If you've ever thought about dipping your toe into the blogosphere, there are dozens of free blogging platforms to choose from. I've rounded up my five favorites for your consideration. Blogging can be a tool of self-reflection, or a way to express your talents. There are almost as many reasons to blog as there are blogs. So pick a platform, and explore, but proceed carefully with children, as many blogs are not G-rated.
The free Blogger/BlogSpot platform is owned by Google. It is very easy to use, has great analytics, and excellent photo gallery integration with Picasa. Another feature they offer is the ability to use your own domain name such as "example.com" instead of "example.blogspot.com." Although Blogger doesn't charge for this, it will cost you an annual fee (around $12 depending on where you purchase it) to own your domain.
"LiveJournal is a community publishing platform, willfully blurring the lines between blogging and social networking." And the social aspect of LiveJournal is its strongest feature, because it is very easy to keep up with recent posts from your LiveJournal friends. But some consider it a gated community that doesn't interact much with the outside world. With a directory of schools listed by country and state, classrooms can reach out to each other via this blogging tool. But my usual note of caution is still applicable, as many blogs that are listed by school are still not child-friendly.
Although Squidoo doesn't offer traditional blogs with time-stamped posts appearing in reverse chronological order, they do offer a free platform for self-expression in the form of one-page micro blogs. First step at Squidoo is getting acquainted with the lingo. Each Squidoo article is called a lens, authors are lensmasters, and each lens must contain a minimum of three modules. When setting up your lensmaster account, be sure to leave Safe Browsing set to G (which is the default.)
Tumblr is a relatively new platform that encourages "reblogging" as a way to build community. About half of the posts at Tumblr are photos. The other half are a mix of text, links, music, quotes, and video. Tumblr has good integration with Facebook and Twitter, supports hi-res photos, and has great tools for mobile and email posting. As with almost all of the Internet, you need to be cautious of age-inappropriate content here, as there is no built-in G-rating filter.
"We like to say that WordPress is both free and priceless at the same time." Wordpress.com is a free online hosting service for blogs, while it's sister site (Wordpress.org) provides a downloadable open-source software package for hosting elsewhere. I like their free hosted version for students and other beginner bloggers because WordPress skills learned here can later be applied to any blog running WordPress software. And because WordPress is the world's leading blogging platform, there are millions of them!