Archive for the ‘teens’ Category

In previous posts, I have referred to The Edublogger and I also wanted to direct you to another set of great discussions around Educational Blogging. Sue Waters, The Edublogger herself, has posted “What are your thoughts on Educational Blogging“. There are some great comments posted in discussion regarding blogging with students and as an extension of the classroom. This is what blogging and educating is truly about….sharing and collaboration. The follow-up, “Here’s What I Said On Educational blogging! What would you say?” provides some great tips (including diagrams). You can also watch the video (Click Here) from her presentation in Alec Couros‘ s EC&I 831: Social Media & Open Education course.


Well, its been a long haul, but I think that I’m finally ready to post my evaluation of some blogging platforms that can be used by teachers and students. There are literally *tons* of platforms available…this is just a few….(not an exhaustive list by any means) and some of the benefits/rationales for their use.

Blogger LogoGoogle Blogger
I have used blogging extensively in my secondary classes and have mostly opted to use Blogger (most in part to its simplicity). Blogger does, however (and unfortunately) have some “adult oriented” content on its site – these are indicated by “Mature Warning” screens (but only if the user sets it to do so). If questionable content is discovered without a warning, Blogger does ask that they be informed (as do most hosts). Whereas this is not a huge issue for secondary, elementary teachers and parents may not approve of this. This is not, however, to say that the questionable content is easy to find, mind you. It is, however, there. For ease of use and integration of other Google applications, it is excellent.

Click Here for a step-by-step guide for setting up an account on Blogger.

Audience: Google Blogger is easy to use and understand. I have always found it to be a great place for new bloggers to start. The skills learned in this platform are easily transferred to others. Inserting YouTube clips can be a little challenging for some as the embed code needs to be pasted in the HTML view. WordPress has a more intuitive system. Blogger is easy enough for elementary students to use (keep in mind that some Google blog sites feature inappropriate content, but these are not easy to find and is really no different than the rest of the www). This is a great starting platform for secondary students. Keep in mind that students must set up a Google account to use Blogger (alternatively, teachers can do it for them). Google Accounts may need to be unblocked if it is in your board (usually the result of Gmail being blocked as an email platform).

Wordpress LogoWordPress
WordPress is a wonderful blogging platform. It looks and operates beautifully – very professional in appearance. As with other platforms, WordPress has a number of templates that can be applied to suit the tastes of the blogger. One HUGE benefit, at least to me, is that you can change your template at any time and all of your material is retained and reformatted. This is not possible with Google’s Blogger. The internal interface of WordPress is a bit more intuitive than Blogger’s, yet more complex at the same time (this is partially due to greater abilities to customize). WordPress provides statistics of daily visits and a ton of “widgets” that can be added to customize.

WordPress also has a hosted version of their software (Click Here) that allows you to have your own domain (hosted by companies such as Go Daddy or BlueHost). Domains usually cost anywhere from $1.99-$9.99 and you can get a hosting package for about $6.99 per month. This feature is for more advanced users but can be customized as a virtual classroom where each student gets a unique email and access to the site).

Audience: The learning curve is a bit steeper (especially for the blogging newbie) and I would consider it more advanced to Blogger’s novice/intermediate levels (suited more for secondary students).

Both can be as accessible or as restricted as the user wishes.

For more elementary students, easier to use platforms would be preferable.

In this case…

Posterous LogoPosterous is great for simplicity. You can post virtually anything here by email. (i.e. and

No need to create an account – post directly from your email account by sending to After sending your email, you will receive a message with a link to your new blog. Messages sent to Posterous via email from the same email initially used will appear on the same blog that was created with the first message.

Audience: This platform would be a great starting point for someone new to blogging or for those of younger ages where simpler is better (elementary). I don’t think that secondary students would get much out of this platform – it would, perhaps, be suitable for simply posting information with very little customization.

My New Favourite
Tumblr LogoTumblr is similar to Posterous in that you can email your posts directly to the site (one of the few that support this).

In essence, it is a hybrid of Twitter (microblogging) and more traditional Blogging – you can post short messages (longer ones, too) and can do so from a multitude of sources (i.e. text, video, audio, email, etc.). Tumblr even has an app. for the iPhone. Log into your Tumblr account and from the dashboard you can post photos, text, quotes, links, chat, or audio messages. There are a ton of 3rd party Tumblr apps. as well (Click Here).

Why Everyone loves Tumblr

Additionally, Tumblr has a web browser add-on (Bookmarklet) that allows you to share things you find on the web quickly by clicking a button (similar to Evernote – a virtual online notebook service)

Tumblr also has a Facebook App, the iPhone App previously mentioned, and a call-in service that allows you to send an audio post directly to your blog (1-866-584-6757). Click Here for the Tumblr “Goodies”.

Tumblr will easily allow students to contribute to their blog while they are doing research or simply surfing the web. They can add a brief comment of analysis, question, concern, or conversation, and then move on. It wouldn’t even feel like they are doing work or contributing to their assignment. Allowing posts from a variety of platforms (i.e. email and phone), and allowing sharing in other platforms (Facebook and other Blogs) increases versatility to blogging and takes the “work” out of it.

Audience: I see this as suitable to both elementary and secondary. It is fun for both levels of student and injects a new dynamic to blogging. The ability to post a variety of different message types (text, image [still & moving], and audio) serves multiple-intelligences and learning styles perfectly!

Ning LogoNing is a blogging/web platform with a social aspect (i.e.

Ning is a hybrid of a blog (with a website feel and interface) combined with Facebook.

With Ning, the owner of the site can invite members (i.e. students) who then become part of the Ning community (i.e. a virtual classroom in this instance). These members can upload photos of themselves and participate directly in the learning community by posting blogs, joining discussions and chats, and creating their own “walls” within the environment (much like Facebook). In fact, the interface of Ning is so similar to Facebook, and therefore familiar to students, that they can’t help but be engaged.

The Ning platform could serve really well as a place to create a feeling of belonging to a true learning community.
The benefits for the teacher is that all student’s contributions to the Ning are contained with the teacher’s community. There would be no need to seek out the student’s separate blogs to follow them as they would be present within the class Ning itself.

Audience: The Ning interface is relatively easy to use and would be suitable for both elementary and secondary. One downfall for using this interface for elementary students is that all members must be over the age of 13 in order to have an account. Ning is a US site and, therefore, must comply with the FTC (Federal —) and COPPA (the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act), which restricts the online collection of personal information of children under 13 (Click Here). The FTC’s web site has extensive information on COPPA. See especially FAQs at and FTC’s “Kidz Privacy” pages at

Canada has no laws relating to children’s privacy and the Internet. In spring 1999, the CRTC (the government agency charged with regulating Canada’s broadcast industries) ruled that they would not attempt to regulate the Internet. Instead, Canadian companies are expected to follow voluntary guidelines.

In Canada, the Canadian Association of Internet Providers (CAIP) has created a voluntary privacy code for the Internet. Although these principles don’t specifically apply to children, it’s assumed that kids are covered by them. The Canadian Marketing Association’s Marketing Guidelines for Children(which are also voluntary) includes a few stipulations that relate to the collection, transfer or request of personal information from kids by marketers.

From the great lesson plan, Online Marketing to Kids, from the Media Awareness Network.

Want to use Ning with Middle School Students?
Check out

A great Ning for Educators is

Edublogs LogoEdublogs

…is powered by WordPress!

A number of teachers use Edublogs, but they automatically embed advertising in the text of your blogs (single lined hyperlinks are user created, double line hyperlinks are generated advertisements) if you don’t pay their fee (Read my analysis of Edublogs Here).

Edublogs is powered by WordPress and has a “Campus” feature that allows schools to sig-up (and pay) for a solution for teacher and student blogging within the institution.

The Free Edublogs version is the one that inserts advertising into the posts.

Like Ning, Edublogs enables the users to create a class blog (a learning environment) and then invite users to it.

Audience: As Edublogs is the WordPress interface, much of what I posted earlier in this blog pertains. That is not to say, however, that younger students can not use it (just that it may be a bit difficult). Keeping the tasks simple and only using parts of the interface will help with the initial learning curve. Here are some student examples as posted on the site, The Edublogger:

Check out these Class Blogs (Secondary & Elementary)


That wraps up this analysis, but by no means provides the final word. More and more blogging platforms are showing up each day and the amalgamation of one social network with another continues to grow. Needless to say, children of all ages are spending more and more time on the internet. They think, learn, and socialize through a natural interface with technology. The most recent research from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life project indicates that 93% of teens go online regularly, and that portable and wireless devices are preferred (CLICK HERE to read the “Social Media and Young Adults” report).

Two Pew Internet Project surveys of teens and adults reveal a decline in blogging among teens and young adults and a modest rise among adults 30 and older. In 2006, 28% of teens ages 12-17 and young adults ages 18-29 were bloggers, but by 2009 the numbers had dropped to 14% of teens and 15% of young adults.

Even though the most recent research may suggest that teens are not blogging regularly on their own, it remains a wonderful interface to use with student in an educational setting, allows them to read, write, evaluate and share their ideas in a collaborative setting that is both digital and dynamic. From The Edublogger:

Important parts of the blogging process include encouraging students to:

  1. Read each others posts
  2. Interact and comment on each others posts by challenging each others thoughts and views
  3. Write posts in response to each others posts

For all of these reasons, Tumblr takes my “Coolest Blogging Platform” award for this week. It has multiple posting options, plugins, and apps and integrates a microblogging aspect with an easy to use customizable interface. With the growth of Social Networking sites for teens, the integration of these with blogging platforms (i.e. Ning) will be the hook that engages and stimulates our students and their learning.

What do you think? Use a different blogging platform? Like to share what you are doing with your students?

I’d love to hear what other educators are using and how they are using it. I constantly get questions from curious teachers and the one missing link is the practical application.

That’s all for now…..
Share your thoughts……

Facebook: A Parent’s Perspective

Posted: February 5, 2010 by Aaron Puley in education, Facebook, Social Networking, teen, teens

It’s been a while since my last post, but I’ve been compiling a vast array of resources that will be beneficial to both teachers and parents. One presentation I have prepared involves a bit of information on Facebook (from a parent’s perspective). This presentation lets parent’s know the benefits and dangers of Facebook and what their teens should know about the social networking platform,

The key to understanding Facebook is understanding its Privacy Settings. These settings explained below in a great video from SophosLabs on YouTube and will be explained further in the next post. I will also be posting a Facebook presentation from a teacher’s perspective as well.

Please feel free to comments and add anything new you may know or discover. After all, “…knowing is half the battle!”

Facebook 4 Parents Presentation

Facebook Privacy Settings: What you need to know….

Hello and welcome to my blog about blogging.
What better forum to discuss blogging in education than on a blog? Seriously?!

Anyway, thank you for your interest in blogging in education and how it can enhance both your classroom and the learning of your students.

I first started adding blogging to my EMS3O Media Studies curriculum about 4 years ago. Prior to that, my culminating task for the course had been the construction of a media literacy magazine. The students would reflect upon course materials throughout the semester, research them, write about them, and continually add upon them – a living portfolio of sorts. I would only assess the material on an ongoing basis with the understanding that it would not be evaluated for grades until the end of the course. In this way, the students could regularly adapt and revise their material to reflect their ongoing learning and understanding.

As more and more magazines fell to the power of the Internet and other digital media, I felt that it was also time for me to stop having students “publish” magazines as a culminating project. I felt that this would better reflect the realities of print media in the 21st century and would give me less to carry home. After all, thirty 20 page magazines are heavy. Also, why not save paper? Why use the student’s ink? Plus, many actually took their magazines to Staples to have them printed. At $1.00 a page – that can get expensive.

The concept of blogging was perfect. When I read the magazines, I could only assess the student’s writing and research skills (as this was not a technical nor an art course, I was not too concerned about stylistic layout). Traditionally acceptable, yet seemingly not enough in today’s increasingly digital world. Plus, if I wanted to verify information, I had to go to the computer to do so. This way, I am already there. The student would reference all material used, images included, at the bottom of their post, and all I had to do was click the URL to see where they got their information. This way, I could follow their thought and research process as well. The inclusion of images just wasn’t cutting it for me either – the “lick and stick”, “cut and paste” methodology that students often employ was becoming frustrating. Why shouldn’t the students embed video clips from YouTube and mp3 songs? Why shouldn’t I teach them the proper way to use images on the Internet?

Upon further research, I found that adolescents make up a large part of the community of bloggers. Perseus Development Corporation, for instance, found that 51.5 percent of all blogs are developed and maintained by ages 13–19 [1]. A similar study found that 40.4 percent of blog authors are under the age 20 [2].

Blogging is classified as social networking. A 2007 study by the Pew Internet and American Life Survery found that:

  • 55% of online teens have created a personal profile online, and 55% have used social networking sites like MySpace or Facebook.
  • 66% of teens who have created a profile say that their profile is not visible to all internet users. They limit access to their profiles.
  • 48% of teens visit social networking websites daily or more often; 26% visit once a day, 22% visit several times a day. [3]

In total:

  • 85% of teens ages 12-17 engage at least occasionally in some form of electronic personal communication, which includes text messaging, sending email or instant messages, or posting comments on social networking sites. [3]

This is their world! How could I use that?

Then, the obvious came to me. The concept of writing for a teacher is artificial! When writing solely for evaluation, the exercise seems mundane, almost punitive. With blogs, the writing is live for the world, accessible for all. That’s realism. That’s relevance. The student’s work would no longer be contained to the classroom – it would extend beyond it and integrate other components from the web of which it was a part. Students could use their social networking skills in a new educational forum. By posting to their blog, and linking it to others, the students could read and comment on each other’s work. This is peer editing and collaborative learning at its best. Plus, I could access, assess, and work with those students digitally wherever I could find Internet access – and they with me.

Also, since blog posts are archived, students could go back and look at their own and their peer’s past work. This allows “reflection and metacognitive analysis that was previously much more cumbersome.” [4] And, as Will Richardson points out in his book, Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, blogs “give [students] the opportunity to share in writing the ideas they may be too shy to speak. Everyone has a voice in the conversation, and all ideas, even the instructor’s, are given equal presentation in the blog. As students participate, they also take ownership of the space, and depending on how teachers frame that participation, this can lead to a greater sense of participation. ” [4]

In a 2008 article based on a study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project entitled “Writing, Technology and Teens”, teenagers polled were asked what encouraged them to write. Of the responses, two of them are quite telling: “Teen 1: Well, if I knew that other people were going to read what I wrote and react to what I was writing then I would make it better and I would want to do the best that I could at it; Teen 2: I write differently when, if I have to say a speech or something in front of my class I write differently than I would than if I was writing it for my teacher . . . [because of] pressure from your peers . . . you wouldn’t write the same thing.” [5] While you can restrict the readership of blogs if you so wish, and you may wish to do so for younger bloggers, older bloggers can be given a forum that gives their writing a feeling of authenticity. Relevance is key to the teenage learner.

Further, by posting their ideas to the Internet, the blogging student is adding their opinion to the database of others that can be accessed and used by others. The next great idea just might come from one of your students. Further, as an English teacher (and perhaps the last bastion of book literacy), I do not see literacy as book/literature specific. I see all types of literacy – digital literacy is, perhaps, for me at the forefront. Teenagers have grown up with technology their entire lives, but that doesn’t mean that they understand it or know how to access it and apply it correctly. As educators, I believe that it is our job to be familiar with these technologies so that we can help our students navigate, utilize, and understand them properly and productively. Communicating and writing for a 21st century audience is what will make them successful in their future endeavours.

Lets teach our students how to be collaborative, creative, and literate.

Let’s teach them technical skills, writing skills, and media literacy skills.

Let’s teach them how to assess themselves and each other.

Let’s teach them how to be digital, and global citizens.

Let’s teach them how to be citizen journalists.

Let’s teach them how to be analytical and critical.

Let’s teach them how to blog!
Better yet, why not let some of them teach you?


[1] Henning, J., 2003. The Blogging Iceberg: Of 4.12 Million Weblogs, Most Little Seen and Quickly Abandoned. Braintree, Mass.: Perseus Development Corp.

[2] Herring, S.C, L.A. Scheidt, S. Bonus, and E. Wright, 2004. “Bridging the gap: A genre analysis of weblogs,” Paper presented at the 37th Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences (HICSS–37). Los Alamitos, Calif.

[3] Lenhart, Amanda. “Social Networking Websites and Teens,” Pew Internet and American Life Project, January 7, 2007.

[4] Richardson, Will. Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts. California, 2006.

[5] Lenhart, Amanda. “Writing, Technology and Teens,” Pew Internet and American Life Project, April 24, 2008.

Unknown artist. “Blogs.” May 19, 2009. Online image. Governance Matters. 17 October 2009.