Why WordPress?

This site is run on WordPress, and it was chosen for very particular reasons.  WordPress is blogging software, which means it is easy to update and maintain.  It’s a whole lot more than that, though.  It can be used to create any kind of website you want.

When I first started blogging in 2005 on Blogger, I would have given very different explanations of what blogging software was capable of than I would give now.  That’s because a whole lot has changed in four years.  Blogs have generally been by definition organized chronologically with the most recent posts showing up first and everything else showing up in reverse chronological order from there.  That’s still true, but what’s also true is that WordPress and other blogging platforms have since developed the capacity to create navigable websites.  This is huge.

It’s huge, and it’s worth discussion.   A blog that’s only organized chronologically is a temporal creation.  It only matters if it is updated often because few site visitors will browse through a calendar until they stumble across information pertinant to their own interests.   The addition of pages, categories, and tags to the blog site, however, give it enormous navigable potential.   And ease of navigation means that people can find and use information no matter how recent it is.  It means more than the most recent posts matter.  Everything on the site is content that can be easily accessed within a couple of clicks.

I’ll talk more about that in another post, but for now I want to get back to the idea that WordPress can be used to make any kind of website.  It’s also free.  These are important considerations for teachers.

You can use WordPress for class blogs, certainly.  You can also use it for student or teacher portfolio sites or for class information sites.  Create a kind of class textbook out of it by using categories as unit headings.   Or consider using it like a wiki for group projects.  By setting up pages with multiple authors, this is easily accomplished.

The keyword is versatility.  It can be used for anything, and it is very user friendly.  You don’t have to know code to customize it.  You just have to be able to follow directions.

WordPress is available in three versions that I know of.

One you will find at www.wordpress.com.  This is a free site where anyone can register.  Your WordPress creation is then hosted there.  This is a good option for teachers and students because no installation is required.  You just register and start building your blog, page, site, group project, or whatever.  There are lots of themes to choose from in order to customize the appearance, and many of the themes allow for adding sidebar widgets or small chunks of html.  You can’t create your own themes or do a lot to edit the css there, though.  It’s a WordPress for beginners site, but sometimes that’s all you need to make a powerful site.

The other most commonly used version of WordPress, and the one running this site, is the downloadable version at WordPress.org.   This one requires that you have your own hosting service.   It’s good if you want more control over your site’s appearance and functionality, or if you want to play with code in order to make your own theme or tweak some of the hundreds of free themes available to download and install.  You don’t have to know how to manipulate css to use this version, but you do need either a degree of tech savvy or some tech support.  It does have to be installed on a server, and any theme used for site design also has to be installed.  Still, it’s great for teachers in schools that do have available server space and tech support.

Last, there is WordPress MU or multi-user.  This is for large sites and web developers.  The difference in it and the other downloadable version of WordPress is that many blogs can be created from a single installation of MU, whereas only one per installation can be created from regular old WordPress.  I don’t know how much more complicated it is to install because I haven’t tried it, but it would be the solution for a school that wanted to go campus-wide with blogs and individual websites.  It might even be the solution for a teacher who wanted to assign class blogs.  However, without good tech support, most teachers would probably be better off just sending students to www.wordpress.com to register for their own free sites.

In a nutshell, WordPress is easy, versatile, and powerful.  Anyone can learn to make something from it.  Only a little savvy can make it much more functional for multiple purposes.  And developers or coders can make it do anything they want.

I count myself in the “little savvy” camp.  I’ve tried just about every blogging platform out there, and WordPress is without question my favorite.

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