School blogs can transform virtually every aspect of school life. I appreciate that's a bold claim but I'm going to back it up with some illustrations. I am also going to show you how easy it is to set up a complete school blogging platform with no technical knowledge whatsoever.

Before I go any further though, let me define what I mean by school blogs. Although blogs may have started out rather like online diaries, software such as WordPress (yes, it's a version of WordPress that I am going to recommend) is quite capable of creating complex websites incorporating multimedia elements. The WordPress platform makes the production of engaging content as simple as using a word processor, allowing users to focus on content. It also allows readers to interact through comments and this is one of the main reasons why school blogs can be so powerful.

So think of a blog as an interactive personal website.

What I am suggesting is not that the school has a blog but rather that everyone IN the school has a blog - teachers, students, administrators - even parents. Here are some examples:

# Lessons - let's imagine a teacher, Mr Geography. His next few lessons will cover the Amazon jungle. So he transfers an outline of his lesson plan to a blog post and adds in some images, a couple of videos from YouTube showing some Amazonian wildlife and links to the National Geographic website. For homework, the students will visit his post, possibly leave some comments, and then create their own posts answering the questions he set. (Don't worry, there are many ways to stop plagiarism.)

The students have thus had a much richer and creative experience than simply reading a text book. Their work will remain online for future revision. It can even be made public and form part of a showcase of what students are achieving. Not only can this inspire children, it is a wonderful way for parents and grandparents to share in a student's progress. This increased involvement can have many dividends in fundraising.

# Sports - the latest results and performances of the school teams can be shared online through reports, photographs and videos. Again, a much broader community can share in the school's activities.

# Special Interests - this is a broad catch-all category for all the other activities that students may engage in, from dance, drama and music (reviews of theater visits, progress on their own productions etc.) through to IT, photography and debating clubs, The blogs of participant students help their development and publicize what they are doing to a wider audience. The school becomes a much more vibrant place.

# Field Trips and Holidays - parents can be kept informed of what is happening and the whole experience enriched and captured for posterity through blog entries.

I have only hinted at some of the incredible possibilities for using school blogs. I would like to emphasise a few points. Firstly, most of what is produced is almost a by-product of current activities - this is a different way of working rather than extra work. Secondly, much of it is created by the students themselves. Finally, despite the stunning results that can be achieved, this is actually very easy to implement.

I mentioned the WordPress platform earlier. There is a mutli-user version of WordPress, WPMU, that provides the basis for my recommended approach to school blogging. If you are considering how to set up school blogs with maximum effectiveness and ease-of-use, I would suggest an out-of-the box solution incorporating a number of plugins. This will allow you to focus on the benefits the system can bring rather than spending days tweaking  settings to achieve an inferior solution.

Paul Taylor, MA(Oxon), MBA, member of the Chartered Institute of Marketing and creator of the School Blogs website - a resource outlining the benefits of school blogs and the technology available.

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