It’s certainly not for the teacher who is just starting to blog with their students. If you’re thinking about starting a class website next year, read this post about how to make a class website. (If you’re not thinking about blogging in the classroom, here are six reasons why your students should blog.)
If you’ve been running a class blog for a while, then this post is also not for you. You might want to give each of your students their own blog on Blogger, WordPress.com or Edublogs.org first. Some teachers will want to buy premium upgrades on WordPress, or Edublogs to get more features.
If you want more from your student blogs, then consider creating a class network of blogs using the multisite features of WordPress. You need to run your own self hosted WordPress account in order to do this.
If you’ve been running your own WordPress network and you’ve set up your students as admins on their own blogs, then chances are, you’ve installed a lot of the free themes from the WordPress repository. This post is for you. Read on.
For the past few years, I’ve run my own multisite network using a self hosted WordPress account to give my students the opportunity to manage their own student blogs and the creative control to call their own shots. (Usually students blog on a teacher controlled website – students are often just authors and contributors, while the teacher is the ultimate admin.) Setting up students as administrators on their own blogs is a great hands-on lesson in literacy and media literacy.
Free themes are great and there are lots of very cool themes out there, but one of the problems with free WordPress themes is that you’re limited to a cookie-cutter template. Sure, some themes offer opportunities to tweak and change the appearance, but free themes usually don’t offer a lot in customization opportunities.
One of the dangers of classroom technology is that it can be a gimmick. Education Week Teacher ran a first-person commentary by Paul Barnwell, who pointed out that students “become dependent on technology that requires too many templates… These gimmicks do not develop genuine technology competence.” He raised the issue of how we can help students to become more tech savvy – and be able to synthesize ideas/media forms, and create original stuff.