Update #3 (Feb 2011): We’ve created a new website to help teachers make better looking class websites
Update #2 (Dec 2009): Why we’re thinking about leaving Bluehost. (We still love WordPress, mind you…)
Update #1 (Sep 2009): We’re still using WordPress and BlueHost to run our classroom website.
We created a free ebook with step-by-step instructions on how to create a classroom blog, educational blog or school website using WordPress, but don’t bother reading it.
You can still download it below, but the quickest and easiest way to install WordPress is by using a web host that offers Simple Scripts: you can read step-by-step instructions to set up WordPress or you can watch a video tutorial on installing WordPress.
Heard some of the reasons why teachers are bringing blogs into their classrooms? 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:
- Use your school website
- Use an online educational community
- Use a free blog service
- Use a self-hosted website
This post will give you an overview of how to start your classroom blog. When you’re ready to actually set up your classroom blog, download our step-by-step instructions to get your classroom blog set up.
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.
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.
UPDATE: Unfortunately, Ontario Blogs is now closed due to lack of funding.
We started blogging with Ontario Blogs, which 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. It’s easy for teachers to register and set up a class blog.
Ontario Blogs is a great place to start if you’re new to educational blogging. It’s run by Ontario educators. However, there are a few downsides. The biggest downside is that you’re stuck with the same theme as the Ontario Blogs site. You can’t change the theme, even if you wanted to. The second downside is that they don’t archive your student work forever. We had a classroom blog with Ontario Blogs in the 2005-2006 school year, but they took down our site. We had to rescue our student content using the way-back internet machine. Finally, only Ontario Blog users can leave comments. This means that the general public can’t leave a message or feedback.
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. 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.
Edublogs.org offers more flexibility than Ontario Blogs and is a great, quick solution to starting your own classroom blog. However, it’s a WordPress blog running with limited features. You’ll need to pay if you want to do anything beyond the basics, like install plugins. Still, this is probably your best options to get a classroom blog set up and running quickly.
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 a few varieties.
You can either get a free blog account hosted by WordPress.com, or you can download the WordPress software for free and install it on your own website. (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.
Running a blog on your own website costs money, can require 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. Some teachers may even go one step further and buy their own domain name. With blogger, edublogs and wordpress.com, it’s (relatively) easy to set up your blog at classroomteacher.ca instead of classroomteacher.wordpress.com.
But some of us want more out of our classroom blogs and school websites. Here are the main reasons people want to host their own WordPress blog.
- You see what other people can do with their WordPress blogs and realize that edublogs.org and wordpress.com offer watered-down versions of the WordPress software. (You can’t install plugins or add your own themes in Edublogs or WordPress.com)
- You want to make money online with your blog. (You’re not allowed to run Google ads or sell stuff on Edublogs or WordPress.com)
- You realize that if you’re going to pay a couple of bucks a month to get extra features (like the ability to use your own domain name or to install a few features) anyways, why not pay a few more dollars and get access to all of the features out of WordPress
We did a considerable amount of research before choosing BlueHost to be our web host. We pay $6.95 per month (in a single installment for a year) to have our own space on the internet. We chose BlueHost for several reasons.
UPDATE: Why we’re thinking about leaving Bluehost…
- First, you can install WordPress with the click of a button. (Here are step-by-step instructions to set up WordPress. You can also watch a video tutorial on installing WordPress.)
- Because we’re running WordPress on our own server (i.e. we have a BlueHost account), we can use Google Ads. If you use the free WordPress account at WordPress.com, you can’t use Google Ads.)
- You can create over 50 WordPress blogs and host them all on your single BlueHost account. We run several classroom blogs, school forums, teacher blogs, and professional sites off of our single BlueHost account.
- You get a free domain name included in the web hosting price and that domain is yours for life (for as long as you have a BlueHost account.) Additional domain names cost $10 (USD) per domain name per year and you can have an unlimited number of domain names pointing to your web host account. This means you can create an unlimited number of independent websites that are hosted on your single web host account. (Not all companies allow you to do this.)
- Finally, you have complete control over the look and feel of your blog. With a self-hosted WordPress blog, you can install any template or any feature (plug-in) and it’s this ability to install additional pieces of code that allows WordPress to be infinetely extendable.
By itself, WordPress is a state-of-the-art publishing platform. That’s why Ontario Blogs and Edublogs are both self-hosted WordPress accounts. However, when you create a free WordPress account with Ontario Blogs, Edublogs, or WordPress.com, you only have a limited number of features availble.
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.