I was recently asked by a colleague about how I help my teachers decide what (if any) type of blog is for them.  Below is my process.  It may be helpful. You may react to it with hives and distain. Either way, take the following with a Tylenol and a grain of salt:

I usually start my conversation with the teacher by asking what they want to accomplish with the blog. How do they want to use it as a tool in their classroom. This gives some immediate insight into the format they will need. Then, I give them my brief tour of how a blog can be used:

  1. An information center (like Blackboard or another content management system)
  2. A teacher-centered blog (where the teacher guides the conversation and students respond in the comments)
  3. A student-centered blog (where the students guide the conversation and respond)
  4. A collaborative project (where students build the content together)

Once I determine the format, I begin to ask questions that help me figure out how the blog needs to be modified (usually with plugins):

  • Will it be used for discussion?
  • How do you plan to manage the discussion?
  • How many classes will be accessing the blog?

Some points I make to the teacher to help them make the decision:

  • Teacher-centered blog: You can intentionally guide the conversation.
  • Student-centered blog: Your students guide the conversation, have more buy-in
  • Single blog for multiple classes: Breaks down the wall of the classroom by bringing students together virtually (in a way that would be difficult physically); makes management a bit more difficult (keeping track of participation, moderating comments)
  • Multiple blogs for multiple classes: Makes managing the blog much easier; will need to replicate content (copy/paste) to the extra blogs

So, now you have your info, you know what the blog needs to look like, and it is time to build something beautiful….

For a teacher-centered blog, I add the following plugins:
Brian’s Threaded Comments (formats comments for threaded discussion)
Anarchy Media Player
WP-Stats (a quick way to track participation by tracking usernames attached to comments)

For a student-centered blog, I add the following plugins:
Brian’s Threaded Comments
Anarchy Media Player
Gaggle email accounts (free, filtered email.  I use a spreadsheet to format class data from our digital grade book to bulk create accounts)
Dagon Design Import Users (this plugin requires a unique email for each student)

You may also consider locking down the blog from the public and making student log in (make sure the student accounts are set as “subscriber” if you don’t want them to be able to create posts/pages):
Angsuman’s Authenticated WordPress Plugin

For keeping track of recent comments and most popular posts (say, on the sidebar), consider:
Get Recent Comments
Most Commented Posts

photo credit:  muckster

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