YouTube videos not embedding correctly on WordPress class blogs

020713_0343_YouTubevide1.jpgWhoops? Did something break?

Looks like the glitch is fixed. Youtube videos look just fine now.

I was just about to email a friend to show them how they could embed YouTube videos onto their classroom blog when I noticed YouTube videos on my own classroom blogs weren’t working properly. (I run a self hosted WordPress server for my class blogs and student websites.)

Normally, you just paste the YouTube website address directly into a post, and the video magically appears. (You have to make sure that it is not hyperlinked – if it shows up as a blue link, then the video won’t show up unless your students click on the link.)

I thought it was me, but when I visit the official WordPress.com support page, the embedded YouTube videos don’t show up properly either.

Oh well. I’ll have to show her that YouTube trick later.

This post was written using Dragon Naturally Speaking 12 Premium (Windows 8). Find out more.

  • Dragon 12 Premium correctly transcribed 98.7% of the words. There were 150 words in the first draft of this document and Dragon only made 2 word mistakes.
  • The voice recognition software made an additional 0 capitalization and punctuation mistakes. If you include these mistakes, Dragon Naturally Speaking got 98.7% of the words correct.
  • I used a USB Logitech headset to dictate this blog post into Microsoft Word 2010.
  • Click here to find out more about the Dragon NaturallySpeaking Student / Teacher educational discount.

Sending classroom website email newsletters: Google Sites (FeedBurner) versus WordPress

I had the opportunity to sit in on a Google Sites and Google apps for education workshop the other day as we gear up for the start of the new school year. There’s lots to like about a classroom website powered by Google sites:

  • Your teacher website is hosted by Google which means, chances are, it’ll be reliable and quick. (Sure the Google docs website lags every now and then, but if you’re running your own self hosted WordPress site on a shared hosting plan, there’s a reason why shared hosting plans only cost a few bucks per month. It has to do with how much resources you get allocated – there’s nothing worse than having a class of students trying to blog in complaining about how slow your site is.)
  • Google does multiuser collaboration really well. If you’re running Google apps for education, you have complete control over student user account management. You can set things up so your entire school domain, or just students in your class can view, or edit specific pages on your website. (You can now also set page level user permissions.) Google Sites are really wikis so students either have editing privileges, or they don’t. There’s no moderation of student content.
  • It’s easy to embed Google stuff onto your Google sites. Embedding a Google calendar or Google doc, or even Google analytics is pretty simple. No need for third-party plug-ins or embedding code.
  • Google site templates make it easy to create a pretty looking website. There are several education templates to choose from.

If you’re looking for simple way to get a classroom website up and running, Google Sites is definitely a strong option. Especially if all you want to do is set up a space online where you can tell students and parents about all the great things that you’re doing.

The one thing I find Google Sites is still lacking is an easy way for parents and students to be notified of when you make changes to your class website. Here’s the problem with sending out email updates from Google Sites, and here’s why I like WordPress for my class websites: Continue reading “Sending classroom website email newsletters: Google Sites (FeedBurner) versus WordPress”

Free WPMU DEV membership contest: Create your own edublogs.org class blogging network

Dragon NaturallySpeaking 12 just came out and I used the voice recognition software to write this post. Is Dragon 12 better than Dragon 11? It’s supposed to be more accurate, but time will tell.  

If you blog in the classroom or run your own class website, chances are you’ve heard of edublogs.org. They’re the Australian startup company that currently hosts over 1 million educational blogs using WordPress software.

(If you’re just starting to blog with your students, here’s a list of reasons why edublogs is a safer platform for the classroom, than running a website on the more public WordPress.com or Google’s Blogger.)

If you’re not very tech savvy, then edublogs.org is a great service for you. If you’re comfortable with mucking around and installing software, then I find running your own self hosted WordPress blog provides much more flexibility to meet your classroom needs.

  • You can install any plug-in you want, and if you can code, the sky’s the limit.
  • The catch is, you need to be able to troubleshoot problems and need to have the time to manage your class website (in addition to all those lovely things like teaching, marking, lesson planning, communicating with parents, etc.)

Lots of teachers have heard of edublogs.org, but not everyone knows that the folks behind edublogs.org are also the same people behind WPMU DEV. Why should you care about WPMU DEV if you run your own self hosted WordPress blog? Because they actually sell some of the plug-ins and code that they use on edublogs.org.

Here are some of the WPMU DEV premium plug-ins and themes that I’ve used on my classroom network:

Continue reading “Free WPMU DEV membership contest: Create your own edublogs.org class blogging network”

Critical Thinking Images On Websites: Using Photos on Blogs Part 3

Critical Thinking Images on websites is our third episode in our series about using photos on blogs.

  • Use free photos on your classroom blog to make your writing (and your students’ writing) more interesting.
  • What is stock photography? Why did I decide to go with Big Stock Photo on this blog.
  • Today’s post is to help teachers get students critical thinking images, videos, and other content that we see on websites, brochures, advertisements, etc.
  • The next post is to give you two tools to tell if the people in any photo are professional models (i.e. is this a stock photograph?)

People use stock photography because it’s quicker, easier, and cheaper than hiring a photographer. Royalty-free stock photography is not exclusive, which means that anyone can buy that photo and use in their projects.

That’s why you sometimes see the same photo (like the one at the top of this post) appearing over and over again. We need our students to be critical thinking images that we see.

Using Photos on Blogs – Part 3: Critical Thinking Images on Websites

  • This post was written using Dragon NaturallySpeaking 11.5 Premium Wireless. Find out more about Dragon NaturallySpeaking.
  • Continue reading “Critical Thinking Images On Websites: Using Photos on Blogs Part 3”

    Big Stock Photo: Promo Coupon – 2 Free Credits – Using Photos on Blogs Part 2

    This post about Big Stock Photo and stock photography is the second part of our series on using photos on blogs.

    • The first post was on finding free photos to use in your classroom blog using the creative Commons filter on Flickr.
    • Today’s post is about using stock photos on blogs. (I use Big Stock Photo on this blog.)
    • Our next post will be about how teachers can use stock photography in a lesson about media literacy and critical thinking

    Big Stock Photo sells stock images that you can use in commercial projects, including posters, T-shirts, and websites. (BigStockPhoto was rebranded as Bigstock when it was bought out by Shutterstock.)

    You can find a lot of great images using the Creative Commons filter on Flickr (and use these images legally for free on your blog.) The problem is, if you’re trying to create a professional looking website, sometimes, amateur photos look, well… amateur.

    Using Photos on Blogs – Part 2: Big Stock Photo

    Continue reading “Big Stock Photo: Promo Coupon – 2 Free Credits – Using Photos on Blogs Part 2”

    Using Photos on Blogs Part 1: Find Great Free Photos

    This post is part of a series on Using Photos on Blogs

    • This is part 1: Using free photos on your classroom blog.
    • Coming up next is part 2: Using Stock Photos on your class website…

    A picture is worth a thousand words. Which would your students find easier to read:

    • a textbook filled with paragraphs and paragraphs of text, or
    • a textbook broken up with colorful photos, large font headings, and interesting graphics?

    The right picture can capture the reader’s attention. This is true whether you’re using photos on blogs, textbooks, or ads.

    (We haven’t done a very good job of using photos on blogs like this one. It was supposed to be a holiday goal during the winter school break, but some how we’ve run out of time! )

    More and more people are surfing the internet using a mobile device (i.e. iPads in the classroom.) There are some great apps out there (i.e. Flipboard) which you can use to collect articles from websites, social media feeds, etc. into one place. The articles where people used photos on their blogs tend to stop us (even if it’s just for a moment.)

    Our students are growing up in the digital age.

    • This is the generation where two-year-olds know that after you take a photo, you can instantly see it on the back of the camera.
    • We have a generation of students who have no problems cutting and pasting images online.

    I wonder how many students (and teachers) know that just because you find an image online using Google search, it doesn’t mean that you have permission to use that photo.

    Using Photos on Blogs – Part 1: Find Great Free Photos

    1. How to find great (and free) images to use on your class website or student blogs (using Flickr)
    2. Using Photos on Blogs Legally – Three important things to remember when finding free photos for your class website using Flickr and Creative Commons.
    3. This post was written using Dragon NaturallySpeaking. (What is Dragon NaturallySpeaking?)

    Continue reading “Using Photos on Blogs Part 1: Find Great Free Photos”

    Google Sites

    Lots of teachers are starting to wonder how to create an online presence for their courses. Teachers want to be able to create websites for students and parents to access at home.

    There are several options for teachers to create class websites:

    • Your school board may offer website template pages that you can modify and tweak.
    • WordPress is a great content management system (CMS) that lets you create class sites and student blogs where teachers and students can post content and visitors can reply in the form of questions or comments. You can use a service like WordPress.com, Edublogs.org, or Educircles.org to get your class website up and running (or, if you’re tech savvy, you can install the free WordPress software on your own web host.)
    • Blogger is a blog publishing service operated by Google (and will apparently be renamed as Google blogs.)
    • Wikispaces is a service that lets teachers create educational wikis for their students. (Think Wikipedia for the classroom.) They still provide free upgrades to any wiki that is used exclusively for educational purposes. The sign up link can be found here.

    And then, there’s Google sites.

    Google sites is part of Google apps – a free collection of cloud-based productivity software. (Think Google’s version of Microsoft office in the cloud.)

    • Here are 5 reasons why you should consider using Google sites for your class website:
  • Before you invest a lot of time creating your class website using Google sites, you need to be aware of a limitation in the way that Google sites handles student users.
  • Continue reading “Google Sites”

    Use Special Text Boxes on Your Class Website to Alert Parents and Students to Important Information.

    We love WordPress. It’s our favorite tool to create professional looking class websites.

    Last week, we were helping one of our colleagues set up her class website for kindergarten. One of the things that she wanted was to a little box at the top of her website where she could post important information for parents and little reminders of things to do.

    The great thing about WordPress is that there are hundreds of attractive themes out there to choose from. (Heck, there are over 1400 themes to choose from in the official WordPress.org theme directory.) Chances are, you can find a theme that you like.

    WordPress Warning! (Expand for more information)
    WordPress Warning!

    If your class website is on WordPress.com, or Edublogs.org, then your choices will be limited to whatever themes that they have already installed for you. In order to install your own themes, you’ll need to run a self hosted WordPress website. (Or, if you’re a teacher on our Educircles network, drop us a note here with a link to your favorite theme from the WordPress theme directory, and we’ll look into installing it for you.)

    When we told another colleague about all the things that WordPress had to offer, he was a bit surprised because he had only seen the themes already pre-installed on his Edublogs.org account. He had an iPad, so we explained it in terms of things he knew.

    • Using a WordPress.com or Edublogs.org account is like borrowing or renting an iPad from a friend. It’s still an iPad, but you’re limited to the apps that your friend has installed for you (even though there are millions of other apps available from the iTunes Store.) Assuming your friend won’t let you install whatever apps you want, your options are either 1) to buy your own iPad, or 2) to find a friend that will let you install the apps that you want.
    • To bring this analogy back your classroom website, if you want to install any theme or plug-in (WordPress app) that you want, then you need to either run your own (self hosted) WordPress site, or find a friend that lets you install the theme or plug-in that you want. (At Educircles, we run a private network of classroom websites for teachers. For security reasons, we won’t give you the power to install your own theme or plug-in, but if you put in a support request, we’re pretty reasonable about installing new themes – and plug-ins, depending on which plug-in.)

    Our kindergarten colleague used WordPress for her class website last year. She used the 2010 Weaver theme which is a great theme that offers a lot of customization options, including a special sidebar for widgets just above the post.

    (That’s how she was able to initially put an information box for her parents about classroom supplies or important paperwork that needed to be returned.) This year, she’s using a different theme that didn’t offer a sidebar below the main title – so we needed to find another way to make her information for parents stand out.

    A sidebar is that narrow, vertical menu bar that you see on the right side of websites (including ours). You can fill it with useful information, links to posts, ads, or other things. These little boxes of information are called widgets.

    Usually you find sidebars on the side of websites, but you can also find them horizontally at the top or bottom of websites as well.

    Unfortunately, the theme which this teacher chose this year (third style) didn’t have a sidebar horizontally at the top of the webpage, so we decide to get creative and to make a generic welcome post stick to the top of her blog. We planned to put our welcome and information messages inside of this sticky post.

    Continue reading “Use Special Text Boxes on Your Class Website to Alert Parents and Students to Important Information.”

    Should Students Use a Pseudonym or Their Real Name When Working Online in the Classroom

    Imagine a world where people don’t judge you based on your race, your gender, the way you look, or the clothes you wear… Instead, you’re judged based on the quality of your ideas and how well you’ve expressed them. That’s one of the potential benefits in having your students use an anonymous pseudonym when writing online.

    Now imagine a world where people are lulled into a false sense of security because they are hiding behind a pseudonym and think they cannot be held accountable for the comments they make online… That’s one of the potential problems in having your students blog online without using their real name.

    As more and more teachers start integrating technology into the classroom and begin playing with class websites and student blogs, the question comes up: should teachers have students use a pseudonym or their real name when posting content online?

    Using a pseudonym to change the messenger is nothing new. Scott Adams, the creator of Dilbert, used the pseudonym of PlannedChaos to try to clear up harmful misconceptions about himself. When the moderators on Metafilter forced his hand, Adams came out and then posted a response on his blog:

    “…the messenger changes the message.… The messenger with a strong self-interest is automatically non-credible and should be. There are some types of information that can only be communicated by an unbiased messenger.”

    SteveoM’s comments on Adam’s blog (April 20, 2011) sums it up quite nicely: “that’s both the beauty and danger of the Internet, anonymity.”

    We publish our ideas online using both pseudonyms and our real name. (For example, Mr. Kuroneko is a pseudonym.) Over the past few years, we’ve also allowed students to publish their work online using their real name, a generic student ID, as well as pseudonyms of their own choosing.

    Last week, we were helping teachers to set up their class websites and the question came up whether you’re allowed (or should) use your students’ real names as their student logins. Last month, a visitor to this site asked why we thought it was a good idea to have a pseudonym. As we gear up for a new school year of class blogging and online literature circles, now seems as good a time as any to think about the pros and cons of having your students publish their work online using their real names.

    (Of course, you need to check with your school administration, your school board’s policies, your parental consent forms and media release forms which will all dictate whether student work can be published and how credit should be attributed to the student – for example, first name only, full name, etc.)

    Having said that, here are some things to think about when having your students post content online.

    Continue reading “Should Students Use a Pseudonym or Their Real Name When Working Online in the Classroom”

    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”