Starting a class website is a great way to reach your students after the bell rings and they leave your classroom. Kids loose photocopies, forget to take notes, and miss important points sometimes. A class blog or website can serve as a reference point for your students to review material you’ve taught or look up assignments you’re expecting in the near future.
You can use a blog to encourage students to contribute to the classroom dialogue from home or to collect and display the work they’ve done in your class. There are no shortage of free options, but each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. In addition, their approach can vary widely. Below are a few suggested platforms that may fit your needs. There are other options out there, but these four were chosen because they differ in their approach.
It’s not the prettiest, but there are some features that make this a very viable option.
Google Sites plays nicely with the rest of the Google suite of tools. You can embed documents, maps, calendars, and photo galleries. There are some drawbacks, however. Google Sites has a lot of features and can get fidgety. It’s great for setting up a basic website or a digital portfolio of student work, but it’s not necessarily built for the express purpose of setting up a blog and it’s not the most intuitive at times.
You can share the site just like you share a document: with the world, with the school, or with only select colleagues or students. If you use Google Apps for Education at your school then you can set permissions and grant access on a student-by-student or class-by-class basis.
21Classes is more than just a blog. It’s a small network of blogs. Each student gets their own blog and each blog is linked together into a class network. Students can publish text or photos but also create categories or invite classmates as co-authors and more. You control access through usernames and passwords. As a site administrator you may choose to moderate every new entry posted by a student before it is being published in case the entry is in any way inappropriate or you feel that the student should rewrite his/her entry, you may defer publication and inform the student.
Edublogs is a blogging platform made just for educators. This service is based on WordPress, one of the most popular and feature-rich blogging platforms on the Internet. There is a wide array of themes and Wordpress plugins ready to go—with no installation needed. Comments are available, but the platform is much more teacher-centered than 21Classes.
This is definitely a more robust blogging platform than Google Sites. One drawback is that the free version of the site embeds slightly-annoying Google AdSense text advertisements. If Edublogs is something that makes you happy, then you can get rid of the ads for as little as $4/month.
Tumblr does not have all the features of a full-fledged blogging platform. Tumblr is built for simplicity. It’s as easy to post a video or sound file as it is to post text. Tumblr will automatically convert audio and video for the web. The platform is also interactive. Tumblr has a feature that allows visitors to ask questions and submit posts. Tumblr does not support comments, although this functionality can be added using Disqus.
One drawback is because of its popularity among teenagers, the site is blocked in some school districts. Be sure to visit the site from your school’s network before you got through all of the hard work of setting up your site.