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This is actually the most recent post on my blog, but to save folks the trouble of following the link, I'll just paste the whole dang thing here.

At the moment individual teachers here and there are using blogs with their classes in various ways and for various purposes, using various platforms and hosting solutions.

I’ve started to imagine how things might look in a school where students blog for almost every class, just as they have traditionally handed in assignments on paper for almost every class. If this blogging business really takes off we could have some serious scaling problems.

Imagine a secondary school in which students blog for almost every class. A separate blog for each class would soon become unwieldy, so they would have one blog, with categories or tags for posts in each subject. Each class would have its own blog, where the teacher would post assignments and links to all the blogs of the students in that class. Or would only a student’s history posts, say, appear in links on the history class’s blog? One of the main values of blogging in schools is that it allows students to read each other’s work, but what setup would make it easy for a student to see his classmates’ work in a particular subject without having to wade through 20-30 blogs searching for the history posts?

Perhaps it makes more sense for students to post all of their history work on the history class’s blog, their English work on the English class’s blog, etc. But then the student’s own blog becomes . . . what? A poor substitute for a Facebook page? It makes more sense for a student to post ALL of his or her work on his school blog, where it can remain and be easily accessed, serving as a kind of portfolio that updates automatically. But I’m not sure how these separate blogs could be linked selectively to show, say, links to all the history posts on the history class blog and links to all the English posts on the English class blog.

Here I am getting out of my depth, technically. Is there a solution for this problem already out there? Would individual RSS feeds for each subject tag show up on the class blog for that subject?

In short, if educational blogging really takes off, how will we manage it? Does anyone out there have experience that would shed light on this problem?

http://www.ericmacknight.com/wordpress/?p=97

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I feel that one way to eliminate this problem of having to search through multiple subject blogs on each students page would be for the students to create one blog per subject on their individual page. Therefore, the students could create an individual blog per subject that would be posted on their own page. Each of these blogs could then be linked to the original subject page. I feel that this would be easier for the students, because all of their information would be in one place, and they could go to their individual site to blog about each subject. It would also be easy for other students to navigate to their page and click on the blog marked "History". This enables other students to find the original blog and reply as needed. If we require students to post on each individual page, I feel that it would be more confusing for the students to keep up with each blog posting, and to remember which one they did, or did not, complete.
Interesting Russel. How can you do this on edublogs? Sue just gave me a great description on the process, but the final instruction was to embed some html code in the sidebar, which edublogs does not allow. So, IM wondering how you created the RSS feeds?

I currently have a query of to james about how to set up a class on edublogs or learnerblog. It seems if the kids use edublog thats against the rules, but from what I saw of learnerblogs, its for individual student blogs, not class blogs (ie, when I clicked the teacher tab, it just sent me back to edublogs). Im a bit confused as to how to set up a class blog.
Dear Kristen, Kristin, and Russel,

Thanks so much for jumping in on this. Do any of you have personal experience with WordPress MU and/or 21classes.com that would lead you to prefer one or the other, or is there another platform that would be better than either of these? Russel, when you talk about setting up category feeds, is that in WordPress, or . . . ?

Thanks again,

Eric
Hi Russel,

Aha! Yes, I know a bit about Edublogs, but from where I am in China the performance problems you mention got so bad I had to move my class blogs off learnerblogs onto my own domain. At the moment, my ISP is blocking their domain for some unknown reason, so it's only readable using a proxy server. Edublogs /learnerblogs uses WordPress MU, and as I say in my reply to Konrad G on my web site, I would prefer to use WPMU over a proprietary solution like 21classes.com, so long as it will do the job and can be installed and administered at the school level.

21classes.com is worth a look, and like Edublogs their entry-level service is 100% free, so you might check it out.

Re your comment about students failing to tag posts correctly: I take the view that this is part of what they're learning. Even as the technology changes, the habits of figuring out the system and following directions and working carefully remain indispensable.

Eric
Eric,
I honestly haven't had any experiences with WordPress MU or 21classes.com. I am currently taking a masters level course on internet tools and technology and using blackboard as the platform. I am however, interested in the concept of incorporating blogs into every subject! I am looking forward to learning more about this subject, and the many other exciting technology pieces there are to use in the classroom. Thanks!

Kristen
I think that each student should have an individual blog. Have the students go to a specific site and create their own blog page. By creating their own blog page students can keep responding to their own blog and other classmate’s blogs. As the teacher you can go to your student’s individual blog pages and read their articles and see which classmates commented to the blog. I think this approach will help the teacher keep track of all their students and their postings.
Hi Julie,

I agree that one blog per student is best. The problems follow from there, however. Questions like these arise:

1. Who controls content on student blogs? What happens when students post something inappropriate?
2. Who manages updating the blog software? Can it be done one time for all school blogs, or must each blog be updated individually?
3. How are blog posts managed so that on my English class blog, for example, I see links only to my students' English posts, not to their math, history, and science posts, too?
4. Are the blogs hosted remotely, or on school servers? What are the pro's and con's of each?
5. Is the blogging software commercial, or open-source? Pro's and con's?

If we imagine even a small high-school with 500 students, plus 50 teachers, and let's say 4 class blogs per teacher, we've got 750 blogs to manage—a big job!

So far I know of WordPress MU (multi-user) and 21classes.com, and I know of remote hosting solutions like Edublogs / Learnerblogs, which uses WPMU. I'd like to hear from folks with experience hosting WPMU blogs on school servers, and also from folks using 21classes.com on school servers. How do the costs and benefits of these two solutions compare?

Eric
http://www.ericmacknight.com/wordpress
Hi Eric,

Blogging in our school (high school) is catching on, and all teachers are using their own school webpage blogs for their student work. We have the functionality to start individual topic blogs off of our pages or have continuous posts for each class. It is very flexible and works quite well. For example, I have a student blog for US History which contains all of the blog posts for extra credit assignments I give in my US History class. In this blog, students can read each others work and as the year progresses we will have a little mini review spot to reinforce the content we have already learned. I plan to use it as a resource for review assignments along in the review stage of the class. I also have separate topic blogs as well for articles I want the students to read. I take them down when I post another. In my experience, with the platform we have,(Schoolwires) it can be any way you want. We have also talked about having a school wide section with a general blog for the whole school;right now we don't have enough participation from teachers to warrant it but I see it in the future.

IThis summer I worked on and recently launched my own website which also contains opportunities for student participation in the blog and forum which I am using for stronger students who are willing to work a little harder to actually publish online outside the protective wall of the school site. This is a link for the students of of my school page (see the Podcast link!)

From what I have seen, I think you can make the setup suit the school and users!

Feel free to look at my page on our school site at www.akronschools.org/palmer, and my new site www.masterymaze.com. We area small rural school without a lot of resources.

Sue P.
Hi Sue,

Thanks for this—I had never heard of Schoolwires before.

It looks like it might be a workable solution, just as Ning, which is the platform for EduBloggers, might be a solution, as Elizabeth suggests below.

My main objection to both of these platforms is that they are proprietary, not open-source. This means, on the up-side, professional support and development. On the down-side, it means ongoing fees and/or ads; or free services that are slow. It means having no control over development of the platform. It means students interested in computer programming or web design cannot code their own variations or elaborations of the software.

For these reasons I am strongly attracted to open-source solutions. I understand that most teachers lack the technical skills to confidently take on administration of an open-source blogging platform. But I don't think more than one technically savvy person at a school would be needed, and once the infrastructure was set up, very little technical intervention would be needed. For schools needing more assistance, I wonder if partnerships with neighbouring universities might be a solution, with university students and teachers supplying the occasional technical expertise to maintain and upgrade software.

In terms of cost and educational benefits, I think open-source is the way to go.

As far as I know, WordPress MU (the platform behind learnerblogs.org, among others) is the leading candidate for the job. Apparently, WPMU tends to bog down after the level of several thousand users is reached, but for a secondary school hosting its blogs on its own servers, this would not be an issue.

I'm still looking for a case where local servers are hosting WPMU for a school's blogs. Anyone out there know of one?

Eric
I totally agree about opensource. My personal site-- masterymaze.com is a Drupal site. It is great to have the world of developers available to help with issues and to share knowledge.

Sue
Hi Sue,

I have no experience with Drupal. Would it be a candidate for a school-wide blogging platform?

Eric
I am not a tech person but you can see my site and see for yourself. I had someone create it for me. It has modules for most everything i have thought of. I started off with a blog page, added book pages for the subjects, a forum, etc. I would suggest you look at the Drupal site to start. It is opensource content management system with many options. There is a large following and developer base. It is great for video and has been very user friendly for me as the publisher. If you need more help after you have looked at the site info-- let me know and I will see what I can do..

Sue

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