What's the best way to set up blogs for my students?
March 4, 2005 11:12 AM   Subscribe

I teach computer literacy to 9th graders at a small independent school, and we're currently trying to figure out the best way to give our kids their own blogs. They'd blog assignments and observations for several subjects, and we'd leave comments and feedback on their entries. It would need to be private (only for students and their teachers), customizable (to allow for individual creativity), and public-web accessible. Any suggestions? We can probably host our own server, if need be, but we have limited funds.
posted by tomadelic to Education (10 answers total)
Maybe Livejournal?

You can set up journals there that are only accessible to people on your 'friends' list, to keep them out of the public eye. The individual journals can also be custom designed (within the Livejournal specs, of course.) You can also set up a community to keep track of the entire project if you want.

Aside from that, I don't know. It sounds like an interesting project, however, and keep us posted on how it's going!
posted by spinifex23 at 11:16 AM on March 4, 2005

LiveJournal sounds like it. Posts can be private (author-only) or filtered for people on your friends list or even just for one or two people on the friends list, if they end up friending the other students but still only want the instructor(s) to see the assignments.
posted by librarina at 11:29 AM on March 4, 2005

If you want them to be more involved with HTML, Movable Type is configurable in the same way, there are no limitations on design and you can host it on your own server. I found it a really great learning experience personally, working with HTML, looking for advice, plugins, and templates online, really having that minute amount of control over my own blog.
posted by scazza at 12:02 PM on March 4, 2005

I second Movable Type for all scazza's reasons above, plus it's pretty easy to set up multiple blogs for different users that one administrator can oversee. But it isn't free any more, as far as I can tell, and there's no "friends" feature, apart from adding them into your link list.

I could just be biased against LiveJournal, though.
posted by steelbuddha at 12:07 PM on March 4, 2005

I use MT for my own blog, but it may not be the best candidate for this project. It doesn't have good account-management or privacy features, which you would probably want for something like this. And, as steelbuddha noted, it's no longer free--in fact, it's pretty expensive for something like this.

An open-source, industrial-strength CMS would be free and offer some features that MT/LJ do not, but with these, it is typically much harder to customize the look on a blog-per-blog basis. I've been messing with Drupal (drupal.org), which has an adequate blog module. Might be worth a look, if only to give you a different perspective on what you want/need. Also bookmark-worthy is Open Source CMS, a clearinghouse for same, with live demos of many systems.
posted by adamrice at 12:42 PM on March 4, 2005

Believe it or not I used to do this for a living (self link but check out my former employer TeacherHosting.) We use MT and frankly it is the only thing I'd recommend for something like this. You'll have the ability to have one installation with multiple authors and multiple blogs with different levels of users so that some can post to all and some can only post to some.

You might also want to check out http://exampleblog.teacherhosting.com/ which shows teachers how setting up blogs differently will affect how students can interact with them. There are actually three blogs there, One Author (teacher), Numerous Authors (teacher and students) and, Two Authors (teacher and shared student account). Each setup has pluses and minuses.

If you, or anyone else wants to talk about this more, feel free to email me (contact information on my mefi page) and we can setup a time to chat on the phone.
posted by pwb503 at 12:51 PM on March 4, 2005

If you have a Mac and DSL or Cable access there is a great series at Nerd Vittles (here:


In essence it leads you through setting up Apache, MySQL, PHP and a bunch of other stuff on a Mac Mini (Works on a lot of macs, not just the mini.)

I think 9th graders could handle the entire process fairly easily. Of course, once you get PHP installed you can run Wordpress which has all of the trimmings with ten levels of access, password protected posts, and the whole schmeggege (not counting the Mac or the connection) is free!

(Sorry, don't know the format for posting a link.)
posted by leafwoman at 2:59 PM on March 4, 2005

Even though it sounds like using Livejournal would suit your needs just fine, if that's too easy, Livejournal is open-source. You can use their code and set up your own thing, if you want.
posted by Melinika at 6:01 PM on March 4, 2005

We have educational licenses for Movable Type that make it really cheap for schools, and there are a number of plugins to do whatever kind of password protection/authentication you'd want to do to control access. There's also a pretty good community of people doing similar projects that we can put you in touch with to trade tips and techniques.

You can email me (anil at sixapart dot com) if you want more info.
posted by anildash at 1:52 AM on March 5, 2005

Response by poster: Fantastic suggestions! This is a wonderful start. I'll be consulting with members of my 9th grade (faculty) team about this project next week, and am very grateful for your input.
posted by tomadelic at 5:32 AM on March 5, 2005

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