress is free blogging software that you can install on a server. You can get the software at WordPress.org. As mentioned in the “self-hosted” section above, you will have to purchase a domain and a hosting plan to create and maintain your blog. Once you have your blog set-up you can do whatever you like with it including creating and administering accounts for your students to use to write blog entries and comments on your blog.

Just as a point of clarification, people sometimes confuse the WordPress software available to download at WordPress.org with WordPress.com. WordPress.com is a free hosted blogging service that uses the WordPress software, but like KidBlog and Edublogs it limits your customization options because you don’t actually control the software. WordPress.com will also insert advertising on your blog unless you upgrade to a paid account for $30 annually.