A Positive Start Matters


By: Tony DePrato | Follow me on LinkedIn

Stress at the start of the school year is normal. I firmly believe that a positive start leads to a positive year. Here are some suggestions I like to give to people at the start of the year.

What do you need to start the school year?

Students. Teachers. And a place for them to meet. Many of the things people stress about are not required to actually start the school year. Remember, not everything can be the most important. If everything is critical, and everything is a priority, then nothing is a priority.

No, really, what do you need to start the school year?

Here is a core checklist for the school start-up:

  • A roster of students who should be attending
  • A roster of students who left, to make certain they do not return without re-enrollment
  • Schedules (or at least a plan for the first week while scheduling is being sorted)
  • Lunch planning needs to be sorted and should be running smoothly; food is important; the communal time is important
  • Two to three weeks of lesson plans that can be executed with the resources from the previous year
  • Buddies for new staff, with a simple schedule to keep them connected and interacting
  • Short meetings scheduled to touch base on facilities issues; administrators should take the issues down and get everyone back to work
  • If the technology is being unreliable, remove layers of complexity, and simply give people access to the internet; new management protocols and summer updates can take weeks to sort out
  • Keep students connecting socially, and offline; build community first and the curriculum will be easier to deliver

Consider Staying Offline for a Few Days

For students under USA grade level 3, I would keep them offline for 2-3 weeks. Focus on social interactivity, building a relationship with their teachers, and learning how everything works within the learning environment.

For students in who are USA grade levels 3 -5 and middle school grades 6-8, I would keep them offline for at least a week. I would make sure they do a full review of the school’s AUP and Digital Citizenship program.

High school students in USA grade levels 12 and 11 should be the main focus of IT for the first two days of school. Grades 9-10 can wait. Once the upper grade technology is sorted, move down to 9-10. Remember, high school students are flexible, and they can meet IT for support in varying intervals. High school should be all online within the first four days of school.

The Big Bang is Not Good for Stress

The Big Bang Implementation Approach  (big bang), is something schools tend to do annually. Basically, they try to do everything for everyone at once. For example, connecting all BYOD devices K-12 in one day. Think about who needs access, and when they need it. Consider the curriculum. What percentage of a grade level’s content is only available with a device in hand? Do the higher percentages first, and the rest later following a steady pace.

Communicate the planning to everyone. Take a breath. And keep the school start steady, positive, and peaceful.

Edublogs, Blogger, WordPress.com and KidBlog – Which should you use?

As you know I read Free Tech for Teachers and I saw this post that Richard wrote about recommending two blogging platforms for teachers. I got to thinking that there are other options out there and in my opinion better options!

In his post he recommends EduBlogs and Blogger. So let’s get Blogger out of the way. If you use G Suite then yes, Blogger is a good choice. It is easy to use and pretty powerful to boot. I think this is a good choice. If your school uses Office 365 or no services like this then I suggest looking elsewhere. I believe you can get more with the same amount of work.

Another thing to understand is that Google considers Blogging a form of social interactions. If you have students under the age of 13 setting up a blog on Blogger will ask them if they want to create a Google Plus account. If they say yes and they are not of age or if Google Plus has been disabled for their class, Google may suspend their account. Yes – this is true and there isn’t a whole lot your Google admin can do about it either so be careful.

I’ve written about Blogger plenty of times and I’ve used it plenty of times myself. I have used it with students and I have used it with staff. It is fine, but if you’re not Google I encourage you to look elsewhere.

Now onto Edublogs.

Now Edublogs is free … ish. You don’t get everything for free so let’s take a look at when you do get for free.

Now the list continues though these features (most of them) are a little more on the technical side so you may not need them.

I was able to add a YouTube video which is good but if I want to add a Google Slides presentation?

That’s a hard no. How about Soundlcoud? Nope. Just about anything else you want to embed. So you have YouTube and that’s all. Blogger will let you embed whatever you want and WordPress.com let’s you embed many things (though not everything and more on that later). Also, you only get 1GB of storage which is plenty since you can really only upload images. So what’s the appeal? Why would anyone want to hamstring their students?

Here’s its ace in the hole. You can create a class on your blog. That means that you can invite students to your blog, moderate what they write, what they comment and how comments work in general.

You can create each student blog right from your own dashboard which is very, very nice.

With this – the student doesn’t need to sign up. You create their account, password and level of access. This is pretty sweet and for younger students (say elementary) who may not have an email this is a good solution though the Edublogs dashboard (which is the WordPress dashboard because Edublogs is built on WordPress) may not be the easiest interface for younger students to navigate. Clear instructions, a little prep and some patience will remedy this of course.

I still cannot get past the fact that you can embed nearly nothing and that your storage is pretty small. I know to upgrade isn’t too bad only $39.95 per year (as of this post) which is cheaper than Kidblog, but it is just too limiting for the free version.

The idea seems directly targeted to elementary but the actual use seems more akin for middle school students and beyond. Use it if you need a free option and want to easily create blogs for your students.

Next up is kidblog.org.

This is a paid service so check out the cost below.

They do have special pricing for entire schools or districts but they don’t publish that information. So what does it do that it feels it can charge? It basically does the same thing as Edublogs. A teacher creates a class and then adds her/his students to the class. You even have the option of bulk uploading users which is very nice.

You also have an option of creating a Join-Code for the class, so you don’t even have to add them just give them a code and they can add themselves a-la Edmodo, Schoology and a ton of other services.

So what else? Simplicity. It is simple for students to use. Simple to log in, simple to leave comments (if that is available), simple to post and so on.

Very little hand holding here. It is simple for the teacher to manage the blog. Heck you could even add moderators or guests to the blog.

Would I use this with middle or high school students? No.

But if you, your school or district have the money and you want blogging to be done in the elementary then this is the path to go.

Finally to WordPress.com.

This is what I recommend for middle, high school and college students. It’s not all rainbows and cupcakes though. First, you cannot create their accounts. You can invite people to your blog, but it takes a little digging and an invitation does not create an account. They have to do that themselves. This takes time and is a pain! In the past this process took a good 3 days to complete. That was before G Suite or Office 365 so maybe it will go a little quicker now.

Once they are in and added to your blog as authors you can set limitations about moderation before publishing and so on like Edublogs. There are also a wide variety of media you can embed: Vimeo, YouTube, Google Slides/Docs, audio files and more. Now not everything can be embedded in the free account but a lot can.

Oh yeah this is all free too with a healthy 3GB of storage. There are ads on WordPress but only on the articles themselves and only at the bottom of the article making it pretty much unnoticeable. Let us knot forget that Edublogs is also built on WordPress so the experience is quite similar but Edublogs does let a teacher create student access but they withhold almost all embedding features.


Here you go.

If you use G Suite at your school then use Blogger. It’s simple, powerful and easy to add (just be careful of the Google Plus and avoid it).

If you are in elementary use Kidblog if you can afford it. If not, then use Edublogs for free. Kidblog is easier to use and set up the Edublogs and gives a wide variety of embedding options.

If you are in middle/high school use WordPress.com. Its free and powerful. It is a pain to set up with your classes but if you use Office 365 it could make it a little easier.

Posterous – sniff, sniff, we’ll miss you – UPDATE


UPDATE – Posterous has officially announced that they are closing up shop on April 30, 2013. Be sure to back it up NOW!

It looks like the sun is setting on Posterous, the popular blogging site. In 2012 it was purchased by Twitter and since then people have been speculating about the future of the platform. It now seems that the the end is nigh. Not long ago Posterous offered a back up tool that would let you download your entire blog into a handy zip file that will let you migrate it to another platform (WordPress and Blogger).

Techcrunch has reported that Posterous is not allowing new accounts to be created (I tried and got the same result).


Posterous has said that they will give their users plenty of notice if they are going to shutter their services.

Regardless, if you are one of those teachers that uses the ultra easy service it is probably time to back up your blog. To back up your blog, Posterous has made it simple (like the rest of their services). Simply log in and at the top you will see a button that says Backup.


When you click that hard to miss button it will give you a list of all your blogs. Click the Request Backup buttons of the blogs you would like to back up.


A confirmation page will appear that asks you if you’re sure with some captchas to enter. Then it will tell you that it is initializing and that this process may take some time.



Once that is done start a new class blog on WordPress and Blogger. Each will accept your previous entries and depending on how intricate they are will depend on how they will show up. Either way, if you have to start fresh you can find guides on how to do so below.

WordPress start your blog
Blogger start your blog

Bloggers I read – Patrick


image source: http://www.folioclick.com/img/woman_laptop.png

Alright boys and girls. As promised this is the first post of many from our podcasting panel that talks about what blogs we read, why we read them and where to find them. We all agree that you will find valuable information that pertains to your teaching practices. Of course they can be pretty darn entertaining to read too which makes them even compelling to try out. So read on past the break to see my list and of course, if you have some great blogs that you read, leave them in the comments. For the record the girl in the picture is not me.

Continue reading “Bloggers I read – Patrick”

Summer time = blog reflection time


Well I love me some summer vacation. It is usually the same routine every year. I kick back and relax for about a week not doing a whole lot and then must start thinking about school. I can’t help it. I love this time, because instead of looking to the next school year I always start reflecting on the past school year and analyze what worked and what didn’t and what I will change next year.

One project in particular that I rolled out with my seventh and eighth grade students was a class blog. The blog was designed to give students a chance to voice their opinions and then give a quick presentation about what they wrote about. Want to know what worked and what I am going to do next year? Read on past the break to find out and as always if you agree, disagree or have an idea leave a comment below.

Continue reading “Summer time = blog reflection time”

Kidblog.org – The Teacher Guide

Welcome to Kidblog.org

This website will let you create and manage a blog for your classroom. Here are some of the features.

  • Create a class blog that students can safely post on
  • Create and manage student accounts (no student email required)
  • Making it safe. You control all the settings concerning posting and comments and who can view the blog
  • Fun themes (so it looks nice)
  • Very easy to use
Welcome to Kidblog.org

Step 1 – Signing up

As easy as any other service. Go to http://www.kidblog.org and click on Click to Create a Class. It will take you to a new page.

Step 1 - Signing up

To read the rest of the guide click on past the break!

Continue reading “Kidblog.org – The Teacher Guide”

Kidblog.org – The Student Guide


Step 1 – Log in

Go to your classes blog site (see your teacher for the website address).

Click on Log in, in the top right hand corner.

It will open up a new window.

Step 1 - Log in

From here you can select your name from a drop down menu.

Type in your password (your teacher will give it to you) and click Log in.


To see the rest of the guide just click on past the break!

Continue reading “Kidblog.org – The Student Guide”

Kidblog.org – This might be for you

So I’ve written about blogging a lot. I’ve covered WordPress.com, Blogger, Posterous and tried them all out. I’ve consciously skipped over http://www.kidblog.org because I feel it is too simple for what I wanted. In all honesty it is, but that doesn’t mean that it is not exactly what some other teachers are looking for.

Case in point. A couple English teachers (great people by the way) came to me and wanted to do a blog but they had some specific requirements of what they were looking for.

  • Just for this unit
  • Very easy to set up
  • They can create and control the user accounts on the blog
  • They can moderate posts and comments before publishing
  • They can make groups (or tags for a group-and control who is in those groups)

After that list I immediately thought of http://www.kidblog.org. It satisfies all of that and is incedibly easy to set up, use and manage. It is built off of the WordPress.org platform so people who have used WordPress at all will feel right at home. If you haven’t, don’t worry most of the options have been stripped out to let you find all the features you’re need to use. This is also great for elementary teachers whose students may not have emails yet or whose parents don’t feel comfortable sharing their child’s email.

I’m going to post a student guide and a teacher guide to help you get on your feet. If you’ve never blogged before and would like to but are a little worried about the learning curve, then this is the place for you. Check out my student guide and my teacher guide.

Happy blogging! 🙂

Classroom blogging – The saga continues


I’ve written more than a few times about class blogs and I think they are a pretty awesome, versatile tool for teachers to use. I’ve got guides for there three major platforms (WordPress, Blogger, Posterous) and while they have changed a little bit since I posted, I still feel my guides still hold up pretty well so check them out.

To get all the good people out there caught up, I used WordPress last year and it worked well, but the hassle of getting all the students signed up was a real pain in my ascot. I also required all my students to post to the blog on every subject which had its own problems (read about those here). So I switched platforms and changed how I wanted the blog to work for my class.

Basically I picked 3-5 students to write on a given topic and then follow up that topic by having those students lead a class presentation. I’ve made sure to pick some very relevant topics that I feel they can relate to (middle school students that is). Well, the search for the perfect fit for the classroom blog continues. Click past the link to figure out what worked and what has fallen short.

Continue reading “Classroom blogging – The saga continues”

Time to change course

New blog strategy ahead


Blogs are pretty damn useful. Some teachers run their class through it, posting homework and setting up a drop box of sorts so students can turn their homework in. Others use it to organize special events, and some use it as a bulletin board to communicate what is happening in the class. The bottom line is blogs are flexible and can be used to help accomplish many, many goals. This year, I’ve started using a blog and it’s been good. There have been some ups and downs and now I have realized that there must also be some changes in order for the blog to continue to be effective in my class. Read on past the break to see how I am use my blog and what I’m going to change about it.

Oh and if you’re thinking of making a blog and want a crash course you can read my how-to’s for WordPress.com, Blogger, and Posterous.

Continue reading “Time to change course”