Edublogs – Where to Set Up Your Classroom Blog

Want to start an educational blog, but not sure how to do it? Well, you have several options, depending on how comfortable you are with technology.

1. Use your school website to publish your student work online.

Generally speaking, this is not the most convenient option. First, the person who runs the school website may not have the time to help you publish student work online (or to keep that content updated). Second, most school websites are not powered by blogging software (see below), so it can be difficult to publish new content, as well as for visitors to leave comments. Finally, if you change schools, the content doesn’t follow you, and may get deleted when you move on.

2. Set up your blog using a prepackaged site with an online educational community like Edublogs or Ontario Blogs.

Many teachers join a community of online educators who are already blogging in the classroom. That way, you can learn from others, and see what’s possible.

Ontario Blogs is an online project where students from Gr 4-12 in Ontario can write and read posts. All content is moderated by teachers as they are the only ones with the authority to publish posts and comments.

Edublogs.org hosts hundreds of thousands of education blogs. You can easily create and manage student blogs or teacher blogs. It’s powered by WordPress and you can use many WordPress features, including the customizable themes. It’s easy to set up podcasting, videos, and photos. Because it’s powered by WordPress, you have complete control over which comments and posts get published. Any visitor can leave a comment, and you can moderate the comments before they go live on your site.

3. Set up your own blog using a free blogging platform like Blogger or WordPress.

Although there are several free blogging platforms, two of the best are Blogger and WordPress.

Blogger is run by Google and allows you to create a free blog. You can choose from a variety of template and features (gadgets), including the option to add Google Ads on to your blog to monetize your site. (You also have access to the HTML code of your site which means you have more control over your site than a prepackaged blog offered by Edublogs or Ontario Blogs.

WordPress is a free blogging platform that comes in two varieties. You can either get a free blog account hosted by WordPress.com or download the WordPress software from WordPress.org (This is called a self-hosted WordPress account. See #4 below.)

Over 3 million blogs are hosted by WordPress.com. You have access to a variety of themes and features (widgets) that are pre-installed in the software. Unfortunately with a free WordPress account, you can’t use the site to make money (i.e. with Google Ads) and you have limited access in terms of extra code that you can ad to your site (i.e. you don’t have access to the HTML code of the site). However, this won’t be a problem for most people.

4. Set up your own blog on your own self-hosted website.

Running a blog on your own website costs money, requires some technical know-how, but offers the most flexibility and control. It’s not for everyone.

Let’s be honest: the average teacher doesn’t blog in the classroom. The ones who do, probably do so because they’re interested in technology. They may already manage their school website or perhaps they’re the computer contact teacher for their school.

Most teachers who blog in the classroom will opt for option 2 or 3 in the list above. Setting up an account with Edublogs or WordPress.com will have you up and blogging in a matter of minutes and at no cost to you.

There are a few people who will blog with the free accounts for a while before eventually realizing that they want something more. These are the people who will fork out the cash to host their blog on their own website. When you run a self-hosted WordPress account on your own web host, it’s like unlocking all of the doors and allowing you to customize your site any way you like.

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How To Use A Blog As An Educational Tool

While blogging originally had the purpose of easily allowing people to post their personal thoughts online, blogs today are used for a number of different reasons. Now some of the most interesting and useful blogs are used for educational purposes, where the focus is to educate an audience about a specific topic. When using a blog for this purpose however, there are a few additional steps that you must consider before you create your blog and customize it to your website. Most of these steps are rather straightforward, but should still be taken into consideration.

Determine the Target Market for Your Blog

Choosing your target market is a standard step for any online or offline business endeavor you choose to go into. This is especially true for an educational blog, because in addition to determining your target market and the specific niche, you also have to decide what knowledge level your desired target audience has of your subject material. The knowledge level will also have an impact on the content contained in your educational blog.

Are you educating people who have almost no knowledge of your topic, or are you educating people who have a basic knowledge of the subject and are enhancing what they know? Both audiences will require very different kinds of information, even if it is the same subject or niche.

Determine How You Want to Educate Your Users

In order to know how you want to educate your users, you will need to decide what it is your blog is going to accomplish. Will it be to provide a place to post comprehensive details about specific products you offer, a place to post class homework and lessons, or perhaps a way to share answers to the most frequently asked questions you get in your business? Once you have determined the specific type of educational purpose your blog will serve, you will need to set up the blog to allow it to support your specified goals.

Determine the Format for Your Blog

Once you have determined how you want to educate your users, or target market, you will need to determine the format for your blog, or how you will present the information.

If your purpose is to answer frequently asked questions, you should set up your blog to have many categories, which are listed on the side. This will give visitors easy access to your questions. You would also want to have links to the latest FAQ entries in your sidebar. The title of your FAQ entry, should be the question, and body of the blog post should contain your answer. If you have the ability to put a link in your blog entry, you should link to another part of your site that gives even more detailed information about the related question if available.

If your purpose is to provide instruction sheets about specific products and services, you should set up your blog to have enough categories to define the largest grouping of products. The title of your blog should be the product name and the phrase ‘feature set’, or ‘instructions’. The post body should be the instructions or feature set, or it could be a brief description with a link to a downloadable pdf file of the feature set or instructions.

If your blog’s purpose is to post lessons for students who are taking an online course, then you would typically only need categories if you are teaching more than one course through your blog, and in this case, each category would be named after the course. Each specific blog posting would have the title of the lesson being taught, plus the lesson number (I.E. the category would be Computer Science 101, the title would be Lesson 10: Functions and Procedures). The actual post body could be the entire lesson, or a brief description of the lesson and a link to a downloadable pdf file that the student can print out and use, or both (posting lesson in the blog with a link to a downloadable version of the lesson.

Allow Users to Comment on Your Postings

Allowing users to leave comments on your blog will enable them to ask questions about lessons, or other educational content. Using comments is a great way to get feedback that you can use to fill in any missing pieces that you may have overlooked. Comments from your users will also provide additional perspectives to the subject matter, and will allow other blog readers to answer questions if appropriate.

Allow Users to Download Files From Your Blog

If you use your blog for educational purposes, you will probably have additional resources that you will want to make available to your users such as white papers, lessons, product information sheets, or a syllabus. Depending upon the nature of your educational based blog, some of the information you may want to convey is best done as a pdf file instead of a blog entry. Most of the good blogging software today will allow you to upload files to your site that you can make available to your readers/students. This will give you more flexibility in the way you can educate and communicate with your readers.

An educational blog can be a powerful means of communicating with and teaching your audience about the specific information you wish to share. The power of using a blog is that educating your audience can be done in a number of different ways. Once you have the content in your blog, it can be a great resource and tool for your visitors for years to come, and is very easy to maintain and update as new material becomes available. Your next step should be to learn how to incorporate other features into your educational blog that will allow you to earn revenue so your blog can pay for the maintenance costs required to operate it.

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