Mac Lab Report

Blogs for Teachers: Post Your Lesson Plans on the Web

- 2003.06.26

As most of you reading this are aware, a Web log (or blog) is an online diary used for posting links, thoughts, comments, etc. I am suggesting that teachers might consider using blogs to post and maintain lesson plans online.

There are a number of websites that allow teachers to set up lesson plans and email links, such as www.schoolnotes.com, which is used by a number of teachers at my school, and www.quizlab.com, which can be used for online assessment.

For my own part, I like to have more control over the precise layout of the site, so I've been struggling to become better at Dreamweaver* (available at a fairly reasonable price for educators). Frankly, I don't want to launch this behemoth every time I want to update a typo, so I designed my school sites to be static reference pages with Dreamweaver. Daily lesson plans and assignments need to be mostly text, upload quickly, and be organized.

I've fiddled with blog sites before, such as the popular www.blogger.com, but after being booted off of the free version of quizlab and suffering through two ISP changes in less than 12 months, I wanted something I could pay for and just keep stable for a while - long enough to become expert with, if you know what I mean.

If you're interested, though, www.blogger.com is easy to use, if less powerful and versatile than iBlog. Like many things these days, there is a free version and a pro version. Since www.blogger.com is browser-based, it is a good alternative for anyone who isn't running OS X.

That was when I stumbled across iBlog, a program for which I saw an upgrade notice on MacSurfer. I downloaded and installed the free trial - and let me say I was so impressed with the organization, versatility, and ease of use that I went ahead and set up blogs for my classes this fall. I'm so sure I'm going to use it that I went ahead and built links to the blog index pages. (Guess that means I'm pretty well committed to paying the registration fee. Trust me, it's worth it.) Unfortunately iBlog is only available for OS X 10.2.

iBlog can post to pretty much any account that can host a web page, but the program really shines when you use it to post to an iDisk account. Once you put in your account information, you can edit offline and then upload on demand to publish your log. Like most web publishing software, iBlog keeps a local version that synchronizes with the served version upon demand.

iBlog's interface is clean and clearly follows the pattern established for Aqua software, down to the preference panel. A website is called a "blog," and individual themes are called "categories." The software can maintain multiple blogs with multiple categories. I recommend using a category as a class for teachers, so you can keep assignments straight from one "prep" to another. (For non-educators, a "prep" is course. If you taught all five sections of one class you'd have one "prep." A "section" is a group of students you meet every day. Therefore one blog per teacher, one category per prep.)

There are many different views available for the user reading the blog. You can sort entries by date across the blog, select entries from a calendar, and even use iBlog to host a newsgroup.

Graphics and attachments can be inserted into each individual entry, and an entry can have a title, summary, and body, giving enough information so a reader can scan through a long list of entries quickly.

Here is a sample I prepared just to see how the software works.

The URL reveals the only complaint I have with the software so far. Categories are treated as subdirectories within the primary blog folder, and they all have names followed by codes such as used in the link above. I'd like to control that so I can send students directly to the site for assignments; as it is, they will have to connect to my home page for each class and click through to the blog.

iBlog also contains a number of sophisticated features, such as the ability to edit the HTML format of the headers, setting up a newsfeed, and so on, but you don't have to know any code to use it.

Otherwise this is an excellent program if you are interested in blogs or using it as a lesson planning management system. I'd tell you more, but I have to go register it now. Please, please pay the shareware fee so we can have more excellent programs like this one.

* Note to Apple: We need a midrange replacement for Claris Home Page. As long as homestead.com offers more flexibility than Homepage from .mac, you are losing users and computer buyers to the PC side.

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is a longtime Mac user. He was using digital sensors on Apple II computers in the 1980's and has networked computers in his classroom since before the internet existed. In 2006 he was selected at the California Computer Using Educator's teacher of the year. His students have used NASA space probes and regularly participate in piloting new materials for NASA. He is the author of two books and numerous articles and scientific papers. He currently teaches astronomy and physics in California, where he lives with his twin sons, Jony and Ben.< And there's still a Mac G3 in his classroom which finds occasional use.

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