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Free Blogging and Networking Tools for the Classroom

Guest post from education writer Karen Schweitzer. Karen is the About.com Guide to Business School. She also writes about online classes for OnlineClasses.org.

Most students love to blog and communicate online. Educators can easily bring this passion for tech into the classroom with blogging and social networking tools. If your school doesn't have a budget for this sort of thing, you can take advantage of the many free tools that are available online. Here are ten free blogging and communication tools that would work well for both students and teachers.

Web 2.0 Tools for the ClassroomWikidot - Wikidot is a wiki publishing site. Education wikis are automatically free and include a wide range of features, such as a private sites, SSL security, unlimited pages, unlimited members, 5 GB for file uploads, and unlimited revisions.

21Classes - 21Classes makes classroom blogging easy by allowing teachers to create a Classroom BlogPortal. The free 21Classes package provides blog accounts for up to 10 students; the paid package provides accounts for up to 100 students. Blogs are ad-free and offer full control over student accounts and entries.

Edublogs - Edublogs are great for teachers who want to quickly and easily create, manage, and monitor multiple student blogs. Edublogs are fully customizable, podcast ready, and allow for simple uploading of files, images, and videos.

Edmodo - Teachers and students who like the idea of Twitter but prefer a more private platform will like this site. Edmodo offers free, safe, and secure microblogging, file sharing, and more. A mobile version is also available.

SlideShare - This business media site for sharing presentations also works well for students and teachers who want to upload and share ideas, documents, and other information online. SlideShare supports PowerPoint presentations, Word documents, and Adobe PDFs and allows uploads to be shared privately or publicly.

WiZiQ - WiZiQ is a web-based education platform. It can be used to conduct live online classes, share content, create and administer online tests, communicate over the web, and much more. Both free and premium account options are available.

HotChalk - Designed specifically for K-12 classrooms, this free learning management system makes it easy for students, teachers, and parents to communicate and collaborate online. Teachers can use it to automate daily classroom tasks, find materials to enrich lesson plans, and connect with students and colleagues. Students can use it to track homework, receive and send in assignments, chat with classmates, and ask teachers questions.

Engrade - Used by more than 150,000 teachers, Engrade is an online classroom community that can be used to communicate with both students and parents. Administrators can also use it to message teachers and monitor class rosters, attendance, and grades. Engrade includes a free online gradebook, attendance book, assignment calendar, and progress reports.

- SocialGO makes it easy for anyone to create a website with built-in social networking features. Users can choose from a free version or premium versions. The free version includes 1 GB of storage, 10 GB of bandwidth, and the ability to customize sites. Ads are present on the free version but can be eliminated for less than $5 per month.

Elgg - Elgg is an open source social engine that provides the building blocks for individuals, groups, and schools who want to create their own social networking site or environment. Elgg is easy to work with and was recently recognized as the best open source social networking platform by InfoSource.

Photo: Inju - Me 2.0

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