Blogging is still an excellent educational activity for your students providing opportunities to develop writing skills and an outlet for creative thinking. However, you may be looking for something different. You still want your students to focus on writing but the traditional blog is losing its appeal. Let’s look at a few alternatives to the classroom blog.
Let’s start with the most “blog-like” site and explore the similarities and differences. Tumblr is becoming a very important social media tool and is gaining popularity in the educational setting. It’s not nearly as big as Facebook or Twitter but it is growing fast and teachers are jumping on board.
So, what is Tumblr? Basically, it’s a blogging platform for posts larger than Twitter and smaller than a traditional blog. Posts are usually rich with a combination of text and multimedia. A unique feature is the ability to “tumble” blog posts. This takes a post of a friend and posts it on your page. If you use Twitter, this is similar to retweeting.
Tumblr is a nice tool for teachers and older students but everyone will need accounts. Create an account for your class and have your students create accounts as well. Then, follow your students’ accounts and vice-versa. Now you are all connected and can interact in numerous ways. Your students now have an excellent vehicle for all manner of writing and multimedia projects.
CheckThis is a super easy way to publish and share content. It differs from blogs because it produces single pages not linked to each other. It is not a series of posts. Think of it as a single piece of paper that can include multimedia.
The site is currently in early beta so you have to sign up for the trial. It takes a few days to get confirmation so don’t expect to be up and running immediately. Once out of beta, no accounts will be needed which will be great for the educational setting. Students can create projects with text, multimedia and widgets such as Google maps. Pages are then published and a URL is generated for the page which can be shared.
To create journal entries via email, try OhLife. Sign up requires an email address, so once again, older students are the focus. Once signed up, you receive an email every day asking to reply with your thoughts. This works great for longer curricular units. For example, if you are studying the 1920’s, have students post to OhLife as a person living during those times: “The stock market is really going up today…the skies the limit! I think I’ll go to a new jazz club tonight to celebrate!” You can see all past posts under the Past tab. Remember, the only way to publish content is via email.
Storify is a platform for combining writing and stories from social media into a unique mashup. Once signed in, create a story by searching various social media platforms for content. For example, you can search Twitter for a certain keyword or hashtag. Then, drag selected content into the story pane. Content from multiple searches can be included in one story.
The key feature is the ability to add text throughout the story. For example, you could ask students to take a stance on the budget battles in the U.S. Content from social media and the web can be pulled into the story. Then, students create their own content, justifying or disagreeing with the stories incorporated into the story. Completed stories are published and then shared. Give Storify a try for current events projects as well as teaching media literacy.
If you are looking for a bare bones online writing tool, try NotePub. Once signed in, you are presented with a very simple text editor perfect for student journals. Each note can include images, links and attachments as well as tags to help with searching. For example, journal entries for a history unit might be tagged, “WWII”. In addition, multiple notebooks can be created with one account.
NotePub, like many online writing tools, works great for role playing assignments. Have your students assume the role of a person they are studying or character from literature. Then, your students write a daily journal entry. Completed entries can be shared in several ways including email.
Give these blogging alternatives a try. If you have any questions or other sites to suggest, post a reply.