Blog Importification

I love having smart friends.

As UNIS Hanoi moves towards a school-wide blogging platform I’ve been looking for ways to make life easier for teachers wanting to implement blogging in class. One of the big questions I’ve had ┬áhas been “How can teachers get only the information that they want/need?”

What stuck in my mind was a comment that I heard in passing back at Learning 2.010. Somebody (who???) mentioned using Google Spreadsheets to build RSS feeds. Since most school URLs are predictable, that sounded easy enough. It turned into my own personal Fermat’s Last Theorem though. What seemed easy turned out to take me a few years to solve and then only with the help of my aforementioned smart friend.

@zomoco has rigged up a Blog Importificator for me. Here’s how it works:

  • Teachers create a class list using Outlook contact groups and send that to me. (In the future, this information could also be pulled out of our student information system.)
  • Teachers also tell me what category they want the students to use in their blog posts (grades 6 – 10 use MYP subject related categories that have been pre-loaded on each blog; grades 11 and 12 create the category they are going to use) as well as what grade level the students are in (our blog addresses are dependent upon graduation year for ease of maintenance).
  • I erase the header from the text file they sent me so there are two columns of data: student name and student email/username. I then upload this text file to the Importificator, fill in the category slug, the folder name and the graduation year.
  • The Importificator spits out an OPML file that can then be imported into Google Reader, Outlook or just about any other RSS reader.

From the time I receive the class list to the time teachers are subscribed to all of the blog posts in that specific category: about 2 minutes!

While this particular version of the Importificator is very UNIS Hanoi specific, @zomoco has released his code over at GitHub licensed under ASL and CC BY NC SA. If you use it, please be sure to drop him a tweet and say thanks!

One day, after a few more lessons at Codecademy, I hope I’ll be able to modify the code myself!

Is there a better/easier way of doing this? What do you do at your school to help teachers with their blogging students?

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