Once again, a few things to keep in mind when you are thinking of starting a class blog:
- Who is the audience? Is it for parents and extended families? Do you want teaching colleagues to use it as a resource as well?
- How do you share about learning at your center? It is display boards? Documentation panels?
- What is the school's educational philosophy, and what can you do to make sure that rings true on the blog?
- What sort of privacy settings will you need to have in place? Are parents comfortable with the information being public, or will you need privacy settings?
Rather than signing up for everything, I hope this will help you make an informed decision about your class blog.
The platform that I have used for class blogs has been tumblr. Tumblr is an easy sharing platform: it is an excellent option if you're looking to share documentation from the classroom and other articles and inspiration from around the internet. For privacy reasons, I cannot share the tumblr I used in my last classroom, but you can look at the Bakers and Astronauts tumblr as a visual example.
Tumblr Pros: Tumblr makes it easy to post photos and text, as well as videos and audio. Video and audio can be uploaded from your own files, so sharing documentation is really simple. And the very best part? You can password protect the site - a huge advantage when planning a classroom blog. It is also easy to have multiple writers. I mentioned above that it is easy to share things from around the web: it is as simple as using a share on tumblr button that you can install, and clicking on that when you find something relevant online. Finally, a feature that I love on tumblr is a submission option - so others can submit posts. This is a nice option for sharing in the summers, and might open some doors for more interaction and engagement with families, or perhaps other classes.
Tumblr Cons: Although you can password protect your blog, it cannot be the first blog that you create - it needs to be a secondary one. This might sound a bit complicated, but its pretty simple, and I'm happy to share instructions if people are interested. It is more of an extra step than a con. Another potential con, depending on your interests, is that there are not many early childhood tumblrs, so interacting with a tumblr community might not be an option. That said, if your school is using tumblr, there will be people and posts to interact with.
The Tumblr Bottom Line: Easy to use and private. As with any blog, you can use a custom domain to avoid a possibly irritating need to spell T-U-M-B-L-R for every parent or colleague, but that is a tiny detail. I've used it, and I recommend it.
I learned about Posterous recently, and I understand why it is a great option for a classroom blog. Like tumblr, it is easy to use and easy to customize.
Posterous Pros: Is it really easy to embed photos and videos on Posterous, and since that is likely a big part of your documentation, ease is important! Posterous also allows you to embed documents - you upload a .pdf or word document, and it is embedded right in the post. This means that you can format your documentation as a .pdf, print it out to share at your center, and also post that same documentation online. No doing things twice. You can add "members", so you can have multiple writers with profiles. The biggest pro is easy privacy settings : you can password protect your whole site very easily.
Posterous Cons: It is not the most popular blog hosting site around, so that might mean more technical issues. It has also been acquired by twitter, which could mean big changes. But in the best situation, it means you might be able to find an interesting way to use twitter in your classroom. But that is for another post!
In the next installments I'll be sharing some add-on services that you can use to personalize your blog, depending on how you want to use it. From embedding audio and video to using twitter and other social services, I'll cover a few ways to make your classroom blog engaging for families and your colleagues.
Please let me know any questions you might have in the comments!