Tag-Archive for ◊ blog ◊

Which Blog Plugins?
Saturday, November 01st, 2014 | Author:

There is an old post where I listed the plugins that we use on our school blog to keep it ticking over and after a few emails with different people recently, and considering it has been three years since that post, I thought I should update it.

At school, our blog site is www.ridersblogs.co.uk and we use WordPress Multisite and this post goes into a bit more detail, but it means that I can install small pieces of code, known as plugins, that will help my site to run in a different way. Some of these are vital, some are cosmetic, some are free and others are paid-for.

If you have any questions about blogging, or if you think I have missed something obvious, please let me know. I am always trying new plugins to see how they work and how they can improve our blogging experience.

Akismet – This should, in theory, catch all of the spam and prevent it from reaching your comment page. Some does occasionally get through but it does a good job of stopping most of it.

Custom Meta – Very simple but on the normal WordPress page there is a small menu giving 5 options such as log in and the RSS feeds. With this plugin, I can choose which of those 5 to show and for most of the time, it’s just log-in so that teachers and children can easily get to the sign-in page.

Diamond Multisite Widget – A huge discovery. So much so that I blogged about this plugin when I found it. When you have 20+ blogs as we do, it can be hard to curate a menu of the links to them all. What if someone accidentally find a a Year 6 blog, you’d like a link on there to other blogs in your school, right? This plugin does that. It puts links to all of your blogs on the side of each blog ensuring that there is always a list of the blogs that are active across the whole school. Before this plugin, I had to manually edit a list of links on each blog. Urgh.

User Role Editor – Another favourite. With WordPress you can different levels of user e.g. administrator but there are times when you only want children (or staff) to be able to do limited things such as write and edit their own blog posts. This plugin lets you create a role for the children and assign different capabilities to that role.

Unfiltered MU – Occasionally when a user wants to embed a video from a site such as Animoto or some sound from Soundcloud, WordPress was removing the HTML embed code. This plugin helps to prevent the code being removed.

Feedjit – This is a simple display of the last 10 or so people to visit your blog. This is great when showing it to a class as more often than not, at least one will be a non-UK based visitor leading to a discussion about where in the world that city or country might be.

WPMU Dev Dashboard (Paid for) – I have subscribed to the WPMU Dev package as it provides me with a range of plugins and themes that I have setup on different blogs within the school. I have also made a few blogs for other schools too so having extra, high-quality themes is very useful.

Easy Blogging (Paid for) – This is an amazing plugin. It is part of the WPMU DEV package but you can also buy it separately. What does it do? To put it simply, it can be set so that users of a certain level e.g. children, only see certain options when they sign in. So I have this set to allow children to only see “New Post” and “My Posts” and that’s it. They won’t get to see the comments or any of the other options that are potentially available to them. When combined with the User Role Editor, this becomes a very useful plugin. There is also the option to turn this on when logged in as a teacher meaning that the less-confident teachers can log-in, click “Enable” and be presented with a cut-down screen with just the things they need. Awesome.

 

Education Blog Awards
Saturday, June 16th, 2012 | Author:

I’d like to say thank you for all of the votes for my blog in both the ‘Teacher’s blog of the year’ and ‘Most Influential Blog of the Year’. Voting has now closed and this blog was outside of the top ten, but thank you for your votes and support anyway.

I had many tweets from people telling me they had voted and it makes me smile to think that my silly ideas, shared links and waffle help other teachers across the country.

So thank you again.

To see the full list of shortlisted blogs, visit here: http://educationblogawards.org/shortlisted-blogs-2012/

And a MASSIVE well done and thank you to Chris Ratcliffe for his hard work in organising the awards in the first place. It’s been a truly epic task and there are a lot of teachers and pupils who are thankful for his hard work.

Are you ready for seconds?
Saturday, June 16th, 2012 | Author:

Are you prepared for a child blogging about your school? What if the Never Seconds blog had happened in your school. What would you have done? How would you have reacted? Would it have been able to happen at all?

For those of you that have been under a rock for the last month, Never seconds is a blog created by a 9year old girl in Scotland with the purpose of rating her school dinners. Each day, she takes a photo, uploads it to the blog and gives the meal a score. Oh and she also happens to be raising money for charity (£45,000+) at the same time. She’s quite a girl is our Martha. (As an aside…@digitalmaverick tweeted and asked what if she had been rating her lessons rather than her lunches? Would we all be so supportive?)

This week, her local council banned her from taking any more photos as the publicity was getting a bit much for them but after a huge amount of support from the public and Jamie Oliver, the council changed their mind and Martha is now allowed to post once more. I have to say that I think the council have made a brave decision in changing their mind and fair play to them.

But the question remains, what would you have done if this happened in your school?

Now it must be said in the majority of schools, I would imagine that Martha wouldn’t have even been allowed to have her own camera in school, let alone in the dining hall to take photographs! So credit should go to the school for allowing her to be proactive in the first place.

I’m not sure what I’d say if a child asked me if they could take photos to share publicly. I think I would give them my permission and blessing but would the teacher in me want to check and approve what they were doing first? It also got me thinking…Do my children have their own blogs outside of school? Should I know about them? Should I check them?

We have been thinking about providing children with their own blogs, but my aim is to use these to share learning but maybe, just maybe, it will promote the use of blogging and the children will want to setup their own too for non-learning things. I know that since I’ve used Twitter in lessons a few children have created their own accounts, so maybe their own blogs are inevitable. Maybe I should praise it because if they’re blogging about something, anything, that they are passionate about then that should be encouraged? It sure has made me think about what we currently do and what we will be doing from September.

In a time when I am looking at how I teach, assess and share ICT across my school, Martha’s story has thrown loads more questions my way and although she’ll never know it, she has inspired me to rethink some plans for my school.

So, thank you, Martha. Enjoy your lunch.

 

ps: Steve Wheeler also blogged about the Never Seconds blog here.

Anti(cyber)-bullying week
Monday, November 14th, 2011 | Author:

During a discussion with Year 3/4 teachers last week, we were talking about anti-bullying week which happens every year. Now we are lucky enough not to have a bullying problem in our school and whether this is down to our children, our staff or our policies, I don’t know, but it doesn’t really happen. So how could we cover anti-bullying week with a new slant?

I thought about our blogs. these are our portal to the world and we discussed cyber bullying. We came up with a plan.

Using a fake name and email address, I clicked on a blog post from each of the year 3/4 classes and left a comment. The comments were either about their line-dancing lesson or the ‘Dress up and Battle as a Roman’ morning. The comments were rude but not too offensive.

For example I said: ” I think you look silly in your shields and hats, I think the Celts would have beaten you”. I wanted it to be enough to get them angry and to question it, but not enough that they would cry or be too upset!!

Now this won’t get picked up by spam filters as I used a real-enough looking email address and name so that it would appear in the moderation queue.

I hadn’t thought of this as being risky until I shared the idea on Twitter so I wonder. What are the risks?

Children could get VERY upset – Hopefully not, we’ll only be displaying the message for a short time before we delete it or spam it as a class.

Parents could get involved – Again, I hope not! But if they do, we will discuss why we are doing it. I believe it is a serious message and the children are old enough and mature enough to deal with it. We are not asking parents permission before we do this and we will not even discuss it with them afterwards.

The messages will never go live and will only be seen by 30 children per class.

How do you cover cyber-bullying or online safety?  Is this a good idea? Or a risky one?