As part of the Teacher Challenge, I have received several inquiries about my blog, domain, hosting, student blogs, etc. I thought it would be a good idea to share all of this in a post in case others wondered about it as well.
The domain name is just the fancy description of the web site address. My main domain is mrswilsonscience.com. Domain names can have a variety of endings like .com, .edu, .org, .co.uk, etc. You usually have to pay a yearly fee to register a domain name. (Although sometimes when you have self-hosting, they throw in domain registration for free.)
Domains names can be useful even if you do not host your own web site. For instance, on WordPress.com, you can host your blog with them, and have your domain name point to your blog hosted there.
Subdomains are related to domains and generally are used if you are self hosting. With my host provider, I can have up to 15 subdomains. This blog’s address is using one of the subdomains (http://stretchingforward.mrswilsonscience.com). The part before the main domain address is the subdomain. Lots of web sites use subdomains. Take a look at your address bar as you browse the internet, and you’ll see what I mean.
Four years ago, when I decided to begin my class web site, I decided I wanted to self host my site. The main reason I did this was so I could have complete control over my site. I should also explain that I have a very strong computer technical background, and I felt very comfortable doing this. In fact, I hand coded my first class web site using notepad to write the .html and .css files. (Don’t worry; that’s not required for self hosting!)
These days, host providers have a fabulous interface that makes installing a content management system very easy. The content management system is what runs your site (like WordPress for blogging). Usually there are one or two step installs, and it does not require any coding knowledge.
However, with self hosting, there is a cost involved. I pay around $80 (US) a year to host my site. I have been using An Hosting ever since I started. However, if you decide to delve into the realm of self hosting, definitely research several options before choosing a provider.
Finally, I wouldn’t necessarily jump into self hosting. For me, it was the right option. It may not be for you. Although it does not require a huge amount of technical knowledge and little coding skills, it can be a large undertaking if you are not very comfortable with the intricacies of web technologies.
Content Management Systems
Content Management Systems, or CMS, manage the content on your web site. For my sites, I use WordPress as my CMS. I find WordPress to be super flexible and also super easy to use. In case you did not know, WordPress operates two sites, WordPress.com, where you can sign up for a blog and they will host it for your for free, and WordPress.org, where you can download the CMS and use as you see fit.
WordPress is open source software, which means you can download the information and make changes to the programming to suit your needs. It is a hugely flexible platform with very helpful support forums and great developers. In addition, there are many diverse plugins available to do amazing things with your site (like BuddyPress, which lets you create your own social network). The best part about WordPress is all of the cool themes that are available to install.
I also use WordPress with my students. For our class site, and all the student blogs, I use an instillation of the relatively new WordPress Multisite. This gives me “Super Admin” rights, which means I have complete control over all of my students’ blogs if I need it. It also lets me install fun themes and plug-ins for them to use, allows my students to have some creative control, and with a couple of plug-ins, allows me to have control over privacy settings.
This has been a great solution for me. I really wanted my students (who are 11-12) to feel like they had a “real” blog, but due to limitations on students under 13, we would not have been able to use sites like WordPress and Blogger.
Current Blog Theme
For this blog, I am currently using the Yashfa free WordPress theme. Some of you have noticed the “About the Author” box at the end of my posts. This is something that theme authors include in a particular theme. As far as I know, it is not something you can add yourself (unless you know a lot of coding, like .php). If it something you are interested in, and you use WordPress, you may be able to find a theme you like that includes this feature.
As a side note, for all of you who use Edublogs, you are already familiar with the WordPress platform. Edublogs runs on WordPress in a similar way that my student blogs run on WordPress through my site.
I hope this makes sense and answers some of your questions. If you have additional questions, please let me know. I would be more than happy to explain some of these things in more detail.