This is the first in a series of forum posts asking for feedback on the software and services around the different categories of Classroom 2.0 programs. Today we start with blogging. What programs or services do you use? Blogger, Edublogs, Wordpress, ClassBlogmeister, 21Classes, or some other?
Which are your favorites and why?
What features are important to you?
(If you're feeling verbose) What are the pros and cons of the programs you've tried?
Hopefully, these discussions will provide an unparalleled reference for new users making choices about what tools to use.
We use Edublogs Premium in my school division. I love the wordpress interface. I guess it's because I'm used to it - I use Edublogs for my own blog. I like the interface better than Blogger - also Blogger is blocked by my school division. This is going to be our first full year using blogs and I anticipate some difficulty once teachers really get started. They'll want their students to have blogs and the school division will only provide blogs for teachers. I've looked around, and if teachers insist on having blogs for their students, the only service that will conform to the school division's guidelines would be ClassBlogmeister. That interface insn't friendly from what I have seen though...
Blogging: I use BLOGLINES. I've been doing it for two years and am pretty passionate about it.
Bloglines has a primitive blogging tool, and a very nice RSS reader - my students have usually heard of blogging (but have not blogged) but most have never even heard of RSS readers.
To me, the power of blogging is in the power of RSS - it's not just about writing, but about reading other people's blogs, and the RSS reader facilitates that. Because Bloglines is a blogging tool AND a feed reader, I get two for the price of one, so to speak.
Plus, because the Bloglines blogging tool is absolutely simple, it takes no time at all to set up; students are blogging within five minutes - they create an account, they hit post, they type, they hit publish, done. There are no templates, nothing to configure, just a great space in which to write and publish.
Then, if/when students decide they like blogging, I tell them about Blogger.com, where they can create unlimited blogs with fancy templates, and go wild. (I use Blogger.com for my own blogs, so I can promote that with a lot of enthusiasm to the students who are interested in creating more blogs of their own, creating groups blogs for work, school, etc.)
Bloglines blogs do not have comments, which also serves my purposes - I have students comment on each other's blogs within our course management system; I use the threaded discussion board there so that the commenting part of the blogging experience happens in a discussion board environment. Making sure the students receive no spam comments of any kind is important to me, so I am very happy with using the password-protected discussion board in this way, in conjunction with the writing they post publicly at the blogs.
Bloglines lets students display their names, or not, as they prefer as part of their blogs. Letting them choose their own identity for the public Bloglines blog is important to me. I would guess about half the students publish under their actual name, and half pseudonymously.
In sum, I am delighted with Bloglines. I teach at the college level and the students are excited to learn about technology but often very unfamiliar with the use of actual tools. Bloglines is a great way to introduce them to two tools (blogging, feed reader) and get them excited about both!
You can see all my teaching materials, etc. at my Myth-Folklore, Indian Epics, and World Literature courses online. I've got 100 students total overall, and we are in the second week of the semester, everybody happily blogging and my feed reader is full of student posts. I love it.
I love the ease of set up and simplicity of Blogger. The option of posting from Google Docs is useful and it is also very easy to set up private blogs, other members as co-authors etc.
Another BIG plus for me as a teacher in Israel is the possibility to set up Blogger blogs for Hebrew, this automatically translates some of the interface, thus making Blogger much more accessible to the Hebrew language user. Blogger templates unfortunately don't include RTL (I have created some on http://rtltemplates.blogspot.com)
I find wordpress and edublogs a bit confusing to set up, so many options to think about. However the option of adding 'regular Pages' is one that is missing on Blogger. I do find Edublogs quite slow loading and of course they have no easy way to set up for Hebrew. There is a partly translated version of Wordpress for Hebrew, http://he.wordpress.org, hopefully they will finish the translation.
21classes.com has now removed ads from blogs, making it an excellent platform for classroom blogs. Although again there are so many options that I find it quite a daunting task just to set up. From a language point of view, the template can be edited so that the front end of the blog renders RTL , however that is really beside the point as the interface is still in English.
I haven't tried ClassBlogmeister as there is no way to set it up even partially for Hebrew.
I'm also thinking that with a few tweaks one could set up Ning as a classroom blogging system, if anyone is interested I have completed translation of Ning to Hebrew.
There is apparently also a very simple Hebrew Blogging system for teachers and their students - I haven't tried it but if anyone is interested it is part of the Orianit set up, is called Mashal and an example can be found here.
I use Blogger simply because it's the first one I came upon, and it's free! It's functionality has improved significantly when they released their BETA version a few months back. Even the technically deficient can put together a blog w/o needing to know much, if any, HTML. Adding videos, photos, live links, widgets, etc. is quite simple when you open up the layout. Setting up your template is quite basic. My primary gripe is that there aren't many free templates out there for the new version of blogger, so you're stuck w/ what they offer. Also, unlike its counterpart Wordpress, URLs posted in the comments are not live links. Though I don't have Wordpress, other uses tell me they know quite a bit more about whose visiting their blog, while Blogger gives me nothing. http://cairogal.blogspot.com
Personally I've started using Blogger. It has the most functionality for me at the moment (I havent really looked around yet, but making and hosting my own blog was a bit to much work)
I find it very difficult to blog about anything, but think that I am improving.
We are doing various pilots with communities and blogging at my work. Both for educators (professional development) and students.
I use NING for this. (with varying succes, but there is a steep learning curve)
Keep up the good work (sorry for not always responding, I'm struggling with dividing my attention on various blogs)
'Passionate about WordPress': that's me. In January 2007 I opened with one of my students (secondary school, young adults, 15-18 years), Sven Wassenaar, a free WordPress blog. I choose for the Hadley Wickham theme Rubric, "a flexible and clean two-column with a pen on top", as our 'learning blog' is a language and literature learning blog.
I am delighted with Wordpress! It's free, rapid, transparent and it offers a beautiful variety of applications that are very simple to use. Videos (embedding YouTube, Splashcast, Daily Motion, Google Video, Grouper, Odeo), audio, photos, slideshows, files, their uploading goes fast. Linking, editing, publishing, commenting, moderating, ... for an abosulte beginner 2.0 like me it's an exciting WP experience.
As for the dashboard or the sidebar with text and RSS widgets, the WP help services and much more ... spam protection, visitors' visiblity, feeds, ... it's all there ... and for free.
As a teacher educator, my requirements for instructional blogging are different than for K-12 classrooms. Given this admission, I still want to share my experience.
Preferred Blog Hosting Service: Blog-City http://www.blog-city.com
This service provides the most responsive and timely support I have ever experienced. They also upgrade their user interface and blog functionality on a regular basis. The blogs are template and simple embedded editor driven. Premium blog service is a dream - ability to host files, podcasts, embed video from YouTube and other video upload services, newsfeeds, photo albums, secure access zones, and much more.
Piloting DrupalEd from Open Academic (Bill Fitzgerald): http://www.openacademic.org
I am on a learning path with this application. Visual layout is simple, clean. This product looks and acts much more like a wiki and blog than I am used to (blog-city). I do like the fact that all authenticated users enter into The Commons. Here there are announcements, featured content, and bookmarks. A set of links allow students to move into their assigned courses. There are tabs that focus students on navigational choices: "Home", "My Work", "Groups","Assignments". Each authenticated user may move freely between The Commons, their course instructional blog, and their own blog space. Assignments may be viewed on a traditional calendar format and a list format. Links connect to extended information about the particular assignment. Bill Fitzgerald is a former teacher and an exceedingly productive and personable resource person.
For the past three years I have used instructional blogging for all courses, both face-to-face and online. I use instructional blogging as a substitute for course management systems such as WebCT/Blackboard or Moodle. Philosophically, I believe CMS represent the teacher as expert learning environment. They work primarily one way - from instructor to student. Students then respond with the required number of posts in threaded discussion, write papers to send in, etc. My philosphy/pedagogy looks to instructional blogging for interactive learning that allows for students to be reflective, bring resources and recommendations to content provided by the instructor. The power relationship is more democratic and less of a "power over" environment. Students are definitely more responsible for their learning in either a CMS or instructional blogging/wiki environment. I believe instructional blogging better follows the view, teacher as guide on the side, not sage on the stage.
I use Blogger- I have set up all my class with a blog under the same username and I have blogs for myself under a seperate user. I find that Blogger is very flexible and the kids are able to upload video etc and use widgets with no dramas. There aremany ways to post with Blogger now too, including a widget for macs and straight from MS word. I tied it in with Google Reader too, so that uses the same user name and I can add other schools blogs to it as I come across them. I make commenting a whole component of my ICT lessons and show example comments and talk about etiquette.. The problems I have encountered are blogs getting deleted (they all have the passwords, so are all "administrators") and comments in poor taste (they all have the same user name attached, so you cannot work out who it is!). The kids are used to writing their posts in word now in case stuff gets deleted, and some kids have set up their own blogs outside of the class one to stop this problem. All in all the kids love it and can't wait to get on and post/read comments, so much that theyare posting/ commenting at home. have a look here formy blog and here for my kids. Leave a comment please and my kids will comment back if you leave your blog address.
I just used Blogger with 9th grade honors english students. It was very easy to set up and access. However, we have had a couple of parents unhappy that students can click "View next blog" and very inappropriate blog was displayed. I have done this numerous times, as has the english teachers and never found anything inappropriate. Any suggestions?