Tag Archives: glowblogs

How to improve Glow Blogs?⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

I’ve been involved with Glow Blogs as product owner for a few years now 1. I think my main aim has been to avoid the stagnation that happened with the previous system and to keep the service as useful as possible for teachers and pupils 2.

So far we have I think managed that by keeping up with WordPress releases and adding features to improve various different aspects.

Since the rebooting of Glow in October 2014 there have been around 3 major releases of Glow Blogs every year. At the end of last session it was decided that these gradual improvements were going smoothly enough to drop back to one major release each year 3.

It was also decided to formalise the way we get ideas for improvements a little. To do this we are trying to gather suggestions in one place as opposed to the rather ad-hoc system that was in place before.

It seemed like a good idea to use the blog service itself to gather these ideas so a page has been added to the Help Blog for suggestions.

Anyone who is interested can suggest ideas and these will be triaged into the release for next summer.

This doesn’t mean that all suggestions will be taken forward. I’ve learnt my lesson a few times with suggestions of my own. Some ideas might be too expensive, some might be insecure or too difficult to implement in our setup. It was surprising how complicated adding features to Glow Blogs turned out to be. Glow Blogs is, I believe, the biggest WordPress set up in Europe so changes cannot be made lightly. On the other hand the service needs to met the needs of teachers & pupils in Scotland.

If you are a user of blogs I hope you will take a bit of time to think of how the service could be improved. Then it is just a case of filling in the form and we will take it from there. If you leave contact details with your suggestion I’ll certainly get back to you, possibly with some questions. We will also post the suggestions as they are made to the help blog to allow others to comment or express interest.

One more time, here is the link for suggestions. The cut for next years release will be at the end of November.

Featured Image: Image from page 196 of “Suggestions for handwork in school… | Flickr No known copyright restrictions.

  1. Now on a part time basis.
  2. And others involved in Scottish education.
  3. In addition to any security releases of WordPress itself.

e-Portfolios in practise⤴

from @ wwwd – John's World Wide Wall Display

As an enthusiastic proponent of pupil blogging when I first heard about the e-Portfolio system developed in Glow Blogs I was rather worried. I think this was around 2012. I had been excited about Glow Blogs giving the opportunity to Scottish teachers to get blogging into their classrooms. When I saw e-Portfolios appear I saw them as adding complexity to the process (the rules, the capacities and Es & Os). The idea of blogging being a requirement and be controlled and constrained felt as if it was against my idealistic ideas.

Over the next couple of years I worked in many schools helping set up e-Portfolos with groups of pupils. I rarely saw the end result. One good thing I saw was teachers realising that posting to WordPress was a lot easier that their usual way of creating a website. In our Local Authority like many others schools started to move their websites to Glow Blogs.

It was ironic then that when working on Glow in 2014-15 that I spent a lot of my time working on improving the e-Portfolio system.

Last session I found myself returning to class teaching. Over that year I did some blogging with the class and set up and used e-Portfolios a bit. Less than I hoped but getting back into teaching after a major curriculum change had its challenges (I am still working on some of these).

One of the things that has changed is the ease of getting an audience. Providing an audience for pupil work was one of the main benefits I found in Sandaig. A lot has changed in the 12 year since I started getting pupils to blog. There has been a massive increase in publishing by schools. It seems a lot harder to gain an audience.

Last session e-Portfolios became less of a focus when I found out that the secondary we feed had its own requirements for a pupil profile and this was not one created by a blog.

This session I decided to give the e-Portfolios another chance, focussing on informal self evaluation and celebration.

After a term I think this is going pretty well. The class are largely enthusiastic about the process. We are managing to make at least one weekly review post a week. In addition the pupils are sometimes posting their artwork, writing and at some end of sections review of maths work.

The children are taking posting seriously, recording learning and some beginning to pinpoint next steps.

I’ve been giving out a template with suggestions for the weekly review asking different children to complete more or less depending on ability. Some pupils need 1-2-1 support every time, others are running away with it. The template is the sort of thing you would expect (best work this week, why, didn’t like, why, enjoyed etc). One thing the pupils especially like is to summarise their week in emoji. I added this as a wee bit of fun, but it has been fascinating to see how some really think about this.

With a class with a wide range of abilities, across p4-7, it is a bit of a challenge to manage the process. This is somewhat eased by the fact there are 17 pupils in the class and we have 1-2-1 iPads.

Next term I’ll change these around a bit giving some pupils simpler templates to start. I do vary the questions from week to week already.

At this point the posts have a fair number of typos, spelling and grammar errors. I try not to focus on these but will pick that up later on this session. I want the pupils to enjoy posting. I encourage photos along with text and the pupils are posting some multimedia. I’ve also asked them to post about learning outside school too.

I do review what they write briefly before they transfer from notes to their blog. I am a fan of editing blogs posts in external app 1.

I was delighted one week when a Primary 4 pupil was still working at the end of the session, he had decided to make a short video of a magic trick he had learnt as an example. This was off his own bat without any prompt.

One of the things that has surprised me most is the pleasure I get in ‘marking’ the post by leaving comments. I can’t say marking jotters is something I always enjoy but I do love commenting.

I’d though that the process of posting weekly would speed up and not take some much time after a few weeks, this has not happened yet. Some pupils need support in publishing, more in writing. I do think the process is justifiable in terms of basic literacy as a exercise in writing, grammar and spelling. It is also hitting a few Health and Wellbeing E&Os 2. Perhaps some ICT too;-).

There are a few different e-Portfolio systems on the go across Scotland, several based on different Glow services. I am of course biased towards the web, blogs and WordPress. Glow Blogs now have a nice follow system that makes it easy to keep up with pupil blogs, I know my way round WordPress, it is flexible open source software with good exit/export paths 3.

Apart from system used, I am pleased with the results I am getting by using e-portfolies, a a little surprised at the range of learning that can go on in the process.

Featured image E-Portfolio | Oliver Tacke | Flickr Public domain

  1. This one started in drafts.
  2. See Healthy Lifestyles – Second Level – Achieving for example
  3. I think it important to start, at least in baby steps, talking about ownership, copyright, relationships to software and companies who own that software.

Organising Pupil Content on Blogs⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

This is hopefully a useful tip for organising pupil created content on WordPress blogs like Glow Blogs.

Most of the content posed to blogs consists of posts or pages. Posts join the stream, pages are static generally accessed from menus.

This is another way to organise content that can be useful. Especially if several pupils are posting similar content at the same time. It helps organise that content and the early posters don’t get pushed away down the stream.

An Example Banton Birds

At school we are trying to pay attention to the local birdlife. We took part in the BIG BBC Bird watch with local Bird watchers, Mr & Mrs Carter. We started feeding the birds and trying to get some photos.

The pupils are doing a bit of research on the birds we saw (not too many it was a windy hour) and I hope they will continue over time adding other birds seen in the playground and around.

I want to organise these bits of research automatically collecting them together. To do this the pupils create, not posts or pages but a custom post type, project.

How it is done

This is just one way to do this but it is, at least on Glow Blogs, the most straightforward. It uses the JetPack Custom Content Types module and the unfortunately 1 named Portfolio Projects.

These projects are like pages in that they are out of the flow but like posts have Project Types (like categories) and Project Tags (like tags) that can be used to organise them. The also have a shortcode that can be used to create an index of the projects by type or tag2.

  1. Activate the Jetpack plugin.
  2. In Jetpack Settings Activate Custom Content Types.
  3. In Settings-> Writing Enable Portfolio Projects for this site
  4. Pupils create Projects for each item, add a project type (in this case Birds).

To create an index of these projects I add a page Banton Birds and add a shortcode to the page:

[portfolio include_type=birds display_types=false]

To make the index more visual the pupils make sure they have added a featured image to their posts. That automatically creates a thumbnail.

I’ve used this technique several times on blogs myself, including the Projects page on this blog. I’ve used it too to provide and organise photos and links on the Biggies blog for the pupils.

1. For Glow Blogs where we have a lot of pupil e-portfolios through a custom plugin.

2. You could do the same with pages using the hierarchy and the Display Posts Shortcode plugin, but not as easily.

Bringing it All Back Home at the UoD⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

Yesterday Derek Robertson tweeted out a screenshot of the 1000th post syndicated into the UoDEdushare | The central sharing hub for #UoDedu teacher education students at the University of Dundee.

One of the features of blogging I was passionate (or a pin in the neck) about getting into Glow Blogs was some sort of syndication. This allows posts from a set of site top be pulled into a central site while respecting the original post and it owner (by linking back and pointing to the original as the source).

Derek has been tireless in pursuing his vision of the students working in this way, publicly sharing their learning. It is a marvel to see in action.

I used the same idea for a couple of small projects last year but am thrilled to see this in a much bigger scale.

It is also wonderful that so many student teachers are not just exposed to technology in a fly-by way but it is incorporated into their learning. I’ll be interested to see the effect this has of using tech, and in particular blogs, in schools across Scotland in the next few years.

Back to class and classroom blogging⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

IMG_0133.jpeg

For the last few (twelve) years I’ve been a enthusiastic proponent of blogging by pupils. I only actually carried this out in the classroom from 2004 till 2008 when I started work in North Lanarkshire as an ICT staff development officer.

Since then I’ve run plenty of courses around blogging, continued to blog myself and investigated lots of blogging systems. I also support pupils setting up e-Portfolio blogs in many classroom in flying visits. I spent a couple of years working on Glow Blogs and continue to provide support for Glow Blogs on a part time basis.

I’ve got a strong opinion of the positive value of pupils posting about their learning. I hope as I provided support and encouragement for pupil posting that I kept in mind the difficulties of organising this in class.

I am now back to eating my own dog food and again in the position to blog about ‘Teaching, ict, and suchlike’ from the position of a classroom teacher.

In many respects I’ve landed on my feet. I’ve got a very small class of delightful pupils, a good range of hardware and due to the small numbers, bandwidth that is not awful.

However I am feeling pretty out of my depth in regards to the changes in curriculum and practise that have happened in my absence from the classroom.

Beginning with blogs

On the practising what you preach front I’ve started using Glow Blogs. We set up e-Portfolos a couple of weeks ago. I am pretty pleased all the hard work of the Glow Blogs team has paid off from a technical angle. I am not working to hard on the idea of profiling yet, just trying to get the class enthused about owning their own space.

We have also started a class blog Banton Biggies – The Tallest Class in Banton Primary and the pupils have made a couple of posts. Fell free to pop over and leave us a comment.

First thing I’ve noticed is that it doesn’t get any easier organising time for pupils to post. The ideal is to give them enough time to write a well written reflective post, but also not missing out on too much of the current classroom activity.

The other thing that has changed is the familiarity of current pupils with the Internet. There is a lot of that I need to explore and discuss. Being a YouTuber is an aspiration of more than one pupil I am working with.

Of course this familiarity with the Internet does not come packaged with some of the things I an interested, safety, copyright, controlling your own data, along with technical skills, knowledge of file types, urls, keyboard shortcuts and the rest. A lot of learning will hopefully be sparked by discussing blogging.

We have also started using Glow O365, mostly word and Onedrive so far and I’ll have a fair bit to reflect on that too. I also set up a Yammer group for the pupils, with little instruction about what to do with it. There was a huge wave of enthusiasm from the pupils, but left to their own devices they have mostly posted hi messages. I think I’ll have to seed the group with some ideas to get things going.

Joining some dots

What I am hoping that I can do with the blogging is to start the pupils reading other pupils posts making some connections perhaps with other small schools. Hopefully I can get a podcast together too, watch that space.

Get in touch if you have pupils posting that would like a few comments or would be interested in some sort of blog to blog communication. It might take me a wee while to get going but that’s the direction I hope to travel in.

Featured image: Flickr Photo: simpleinsomnia – CC BY stamped with attribution with FlickrCC Stampr

New Blog: Glowing Posts⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

screen_shotglowing-posts

I’ve started a new blog Glowing Posts | Collecting interesting #GlowBlogs Posts.

The title says it all. The purpose of this new blog is to collect some examples of interesting ways that Glow Blogs are being used. I’ve found some good ones already.

The idea is to highlight posts rather than whole blogs. If you know of any you can let me know via a form on the site, twitter or any other way you can thing of.

Making Blogging Count⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

The University of Dundee seems to be making its voice heard about glow and so it should! It’s here, let’s use it. But, it made me start to think about why I personally have got into blogging so much when some of the professionals around me just don’t want to?

from: Making This Blog Count | Katie-Rebecca’s ePortfolio

Further evidence of the blogging boom in the University of Dundee. Katie-Rebecca’s post about why she blogs makes me very glad to have worked on Glow Blogs.

2015 in Titles⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

blog-title-2015

In past years I often written reviews of the years blogging, this year I am a little lazier this is a wordle for the titles of the 90 posts I made here this year.
A list after the jump:

WordPress 4.4 embed other WordPress Posts⤴

from @ John's World Wide Wall Display

#Autumn #autumnleaves

I’ve not really checked out the new features of WordPress 4.4 in any depth but this new feature looks interesting. Just pasting a url to another WordPress blog post into the editor creates an embedded ‘card’ with some details.

I could imagine this would make a nice way of linking to pupil or class blog posts in a school blog. Hopefully we will not wait too long before Glow Blogs get to WordPress version 4.4.

I’d have like it even more if the embed above had picked up the featured image for the post. Update, I think there is something unexpected going on with this post, either from the styles here or on the embedded post. looking at the source, there does seem to be an image in there! More investigation tomorrow.