As of today, we are making many of our previously ‘Pro’ only features 100% free for all!
This change will, without a doubt, make Edublogs the best free web publishing tool for students and teachers on the web.
We went through and have made many of our more popular features free, including:
- Student management – our ‘My Class’ tool, allowing teachers to control settings, group, and moderate their students’ blogs
- User invites – providing you a simple way to get students or blog collaborators attached to your blog
- User reports – making it easy to keep track of students’ posts and comments
- Privacy settings – so that you can password protect or make blogs completely private
- Themes – all themes are now available to free users
- Plugins – dozens more popular plugins are now available to free users
- Storage – free storage has gone up from a mere 50MB to a whopping 1GB per blog
- Support – every user will be able to send an email to our support team from their blog’s dashboard to get help with any questions they may have. We’ve become famous for our support, and endeavor to reply to all threads just as quickly as we can.
What’s The Catch?
Well, there are some features that will remain ‘Pro’, at just $7.95 per month or $39.95 per year. These include using your own custom domain, allowing a blog to be indexed by search engines, and the subscribe by email tool.
There is a complete run down on the comparison between Free and Pro on our features chart here.
In all cases where we’ve kept something as ‘Pro’ only, we did so only to ensure that Edublogs remains a safe place for students and complies with the ever changing state and federal student privacy data laws. These ‘Pro’ features are all ones that if we made free, our network would quickly be filled with spammers and marketers that would hog expensive resources and potentially publish inappropriate content. Our filters are good, but we want to remain on the side of caution when it comes to privacy and ensuring student-friendly content on the blogs that we host.
And for Pro users, we’ve also increased storage space on Pro from 10GB to 50GB!
Edublogs Pro is not going anywhere and it will remain a quality tool that many will find worth the small cost to upgrade. We invite educators, schools, student organizations, and others to create and host their blogs and sites with us. Existing ‘Pro’ customers will keep their subscriptions ongoing, but should you wish to cancel or downgrade to the new ‘Free’, this can be done in your blog’s dashboard at any time.
In short, 99% of what you want to do with student blogging can be done with our improved free offering. Professional blogs or group websites will probably be better served by upgrading to Pro.
What’s The Real Catch?
You caught me.
Over time, our CampusPress service has grown in such a way that we are now able to provide more for free here on Edublogs while keeping our server bills paid and our staff fed.
CampusPress makes it easy to create and manage blogs, portfolios, or class websites for your entire school, district or university. CampusPress also hosts main school and district websites, all with the same user-friendly WordPress backend that folks love about Edublogs.
We want to provide the best free Edublogs service possible so that more and more students and educators will be exposed to our tools, which ultimately will lead to more schools and districts looking for a CampusPress solution.
You will now see a few plugins and features in your Edublogs dashboard that are labeled as CampusPress only. These are tools that are useful for managing large numbers of blogs, like Google Apps/G Suite and LDAP integration, for example. And there are a few more advanced plugins that are ideal for main high-traffic websites.
If you can help us spread the word by sharing this post, that will go a long way to ensuring that our plan to grow CampusPress and keep more on Edublogs for free plays out :)
If you have any questions, please contact us here, and we’ll be sure to reply as fast as we can.
That being said, we’re excited! We can’t wait to see more students than ever blogging right here on Edublogs.
You can signup from our homepage, or just click this link here to start creating your new free blog now.
Happy free blogging!
We all have misconceptions about how the physical and natural world works.
And there can be science questions that students don’t feel comfortable asking in class or would like to ask outside of class. Such as “Do tree’s breathe?”, “ What is the difference between strength and hardness?”, “Where do puddles go to?”, “Why doesn’t a twig conduct electricity?”
Wouldn’t it be great if there was a Science site where younger students could get help with their questions?
The good news is there is a site, The Science Master, and it’s been set up on Edublogs to provide a safe learning environment for students.
About the Science Master
The Science Master has been designed for children/pupils to ask questions that they might feel that they cannot ask in a class environment. To some of us asking questions in a public forum can be quite a daunting experience.
Is it safe? It’s an Edublogs site. The children/pupils are not asked for an email address, or their real name. They are just asked for a name and some idea of their age. They find their answer by following the website as answers will be linked to the information supplied. The site will obviously only offer answers to real questions (all questions are checked before publication).
However these questions to the Science Master will not, in most cases, get a direct answer. The Science Master and his friends will try to give the questioner(s) a pathway that will help them investigate the question at their own level of understanding and arrive at possible solutions. They are the scientists.
Using the Science Master
They can comment on their own investigations and other readers can add their comments (including the Science Master). This is the blogging environment.
Here’s the answer to a question asked by a student!
Final Thoughts from the Science Master
“I have been using Edublogs in a variety of ways for the last 10 years so when I was invited to develop the Aston Tower, Science Master site Edublogs became my first choice as a tool to build what then, and still is, a fairly unique site.
The kids loved it, criticized it, and helped develop it, as well as apparently enjoying it!
I hope you do the same!”
Right up there with running more and eating healthier, keeping up with the blogs I like to follow has been my easy way out of New Year’s resolutions the past few years.
How many of you out there have also spent a good amount of time setting up your Google Reader only to let the new articles pile up so much that you give up on reading them all?
As an alternative, I’ve recently moved over to Facebook, a site I probably visit too often as it is, as my “feed reader” of choice.
If you haven’t done the same already, or if you are looking for better ways to keep up with the news and blogs that interest you, hopefully the quick overview below will help you out.
First, there are some drawbacks to the Facebook only method. There are many blogs, especially some of the newer or individual educator blogs, out there that don’t yet have their own Facebook page or RSS feed in their profile. These blogs can’t (as far as I can tell) be brought into your Facebook news feed.
And if you are one of those bloggers who isn’t yet importing your feed to Facebook, this recent article by italkless.com has a good overview on how it can be done.
So how do you turn Facebook into an excellent news reader?
Start off by making sure you “like” or “friend” all of your favorite bloggers, news sources, and websites. You will now find their articles and latest posts right in your live news feed in Facebook!
While that is all you really have to do, you might want to create a new Facebook list and take advantage of the new live feed filtering options in Facebook.
You will see in the image below that I have created a facebook list that includes all of my favorite news sources. This makes it easy to catch up on the latest posts when I don’t feel like seeing the status updates of all my friends at the same time.
Create your list and then click on the down arrow in the upper right corner of your facebook homepage or news feed to filter.
You might notice that I have a “limited profile” list too. That is where I keep all of my former students and I greatly limit what they can and can’t see on my profile – but that is for a whole different post. :)
Here are a few more more posts and tips about feed readers and RSS you might find useful:
- Setting up Feedburner RSS and email subscription to your blog
- Add your student blogs to a folder in Google Reader
- A glossary to demystify the jargon of the online world
This week in the Edublog world
Want to share a post, ask others to visit a blog for comments, or show off cool student work?
Use the hashtag #ebshare to let us know so we can re-tweet it for you!
Recent Posts You Might Have Missed
- Guide to finding and securing grants and outside funding for blogs and ed tech
- Teacher Challenge: Setting up your blog
- Introducing teacher challenges – open professional development!
Summing it up
What do you think about using Facebook as a feed reader?
Do you like mixing your personal/social life on facebook with work or news?
Keeping in mind that laws and policies vary depending on where you are and what age you work with, there are some common sense tips we should all follow.
The discussion below was inspired by comments left by educators on this Edublogger post over the past few weeks.
Is it fact, fiction, hype or fear?
Let us start by discussing the concerns of students working online and why we need to care before looking at some common sense tips.
As middle school teacher Jabiz Rasidana says:
“What, exactly is it, that everyone is so afraid of?”
Too often media creates hysteria about Internet predators leading school districts to respond to parent and teacher concerns by blocking any kind of social networking while failing to highlight the positive aspects achieved when students collaborate online as part of a global community.
Gail Desler highlights:
While we recognize that online predators pose a threat, about 1% of child abuse and sexual abuse cases, and we certainly do not dismiss the need to teach our students about safety issues, such as “grooming,” we also want all students to learn to use the Internet effectively and ethically.
Our middle school counselors, for instance, report that over 60% of their case load involves handling and defusing cyberbullying and “sexting” issues – mainly from smart phones. Pretty much 100% of the time, the parents are clueless as to how their children are using the Internet.
Digital citizenship should be built into media literacy —media literacy as a must-have skill for the 21st century.
Internet safety is best taught at school and not at home (sorry, parents).
And like Kathleen McGready says:
The biggest thing is … you can’t just do one off lessons on cyber safety. Cyber safety is not a separate subject.
Through being heavily involved in blogging, my grade two class has opportunities almost every day to discuss cyber safety issues and appropriate online behaviours in an authentic setting.
When we’re writing blog posts and comments together, a wide range of issues come up incidentally. The discussions are so rich and purposeful and my students now have an excellent understanding of the do’s and don’ts of internet safety.
Most of us agreed that:
- Teaching students what can and what shouldn’t be shared online can’t be boiled down to a few lessons.
- It is best if the topic is brought up often and in context when working with any web technology.
What do we need to consider?
The reality is that we’ve got to face the questions and concerns raised when students are online head on.
Our world is increasingly connected, and our students need to know how to interact online safely and with some level of privacy. The trouble is that educators, administrators, online web tools, politicians, and parents just aren’t sure what that looks like yet. And for some reason, a consensus decision isn’t likely anytime soon. Either way, we must educate students about the expectations we have of them when they are online and about the digital footprint they leave behind.
We need to educate our students on how to work in a safe online environment.
As Kathleen McGeady commented,
“I don’t think it matters that much what your actual policies are on photos/avatars/no images etc as long as you’re having conversations and doing something!”
Here’s some things to consider and our advice when working online with your students.
Tip #1: Set clear guidelines
It’s crucial to have clear guidelines so that all parents and students are aware of what is and isn’t appropriate.
The best approach is to get students involved with creating the guidelines.
For example. Pernille Ripp has an excellent activity using the analogy The Internet is like a Mall. She tells them that going on the internet is like going to the mall without your parents’ supervision and asks them to share how do they stay safe at the mall? This takes the students from a topic they already understand and know to applying those same principles online.
Check out these examples:
- Pernille Ripp’ s Internet Safety Plan and Blogging Introduction
- Kathleen McGeady’s Introduction to Bloggigng Handout, Guide to Getting the Most out of 2KM’s Class blog and Our Blog Guidelines
- Edublogs Guide to Using Blogs With Students
Tip #2: Use of student names
This is usually one of the first items to think about before using any online services with students.
Can they use their full name, first name only, last initial, or maybe a made-up username? In general, obtaining parent permission for minors is important when using anything other than a made-up or “code” name.
Most educators use the student’s first name only combined with a combination of letters and/or numbers that might represent their year level, room number, school or class blog such as amberh4 or adrianhan10 for student usernames and blog URLs.
Tip #3: Use of photos
Use of student photos, and especially linking names with specific photos, are also questions that come up when blogging, sharing videos, or using other web services online. Even though 99.9% of visitors to your class blog will be well meaning parents, students, community members, or interested visitors from around the world, the unfortunate reality is that those with bad intentions can also visit public sites. There are also cases where the personal background of a student might mean they need more privacy and anonymity than others.
Decisions on whether to use student photographs or not is often more about protecting educators from having problems with parents or administrators who have concerns about cyber-predators.
A safe compromise is to only use photo taken from behind students.
On the other hand, one of the most engaging and powerful aspects of blogging comes from the sense of pride and ownership that only happens when you put yourself out there for the world to see. For this reason, many teachers do use student images.
As middle school teacher Jabiz Rasidana points out on Intrepid Teacher,
“the most rewarding experiences I have had online, the most authentic and personal relationships have been because I shared more than I should have.”
And the same is true for students. We put our thoughts and ideas out there, and everyone learns from it – especially the blogger.
Kathleen McGready says:
Unlike many classes, I identify students by first name and photo. Of course I gain parent permission for this and 100% of my parents have been supportive. Last year, I did not publish photos of students and I think there were more cons than pros. The parents and the classes we work with around the world are able to connect more with our blog and student work by seeing who the authors are.
Taking it a step further, any student comments or posts may need to be kept private behind a password. This is understandable – imagine if you were the one student in a class that for one reason or another shouldn’t have your photo online especially when it comes to your avatar. All of your classmates have a photo avatar while you are left with a funny image or drawing. You probably wouldn’t be too happy about this.
An alternative solution is to get your students to create their own avatar using these online reources without using a photo!
The key is to have the conversations with your administrators and parents about the use of photos online — so you can address the needs of your community.
Tip #4: Public vs Private
Many times, cautious administrators or teachers will opt to keep all blogs private.
However, being locked behind a password greatly limits the global learning aspect that encourages outsiders to visit and comment on student blogs. Further still, it can really stifle the energy and motivation created when students know they are writing so that their family and friends (and even strangers) can see.
- If students share a video they created in a class presentation they will probably get excited.
- If students publish the same video on the web for all to see, they feel accomplished and professional!
From experience we’ve found that when educators allow their students to publish their content in a public space they spend more time educating their students and reinforcing appropriate online behavior than those that use private sites locked behind a password.
And don’t forget, on public blogs you can set up systems like Leigh Newton uses where all comments and posts spark an email to him, the administrator.
Here’s how you moderate all comments and posts on student blogs — if you need/want to take this approach.
Tip # 5: Student work and confidentiality
However, there are occasions when you really do need to consider confidentially.
There was one example we ran across recently where a teacher of special needs students had a class blog. By allowing students to comment on the blog, the students were identified as part of the special education program. This lead to the important discussion about if this violates confidentiality for those students. In this case, the school administrators erred on the side of caution – and the wishes of the students and parents involved. The conclusion was to change the class blog to private so that only registered and approved visitors could visit it. The parents and students in the class were all given accounts to use.
Teacher feedback, specifically anything that can be interpreted as grades, is another area that educators that are blogging with students should be aware of. It is natural to leave comments on blogs for students, but there are other times when more detailed feedback may be best left for private.
As Common Sense Media puts it in one of their 10 beliefs,
“We believe in teaching our kids to be savvy, respectful and responsible media interpreters, creators, and communicators. We can’t cover their eyes but we can teach them to see.”
Here’s some helpful resources
So what next?
Like the continuous discussions we should be having with our students, the dialog should continue among educators, parents, and policy makers to ensure we are maximizing learning freedoms while encouraging safe and smart web habits.
Please leave your thoughts or questions below for our blogging community to continue to learn from each other!