Two big problems with using WordPress blogging software in the classroom

Student Authors can see everyone's comments in WordPress by default, including Comment SpamWe love using technology in the classroom: clickers, data projectors, prezi, netbooks, online literature circles and of course classroom websites and student blogging.

And, we love WordPress. It’s our blogging software of choice for the classroom and we use it for all of our professional websites and school projects. If you set up your own self hosted WordPress blog, the sky’s the limit – you can upload your own themes, you can set up whatever apps (plug-ins) you want, and you can tweak the code, if you know how.

Blogging software like WordPress (and Blogger) are great ways to set up blogs for your students (and if you’re not sure why you should blog in the classroom, check out this post.) Every WordPress class website has a front end (with a pretty theme that the world sees when you visit the site,) and a backend (site admin) where users login and write their posts.

Although WordPress can be incredibly simple to use, there are two big problems that teachers should be aware of when using a basic WordPress blog in the classroom:

  • Problem #2: When students are logged in, they can see a list of all of the comments on the class website, and not just their own.
  • Continue reading “Two big problems with using WordPress blogging software in the classroom”

    Thinking about using Dropbox in the classroom? How much space will you need? How secure is your student information?

    More and more teachers are starting to use Dropbox as a way to share files and collaborate in the classroom.  Using Dropbox has saved us hours of marking when we were able to restore an accidentally deleted file.

    (Dropbox is a little program that you install on your computers and mobile devices. It creates a folder and automatically syncs all of the files in that folder across all of your devices. In other words, it’s a quick and easy way to keep your stuff in the cloud and access it anywhere. It’s invisible and painless.)

    A few of us at school have started to use Dropbox as a way to quickly and easily share math resources and language lessons.

    • In many ways, it’s a lot easier than using our school’s shared folder on the network drive. (Access to the school’s network drive is intermittent and quirky. Plus, if you’re working from home, you can’t easily access the school network drive – you have to login through your web browser or set up a virtual private network, if you know how.)
    • Dropbox is so easy to use. Instead of uploading and downloading attachments in e-mails, all you have to do is save your lesson plan in your shared dropbox folder and it instantly appears on all of your colleagues’ computers.

    Of course, this is how Dropbox makes money – they offer a great free product and then you pay to get more. Dropbox offers you a free 2 GB account to make you fall in love with their service. You love it, you use it, you depend on it and all of a sudden you discover that you’re hitting your 2 GB limit and you get annoyed trying to delete files in order to meet your space quota.

    We’ve been using Dropbox at school for the past few months, and have found two things you might want to think about if you’re thinking about using Dropbox in the classroom.

    Continue reading “Thinking about using Dropbox in the classroom? How much space will you need? How secure is your student information?”

    Why Your School Needs to Buy iPads for the Classroom – 16 iPad apps to help improve reading literacy

    girl reading ipadYour school needs to invest in a class set of iPads that teachers can sign out to use with their students.

    Continue reading “Why Your School Needs to Buy iPads for the Classroom – 16 iPad apps to help improve reading literacy”

    House Cleaning the ol’ Classroom Technology Blog

    It’s summer time, so we’re taking the opportunity to do some house cleaning on our blog about classroom technology. Getting rid of things that didn’t work, moving things around, and generally trying to spruce things up around the digital property.

    It was embarassing to discover that our teacher blog was so slow that Yslow gave it a “D” and Google Webmaster tools said our site took on average, 18.5 seconds to load which is “slower than 100% of sites” on Google. (Having said that, we’re still making money which pays for a lot of the computer projects and sites that we do in the classroom.)

    We made a few tweaks, sped things up to get a Yslow rating of A (96), and we’re trying out CloudFlare on our Bluehost account. Bluehost does CPU throttling which definetely slowed our sites down, but we’re hoping that CloudFlare caching will speed things up and reduce the strain on our pretty cheap shared hosting plan at Bluehost.

    We’ll keep you posted.

    How Fast Can You Take Notes? Comparing Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 with Six Other Note Taking Strategies.

    How fast can you take notes? Jump to the comparison chart.

    Let’s face it – the world is changing and technology in the classroom is giving students and teachers more options to get their ideas out of their heads and down onto paper.

    Students take notes, teachers present information, and professors give lectures, but chances are, most of us are using some pretty old technology to get our information across:

    Classroom technology is giving us some digital alternatives to pens, chalk, and whiteboard markers. Nowadays we have faster computers, better voice-recognition software, and multitouch screens, which can really change the way that we do things at school.

    Here are some cutting edge classroom technologies to check out:

    We use Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 premium wireless edition at home and at school. We’ve used Dragon to provide feedback and comments when marking student papers. We also use the speech recognition software when writing posts for this blog.

    But then we started to wonder whether this was the best way to get things done. As much as we love Dragon, it does make mistakes. For most of the posts that we’ve written for this blog, we’ve been getting a 97 to 98% accuracy rate. (All of our posts have a better than a 95% accuracy rate which means only one mistake out of every 20 words.) Still, you start to wonder whether it’d be just easier to write things down on the paper.

    A few months ago, we used the Rainbow Passage as a standardized text to see how accurate Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 really was. Now, we used the rainbow passage to see what the most accurate and efficient classroom technology was to “write” our ideas down.

    What’s the fastest and most accurate way to get ideas on paper?

    Here’s a quick comparison chart showing how long it took to record the rainbow passage and how accurate that classroom technology was. All the handwriting-based classroom technologies were given an accuracy rate of 100% because a pencil doesn’t make errors in transcribing ideas. *Although errors were made when typing on a regular keyboard, these were corrected as we typed. (See the typing section for more details.)

    The fastest way to record information on paper was using voice recognition software (Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 premium). The slowest method of recording information was writing on an iPad using the Bamboo Paper app.

    Classroom Technology Time to record the Rainbow Passage(Minutes) Speed in Words Per Minute (WPM) Accuracy Rate (%)
    Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 Premium 2 min 17 sec 146.7 WPM 97.6%
    Typing on a regular keyboard 3 min 36 sec 93.1 WPM 100%*
    Google Translate website (using the Speech Recognition software in Google Chrome) 6 min 2 sec 55.5 WPM 66%
    Writing using pencil and paper 13 min 13 sec 25.3 WPM 100%
    Writing on a regular whiteboard 15 min 4 sec 22.2 WPM 100%
    Writing on an iPad using the Note Taker HD app 15 min 58 sec 21 WPM 100%
    Writing on an iPad using the Bamboo PaperApp 18 min 46 sec 17.9 WPM 100%


    Continue reading “How Fast Can You Take Notes? Comparing Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11 with Six Other Note Taking Strategies.”