Still using WordPress for our Classroom Website

We’re just creating our new classroom website for the 2009-2010 year. We had it up and running in about 15 minutes by setting up WordPress 2.8.4 (3 minutes to create the site; 12 minutes to cut and paste the content from our Meet the Teacher newsletter.)

Continue reading “Still using WordPress for our Classroom Website”

How to Hide Unmoderated Comments from Students in WordPress

Many teachers are blogging in the classroom. It’s authentic writing that hooks struggling readers and writers, especially boys.

However, there is one huge flaw with using WordPress or Edublogs in the classroom. Students can read unmoderated comments when they are logged into the edublog or class blog before the comments get moderated and published online. They can’t edit the comments, but they can still read them.

What does this mean? Continue reading “How to Hide Unmoderated Comments from Students in WordPress”

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.

Continue reading “Eduwikis: Create a Wikispace for your Classroom or School”

Using a Wireless Keyboard and Mouse with your Projector in the Classroom

We teach with a data projector in our Grade 8 classroom. And, since we’ve set up this blog, we’ve had a few people find us on google looking for information on how to use an LCD projector as a teaching tool.

This year, we bought a wireless keyboard and mouse combination to use with our digital projector. And, we love it!

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Education Technology for the Classroom: From Blackboards to Digital Projectors to SMART Boards

Even though it’s summer vacation in Ontario, we’re still thinking about ways to integrate technology into the classroom.

In fact, we’re considering investing in a SMART board, so we spent some time reflecting on the pros and cons of some of the educational technologies to help us teach in the classroom.  From low-tech to high-tech, chalk and markers to digital ink, there are many different options:

Continue reading “Education Technology for the Classroom: From Blackboards to Digital Projectors to SMART Boards”

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”

Locking Down Your EduBlog to Prevent Unauthorized Access

There are two situations where you might want to restrict access to your educational blog to just a few specific computers.

  • First, you might want to restrict the entire blog so it can only be accessed by people using school computers.
  • Second, you might want to restrict the login pages of your blog, so that students can only edit or modify their work using school computers. (This also helps prevents your site from getting hacked by observant students who have figured out your password.)

If you are pretty comfortable around computers and run a self-hosted blog (or have access to your website’s servers), then you should be able to lock down your class website to a few locations (IP addresses).

Why would you want to prevent your students from logging in at home?

I usually don’t allow my students to take their English work out of the classroom; I’m tired of dealing with lost homework. Besides, you can never be sure how much help a student receives at home.

Over the years, I’ve developed a folder system where all of our work stays in the folder. It’s great. First, students always come prepared to class (because their notes and drafts never leave the room). Secondly, the students have a portfolio documenting their learning over time. It’s great for metacognition because students can flip back through previous assignments in an attempt to prevent the same mistakes from happening again. Finally, I know exactly what a student is capable of because I can see all of their prewriting and drafts leading up to the published version.

However, a blog potentially ruins this keep-it-in-the-classroom policy because students can log in to their user accounts from home. The beauty of WordPress and other blogging platforms is that it can you can blog from anywhere in the world.

Also, some older students might be flexing their computer literacy (or vandalism) muscles. The login page for any blog powered by WordPress can usually be found by adding /wp-admin at the end of the website address. By locking down the wp-admin folder to a few specific IP addresses, you can greatly limit access to the administration back-end of your class blog.

How to lock down your (educational) blog’s administration / login folder.

If you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, the following trick will prevent students from logging in (or hacking your website) at home. Note: You need to have access to the .htaccess file on your website. Our web host, BlueHost, provides access to this file, however, apparently not all web hosts do.

  1. Figure out the IP address of the computer that you want to use to access your blog. An IP address is your internet address online. There are various sites that will tell you your current IP address, including this one.
  2. Use a text editor (i.e. notepad) to create a file named .htaccess and cut and paste the following into the file:
AuthUserFile /dev/null
AuthGroupFile /dev/null
AuthName "Example Access Control"
AuthType Basic
order deny,allow
deny from all
allow from 123.456.789.123
allow from 12.345.678.123
  1. Replace 123.456.789.123 and 12.345.678 with your real IP address. Hint: If your Internet Service Provider gives you a range of IP addresses (For example 123.456.789.000 to 123.456.789.999), just drop the last octet number to allow a range. (For example, allow from 123.456.789)
  2. Upload your .htaccess file to your blog’s wp-admin folder. Now the only people who can access any file in the wp-admin folder must be using a computer with an IP address on your safe list (white list).Note: If you want to use the .htaccess file to limit access to your entire blog from specific computers, then you’ll need to copy and paste the above code into the existing .htaccess file on your website’s public folder (or wherever your WordPress blog files can be found). You must add the code into the existing .htaccess file instead of overwriting the file because WordPress has some important information in there already.

If the .htaccess file is modified correctly, whenever you try to login to your blog from an unauthorized computer, you should receive a 403 error that looks like this:

Question: Have you ever had a student hack into your class blog before?

6 Reasons To Get Your Students Blogging

More and more teachers are blogging in the classroom. And, why not! There are a lot of reasons to consider blogging in the classroom.

  1. It gives your students an authentic purpose to write. The idea that their stories will be published online for the world to see may motivate them to do their best.
  2. Students have a real goal in sight when using the writing process. Not everything needs to be revised, edited, and published, but because this work will be on public display, there’s greater incentive to polish the work. Continue reading “6 Reasons To Get Your Students Blogging”