Why should you use WordPress to teach students?
In order to teach effectively, you must have the following three things in place:
- Excellent source material for students to gather research from
- The right questions asked at the right time and in the right way (Read my post on Asking the Right Questions)
- A good space to debate the answers to those questions in depth – THE BLOG!
Too often, established teachers, or newly qualified teachers with little experience of creating online media, shy away from tasks like building a website. It looks like it will be too difficult. However, there are many tools and templates available to make this easy. I’ve found many simple walk-throughs on YouTube, and on WordPress itself. My only regret is that I didn’t start blogging earlier – it’s so much easier than it looks. In fact, the last blog I created took less than five minutes to create from scratch! Read this post for a step-by-step guide to creating your first class blog in five minutes.
What exactly is WordPress?
Well a blog is just a vehicle for delivering online content, only it is incredibly easy to self-publish and there are very few (if any) barriers to entry. I have used blogs for around six years now, on and off and students love them. For teaching, Iuse www.wordpress.com – they host the blog I use with my A Level Law students and it’s FREE!
However, if like me, you want even more functionality for your blog, then I would recommend using www.wordpress.org. WordPress can host the blog for you, but I would recommend using a hosting service like SiteGround. This host is the one I use for www.teachingandlearningguru.com. SiteGround offer absolutely fantastic 24/7 customer service (there is always someone on the end of the phone to answer any questions you have) and they were the cheapest and most reliable hosting service that I was willing to use for my first ‘paid’ website.
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I chose WordPress because someone (a fellow teacher) recommended it to me and when I had my first go, I found it very intuitive and it took no time at all to publish my first piece of content. Other popular blogging sites include Weebly, Blogger, Tumblr and Wix, amongst many others, but in my opinion, WordPress wins hands down. There’s a reason why over 27% of websites in the entire world use WordPress!
How could I use WordPress to teach?
The short answer is any way you like. You can simply use it to publish articles for students to read. It could be used to provide an online homework space for students to discuss and debate via the comments section (where you can approve or not approve comments with the click of a button). You could just do what I did initially, which was to publish the link to a press article and invite the students to leave comments below (moderated by me of course). Click here for an example. You could even encourage students to write their own articles to be posted and commented on, following their own independent learning.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of using WordPress?
Have you ever had a group of students look at you with misery in their eyes as you reach for a dusty stack of textbooks? Next time, tell the class that they will instead be on their very own website debating with each other! Engagement goes through the roof every time I’ve used a blog – although I do have a love of certain textbooks – you can’t beat the smell of print on paper! To build excitement about using a blog to teach, get the students to come up with the blog name themselves and have them vote for the most popular.
Blogs are easy to write, edit, or delete if needed. For the blog’s author, you, everything you need is contained in a “dashboard”. Here you can click once to add a page, create a comments section, add social media links, etc. Below is an example of the dashboard I see when creating or editing posts for my students. It’s incredibly intuitive and easy to learn the very simple functions.
You don’t even need any programming experience or knowledge of how the internet works – thankfully for me!
Students might forget an inspirational but throwaway comment during a classroom debate. That comment could change the direction of an essay. It could be the crucial foundation of their evaluation of a scientific process. It could make the difference to the technical movements in a physical sporting activity. By using a blog, there is less chance that students will miss or forget the information they’ve explored. This is because blogs are available to students and to yourself, twenty-four hours a day. They can even download an app to their mobile or tablet, which notifies them anytime you add a post or when someone posts a comment.
Disadvantages are the same as they are for every new method of delivery. It’s new to you. You will have to take a little time to learn some new skills, but they are basic skills that you already have if you use word-processing or presentation software. The systems you use in your school to analyse exam results or track attendance will be much harder to use than blogging sites like WordPress!
My challenge to you…
Try it. Go on. Spend 20 minutes creating your first blog, for you to use with one of your classes next week. Your students will love it (and they might even think that you are cool). Students still say “cool” right? Click here to begin creating your blog now.
Leave a comment and tell me all about your adventures in blogging – don’t be shy about leaving a link to your blog below – the more we see, the more we learn!
And don’t forget to click on the share buttons below!