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.
I am doing research for graduate school on blogging in the classroom and was intrigued by your comment about blogging preferences. It would appear that you did a survey. Did your survey ask for any other information about classroom blogging, and if so, would you be willing to share the survey results?
It's uses Word Press and is easy to use, while being beautiful and powerful. You can "just" put up posts, or create a whole content management system
It's set up for educators to use in the classroom, so it's not blocked by my district
The support is great for what is a free site, and suggestions about services to add are welcomed
Why do I prefer it to other tools?
I understand this is changing, but 21 Classes had Google ads for services, like term paper mills. I did not like the templates/skins as well as edublogs, and I prefer to start out with a class blog where kids comment rather than kids having their own (that may change as the year goes on).
Blogger is not as nice looking (their themes are old and stale to my eyes), and need we discuss the infamous "NEXT BLOG" button (I know you can remove it, but). Oh, and it's blocked at my district. I could get my blog unblocked, but with edublogs, the whole site is UNBLOCKED, so we can chat with others there.
Word Press dot com is nice, but it does have a "NEXT" button too.Why go there when I can get edublogs?
Self-hosted Word Press, hmmm, do I look like that big a geek? No, I'm not.
Blogmeister I would consider, if I could get David Warlick to respond to my email request
Alice--I got a blog site so I'm not shopping but a comment and question. Comment: Blogmeister is ugly (from my POV) David is waaaaay toooo busy flying from here to there. Question: Do you find Edublogs slow? When reading blogs, I notice that it seems slow to load.
My university has its own blogging system which I quite like. I've also tried Blogger which has the advantage of allowing you to find out who else is blogging on similar topics. Our university does have a central website where brief updates on all university blogs can be seen.
What I need from a system are:
1. RSS feeds and trackbacks
2. Html coding for lists and different heading sizes (at least two)
3. Ability to easily add video, audio and images
4. A hit counter
5. Ability to control comments
6. A tagging system, search function
7. Live URL's
Nice to haves
1. A calender so you can see how frequently you are posting
BLOGGER WIDGETS. My favorite feature of Blogger is the "Blogger widgets" for customizing the templates. I use the same widget scripts for Blogger, Desire2Learn and my course websites, and anybody who wants to use my widgets in Blogger, etc. is welcome to do so - I have widgets related to Technology, Storytelling, and other topics. You can find the widgets here at SchoolhouseWidgets.com, and I've got a SchoolhouseWidgets Blogger blog which I update when I create a new widget.
I use the free tool at RotateContent.com to create these dynamic Blogger widgets, which are also easy to repurpose as Google Gadgets, etc.
I use this with my course announcements. They are available as a blog, and thanks to the RSS feed for that blog, students can see them at the course website, and thanks to Feedburner the announcements go out by email (the students subscribe or not, based on whether they want/need the email or not).
One blog: four ways to read it: as a blog ... OR as RSS feed... OR as webpage... OR as email.
I update it the blog in one place, and my students get the information in the format they prefer - I don't have to do anything except post in the blog, and the great technology does all the rest of the work for me.
I COULD NOT TEACH ONLINE WITHOUT BLOGGING TECHNOLOGY. With blogging technology, I find teaching online to be hugely more effective than any teaching I did in the classroom. :-)
Great stuff. And if your students are savvy enough, they could get the announcements by text--set up a forward in their online email service to the cell-text email address from their carrier. Maybe there's even an easier way I don't know of, but you can add text messages as a fifth way!
HA: true confession, except when Twitter MAKES me behave (with the character limit), I tend to have a lot to say... I'm not sure how well the announcements would go over as text messages - but what's great is that students can do that, too, if they want - the RSS feed which is available can be repurposed by students just as it is repurposed by me! :-)
My blogging system of choice is wordpress - http://wordpress.org. It's the system that Edublogs is based on. You can use it for free either on Edublogs or Wordpress.com - but I prefer us download the free program, and host it on my own server. Why? Total control and flexiblity. Granted, hosting your own isn't for the weak of heart. You do need to set up a MySQL data base, and know how to use an FTP program - but after that - it runs itself (and setting up the data base isn't as hard as it sounds... honest!)
The features I love is that it allows multiple users, so each student can have a personal log-in, each with different access levels. I can decide who leaves comments, and who cant. It has an intergrated ftp program and automatic thumbnailing for those who wish to add pictures. The WYSIWYG editor and spell check are also great. Add the that the ablity to make static pages along with the dynamic ones, AND be able to configure them in any way you want (so if you want your link page to look different then the rest of your blog, you can... provided you can program html and css).
But the major draw to hosting your own wordpress - the plugins. These mini programs allow you to do just about anything with your blog - and there are so many to choose from! Add flickr intergration, automatic backups that can be e-mailed to you, or my personal favourite an embedded mp3 player, that automatically detects podcasts, and allows people to listen to them directly from your site (like on this archived version of my old class site - sorry, not everything transfered well)
As for the pros and cons (and I've tried many) I personally like feature/option right systems. I've created a list of some of the most popular blogging systems (and some not so popular) and created a list - hopefully it helps you.
We're trying to use WordPress MU for our student blogs. It's taken some time to set everything up and we've had to rely on plugins to bend it so it would acceptable to address those ever-present safety concerns and allow students to customize their blogs to a certain extent.
Why go to that trouble? First the blogs look good. Right now we have over 50 themes for the students to chose from and they can pick which friends they want to link to.
Finally because you have all those plug-ins available, you can get it to do just about everything you want. I think once we got it going, it'll be worth it, but it does take time and you need access to a webserver.
I think I'm the first person in this thread to mention 21classes. I've been using this service for a while now and find it extremely easy to use and also highly modifiable - which, I believe, is very important when we use blogs to create a community of learners. What I disliked about edublogs was that WordPress MU upon which it is built, does not allow users to modify their templates. I have to admit that the selection of templates for WordPress is excellent, but I wanted my students to be able to make their spaces uniquely their own. I wanted to give them an opportunity to design their own headers and backgrounds. I believe that this kind of functionality helps build a community and a sense of ownership. You can read about my experiences here.
21classes also provides one main portal page that aggregates all the content and lists all student blogs. I like this functionality because it helps students see that we are a community of learners. It helps them see our virtual community as something almost tangible. They can see all the recent comments and entries on the main page and use it as their point of entry into our community because the page also has a log-in window. So, even before they log in, they can get a quick glimpse into what's been happening in the community during their absence. I find that this contributes tremendously to community-building.
The platform also offers a built-in aggregator and tagging.
In short, it really is a great service with an amazing tech support. I highly recommend it.