Last week I was trying to setup a blog with my students. The plan was to create a tool so they could share their work with each other, but also to offer an alternative for turning in assignments. I discussed the idea with our Dutch teachers and they liked trying out blogging, instead of turning in a paper version. The writing assignment is not yet concrete enough to share here, but I started in advance with creating the blogs, so the students would have enough time to try it out, get comfortable with it.
I started out searching for an efficient blogging tool. I had some reservations about using WordPress, because I wanted to keep it simple. Not to much distractions, so students would concentrate on writing, instead of fiddling with all the bells and whistles of an elaborate content manager. Blogger was my first choice, even more so because I liked the idea of creating a single place where all your tools would be able to interact seamlessly. Google offers this kind of environment with their Google Apps for Education. So, first thing was to create a Google account. Problems started rising up rather quickly. Since our school network uses only one IP-adress to connect a whole classroom of computers to the internet, a lot of students where interrupted to give up their mobile phone numbers, so Google could make sure this project wasn’t part of some kind of “spam-fest”. The students did this and pretty quickly received their codes to register. Google never misused the information (no spam or adds on their phones), but I remain somewhat hesitant about sharing to much personal information i.e. phone numbers, etc.
Next, was setting up Google+. This was peanuts, the students found their way pretty quickly through this social network. No problems here…
Second class, I tried using their Google account to create a blog, using Blogger. This is where things got a bit bumpy. The same problem occurred. Google was having a though time figuring out what we were doing was “okay”, so they prompted us with activation mails again, to make sure we weren’t doing something they didn’t like. However, instead of entering some code, or clicking some link whereafter everything would be fine, we got the message that “the page could not be loaded” or something. We just couldn’t find a way to connect properly and start blogging. Bummer!
I know, Google prefers we sign up for their Google Apps for Education program, but I just didn’t have the time to register and wait for the approval of our account to come through. I just wanted to blog with my students, mr. Google! So, there I was, tongue-tied, desperately searching for an alternative. I ended up creating an account with Tumblr. I hope it’ll do the trick, I’m somewhat critical about my choice… Time will tell. In the future I plan on creating a sort of guide, enabling the students to create their Blogger account at home. This way Google won’t prompt us with these annoying obstacles. Inside the classroom, we could spend our time writing and sharing information. Maybe this is the universe telling me the “Flipped Classroom” is the way to go, but for now, I’ll have to work with what I have.
Keep you posted!