Monthly Archives: July 2012

Use the Jetpack WordPress plug-in to find out who is reading your student blogs

One of the coolest things about having students blog in the classroom is that they are writing for an authentic purpose. If your students have a public blog, teachers, classmates, friends and family overseas, and the entire world can read their words.

I find my students are excited knowing that other people are reading their work. If your students blog using WordPress, then there are a few different plug-ins you can use to track visitors to your site as well as the search terms that they used in Google to find your site.

The Jetpack plug-in is a nice fun because it’s easy to set up, but there are a few things that you might want to think about before making it available on your student blogging network. Read more »

WordPress Premium Thesis theme gives your students more control over their student blogs

This post is not for everybody. In fact, over 95% of teachers don’t need to read this post.

It’s certainly not for the teacher who is just starting to blog with their students. If you’re thinking about starting a class website next year, read this post about how to make a class website. (If you’re not thinking about blogging in the classroom, here are six reasons why your students should blog.)

If you’ve been running a class blog for a while, then this post is also not for you. You might want to give each of your students their own blog on Blogger, or first. Some teachers will want to buy premium upgrades on WordPress, or Edublogs to get more features.

If you want more from your student blogs, then consider creating a class network of blogs using the multisite features of WordPress. You need to run your own self hosted WordPress account in order to do this.

If you’ve been running your own WordPress network and you’ve set up your students as admins on their own blogs, then chances are, you’ve installed a lot of the free themes from the WordPress repository. This post is for you. Read on.

For the past few years, I’ve run my own multisite network using a self hosted WordPress account to give my students the opportunity to manage their own student blogs and the creative control to call their own shots. (Usually students blog on a teacher controlled website – students are often just authors and contributors, while the teacher is the ultimate admin.) Setting up students as administrators on their own blogs is a great hands-on lesson in literacy and media literacy.

Free themes are great and there are lots of very cool themes out there, but one of the problems with free WordPress themes is that you’re limited to a cookie-cutter template. Sure, some themes offer opportunities to tweak and change the appearance, but free themes usually don’t offer a lot in customization opportunities.

One of the dangers of classroom technology is that it can be a gimmick. Education Week Teacher ran a first-person commentary by Paul Barnwell, who pointed out that students “become dependent on technology that requires too many templates… These gimmicks do not develop genuine technology competence.” He raised the issue of how we can help students to become more tech savvy – and be able to synthesize ideas/media forms, and create original stuff.

Media literacy and student blogging: Why students need to do more than simply choose a cookie-cutter theme for their student blog

Read more »

Using a WordPress Moderation plug-in to help cut down on inappropriate content on student blogs

If your students blog in the classroom, there are two basic ways to make sure their writing is appropriate. There are pros and cons to both methods.

Method #1: Students do not have publishing rights. The teacher moderates everything and nothing gets published without teacher approval.

This means the teacher is the bottleneck to the flow of conversation and creativity because the teacher has to check every single post before other students can see it. If you have 30 students in your class and they blog frequently, it quickly becomes overwhelming for the teacher to try to read everything. The benefit to this system is that nothing inappropriate gets online. The downside is that your students are getting bored waiting for you to approve their post, so it’s hard to build momentum in your student blogging network.

Method #2: Students have publishing rights. This means students can publish anything (gasp!), but are trusted to post responsibly. (Especially if they know that they have to login to post or comment, which means they can be held responsible.) The teacher monitors the website and takes down any inappropriate content.

The benefit to this approach is that students can publish their work and respond to their classmates at the speed of thought. The danger is that students might publish inappropriate content that can be viewed by others until it gets taken down (if it gets caught.)

Which method you choose is a personal choice. There’s no right or wrong answer. It all depends on your comfort level and the maturity of your students. Here’s how you can set up your student accounts if you use WordPress for your class (or student) blogs:

Setting up your student WordPress accounts

  1. Log into your class WordPress site and click on users.
  2. You can select multiple students and then change their role.
  3. If you want Method #1 and you want a teacher to moderate all content before it gets published, students need to be set up as contributors. This means students will be able to edit and delete their posts, but they won’t be able to publish their posts. (On the post writing screen, when they want to publish something, there will be a button that says “submit for review” instead of “publish.”) Students who are set up as “contributors” cannot publish or edit their own published posts. This means that if a teacher publishes their work and the student goes in and tries to change something, they will have to click the “submit for review” button. (This is a good thing because it means that students can’t go in and add inappropriate content once the teacher has approved their work.)
  4. If you want Method #2 and you want students to be able to publish their own work, student accounts need to be set up as authors. This means students can edit, and delete their own posts as well as publish their own posts. They can also delete and edit their own published work.
  5. If you want to give a trusted student (or another teacher) the power to publish or edit other people’s work, then their account needs to be set up as editors. Editors can do a lot, so be careful who you give this much power to. These people will be able to moderate, edit, change, delete and publish other students work, including both post and comments. When you click on the posts screen, there’s a new option that lets you see all of the posts that are pending approval.

Three WordPress Plug-Ins to Help You Monitor and Cut down Inappropriate Student Content on Your Class Websites

If you do decide to go with method #2 and give your students publishing rights, then you want to use some sort of WordPress plug-in to help monitor what your students are writing. Here are two of the plug-ins used on Educircles –online literature circle and student blogging network. (You need to run your own self hosted WordPress class website in order to install your own plug-ins.) Read more »