Still Interested in a Class Blog? 22 April, 2008Posted by jeopardygame in blogging, Brad & Phil, children, education, ICT in Education, Internet, Web 2.0.
Tags: blogs, classroom, education, students
If you’re still listening, I’ll assume you’re still interested in creating a class blog at your school. In part one, we concentrated on WHY teachers and schools should be blogging. In part two, we looked at WHAT had to be done to ensure student privacy and security. Now, in this third instalment of the class blogging series, we’ll look more closely at the HOW TO get started process.
If you are just one teacher that wants to do this at your school, I can STRONGLY recommend that you don’t do this alone. Make sure you recruit another teacher to also setup a class blog for their class and that way, you can work together – bouncing off ideas and working through issues together. Then when you do work it out, it’s much easier to spread across the whole school from a base of two classes rather than a base of just one.
The first thing you’ll need before you even go anywhere near a blogging service is a username and a title for your class blog. The username needs to be one word (no spaces) and should relate somehow to your preferred blog title. Finding these names is a great classroom activity that can involve all students and get them enthused about the class blog from the onset.
While “Class 5J” might be the name of your class, it’s not a great name for a class blog. For a start, there’s probably a lot of “Class 5Js” around the world. “Room 14″ also isn’t a great name as it shows little imagination. Instead of these obvious (and boring) identifiers, why not turn your class into a blogging team with an appropriate TEAM name suggested by and democratically agreed to by the students? Your students probably have a lot more imagination than I do, but a class at a waterside school might call themselves “The Splashtastics” or a Gifted and Talented class might call their blog “Smarticles”. You should probably come up with three different names, just in case your preferred name has already been taken at your preferred blog service. Ultimately, it’s probably best not to divulge your school name in your blog. It’s fine enough to say which city or town you are in and focus more on the “team” than on the school.
Now while the students are being busy thinking about a username and a blog title, the teachers can consider which (of the many freely available) blog-hosting services you’ll use – oh yes, and a password for your blog. People don’t seem to take passwords seriously, so I invite you to read this article - by the end of it, you’ll be thinking about changing all of your passwords using that method.
As for blog-hosting services, I’d suggest you don’t try to host it yourself on a server in your own school, for a start, the setup can be complicated and you’ll probably end up restricting your audience to the people within the school only. When there are so many good, free services available offering great features, it makes little sense to try and reinvent the wheel.
The obvious starting point is EduBlogs.org - they currently host over 100,000 blogs created by schools, teachers, librarians, lecturers, school administrators and individual students. For the cost of zero dollars, you get 100MB of space per blog with no ads and the ability to upload images, photos and videos – but if you start getting into videos, expect that 100MB to disappear pretty quickly. Fortunately, for US$25 per annum, you can upgrade your available space to 1GB. If you want to really splurge, starting at US$500 per annum, you can get 50 linked blogs for your students, each with unlimited space. More details here.
Another option is PodBean.com which promotes itself as a platform for hosting podcasts and vodcasts (videos), but is really a blog-host. Their free service also offers 100MB of space with a 1GB upgrade for US$24 per annum.
Interestingly, both of these services are actually based on the WordPress blogging engine, so they look pretty much identical to each other. And speaking of WordPress, we can’t forget WordPress.com – where this blog is hosted. Why did I choose WordPress.com? At last count, almost 3 million blogs are hosted here. For the basic FREE price, you get 3GB of disk space with unlimited bandwidth. The limitation here though is that you cannot upload videos and podcasts without paying for a space upgrade. For US$20 per annum, they’ll give you an extra 5GB of space with the audio/video restriction removed. Plus, being hosted by the makers of WordPress means you get all the latest updates to their blogging engine as soon as they are developed.
There are several other free hosting providers, but I don’t believe they can compete effectively on features and price. If $20 per annum is not a concern, I can highly recommend WordPress.com. If you want to do it for free, go for EduBlogs.org. If you want your students to individually blog, definitely go for the EduBlogs Campus product.
So after setting up your class blog, how would a school pay for the upgraded hosting service? Basically, a teacher should pay for it with their credit card, print off the receipt and then get reimbursed by the school. That’s by far the easiest way.
In the next article in this series, we’ll look into the structure of a good blog, useful widgets and managing the blog. Until then, feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments section.