Choosing a blogging platform is a big question for bloggers in general and so it is no surprise that it is a big issue for students with some unique aspects.
Blogger was for a long time the biggest blogging platform. It is the Google owned platform and has some extra integration with Google plus. It is completely free and has a template editor as well as html editing options. Finally there are Dynamic views which involve some of the latest code elements. It is the platform I have used for a long time and recently changed from.
WordPress is now the king of blog platforms. It looks great and is designed for search engines to find it easily. It can have plugins added on, themes easily installed and there is a large open source community who build resources for it. It is my favourite.
WordPress comes in two (three really!) forms. Self hosted where the owner has to download the program. Have their own subspace and then update and install it themselves. This allows you to do whatever you want with it. This is the option I have on this blog.
WordPress.com provides you with a .WordPress.com address and is free unless you want upgrades. You can’t change the theme to whatever you want or embed certain codes unless you pay for these features. (every feature would cost around £100). [If you would like more advice on which to choose check here]
There is a third option which is Edublogs.com. This is only for educational purposes, WordPress based, gives you an edibles.com address and has some different features than wordpress.com blogs do. You can also add monthly subscriptions to gain extra features that wordpress.com has. However the big seller is the easy interface. Instead of the multitude of options the simplified interface is great for kids or people with weaker English skills (or computer skills). [Here is edublogs comparison of features]
Tumblr is the new kid on the bloc (for the last 4 years or so!) and isn’t exactly a blog, it is a micro blog designed more for sharing, music, videos and not just posting up text. It also has the feature of “reblogging” someones post, so you can post it on your own tumblr feed.
It’s a nice feature that focuses on skills of collecting information and resources and, due to the nature of tumblr, the posts are usually smaller than other systems. The interface is pretty simple to use, however, using “the Russian test” (as in I tried to use it in Russian) I found a lot of little issues emerged and it wasn’t as easy to use as I had hopped. This service is also free.
Posterous is only 4 years old and this week was aquired by twitter. As such the future of Posterous spaces is unclear (though they have committed to keeping it open for a while and will update if it is closed down). Posterous has some nice collaboration features, password protections, is completely free (unless you buy your own non .posterous.com address) and has some custom themes. All in all it has most of the standard features of the other blogging platforms and a very nice, simple interface.
What features are important for student blogs?
Every student in the class needs to all be able to add content to the pages. Some systems only allow a limited number of users on one blog. This isn’t too big a problem but means you have to have a group account (which you’re not really allowed) and then you never know if someone is misbehaving!
A complicated and confusing interface will create more entry barriers and put the less tech savy off from using the services. We want to make it as easy and non threatening to use as possible. They can always move on to more advance options.
This is similar to the posting ideas above. Most students can email and are used to email. As such, having the option of sending an email, rather than logging into a website, makes it even easier to blog (and with some services you can have delayed publication. Students just write a post, send it, it is marked as a draft, then the teacher can edit it before finally publishing.)
Allowing for commenting is an important part of the goals for a student blog. Not just commenting on errors or things that are missing, but also content. Part of the great thing about blogs is that they are read and responded to. It’s not a one way conversation. What’s more the comments may be even more important (and practice) than the blog post itself!
Most students will want to pick and choose which posts are public (some will want non to ever be public) so providing privacy via not being on search engine registers, password protected posts, etc are very important features. If students are proud of their work and want to show it off, there’s nothing to stop them posting it publicly later.
So which to choose?
Well for the ease of setting up multiple blogs, it’s email postings options, it’s simple interface AND it’s intergration with Audioboo (thought you can do this with other blogs too) I have to recommend Posterous (untill it get’s taken down by twitter…which it may). It is a great, easy to use solution and so far my students reactions have been very positive towards the solution.
Which do you or would you use and why?