B. Blog Platforms

31 Mar

The University of Minnesota supports U-Think as a blogging platform.  Via the introductory page you’ll be about to review existing blogs, scan an FAQ resources, and even start a blog right away, if you’d like a place to record what you’re thinking while exploring use of technology tools to teaching and learning.

Other high-use blog platforms within higher education are WordPress, Blogger and Tumblr:

  • WordPress – consider focusing on the WP Teacher aspects as a way to move beyond basic information
  • Blogger – linked to Google; exploration options include a quick tour, a video tutorial, and a users’ forum (Blogger Buzz).
  • Tumblr – “Complete Guide to Tumblr”

In general, for teachers and learners, a blog has been considered a place for discussion, but each also adapts to become a platform for sharing of course materials as well as discussion forum.  Something like Moodle – a Learning Management System – will also facilitate sharing of information, but generally will available to only a specific group of students for a specific amount of time; it is considered a “closed” access system – only accessible by password.  Blog platforms can also be set up as fully “closed” systems or as fully “open” platforms – with other access options in between also available.  For a general overview, see  “7 Things You Should Know about Blogs.”

Resources

One general comparison of the 3 main blogging platforms:  http://www.techpreneurspotlight.com/tech-tool-of-the-month-blogging-platforms-blogger-vs-tumblr-vs-wordpress/

WordPress vs Tumblr – http://freshid.com/2011/12/wordpress-vs-tumblr-a-simple-overview/

Blogger as a CMS – http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2009/10/14/blogger-as-a-cms-will-it-work/

WordPress as a CMS – http://www.bloggingpro.com/archives/2006/08/26/feature-5-reasons-to-use-wordpress-as-cms/

Tumblr as a CMS – http://needmoredesigns.com/blog/tumblr-as-a-content-management-system/

Your Task

For this task, pick one blogging platform to learn a bit about if it’s new to you, to learn a bit more about if you’ve experienced using a blog as a student and now wonder about it as a teacher, or one you want to learn a bit more about because you’ve worked with one blog platform and want to compare it to other platforms – knowing, perhaps, that you might want or need to try something different with a new teaching post.

Post Your 3-5 Ideas

In all, spend about 15 minutes getting a general sense of the blogging platform you choose, 30 minutes digging deeper to learn its features for learners and teachers, and another 15 minutes sharing 3-5 ideas as a reply to this post.

Questions to guide you as you’re doing the digging in – and that could launch the 3-5 ideas you share:

  • As you explore, think as a teacher and as a learner, as much as possible:
    • What does this tool do, in general?
    • What are a couple of its strengths?
    • What are some of its weaknesses?
    • What are some red flags about use (privacy, support, logins)?
    • What other interesting ideas / questions cross your mind while exploring?
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4 Responses to “B. Blog Platforms”

  1. Greg Sindberg 11 April 2013 at 5:33 pm #

    Tumblr is a tool which allows very simple sharing of a variety of media, including pictures, video, audio, or text. It allows interfacing to Twitter or Facebook which could be a potential way to keep in touch with students.

    To me, the most obvious way to use Tumblr would be to allow students to share their own content. While it requires an account (free), students can log in and either post novel items or comment on others. For instance, one assignment might be to find a media article and link it to the Tumblr with a short explanation for why it is relevant to the upcoming class.

    Another good thing about Tumblr that I have come across is that it seems to interface with “tags” from other users. Therefore, it is a good way for students to get extracurricular information that may interest them. For example, if I tagged a post with “HIV”, it might show a post from a similarly tagged Tumblr account created by someone else. This works very similarly to Twitter hashtags.

    Tumblr is a very simple interface, which is a pro in that it makes it quick and easy to use and post, however it is not the most intuitive in terms of organizing content. For instance, if you want an organized page that does not get pushed, you have to create it through a separate link. This is in contrast to other blogs that I have used where you can create links on the homepage directly to content that remain static despite other newly posted content.

    Overall, I believe Tumblr is a great way to interface with students in a semester long class. Given that it requires a signup, there may be simpler ways to accomplish this such as having the students e-mail you content. It is also a great way to compile information on a subject over an extended period of time. For instance, I have created mine (see link) to use as a resource when discussing the impact of my research with people and allow them to see linked information. A moodle page or regular blog may be better for a more formal class webpage, where the syllabus is a linked pdf that needs to always be handy.

  2. Petra Kranzfelder 12 April 2013 at 10:53 am #

    About: WordPress is a free and open source web software you can use to create websites and blogs. WordPress.org provides downloadable blog software, community mailing lists, community support forums, documentation, and free themes, plugins, and widgets.

    Strengths:
    • Institutions, such as Emery College and Vassar College, are big fans of WordPress as an instructional tool in the classroom.
    • Additionally, colleges at the University of Minnesota, like CFANS, have converted websites to WordPress, so the software is familiar with our community.
    • It is a well-maintained and popular platform that will likely exist into the future, so you don’t have to find a new blog platform for your class in a few years.
    • It allows multiple blogs to exist within one installation, but is able to be administered by a centralized maintainer.
    • Mobile application exists for Android, iOS, Windows Phone, and Blackberry, which allows for adding new blog posts and pages, commenting, moderating comments, and replying to comments.
    • WP Teacher (plugin) allows teachers to integrate course content into their personal website to enhance student learning. Some of the features include: uploading of documents and viewing of assignment calendar and list of events.

    Weaknesses:
    • Some learning curve; requires up-front time investment.
    • With the free version, you have no control over the ads that appear on your site.
    • WordPress does not have built-in community functions of ‘following” like-minded people, reblogging their posts, and “liking” what someone else has posted so that others in your friends list can see it.
    • Dashboard (aka Home page) is visually not pleasing and the profile and screen options are very limited.

    Conclusion: WordPress is ideal for bloggers at all levels of experience, provided they’re willing to invest a little time upfront to learn the ins and outs of the system (http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2089365,00.asp). I think that a blog platform, like WordPress, would need to be used in conjunction with a learning management system, like Moodle, to be effective in the classroom. I think I still need to use a system, like moodle, since I don’t think you are able to post activities, like quizzes and exams, or manage grades on WordPress. Right now, I use a “forum” on our Moodle site to facilitate out-of-classroom conversations between the professor, teaching assistants, and students. How would you pair Moodle and WordPress?

  3. Denise 15 April 2013 at 9:36 pm #

    This blogging tool is very impressive. I am not familiar with any kind of social platforms besides facebook, facetime, Linkdin, twitter and tweeting. I use Facebook and Linkdin minimally and do not find it very rewarding. I do think that these platforms could be useful in the classroom. It engages students on a personal level and gives each person a voice. With the requirement that everyone responds to a number of posts, each person feels valued and validated. It does not matter so much if the respondent agrees with their opinion or disagrees. The tool that I chose from my category is the TUMBLR blogging platform.

    This tool provides a space for users to share their thoughts and allows them freedom of self expression which allows for a great creative platform. It personalizes an area for each person so that they share space with like minded individuals. Since this space offered so much it will take some time to explore it more in depth. This is a great tool for a learning environment where you want learners to be engaged in the material

    Some of its strengths is it’s sheer number of participants. One has the opportunity to share ideas and thoughts with people from all walks of life, around the world. This aspect of TUMBLR is very exciting and challenges users to create at their fullest potential. Another one of it’s best features is that it allows for organization of thoughts and other materials. It also gives the user more opportunities to share with friends through many of the other platforms.

    It can be a bit overwhelming, especially for someone unfamiliar with these types of platforms. Like many of the other platforms, if you do not know how to use this tool you could make the mistake of sharing the wrong information and it will be there forever. I do not know how to erase information that has been posted.Without some level of sophistication around these tools you may post the wrong thing and get misrepresented by yourself.

  4. Greg Sindberg 19 April 2013 at 10:07 am #

    Tumblr: easy to use and quick to start, interfaces with social media (Twitter/Facebook); requires logon for students to submit and simple user interface can make it difficult to control. (http://hivanddrugsofabuse.tumblr.com/)

    WordPress: Basic is free but gives no control over ads; supported by university, multiple people can edit and gives more control over layout. (defr0001.wordpress.com)

    U-think: Appears like moodle, may be limited in terms of customizability; easy to join with moodle management site. (http://blog.lib.umn.edu/sind0017/earthquakes/)

    Final recommendation: depending on context and preferences, each may have its strengths. For the most similar to a course management software (i.e. moodle replacement), wordpress may be best (see teacher’s blog). For easy, and especially student submission of media and short posts, Tumblr works well for ease of use.

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