We haven’t posted recently because we’ve been busy experimenting with educational technology for the classroom, instead of simply writing about it.
It turns out that one of our colleagues has a kindergarten student who has his own free blog. Apparently, he reports on the classroom activities and uses exclamation marks quite liberally in his writing.
So, to honour the future bloggers of the world, we decided to do a quick post showcasing WordPress plugins that we use on our school website and classroom homework website.
(We run our classroom and school website using free WordPress software on our own self-hosted blog. What gives us the edge over someone who only has a free blog account is that when you run the WordPress software on your own computers, you have complete control over which plugins or themes you install, essentially making your classroom website infinetely expandable and customizable.)
- How to Post Your School Newsletter online
- How to Create an e-newsletter for your school or classroom
- How to Post Your Lessons (Powerpoint Presentation) online
Our school has a school newsletter which is available for download on our school website.
Now, WordPress already allows you to upload different files in your posts and create a link to them, however, experience has shown us that sometimes these pages can get accidentally deleted. (Especially when the person uploading the newsletter is a regular teacher, as opposed to a computer power-user or webmaster.)
Mike Jolley has created the WordPress Download Monitor plugin which allows you to do two very useful things:
1. You can track how many times people view a file. Do people actually read the electronic version of your newsletter? Here’s an easy way to track your visitors.
2. You can upload multiple documents and put them into different categories. So, the webmaster of the school website creates a page with the following line: [download_cat#id] and now everytime the principal or vice-principal uploads te newsletter using the Download Monitor plugin, it automatically gets posted on the school website.
So, we’ve switched over to the WordPress download monitor plugin.
Although we post our newsletter as a PDF or DOC file on our school website, we also publish the content of the newsletter as individual posts on the school website. This means that our school community can subscribe to our school website feed and automatically receive updates whenever we add information to the school site. It also means that parents can subscribe to your class homework website and receive updates whenever homework is added to the class blog.
But, let’s be honest. Most people aren’t familiar with feeds and feed readers, but they are familiar with email. So, we use the FD Feedburner plugin to forward our feed to feedburner. Feedburner has a feature that allows your visitors to subscribe via email. Feedburner will also give you the code you need to put a form on your school website inviting your visitors to sign up via email.
Overall, we’ve got around 35 people to sign up on our school website for our e-newsletter.
We teach using powerpoint and a data projector, which means it should be easy to get the lessons online. However, we were a little disappointed with how difficult it was to get the powerpoint slides up on our classroom blog. Although powerpoint allows you to save a presentation as a webpage, the webpage didn’t really fit in nicely with the layout and look of our homework website.
In the end, we saved our powerpoint as JPEG images. (In powerpoint, click on Save As > JPEG image). We saved the entire presentation in a folder on our desktop and powerpoint created a series of images: Slide1, Slide2, Slide3, Slide4, …
We had to make sure to go through the slides and rename them using a two- or three- digit numbering system or otherwise, when we sorted the slides alphabetically, our single digit numbers caused problems: Slide1, Slide10, Slide 11, …, Slide19, Slide2.
(We actually used photo album software to batch-rename the files: slide001, slide002, slide003, …)
We use a Alex Rabe’s NextGEN gallery plugin on our classroom blog to display all of our lessons. It can sort your slides alphabetically, or you can specifically set the order. When the visitor arrives, there’s a little thumbnail gallery of all of your powerpoint lessons and if you click on a thumbnail, you can scroll through the images.
With relatively little effort, we uploaded our slides to our classroom blog and create a page on our website that automatically displayed the slides.
Overall, we try to update our lessons every two weeks to keep parents informed about what material we’re covering in the classroom.
If you do post your lessons online, don’t forget to edit out any names that are included on the powerpoint slides. Sometimes, we post student names in class when we list guided reading groups, missing assignments, or other general homeroom stuff on the data projector, however, we’re very concious of protecting our students identities online.