Creating a digital presence for your class is now a required pedagogical investment to help you boost your teaching and enhance students learning. Now that the world is going digital, having a virtual space where you and your students create, discuss, and share learning resources can do wonders to your teaching.
A classroom website is much more than a mere portal to your classroom, it is a learning hub where students unleash their creative thinking, connect learning to their own individual experiences, and develop strong digital and multimedia literacies while working towards becoming better digital citizens.
There are various ways to use a classroom website or blog in your teaching. These include:
- Create and share assignments with students
- Provide students with a space where they can showcase their learning
- Extend learning beyond classroom walls. Get students to engage with class website by sharing comments, feedback, links, and resources.
- Upload and share learning resources and extra-curricular materials with your students
- Connect with parents and school community and engage them in the learning taking place in class
- Empower students voice by allowing them to share their creations publicly
- Use class website to share class news, announcements, school events, etc.
Now that you have done the conceptual work, next is the practical phase: search for the right blogging platform for your class.
There are numerous places where you can build your classroom blog/website, however, for some of the best recommendations, check out the list below.
I particularly picked these platforms because, first, they are teacher and student friendly. Second, they are all easy and simple to use and offer a plethora of fully customizable pre-designed templates. They also support various types of content (e.g., videos, images, text, graphics, ect) and in case down the road you decided to get a custom domain for your class blog, these platform do offer this possibility.
1- Google Sites
Google Sites is Google’s platform for creating websites. Google Sites’ editor is simple and easy to use. No coding or HTML knowledge is required. Google Sites offers a wide variety of ready-made templates to choose from.
Simply browse through the collections of templates there and when you find the template you are interested in click to open and customize it. Alternatively, click on Blank to start building your website from scratch.The process is as simple as dragging and dropping elements and sections into various parts of your website.
Basically, Google Sites’ editor allows you to add as many pages to your website as you want. Each page acts as a stand-alone hub where you can feature resources and content to share with your readers. You can also add different types of content to your website including images, text, videos, audio, maps. calendars and more. You can even upload content you have on Google Drive (e.g., spreadsheets, presentations, forms, charts, drawings, etc) right to your website.
One of the great features provided by Google Sites is the ability to invite collaborators to co-edit your site with you. For instance, you can invite students and assign them different tasks on the site. Some to work on the design and layout, others to upload content, etc. Populating your classroom website can be a great learning opportunity for the whole class.
Blogger (Blogspot) is Google’s platform for creating blogs. In fact, this very post you are reading right now is created in Blogger. I have been using Blogger for over a decade now and I am very much content with it.
It is true that Blogger does not offer as many features (especially add-ons) as WordPress but still the service is pretty good and has what you need to get your classroom blog set up and running.
Like Google Sites, you can start building your blog on Blogger by browsing through its pre-made templates. There are numerous professionally designed and free templates in itts gallery. You need to spend sometime going through the titles there, experiment with them till you find the one you like.
You also have the choice to get a third party template to install on your blog but this requires that you have at least some functional knowledge of HTML and CSS. Blogger also allows you to give access to collaborators to help you with the design and content of your blog . You can access this feature from the settings of your blog.
When you pick a custom template, use Blogger settings to edit the layout the way you want. You can add sections, widgets, banners, footer, side bars, ect. When your blog’s layout is ready you can then start creating and sharing content on it.
Blogger’ s post editor is simple to use, way simpler than WordPress. You can write your post, add links, insert/upload videos and images, edit your text the way you want (e.g. change font size, text type, ect). When you are done, click on Publish.
Wix is one of the popular platforms for creating a class website and blog. Its intuitive editor makes it easy to create and share posts with few clicks.
Wix offers access to several beautiful and professionally designed templates to use for your class website and blog. All of these templates are mobile-responsive, meaning that pages will turn out good when viewed on mobile devices, and are fully customizable. You can drag and drop sections, headers, sidebars, insert images and videos and several other types of multimedia.
You have full control over the look and feel of your Wix website and blog. You can structure your pages the way you want, change backgrounds, add a personal touch, and more. You can even hire a professional to do the design work for your website. Wix offers a team of dedicated professionals that can help you with your website design.
Wix also provides you with analytic reports regarding the traffic and audience of your class website or blog.You will be able to access data about pageviews, sources of traffic to your platform, users demographics, and many more.
WordPress is another great platform where you can create a class website or blog. However, there are two WordPress versions: WordPress.com and WordPress.org and you need to know the difference between the two before you make your decision as to which one to use.
WordPress.com is probably what you need as a teacher to build a class website or blog. It is simple and easy and everything is hosted on the cloud. You only need to pick a theme, customize it, and start producing content. WordPress.com takes care of technical maintenance, security issues, updates to themes and plugins, backups, and more.
Downsides to WordPress.con is that it offers limited storage space (3GB for free plan) and it runs ads and branding, among others.
WordPress.org, on the other hand, allows you to host your own site. It is a software that you need to download and install in your own web server. You will need at least basic technical knowledge to operate WordPress.org effectively. Also, with WordPress.org you get to handle all technical issues yourself from ‘site hosting to maintenance’.
In a nutshell, “WordPress.org helps users build a site that’s “organically yours,” as you’re creating, managing, and maintaining everything on your own. WordPress.com helps you build a site in “combination with” the team at WordPress.com as they will support your site’s creation and will be manage and maintain the system for you.”