Why we’re thinking about leaving Bluehost and finding a new home for our Classroom Blogs

We run several classroom blogs and professional sites, including this blog on using educational technology in the classroom. Mostly we use WordPress, but lately we’ve been experimenting with bulleting boards (phpBB) for our online literature circles.

You can only go so far with free accounts, whether they’re with Blogger, WordPress.com, Edublogs, or Wikispaces. Eventually, you want to be able to do more. That’s when we looked into setting up a self-hosted WordPress account and looked into finding a web host.

Up until now, we’ve been quite happy with BlueHost. They use Simple Scripts to let you set up a variety of websites with the click of a button, including WordPress, phpBB, etc.

So, what changed?

Continue reading “Why we’re thinking about leaving Bluehost and finding a new home for our Classroom Blogs”

Twitter in the Classroom

twitterAt the end of June, our Grade 8 Language Arts (English) class experimented with using Twitter in the classroom.

Continue reading “Twitter in the Classroom”

Hide Google Ads based on Geographic Location (Country or City)

We’re thinking about starting an entrepreneurial (Make Money Online) extra-curricular computer club at school: applying critical reading, writing and thinking skills while trying our hand at online fundraising for our school. 

We’ll probably start with making niche-websites that are monetized by contextual ads (i.e. Google Adsense). Google has a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to click fraud (i.e. clicking on your own ads.) And while making money online ethically will be the corner-stone of our club, it’s hard to believe that students won’t be tempted to click on the ads on their own at home. 

So, we need a way to hide the google ads from showing up to students in our city so they can’t click on their own ads, but still show google ads to the rest of the world.

Continue reading “Hide Google Ads based on Geographic Location (Country or City)”

Technology Projects for the Classroom

Tomorrow is the last day of school before the Winter Holiday Break. So, ofcourse we’re eagerly awaiting our two weeks off so that we can play on the computer more and work on some side projects.

(On a side note, one of our students did an incredible job on her student wiki, updating her KWL chart for our Integers units at midnight. Another one of our students is hacking a remote control to make an infra-red pen to use with a wiimote smartboard. So, I don’t think I’ll be the only one playing on the computer this holiday…)

Google implements a philosophy based on the 20/80 principle: 80% of your success is created by 20% of your effort. (Or, conversely, 80% of your time only produces 20% of your results.)

Alex K, a Technical Soluions Engineer over at Google talks about the “20 percent time” in action: “The 20 percent time is a well-known part of our philosophy here, enabling engineers to spend one day a week working on projects that aren’t necessarily in our job descriptions”

This holiday break, we’re looking forward to focusing on some “20 percent time” projects that aren’t “necessarily in our job descriptions,” but will hopefully lead towards some fruitful results that aid our teaching practice. Here are some of the projects we’re looking forward to experimenting with: Continue reading “Technology Projects for the Classroom”

Eduwikis: Create a Wikispace for your Classroom or School

This post is a work-in-progress as we experiment with using wikis in the classroom and school environment.

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Domain Names: Things Teachers Need To Know Before They Buy a Domain Name for their Classroom Blog or School Website

There are lots of good trusted companies that will register domain names for you. They range in price from a few dollars to fifty dollars per year.

But, be careful. Often times, the refund policy on a domain name ranges from no refund to a few days. Different companies have different special offers, but always read the fine print.

Teachers are not usually webmasters, so here are some things to know if you are thinking about buying a domain name for your school website or classroom blog:

  • You can buy a domain name separate from a web hosting package. (If you’re using a free service like WordPress.com or Edublogs.org to host your class blog, chances are, you’re only in the market for a website name.)
  • Sometimes a domain name registrar will sell domain names for $1.99 per year. Read the fine print: they might be for less popular domain extensions (i.e. .info), the price might be valid for only the first year, or you might need to buy a hosting package as well.
  • The typical .com or .ca registration costs around $10 per year. At this price, you should be able to point your domain name to any server in the world. (Be careful: If you use a free service like WordPress.com or Edublogs.org, you might have to pay a fee to have your new domain name show up on the address bar. For example, if I buy the domain name classroom-teacher.ca, I can point it to my wordpress blog (classroomteacher.wordpress.com). If I type in classroomteacher.ca, it will send me to my wordpress blog, but the address in my webbrowser will switch to classroomteacher.wordpress.com unless I pay a premium to WordPress.com).
  • The Canadian Internet Registration Authority publishes a list of accredited registrars that are allowed to sell .ca domain names. Make sure you shop around. Prices vary significantly. (Some places charge over $30 per year for a Canadian domain name.)
  • Make sure you get domain name privacy when you register your domain name. (Otherwise, students can look up your address, email, and telephone number). By default, the information you use to sign up for a domain name is publicly listed in the whois database, unless you get a privacy package included from your webhost. (For example, BlueHost offers free Privacy with their web hosting package. UPDATE: Why we’re thinking about leaving BlueHost.). All personal domain name registrations in Canada are automatically hidden from the whois database.
  • It can take up to 24-48 hours for your domain name to become live on the internet. (Your new domain name address needs to be sent to DNS servers around the world and sometimes this can take time.)

Where do we shop for domain names?

We currently have domain names registered with the following companies:

Why we chose Bluehost to run our Classroom Blogs

UPDATE (Dec 2009): Why we’re thinking of leaving Bluehost.

Paying for a web host to run your own self-hosted WordPress blog is not for everybody. In fact, it’s for very few teachers out there.

If you’re new to blogging, start out with a free WordPress blog, either at WordPress.com or Edublogs.org. Try it out, create a school or classroom blog and see what you can and can’t do.

Many teachers are perfectly happy with what they are able to do with a free blog. Your students can post and comment in a perfectly safe environment using the basic templates (themes) and features (plug-ins) provided.

But some teachers will want more. And these are the people who should consider paying for some server space on a web host and running their own WordPress blog(s) off of their shared server space. Here are some ways to know if you’re ready to move up to a self-hosted WordPress blog. Continue reading “Why we chose Bluehost to run our Classroom Blogs”

Geotag Your Classroom Blog – Show Off Where Your Visitors Come From

Geotagging is the art and science of adding geographic information to stuff on the net. It’s interesting for teachers because it gives you a way to show your students who is reading their work published on the internet. Or, at least, where they’re from.

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Classroom Technology Wish List: 101 Ways to Bring Technology into the Classroom

Note: This is a living document. This list was last updated on Jul 4, 2012. How do you use technology in your classroom? Leave a comment below.

Sure, it’s summer time, but that doesn’t mean we don’t have a few ideas brewing on the back burner. Here are some technology things that you could do with your students. Not everything may be feasible (i.e. cost factors) or appropriate (i.e. security or privacy issues):

  • some of the things we’re already doing,
  • some of the things we’re thinking of doing, and,
  • some of the things are simply wishful thinking, but great ideas have to start somewhere…

Some of the things listed could be considered authentic ways to use technology in the classroom (i.e. using smart boards as a teaching tool), where as other ideas might be considered using technology for technology’s sake (i.e. learning HTML to explore web design).

How do you integrate technology into the curriculum? Do you have any ideas to add to the list? (It’s a work in progress. Yes, we know there aren’t 101 things on the list… yet.) Continue reading “Classroom Technology Wish List: 101 Ways to Bring Technology into the Classroom”

Classroom Blogs – How to Protect Your Students’ Identities

If you publish a classroom blog, are you putting your students at risk? Maybe. The internet is a powerful tool and like cars, glue and the force, it can be used for good and evil.

The Risks

Here are three reasons why we need to consider how much personal information is intentionally or accidentally revealed.

  • The most obvious is the creepy stranger lurking on the internet that your parents always warned you about.
  • Less obvious is the custody battle that may be taking place behind the scenes.
  • Finally, there is the issue of student-on-student bullying – either this year, or somewhere down the road. (You google someone’s name, find some old student work and make fun of them about the content or writing quality.) Continue reading “Classroom Blogs – How to Protect Your Students’ Identities”