Tag-Archive for ◊ blogs ◊

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.

 

A Blogging Update
Saturday, February 16th, 2013 | Author:

Over two years ago, I wrote a blogging post giving some ideas for schools to get started and with the news that Posterous is closing, it makes sense to look at this and see if it is all still relevant. I must declare an interest in that I was a Blogger user, but moved to WordPress, so I do prefer the latter but maybe this is just because I am more used to it? But at the end of the day, just get blogging. Whether this is for you as a teacher sharing ideas or if it’s with your class, it doesn’t matter. Just do it.

When starting a blog, there are a few choices.

1) Blogger – This is free. This is very simple to use and takes seconds to setup. It’s easy to post to, manage and share your posts. An example from @shelibb is here. Simply sign-in with your Google login.

You can enable Blogger through Google Apps, but I wouldn’t suggest it because then your children can post without any input or control from the teachers. The first time a teacher would see the post or any comments, is when they are live to the world. Not great. Guy Shearer has written about a way around this. His article is here.

2) KidBlog – This is free. I’ve never used this but it comes highly recommended. This provides logins for your pupils too.
3) Primary Blogger – This is free. It uses the WordPress service, but has been tweaked with primary schools in mind. This means it comes with a stack of plugins and upgrades to improve it for school use. Takes a little bit longer than Blogger, but gives more customisation. I would avoid WordPress.com, although free, as it isn’t as good as Primary Blogger. One great option within WordPress (and I don’t know if it’s available in Blogger – I did try looking but couldn’t find anything) is the ability to have different levels and roles. So in my class, the teacher can write and post automatically, but when a child logs in, they can only write a draft post, which the teacher needs to check later.

 

This guide here says that Blogger is quicker, easier but with less options. It says:
So the choice is clear: If you want the fullest set of blogging features, you want WordPress, but if you’re looking for simplicity and streamlined blog creation and posting, Blogger is the way to go.

Now I know many people will want simplicity, but there are reasons for spending the extra time and going with WordPress.

Another way of blogging is to use a self-hosted WordPress. This is where you go to WordPress.org, download the WordPress software and install it online using a web hosting service. This will probably cost around £50 for 2gb of space and a domain name (via CS New Media). There are people that can do this for you though, such as John Sutton and Creative Blogs! It then gives you the option of having all of your blogs under one roof. Although financially this will only cost around £50, it is worth noting that there may be considerable time setting this up, learning how the software works and customising it for your school. There are many people that can help with this though, do get in touch for more information.

 

Our school blog www.stjohnsblogs.co.uk works using the self-hosted blog. I have the main, whole school blog, then there are 15 or so other blogs across the school that all follow the same rules and have the ability to have the same users. So, giving Issy in my class as an example, with her one login, she can login to my class blog, the School Council and the whole school blog. She simply logs in and chooses which one to post to. I can also then have one admin user which can manage every blog while every other teacher just has the login for their own blog. I get control, they get simplicity.

 

We have also recently started giving children their own blogs which they have been using to share a few ideas (www.stjohnsblogs.co.uk/children) As I said, WordPress does take a little bit longer to set up, but once it’s done, you only have to update it now and again (this takes a few clicks). So even if you have 100s of options, you don’t need to use them all do you? We have six year-olds that can blog on WordPress, so it’s not that difficult is it? In Reception, we blog with an app via our PlayBooks and there are also apps for Android and Apple too. You can also enable plug-ins to turn on the feature that lets you email your posts to your blog.

Why a paid WordPress over a free one? Embedding content e.g. Animoto, Photopeach and Youtube tends to work better in a paid blog.

As I said earlier, it doesn’t matter which tool you use, just try and start blogging with your class and share their learning with the world.

Category: Blogging, blogposts  | Tags: ,  | 4 Comments
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?

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
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

Bears that travel…
Monday, January 03rd, 2011 | Author:

Just a quick post to share an idea that I’ve stolen magpied from a fellow teacher. I have asked and she is fine for me to do so and I am not claiming this to be my own idea at all. I am just taking it and developing it.I will link back to her work when this idea comes to fruition.

It all started yesterday morning when I saw a tweet from a teacher in New Zealand asking if anyone had a home for her class pet, Trevor. He travels the world spending a few weeks in different schools. While there, his hosts (the children) write about his journey, their area and country and they post pictures. You can see Trevor’s adventures here: http://trevjunior.edublogs.org/

Now I thought this was great and set about planning which teacher at school I would ask. I have lots of contacts on Twitter so the bear would have plenty of holiday homes around the UK to visit. But then I thought, what if others want to do the same? So I started thinking about planning a website to host it al so that anyone can get a bear and send it to another school.

With @mattlovegrove’s help, we will have one main site that explains how it all works and links to the blogs and then teachers can signup to blogs for their class pet. People can also offer their class as a possible holiday destination too. This could be done through a simple google form for example. The pets (and their children) can then decide where to send him to next.The site will be based on WordPress and full of guides to show how to blog, upload pictures, videos etc.

While he is away on holiday, there can be lots of communication between the two classes, building community cohesion/global awareness/whatever box you want to tick but mainly getting the children enthused about the world around them. We could also build up a google map for each bear’s travels so far. Then when the holiday is over, he may go back to his home class or he may go on to another holiday.(Maybe they could have a passport?)

We’ll start slowly, we’ve only just finished the initial conversation but I think we should have something to show in a little while.

So do you think your class pet needs a holiday? Could you get an additional pet just for travelling?

Now what do we call this? classpetholidays.com? bearsthattravel.com? Any ideas?