Review by Amanda Finkelberg, Common Sense Education | Updated March 2013

WordPress.com

Solid blogging tool and content management system offers DIY blogs

Subjects & skills
Skills
  • Communication & Collaboration
  • College & Career Prep

Subjects
  • English Language Arts
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
9-12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (7 Reviews)

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Pros: Easy setup and activation lets students start blogging quickly, and customization options give tech-savvy students the ability to create more elaborate sites.

Cons: Controlling posts and customizing can be complicated, users may find menu options overwhelming, and many upgrades cost money.

Bottom Line: This is a great tool to get kids blogging and creating online content.

The social networking aspects of WordPress.com offer great opportunities to get classes networked through their blogs. Kids can find each other through email addresses or other social sites, “favorite” each other’s blogs, and comment on and like posts. This could help teachers add an easy online component to a real-world classroom. The site doesn't have any built-in curriculum, so teachers should think of it as a great tool for connecting their students online.

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WordPress.com is a popular content management system and free blogging site (and Chrome app) with a vast library of open source and user-created themes and plugins for elegant website design. Basic blog setup takes a few minutes and several simple steps. After validating an email address, users can choose topics of other blogs to "follow," connect to friends through social networking, and choose a theme for their own site. Note that the default themes are free and can be modified to a degree. There are customization options here that cost money but aren't necessary for creating a blog.

A tutorial guides users through the process of creating a first post, ending up on a stripped-down control panel for the site. Blue pop-up bubbles give new users information about the different menu options and windows. Creating and viewing additional posts is part of the simplified big-button panel, but in order to customize or control privacy, comments, and other behind-the-scenes aspects, students will have to use the full and more complex control panel Dashboard.

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Students can pick a unique domain name, then choose from a variety of themes and apply customizations (many free, but others at costs of up to several hundred dollars) to create stylish web content. The blogging tool is straightforward but requires some Web and software savvy. Overall, it’s a great free option for teachers looking for a way to get their classes networked and publishing online.

Several features make WordPress.com a great choice as a class blogging tool: the quick start tutorial, social networking features, and a great variety of themes to alter the look and feel of the content. New users walk through the creation of their first post using a simplified big-button dashboard. Although the real dashboard is much more elaborate, this introduction teaches kids the basics of the process in a few minutes. There’s even an "inspire me" option that offers fun writing prompts. It’s pretty satisfying to be able to create a blog and a few posts within minutes of signing up for the site. It should be noted that the real dashboard offers control for the blog with more complicated settings. These can be largely ignored if necessary, but teachers should become familiar with settings for privacy and commenting to help limit spam comments and emails.

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Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Teens will like the ability to create Web content that looks sleek and professional with only a few clicks. Unfortunately, it's a lot easier to start a blog than to maintain it over time, so kids should be encouraged to stick with it.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Seeing their work published online should be empowering, and the social aspects  (commenting and linking) are familiar to most. Still, what kids are writing about is what's important; it's a tool for expression above all.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

The site's guided tutorial helps kids learn to create content quickly, and WordPress.com is dedicated to helping beginners get started. Make no mistake, however: this is a dense tool that will take effort to master.


Teacher Reviews

(See all 7 reviews) (7 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Chantal R. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
WordPress - Powerful Blog creation site

WordPress has many features and is very powerful. The final product can be very impressive and with alot of templates, widgets and features, you can create blog, webpages, etc. that really suit your vision. It is also very easy to maintain and change skins, with many templates available.

However, while the initial set up was quick, I found the learning curve intense to get the page set up the way I wanted, taking some time with many things to get used to. My more tech minded students took to it quickly, however, some others really took a long time to get going. But once set up, the students were pleased with their final product and that was an incentive to continue using it.

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