Storify is Dead (Almost)

I don’t know if you’ve heard the terrible news. My much beloved Storify is dying. On May 16, 2018, Storify will be shutting down and deleting all of its content. They’ve posted the message loud and clear on their soon-to-be-deleted homepage.

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Storify has been a regular feature on this blog.

I’m still sorting out how best to preserve while still continuing to share the content that I and students have built using Storify’s platform. I have until May 16th to figure it all out. Apparently, after May, I will have the option to use Storify 2 which comes inside of a purchased Livefyre license, but, if Storify is no longer free, it loses its value for me.

So, for now, it appears that my stand-in for this year’s students will be Padlet, which is essentially an online bulletin board that allows students to individually or collaboratively arrange links, images, and text in a secure, but shareable space. I’ll report back on the usefulness of this stand-in; however, before I get too ahead of myself, a moment of silence for Storify.


Playing with My Friends

I’ve blogged before about how much joy I get out of playfully collaborating with my colleagues to create exciting and awesome new ideas and compositions. From presenting at conferences to reflectively exploring new areas of scholarship to writing this awesome piece on composing with sound for Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology, and Pedagogy, some of my best work has come from working alongside others to create something much greater and more complex than I could have come up with using just my mind alone.

Carrying on in this developing personal practice, I have teamed up with Kate Artz and Anne Mooney to publish our most recent piece with Kairos, “Transmodality in Action: A Manifesto.” It’s definitely my oddest, most experimental publication to date, but I love it passionately, largely because it was really really fun to make.

Don’t get me wrong; the scholarly value and complexity of my publications and research matters to me greatly. However, there is just no way around the fact that I like doing things that are a lot of fun with people that are fun to work with. Playing in this way inevitably leads me to create excellent work. And therein lies the heart of what I want to say in this post.

Here are some things that happen when I playfully explore my field alongside like minded colleagues:

  • I discover new facets and angles to issues that interest and excite me and that shape the way I think about my discipline.
  • I create high quality work that expresses my passion for my field and engages others to play with or dialogue over the ideas we are exploring.
  • I push myself to articulate my thoughts and observe how others understand and interact with them.
  • I find myself happily and willingly dedicating long hours of hard work to scholarly endeavors without excessive fatigue or frustration.
  • I develop habits of questioning, trying on multiple perspectives, and hunting for new ways to view things.
  • When a project draws to a close, I am eager and excited for new, bigger, and more elaborate projects.

I can say with certainty that my colleagues experience all these same benefits in their own ways. And if it’s true for us, it’s true for our students. Looking over this list, these are some of the core skills and experiences I want my students to have in my classroom. So while I am pouring over elaborate lesson plans and assessments, I resolve to make it a goal to carve out time to let my students and their friends play with composition and literature. Because that seems to be where the real magic happens.


Presenting at New England CCCCs 2017: Continuing my Career as a Teacher-Scholar

As I’ve blogged about extensively in the past, I have an enthusiastic love for academic conferences within my discipline. Even when the conference or the keynote speaker isn’t what I was expecting or hoping for, I always walk away from my conference experiences feeling enriched, motivated, and challenged. Now that I have completed my graduate degrees and am working full time in a high school classroom, conference participation and attendance don’t fall quite as readily into my work life routine as they have in the past; however, I find it more important now than ever that I continue pushing myself to remain actively engaged in current, ongoing scholarship within my field. It matters deeply to me both as a scholar and as an educator. To my pleasant surprise my supervisors, administrators, and colleagues at LCA support me in this wholeheartedly.

As a result of all these factors, this past May, I had the genuine pleasure of continuing my research and scholarship in teaching composition by working alongside my longtime research colleagues, Anne Mooney and Kate Artz, to organize a 60-minute panel at NCTE’s New England Summer Conference on College Composition & Communication (CCCCs): Sharing Best Practices at Boston University. And let me just say, my passion for academic conferences has not waned in the slightest.

Our session, entitled “Making Audio Accessible: Teaching Transcription as Composition” examined how teaching transcription of audio files as a rhetorical process empowers students to create purposeful and accessible texts of their own. Attendees of the session participated in an activity designed to help them better understand the experiences transcripts create for their readers. We also provided assignment materials for attendees to use in their own classrooms. It was a great turnout with truly fantastic and engaged participation from our attendees.

We were also fortuitously paired with Dartmouth College’s Mark Koch, who approached similar questions to the ones we explored in our panel, but through the rhetorical activity of composing maps. While his was a very visual mode and ours relied on the relationship between audio and text, both projects explored exciting and interesting ways to prompt students to grapple with complicated and difficult questions when composing. What information is included? What information is left out? What are my rhetorical goals, and how can I best achieve them? We felt very honored and lucky to have been so aptly paired with Dr. Koch.

As this was my first conference as an active teacher instead of a graduate student, I was definitely aware that my daily activities existed much father outside the realm of traditional research and scholarship than they have in the past; however, I became acutely conscious of the difference my role in the classroom made in the way I was able to process and engage with some of the theoretical ideas we were batting around. The immediacy with which I was able to envision the practical implementation of some of the principles and concepts we were exploring was pointed and fascinating to say the least. More than ever before I felt the importance of the balance between my identity as an educator and my identity as a scholar, and the energy and excitement of that recognition has not left me as I transition into my summer.

Ultimately, I was able to gather with motivated and experienced educators from across New England to share our research, discuss developments in our discipline, and provoke deeper, more complex thought on the issues shaping our field today. But I was able to do so while inhabiting the role of a teacher-scholar more fully than I ever have before. And I have a sense that the gravity of that has yet to entirely hit me, which excites me greatly.




Using Digital Activities in the Classroom – Part 4 of 5: Storify

I am absolutely loving my first year of full-time lead teaching; however, it has been consuming enough to take me until now to get to the next installment in my series on using digital activities in the classroom, introduced in this post.

As I slowly work through this series, I’m going to use this post to explore a tool that I have only recently added to my digital toolbox: Storify.


This post in my digital classroom activities series just HAPPENS to coincide with a little side venture that my teacher-friends Anne Mooney, Megan Grandmont, and myself  undertook this past summer in which we argued in a group text thread over the difference between transmodal and transmedia composition and then converted the whole conversation into a Storify story. The whole thing was loads of fun and you can read about it in this blog post. Coming off of completing this side-project, however, I am extra enthusiastic about the affordances of Storify and how it can be used in a high school classroom!

What is Storify?
Before we get too far, let me explain what Storify is. Storify is a free, online tool that allows you as the user to draw from multiple social media and online resources including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Soundcloud, Tumblr, and a variety of other sites, curating information to meet your needs. You can also enter urls to find google images or particular sites. The links, images, or videos that you pull from these different resources can then be assembled into a timeline or “story.” The story is entirely linear; each element has to come before or after the others. As you are assembling your story, you can enter text to give the story shape, flow, and cohesion. The end result is a multimedia summary or record of a topic or event with information aggregated from a host of different sources.

Perhaps the best way to understand Storify is simply to read through some examples.

  • HERE is an example of an ongoing story started in 2011 by journalist Josh Stearns who used Storify to track the arrests of journalists covering the Occupy protests. The chronological nature of Stearns’ project works well with Storify’s linear structure. Storify’s ability to draw from various social media outlets helps Stearns consolidate a wide array of disparate pieces of information into his story.
  • HERE is a story capturing the unfolding story of an elderly bus monitor who was harassed by some students, triggering a national response of donations so that she could retire early.
  • HERE is an excellent how-to story that guides students through the paper-writing process, offering links to tools and articles as they go.
  • HERE is the story I created with my colleagues to capture our process of working through the difference between the terms “transmodal” and “transmedia.”

The possibilities are pretty immense with Storify, both in terms of using some of the incredible stories that are out there as well as creating some of your own.

Classroom Applications:
Because the possibilities with Storify are so diverse, the potential classroom applications also cover a fairly wide, interdisciplinary gambit. I’ve compiled the following list, which is by no means comprehensive:

  • Research: Storify lends itself to compiling and organizing research because it inherently connects students to a wide variety of sources. It encourages students to consider multimedia options and to arrange those sources in meaningful ways. Because Storify connects users to several social media platforms, it also lends itself to considering the current and real-world impact their subject of research has on the world around them. The ability to include text with any element in the story allows students to create a kind of multimedia annotated bibliography that can be edited and shared at any time. Here is a student example of a more formal annotated bibliography completed in Storify.
  • Drafting and Outlining: Storify can serve as an excellent pre-writing or drafting tool. Although it is designed to curate information from a variety of sources, original writing can play a major role in a story. Students can outline and draft essays, papers, or personal responses in their story, sectioning their work into different blocks of text. Those blocks of texts can be moved around by simply dragging and dropping, encouraging students to consider the flow and chronology of their compositions. Students can then begin to build on those individual text blocks, expanding their outline into a full, written composition.
  • Digital Writing: While the prior two ideas consider Storify to be more of a process tool for students to employ on their way to creating their final product, this suggestion proposes that a Story may make for an excellent final product in and of itself. Combining Storify’s ability to draw on diverse, multimedia documents and to integrate original writing creates the opportunity for students to explore digital writing in new and meaningful ways. Students can create robust, multimodal, and intertextual research papers, reports, or essays using Storify’s platform. These Storify essays, reports, and papers can be brief (like this student essay on the effects of social class on education) or they can be more complex and lengthy (like this student research paper on the responses to a presidential debate). Using a Storify story as a final document can encourage students to think creatively about their writing and research, push themselves to incorporate more multimodality into their composition, and expand their idea of what it means to write in scholarly contexts.

Again, I will stress that this list is by no means comprehensive! There are infinite possibilities when using a program like Storify, each possibility with its own set of potential assignments.

Pros and Cons:
As with any pedagogical tool, there are affordances and constraints to using Storify in the classroom. Some of the cautions and concerns I have personally and that I have found considered in posts like this one from professor and rhetorician Rebecca Harris include asking students to use their recreational social media knowledge for academic and scholarly purposes. Using Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to hold academic conversations or pursue academic ends does require students to use familiar tools in an unfamiliar way. While this may end up being an actual strength of the project, I would anticipate it requiring some intentional discussion and exploration at the beginning of any project.

That being said, the potential affordances that accompany work created using Storify are immense. One of the most important aspects of this project in my opinion deals with some of the borderline debilitating anxiety that I see many of my students experience around writing. Despite my students’ incredible skill at composing texts, messages, and captions in social media contexts, sitting down with a pen and paper or at a word processor to craft a composition out of nothing paralyzes them. Storify scaffolds this process for them by resembling more familiar, lower stakes composition contexts and by allowing students to pull in information from a variety of sources to supplement and guide their writing processes. I think my students would feel a little bit more like “the expert” in assignments like these, allowing them the confidence to experiment and play with their composition.

Another major benefit of using Storify to guide classroom writing and research is the way Storify seamlessly integrates multimodality into the research and writing process. Storify anticipates students using videos, images, social media, and links in their work. This can help students push genre norms and experiment with the ways they integrate media into their work.

Needless to say, Storify is currently at the top of my list for digital tools to work into my classroom. As soon as I am able to work one of these assignments into my curriculum, I will report back with findings. In the meantime, if anyone out there has experience or ideas for using Storify stories in student writing, I’d love to hear from you!



Being Reflective with Teacher Friends: Transmodality vs. Transmedia

There have been many things I have loved about my unfolding career as a teacher. Among these many things, one of the most central has been the incredibly motivated group of teachers I have the honor and privilege of working with on a regular basis. Another of these very lovable things has been the irresistible and magnetic complexity that is woven into the work that my students and I engage in together. Making meaning as readers and writers is an intricate, dense undertaking that must be approached with great reflection, creativity, and awareness. As I grow in my craft, I consistently see these two great loves intersecting: my fellow educators and our shared fascination with the nuanced process of meaning making.

Most recently, these two loves came together in a somewhat unexpected way! My fellow teacher-friends, Anne Mooney and Megan Grandmont, and I are always blogging, tweeting, or talking about our work. This encompasses what we are reading, what lessons we are planning, what ideas we are batting around etc. These brilliant and fiercely dedicated teacher-friends keep me focused and my lesson plans in tip-top shape. This past summer, all three of us have been in between our degree programs and our new jobs as classroom teachers. One might think we would use this interim time to rest and read fun novels on the beach. One would only be partially correct in this thought.

We did indeed do those things; HOWEVER, we also got into a serious debate over the differences between transmodal and transmedia work. As a result of our recent blogging, scholarship, and personal interests, the three of us dove deep into what these terms and their associated concepts mean for ourselves, our classrooms, and our students. Towards the end of our conversation, Megan pointed out that the exploratory discussion we had just pushed our way through would make for an excellent Storify story. And so, over the next few weeks, we worked to compose a story that captured our own personal process of hashing out the differences between transmodal and transmedia composition. The result? Please enjoy this foray into our summer obsessions!

Updated on 04 January 2018: Due to Storify’s shutting down and deleting their content, which I cover in this post, I’ve exported this story into a PDF file which you can view at this link. Most of the links transferred properly, but obviously the embedded videos no longer work. I think most of the heart of the dialogue is maintained.

Updated on 27 January 2018: As discussed in this post, I will be transferring all of my work in Storify into Wakelet. HERE is this conversation stored in Wakelet. In the exact opposite scenario from my prior update, all the embedded videos work perfectly in the Wakelet version of this conversation, but not all of the links transferred.

Using Digital Activities in the Classroom – Part 3 of 5: Pinterest

Continuing on in my series on digital classroom tools, introduced in this opening post, I am truly excited to discuss some of the ways Pinterest can be used to build digital literacies and promote 21st century literacy skills. Although I have briefly talked about using Pinterest to create classroom word walls in the past, this post will explore some of the broader, more flexible roles Pinterest can fill in an educational context.

For those of you who have yet to delve too deeply into the wonderful world of Pinterest, it is a social networking site that allows users to share and organize online content, including links to articles, videos, images, audio files, and much more. The defining feature of Pinterest, however, is that this sharing and organizing is driven almost entirely by a visual component. Every content link is associated with an image; this image/link pairing, or “pin,” is what is shared, organized, and pinned to different boards. Each board represents a general topic on which the user can pin a variety of image/link pairings. For example, on my own, personal Pinterest site, I currently have a board entitled “Teach” on which I pin classroom strategies and lesson plans. Each pin has its own image and link to related content. The result is one large visual made up of a series of individual images, each tied to a relevant content link. See below!

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Here is a screenshot of my personal Pinterest board built to house my pins related to classroom lesson-planning and teaching. If you click on any of the images, they will take you to the site that houses the associated blog post, article, or lesson plan.

Given the inherently multimodal and digital nature of Pinterest, it holds a ton of potential for classroom use and digital literacy-building. Additionally, for students who are more visually oriented or for ELL students, the image associations that Pinterest relies on can be very powerful learning mechanisms. With this in mind, here are a few ways to think about capitalizing on Pinterest’s unique functionality in order to generate new and creative learning opportunities in the classroom. Some of these ideas overlap with one another in different ways, but my hope is that at least one of them might trigger some potential activity ideas for any teacher-readers out there!

  1. Brainstorming: Pinterest is gloriously vast; its scope is impossibly broad. This diversity of pins can make a Pinterest board a fantastic place to gather ideas for various projects or assignments, particularly when students are in the drafting and planning phase of composing visual, digital, or multimodal projects. Students can pin example work, project ideas, and anything that helps them narrow their vision for their composition. For students who are intimidated by visual or multimodal work, a brainstorming board on Pinterest might help them formulate some tangible ideas or starting points. For students who are enthusiastic and fearless composers of multimodal work, Pinterest’s endless sea of ideas can serve to inspire and push them to consider new and creative possibilities.
  2. Group Work: Pinterest can be collaborative in a number of ways. Boards can be set to function collaboratively, allowing multiple users to pin different ideas to a single board. This can help group members communicate, organize, and streamline various visions for a single project, particularly a visual project. Each individual pin also allows comments from other users, so students are able to comment on the pins that their classmates are collecting and curating, offering feedback, questions, or further resources. When considering how the this point interacts with the first point, the potential for group brainstorming around a collaborative project is huge.
  3. Research: As students research a particular topic and sift through which sources they would like to use, Pinterest can be a great way to collect and organize that research. Pinterest’s visual nature and layout also encourages students to value multimodal sources, including videos, sound bites, infographics, or photographs, all of which are important to consider when compiling research around a topic. As this post by Leah Anne Levy points out, a single board dedicated to a particular research topic can serve as a sort of running, virtual bibliography that a student can return to throughout their work and use to craft their final works cited page. It is important to note that some discussion around choosing good sources would help make this use of Pinterest much more effective.
  4. Teacher-Curated Resources: A teacher-run Pinterest account can function as a convenient, centralized way to make educational resources available to students. The classroom teacher can construct different boards to house related content, sample work, or other resources that she feels might be useful for her students. These boards could easily be supplementary or optional, allowing students to use the sources according to their needs, learning styles, and personal goals.

I personally am very excited to employ some of these ideas in my own classroom; however, as high school principal Eric Sheninger points out in his Edutopia article, any use of Pinterest in an educational setting necessarily has to include a discussion of copyright and fair use laws. Pinterest functions on the use of visuals, which are often creative works requiring appropriate citation. Despite this, the Pinterest universe largely neglects this aspect of social networking; very few pin images are appropriately cited. For classroom boards, it is important that students give proper credit to any image, video, sound bite, or other work that they pin or use in their personal composition.

I view the copyright issues surrounding the use of Pinterest in the classroom as one of the many compelling reasons to incorporate it into student work. Students often have a wildly inadequate understanding of responsible source use. Navigating copyright regulations surrounding digital sources is a complex, but necessary skill that any 21st century student needs experience with. Pinterest can create safe and controlled opportunities for building digital literacy skills while also exploring the vast, digital resources at their fingertips. So, in short, happy pinning!



Using Digital Activities in the Classroom – Part 2 of 5: Blogs

In this somewhat delayed continuation of my opening post for this series, I would like to turn the spotlight on one of my personal favorite tools for bringing digital writing into the high school classroom: blogs! Blogs are an effective and relevant way to ask students to build their digital literacy skills and incorporate multimodal material into their learning.

Before we get too deep into the HOW part of this post, I’d like to take a quick moment to cover exactly what a blog is. The concept behind blogging is fairly straightforward. The word blog actually comes from the term “web log,” where an online site would function as a log or journal, chronicling a particular subject or movement. This idea of a web log eventually came to be known as a weblog which was further simplified into the word “blog,” which the Oxford English dictionary currently defines as “a regularly updated website or web page, typically one run by an individual or small group, that is written in an informal or conversational style.” So a blog is any webpage that is monitored and composed over time by an author or group of authors in order to address or explore some topic of interest. This can include cooking blogs, like this one, where the author regularly posts new recipes and accompanying images. Other individuals run lifestyle blogs, like this one, where the author shares her family stories, adventures, and photos. This post that you are currently reading is part of my education blog. As the Oxford dictionary entry states, these blogs tend to employ an informal, casual tone while informing you on a subject from the perspective of the author or authors. Simple enough!

The beauty of blogs however is that, despite the seeming simplicity behind the idea of blogging, the ways in which blogs can be and are used are incredibly diverse. The unique affordances that blogging allows for can be adjusted and modified to suit a wide array of rhetorical purposes. It is this extreme flexibility that makes blogs so useful as well as prevalent.

With this understanding of blogging in mind, my goal for this post is to explore how blogs can be used in the high school classroom, basing much of my discussion on my own personal experience as well as current research. It is my belief that the ways blogs can be utilized in the classroom can be boiled down into two separate categories.

  1. Authored and maintained primarily by the teacher
  2. Authored and maintained primarily by the students

Which one of these categories a teacher chooses to employ in her classroom depends heavily on each class’ needs and exactly which 21st century literacy skills that teacher is working to develop in her students.

      1. Blogs Authored and Maintained Primarily by Teachers:
        This kind of blog is generally used to keep students organized, give them practice accessing, navigating, and evaluating digital documents and texts, and potentially afford them the opportunity to contribute to an ongoing digital conversation. Students, and sometimes parents, have total access to this blog and can use it to engage with the material in ways that are meaningful to them. Teachers construct and maintain these blogs, but can also choose to host student conversations or comments on these blogs in order to give students some buy-in.I have incorporated blogs in this manner when teaching Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World to CP Seniors; I’ve included a few screenshots of these blogs below. As the teacher of this course, I had complete control over the authorship and maintenance of these blogs. I posted the links to content and orchestrated any group chats; however, students were very active on the blogs, engaging in serious digital reading and often posting in response to multimedia material or ongoing discussions.


        This page of the blog houses an informal syllabus that I updated regularly, giving students the ability to plan for upcoming assignments or look up missed classwork.


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        Here is an example of using the blog to integrate related multimedia content into the coursework. This post was shared with all students and included a link to the song itself. Students were able to comment and discuss the song, and several students chose to reference this work in their later papers.

        Blogs that are authored and maintained by the teacher can give students valuable experience with conducting research online using a variety of digital resources, interacting and collaborating in digital spaces, and integrating multimedia content into their work.

      2. Blogs Authored and Maintained Primarily by Students
        This kind of blog affords students a much greater degree of authority and ownership over their work, which can be both intimidating and extremely generative. A blog that has been created and maintained by a student can be a powerful forum for student interaction and publication, widening the audience for a student’s writing. Giving a student ownership over their blog allows them to assert their opinions and interpretations on a subject or issue into a real life scenario that takes place outside of the classroom. This level of control also allows students to experiment with the design of their blogs, which affords them priceless experience in strategically choosing a layout, considering their audiences, and composing with color, font, and graphics.I had the opportunity to see student-authored blogs in action while co-teaching a unit on Shakespeare’s Macbeth with Megan Grandmont of A Classroom With a View. Throughout this unit, which developed students’ ability to write from the point of view of a literary character, students selected a character from the play, designed a blog as that character, and then blogged from that character’s perspective for the duration of the unit. Each student created, designed, and maintained their own blog, exploring blog genre norms, digital composition, and the complexities of publishing original work on the internet. I have included screenshots from sample student blogs below; all work is used with student and parent permission.

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        This student blog, written from the perspective of Lady Macbeth, capitalized on aesthetics and design, creating meaning and point of view through the use of color, image, font, layout, and text.


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        This student used his blog’s About page to make inferences about Macbeth, taking advantage of blog norms to explore his understanding of the character’s point of view.

        These blogs, which were incredible across the board, were created independently by the students; I did not have control over the content posted on each blog. As previously mentioned, this created the potential for immense student ownership and creativity. It also, however, resulted in opportunities for larger complications and ethical issues. When employing blogs authored and maintained by students in the classroom, it becomes necessary to address some of the very real concerns that accompany internet publication, some of which include:

    • cyberbullying
    • appropriate language and content
    • an understanding of the permanency of your internet footprint
    • ethical source use (which is something I have addressed at length in a prior series)
    • privacy and protection of personal information
      We addressed these issues in our classes by drawing up a Blog Use Contract, which committed students to a certain code of behavior when blogging as part of this classwork. Something like the one we used can be seen here. By drawing up a contract and taking the time to have some serious, honest discussion about the importance of online conduct, many of these ethical concerns can be avoided. In fact, the process of considering these concerns, discussing them, and signing the contract together as a class can be an important piece of a student’s digital literacy skills, as it helps them to understand the impact of their online writing and how their behavior on the internet can impact the world around them.

Depending on your unique goals and needs as a teacher, blogs in the classroom can be modified and employed to suit a multitude of different strategies geared to accomplish diverse rhetorical goals. Blogs as a digital writing genre are also extremely prevalent, which means that, whichever type of blog you decide to use in your classroom, there will be plenty of relevant samples out there for your students to perform a genre analysis on, which will only serve to further their sophistication and skill when working in digital realms.

As is the case with most attempts to integrate technology into the classroom, teachers can start small with blogs. If the idea of student-authored blogs seems overwhelming, teachers can create and maintain their own, self-authored blog for a particular unit within a particular class and use this as a way to gather information about what does or does not work for them and their classes. The important thing is for students to begin gaining a level of comfort and confidence when experimenting, playing, and working with digital tools. Blogs can be an effective and achievable place to start!

To that end, a few of the better-known and commonly used blogging platforms out there are as follows:

  • WordPress: it’s free, the templates are visually engaging and varied, and it has a pretty big array of privacy settings that you can decide on for use with your class. All of the blogs shown in this post were completed on WordPress.
  • Edublogs: this platform is designed specifically with classroom use in mind. The basic access account is free; however, based on what I have read, it sounds as though that account is not worth having. The annual, paid account is reviewed as much more useful.
  • Blogger: this platform is free, but has some limitations in terms of templates. It doesn’t have the array of options that WordPress offers, but it’s been around for a long time and some users find that the limited options make it more approachable and easy to navigate.

Happy blogging!