In my previous post, I examined several wikis/wiki services for educators, and I promised a post on blogs for educators. I actually feel more well-versed in this particular topic, but I have some pretty strong opinions on the matter.
Just like wikis, blogs come in two main varieties: those you host on your own or your school’s domain, and those you host through a blogging service. I will examine blog software in this post and blog hosting services in a subsequent post.
If you have your own domain or plan to use the school’s domain, I strongly recommend WordPress. I currently use WordPress to host all of my blogs (I have quite a few). WordPress has some beautiful “themes,” or templates, and a ton of great plugins (add-ons). I think WordPress is the Firefox of blogging software. I try not to wax poetic when extolling it’s many virtues, but it’s hard. Other teacher bloggers who use WordPress include Robert Talbert, David Warlick, and Will Richardson (so that means I’m in good company, technologically speaking and otherwise).
I had to be converted to WordPress by my husband. I used to use Movable Type. Movable Type is OK, but it can’t touch WordPress in terms of ease of install. Movable Type installation brings out a streak of blue language in me you’d never believe unless you heard it. I always had problems upgrading, and their forums are most unhelpful. If you have a free installation, they are absolutely disinterested in helping you with anything. Also, you have to “rebuild” your blog when you make changes, which is more time consuming than making any changes on WordPress. I wouldn’t recommend Movable Type to new users, mainly because it is difficult to install. To quote Robert in my comments on Wikis for Educators, who believes that it’s important that “technology doesn’t get in the way of creating the content — and I guess that’s the ultimate litmus test for tech like this.” One thing I don’t like about Movable Type is that commenters are strongly encouraged to register with Typekey in order to comment more quickly. WordPress’s solution to handling new (and potentially abusive) commenters is to put their comments in moderation so they don’t appear on the site until approved. Once a commenter’s comment has been approved once (assuming they give all the same information the next time they fill in the comment form) their comments will appear automatically for their subsequent comments. I don’t know why Movable Type can’t do this, too. I found that commenters on my site back when I had Movable Type by and large didn’t login to Typekey to comment, and I had to approve every single comment. I thought this was a pain. I haven’t found any education bloggers who use Movable Type (although quite a few use its blogging service, Typepad, which I will get to in a future post), but my friend Roger Darlington does, if you want to see what Movable Type looks like.
I have also tried a blog that ran on Radio UserLand. I can’t speak to its ease or difficulty of installation, but I found it difficult to use, and so did my students. Radio UserLand is NOT free; it costs $39.95 per year. Given that WordPress and Movable Type are free, I can’t see why teachers would pay to use Radio UserLand.
If you really like Blogger, it’s possible to host it on your own domain. You can use a custom domain, which is a fairly new feature enabling Blogger users to switch to their own domain nearly seamlessly. You can also publish to your own domain using Blogger via FTP, but it looks like custom domains are an easier route. Some education bloggers who use Blogger on their own domains are EduWonk and Hedgetoad.
Other software packages exist, but I’m not as familiar with them. If you use one, feel free to leave your recommendation and information in the comments.