Archive for the Category ◊ Blogging ◊

Education Blog Awards 2012
Sunday, May 20th, 2012 | Author:

It’s that time of year again when the best blogs are highlighted and celebrated. This started last year after a conversation with Chris Ratliffe (@chrisrat) amongst others and the fact that there didn’t seem to be a UK-based blogging award. So Chris and his team got to work and one was created. I was lucky enough to be shortlisted last year in the teacher blog category and my school, St John’s, were shortlisted in the whole-school category.

Once a blog is nominated (by anyone), the top ten then get passed on to a selection of judges that then choose the outright winners.

Another great thing is that this highlights the amazing work that is going on in so many classrooms up and down the country and will hopefully get more schools blogging as a result. I know of at least two teachers that got curious about the awards and have since setup their own class blogs as a result. Which is great news for the children involved!

So why not vote for your favourite blogs here: http://educationblogawards.org/

Or look through all of the shortlisted blogs from last year here: http://educationblogawards.org/shortlisted-blogs/

Child Blogs
Monday, March 26th, 2012 | Author:

Today seems to be a day for thinking towards the future…

We’ve been blogging now for 18months and some children have asked about setting their own blogs up. Now we have class blogs and some children have access to write on these. We also have the children’s blog which everyone has access to, but the main problem with this is that after 10 posts, the previous ones are on page 2 and lost into the ether. After-all, no-one clicks on page 2 do they?

I could give them all access to their class blog and then when they blog they put their name in the tag to differentiate it, but each yeah I’d be moving them al around as they move class. I don’t fancy that!

So I want to use WordPress to setup the blogs instead. Now I don’t want to force a blog on every child as the thought of writing more than they need to would scare some children. So I want to do it as a sign-up system. So my initial thought was a google form where the children fill in some options, I look at the answers and then manually setup a blog for them. They could agree to a set of rules before they get the blog turned on and we could decide them with the children of course.

There is probably a plug-in or something that I could use, but here are some things to think about…

  • Do I set the children up as contributors so that they can write on the blog – and then I’d have potentially hundreds of blog posts and comments to approve…or do I set them up as a higher level so that they post and manage it themselves – with possible e-safety issues when comments come in
  • Is there an automatic way for new blogs to be listed somewhere? There’s no point making new blogs if no-one can find them. I could have a page called ‘Blogs by children’ but would I have to manually make a list of the blogs or could it be done automatically?
  • What happens if a child adds photos of themselves to the blog? If the blog was called ‘Amy’s blog’ then photos would have to be banned
  • Should the children be allowed to choose their own themes and widgets?
  • Should the children’s blogs auto-tweet as well?

Of course I might be thinking of all of this and then it turns out that only two children want their own blog, but still, if two children want it then I should be providing some way for it to happen. I wouldn’t want to be the person forcing them to use non-school systems or worse still, blocking it entirely.

So, if you are a WordPress expert, tips are welcome! If you are a teacher, what do you think? Should children have their own blogs or am I just giving myself more work?

Category: Blogging, blogposts  | Tags:  | 8 Comments
Which Blog Plugins?
Friday, September 02nd, 2011 | Author:

Just a short post today. I am often asked which plugins we have on our school blog to help it run and to manage it so I have made a list. Now I know there are people out there who have more knowledge and expertise than I do and I’d love them to correct me or provide new plugins too, but here is our list: http://stjohnsblogs.co.uk/which-plugins/

Hopefully you can find them useful too.

Bear in mind you will probably need a self-hosted blog for these to work rather than one from wordpress.com

Category: Blogging, blogposts  | Tags: , , ,  | One Comment
A useful plugin for WordPress
Wednesday, July 13th, 2011 | Author:

This post will appeal to about 0.1% of you, but for me, it marked a huge win and a triumph that I have finally found the answer to my problems.

We have one main school blog and then on each class blog we have a list of links that relate to our other blogs. The idea is that from any of our blogs, whether it be class 3, class 10 or the outdoor blog, you can get to all of the others.

This was setup manually so on each of our 15-or-so blogs I had to manually enter the addresses for the other blogs. They have changed a few times during the year (added reception, removed school council) and it’s been a pain.

But then today I found the Diamond Multisite Widget (available here) and this just automatically adds all of your blogs onto your page and you can also choose to add the latest comments from across your whole-school blog site too. I previously had the latest comments per blog e.g. the latest 5 from the clubs blog, now it shows them all. I’m much happier. It all looks better 🙂

Anyways, that was my little success today.

Category: Blogging, blogposts  | Tags: ,  | 2 Comments
Blogging with children
Monday, February 07th, 2011 | Author:

I originally wrote this article to appear in the Spring edition of User Friendly, Hampshire’s ICT magazine. As the magazine has now appeared in schools, I thought it would be a good idea to copy it below for you all to see. I wrote this in October 2010.

Do your children blog? No? Why not? Blogging is a fantastic way of sharing and celebrating the learning that is going on within your school. I know that you already do this with your learning platform, but blogging takes it to another level and allows your children’s learning to be seen from anywhere in the world. I am writing this in October half-term and our school’s blogs have been viewed 9,500 times in 7 weeks. (Edit 7/2/11 this is now 69,000 visits) We have had people visit from USA, Canada, South Africa and the Far East. This creates a huge buzz of excitement and we have had people comment that we have inspired them which makes us (and the children) feel very proud indeed. There is the blog feature within Wizkid and while this is great, it would limit the children to writing within the school and not for a wider audience. I am not sure about blog features in other VLEs, but I am sure they offer similar tools.

Before you start:

Check your photo permissions. You will have done this for your website and for your VLE already and this is just another thing on the list of tools that require photographs. You can of course blog without photos and just include the backs of children’s heads or just their work, it is up to you.

Three ways to setup a blog in school:

Pros Cons
WordPress.com Simple to setup

Free

Limited names available if you want class6 etc

You’d have to find and install plugins and themes

Primaryblogger.co.uk Simple to setup (you can have a blog in 60 seconds)

Free

Plugins provided

Themes provided

Spam filter provided

Not as much control as a self-hosted blog (but still great)
Self-hosted WordPress Full control over the name e.g. www.stjohnsblogs.co.uk

Full control over all themes, plugins and options

Small technical knowledge needed to setup a domain

Hosting £5-20 a year

Please note: There are other ways such as Blogger, Typepad etc but at the time of writing Blogger is blocked so I have focused on WordPress. I would suggest looking at primaryblogger.co.uk as it would help the majority of people get blogging in minutes.

Settings:

You MUST make sure that you check the box that says ‘requires admin approval before comments go live’, this can be found under the Settings>Discussion menu. This means that any comments from the outside world get vetted by you before going public. Just in case you get some dodgy visitors and comments.

Setup a map or globe from www.clustrmaps.com or http://www.revolvermaps.com/ so that you can see who has visited your blog.

Now what?

Now you can start blogging. Blog when you feel like it. Blog when you want to show things off. Blogging makes a great plenary tool at the end of a lesson to show what you have done or what you have learnt. You can also use blogging to ask questions for the readers and visitors. Use it to show off the ‘silly little things’ that happen in your school on a daily basis, parents will love this. This half-term we have had photos of aliens we have sewn together, leaves made out of numbers, instruction writing and games made in 2DIY.

One key thing is to get the children involved. We often login for them as the teacher and then let them write the text. This way they are becoming a part of the process, then you can check it and press ‘Publish’ before it goes live.

More advanced:

Why not combine it with a tool such as Animoto or Photopeach and make your photos a bit more exciting? You can embed most things into a blog so you could have a Google map or a Voki or a PrimaryPad.

Some examples:

http://www.stjohnsblogs.co.uk – St John the Baptist Primary, Hampshire (My school)

http://blackfield6ao.wordpress.com/ – Blackfield Primary, Hampshire

http://fordingbridgejunior.blogspot.com/ – Fordingbridge Junior, Hampshire

http://tobythepuppy.wordpress.com/ – Fordingbridge Junior, Hampshire

http://hmsastute.wordpress.com/ – Titchfield Primary, Hampshire

http://heathfieldcps.net/ – Heathfield School, Bolton

E-Safety to consider:

  • Make sure you have permissions to include the children’s names/photographs on your blog
  • Ensure that an adult is in control of what gets posted and when – both when writing blog posts and commenting on a blog
  • Talk to the children about the blog, what it is used for and ways of using it appropriately

One last top tip – Once you setup a blog, send my classes a comment and we’ll visit your blog and say hello. It’s always useful to share the experience with other schools.

For a more in-depth guide to setting up a blog including which plugins to use, please visit my blog: www.ianaddison.net and search for wordpress.

Ian Addison

ICT Coordinator,

St John the Baptist Primary School

Letting the children loose
Monday, November 08th, 2010 | Author:

Yet another blogging post, it seems to be taking over at the moment but in a very good way. This week’s challenge was to see how children could get access to blog. I know Adam has been blogging, and that is fine for one child, but i want all of Year 5-6 to have the ability to blog eventually. So I needed to find a way of managing their accounts without adding them 1-by-1.

@hgjohn suggested using the Dagon importer tool. So I installed it and was blown away by the simplicity.

Firstly I needed a list of children, not a problem as we have CSV files of the children everywhere. I’ve used these to make logins for Purple Mash, our VLE and for J2E. I needed to give them all email addresses, but actually, these could be made up, so I made them up. I then gave them all ‘password’ as their password and copied this CSV, with all of it’s commas, into word. I replaced the commas with | as this is what the importer tool needed. I could then copy and paste these names into WordPress and set all of the children as contributors.

15minutes later and 240 children ( I decided to add Y3/4 while I was at it) now all have a simple login to their class blogs. As contributor they can write but not publish. Tomorrow I will start a trial with 1 very keen girl and hopefully our first children will be blogging by the end of the week.

You know what? This has all been hard work, but it’s well worth it. We showed our blogs to local pyramid heads today and they loved them too. So much so I am being shared amongst their schools to help set it all up for them.

Exciting times indeed…

Category: Blogging, blogposts  | Tags:  | 3 Comments
Blogging without me
Monday, November 01st, 2010 | Author:

We’ve been blogging at our school, you may have noticed as I’ve waffled on about it a fair bit, but I saw something today that made me smile and realise how far we’ve come in half a term (plus a day).

We have blogs for each class and these are sorted by the teacher but there are other blogs that are shared a bit. For example the sport blog or the whole school blog. We also have a blog for Learning Outdoors as part of our outdoor curriculum. Now, the teacher who runs this said she loved the idea of blogging, but didn’t have time to do it as she was outiside. Fair point. So a Year 6 volunteered. We gave him some login details and away he went armed with my blogging guide. The result is here. All blogged by Adam and pretty much on his own but overseen by me.

Then just before half term, and I mean just, it was lunchtime on the last day, I was asked if we could have a choir blog and Adam duly offered to blog for them too as his class teacher runs the choir. I explained time was tight on the last day and it’d get done over half term.This then merged to become a clubs blog to cover all of the clubs we have.

Now today I wasn’t at school as I was training elsewhere so Adam couldn’t come to see me. His teacher didn’t know whether I’d had chance to set up the blog or not either. Then at lunchtime today an auto-tweet appeared from school with a link to http://stjohnsblogs.co.uk/clubs. Turns out Adam had investigated to see if I had setup the blog or not, then logged in and written a post and had it approved too. There’s even an MP3 uploaded which I imagine he did too.

This might not be a big thing to some schools out there, but we have some keen bloggers at our school and the children are helping to push this along. I feel very proud of this and long may it continue.

If you have 2 minutes, please do go and listen to their song and leave us a comment.

Category: Blogging, blogposts  | Tags:  | 2 Comments
Blogging with the whole school
Saturday, October 30th, 2010 | Author:

This post has been a long time coming. I am writing it because some people asked how we started blogging in our school. Now, I am not an expert in this field at all, for that I would hand you over to @mattlovegrove, @johnmclear (from Primary Blogger) or @hgjohn and they have all helped and supported me through the trickier parts of setting up our blogs. No, I am someone that can fiddle and play and eventually get there. It might not be the best way and I am sure there are shortcuts I missed but hey, it seems to work.

So here’s a recount of what we have done, what’s worked, what’s annoyed me and as with anything I do, I hope it is useful to someone else in the future.

The plan:

I wanted 1 blog per class that was capable of video, sound, flash files (for 2DIY/2CASS). It needed to be teacher-proof. It needed to link all of the blogs together and have a common-ish look and feel. I didn’t mind different themes, but all must have links to school website and e-safety resources for example. It needed to link to Twitter and our school website. It needed to be simple to set-up.

Often in a school, you will have 1 keen teacher. They might want a blog so they’ll go and make mraddison.wordpress.com or whatever. Then Mrs Smith says that it is a great idea so she tries to make one too but Mrssmith.wordpress.com is taken and she ends up with Mrssmithyear4.wordpress.com You will end up with the issue where each teacher and class has a different naming structure. Not a massive problem, but wouldn’t it be easier if there was a way of managing them all? A bit of research led me to WordPress MU (multi-user).

WordPress MU was a bit more complicated than a usual wordpress install and that makes sense really, I was setting up at least 12 blogs rather than 1. I set up a domain and installed wordpress. With my school being called St John the Baptist, we were limited to domains as many were taken, I settled with www.stjohnsblogs.co.uk

Set-up:

To setup blogs coming from the main one, I needed an email address per class. This wasn’t a huge hassle as I was intending to set this up anyway. These could then be used to sign up for accounts on Prezi, Wallwisher etc as well. These were all done through Google and they all automatically re-direct to one main account to make it easier for me to check!

Linking them all together:

I couldn’t find an easy way to do this. I started with writing some HTML code that I copied and pasted into a text widget on each blog. This meant I could quite easily replicate the links on each blog so class 1 had links to 2, 3, 4 etc and blog 2 had the same set of links. I wanted to control liks at the top and to have all of the others inherit these links. I can’t find a way to do this, so if anyone knows, please enlighten me.  I ended up using the link widget and adding new blogs as we created them. This does mean logging in 15 times or so when we set-up a new blog (as we did with our after-school club) but it seems to work, it’s a shame I can’t manage these from the top-level.

Plugins:

Akismet is a key plugin to use as it will track and colelct spam that is sent to your blog. It wasn’t made clear if I could install this at the top-level or if I needed to do it per blog, so I set it up per blog. This required an email address per blog too.

I was torn between Clustrmaps and Revolvermaps to track visitor locations and in the end we have a bit of a mixture, but that’s fine. They can’t all be the same. Firestats is used to track the actual visitors per blog, but it seems to sometimes count per blog and sometimes for the whole domain. Either way, it’s fine and does a good enough job for us. I can then tell people in assembly,”we’re heading for 9,000 views” or whatever.It also shows which blog has had the most views so Class 5 are constantly asking me if they’re still top. Friendly competition is always good.

Unfiltered MU is another important plugin. Before installing it, only I as admin, was able to use HTML code from sites such as Animoto, Voki or Photopeach. I wanted everyone to do this and that is what this plugin allows you to do.

Themes:

I found themes to be a bit of a pain to be honest. I need to install them at the top level before anyone can select them for their own class blog. This means I would need ot find enough decent themes to cover all classes when I would rather they did this themselves. We currently all have pretty much the same theme, this half-term I will sit with the teachers and show them my theme search and let them choose their own. I might do this as a class, but we shall see if time allows.

E-Safety:

The key thing is to ensure that comments are approved by an admin (either myself or a teacher) before going live. This can be done through the discussion settings page.We have also had to double-check our photo permission letters to ensure we have the appropriate photo permissions.

Other bits:

There is a great WordPress app on Andorid which means I can approve comments on blogs from my phone. Very useful and quicker than logging in to do it.

Feeding to Twitter and our website was a breeze thanks to Twitterfeed and I discussed that here

I have made guies for my teachers so that they can always find them on our website. These cover sites such as animoto, photopeach and blogging in general. These are here.

The future:

I would like to see teachers including the blogs in their plans a bit more so that they think of ways to use them in advance rather than just as an ad-hoc thing later. I would also like to see us looking at other school blogs so we can start to explore the potential that is available.

So…

This hasn’t been easy, but then it hasn’t been mega-difficult either. The hardest bit was deciding what I wanted and what the software could do. Once I changed my view a little, I was able to make it work for me and it now works brilliantly. There are a couple of issues, such as the links not inheriting from the main site, but apart from that, I am happy.

If you want to setup blogs across your whole school, I would suggest talking to @HGJohn as he does it for a living. I will help where I can too but I can only go through what we did.

Please do go and visit our blogs if you have 5 minutes. They can be found at www.stjohnsblogs.co.uk and most classes have now got started. Class 1/2 are reception and will start this half-term, as will class 4.

Category: Blogging, blogposts  | Tags: , ,  | 12 Comments