Why I use WordPress for education

This flexible publishing platform can replace traditional word processing in classrooms and educational settings.
95 readers like this
95 readers like this
Woman sitting in front of her computer

Ray Smith

I believe that WordPress has a place in every PK-12 school. Most teachers are looking for ways to quickly engage parents with news from the classroom, and while many use social media, WordPress provides a powerful alternative. A simple classroom blog that's easily accessible to all is a great way to improve communication.

When I first came across WordPress in early 2006, I started using it as my own blogging software. I thought immediately of how useful this would be in a classroom. WordPress has everything you need to get your message out quickly to a global audience at little or no cost. According to the WordPress website, "WordPress was born out of a desire for an elegant, well-architectured personal publishing system built on PHP and MySQL and licensed under the GPL. It is the official successor of b2/cafelog. WordPress is modern software, but its roots and development go back to 2001." Also, WordPress is licensed under the GPL v. 2.0, and it is committed to accessibility. According to their website, "WordPress aims to make the WordPress Admin and bundled themes fully WCAG 2.0 AA compliant where possible."

I saw it replacing traditional word processing in the classroom. This was in the days before Google Apps and other relatively inexpensive methods emerged for students to publish their writing to a wider audience. Research has shown that writing for an authentic audience increases the likelihood of student engagement.

Teachers and school systems looking for more than a simple blog might consider using the WordPress plugin MailPoet to create a newsletter for classroom and school-wide publication of events. Using the MailPoet plugin, visitors can sign up as newsletter subscribers and build your mailing list.

Maybe a newsletter and mailing list is too ambitious for your needs. In that case, you can use bbPress, another plugin to facilitate forum discussion. If you prefer to keep it simple and easily provide contact forms for parents to contact teachers, then there is a solution for that too. WordPress is a communication maker set that easily provides all the tools to facilitate online discourse, regardless of your focus.

WordPress is built on top of a powerful open source database. The use of categories and tags makes it easy to organize content. Categories are best used for broader groupings like coding or computer programming, where tags might include #python, #Go, and #Javascript. WordPress comes with some general categories, which you can keep, modify, and add to. There are no limits to the number of tags you can use.

We use WordPress in our public library system, which gives all of our member libraries their own affordable website, which can be easily customized to their particular need, regardless of the size of their library. WordPress comes with mobile-ready themes, facilitating easier readability in this age of ubiquitous mobile devices.

WordPress can function effectively for business and community websites also. The best part of all of this is that it's extremely easy to get WordPress installed and ready to receive your content. If you are a Linux user, you can easily install WordPress on Fedora, Ubuntu, and other Linux distributions, too. The requirements for local installation of WordPress are PHP version 7.3 or greater, MySQL version 5.6 or greater, or MariaDB version 10.1 or greater, and HTTPS support.

This article about how to set up WordPress on Raspberry Pi will help you consider if this is a good idea based on your needs and abilities.

You may not have the technical expertise nor the desire to configure WordPress on your own workstation. In that case, there is a great solution for you. Turnkey Linux provides an excellent virtual machine that can be downloaded and spun up in your favorite virtualization software. Simply download the ISO and install on bare metal, or download the virtual machine image. Source code for WordPress, as provided by Turnkey Linux, is available here.

If you are a mobile user (and who isn't these days?), WordPress has a mobile app to support you when you are on the go. Now you can blog on your phone or tablet too.

Regardless of which method you choose for your WordPress install, you will want to familiarize yourself with WordPress tools. The best way to do that is to consult the documentation, which is extensive and excellent. WordPress has recommendations for commercial hosting providers. In addition, you can get up and running quickly with a free WordPress site of your own by visiting WordPress.com or Edublogs, if you are in education. While both of those sites allow you to quickly create a WordPress site, they do impose limits on what plugins you can use.

The source code for WordPress is available on GitHub. If you're a developer, designer, or just like helping out, WordPress invites you to join the community and have more fun too.

What to read next
Educator, entrepreneur, open source advocate, life long learner, Python teacher. M.A. in Educational Psychology, MSED in Educational Leadership, Linux system administrator, Follow me at @Don_Watkins .

12 Comments

Every one has their own favoured software, I would like to put a word in for Hugo (https://gohugo.io) that generates static sites and blogs from Markdown. Great for education use.

I have experimented with Hugo. I would love to learn more about it. We could use a good "how-to" for Hugo.

Many people seem to be asking for a good "how-to" for Hugo on their (forum.https://discourse.gohugo.io)

Hugo development is moving so fast that the documentation is probably the best place to start, in my opinion. It is very well-written (compared to some other open source projects).

Here is their "Getting Started" page. https://gohugo.io/getting-started/

The documentation details a rapidly growing list of ways to host & deploy Hugo sites. Some of these options are fully free & open source which is great for classroom settings. https://gohugo.io/hosting-and-deployment/

Some open source projects come & go, but having watched Hugo for several years, it seems to have found several pain-points that it addresses particularly well.

I am currently working on setting up my own business & classroom sites using Hugo, Netlify, GitLab, & Netlify CMS. All these are open source, with good or excellent documentation.

Another good Hugo resource for educators is https://sourcethemes.com/academic/

Academic is a full framework for creating Hugo sites that is geared towards the academic community, but that can be used by anyone.

Academic is open source & under rapid development. The documentation is extensive & very well-written.

This was such an interesting read Don, thank you! I wish we'd been introduced to WordPress in the classroom when I was at school - reading through your article it just seems to make sense. I hadn't heard of Hugo before though - one to check out!

Hi Don
Wordpress is a great system if you ask me. It can be used in so many ways. I have had my own Wordpress blog for almost 10 years now, but I have also seen Wordpress used for classic websites, forums and other communities. With all the plugins and themes available there is so many possibilities with Wordpress and you don't need to be a web developer to use it.

Yes, you're right I've seen Wordpress used for sites I never imagined that were way more than blogs. When I was in grad school ten years ago one of my classmates used it for the portfolio of her academic work and internships.

In reply to by TechThatWorks

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