Blogging Tip: Subscribe to a Specific Category

Back in February, I had the pleasure of working with the great staff at YIS for a few days. One of the things that we focused on was the use of blogs in the classroom. While RSS is a lifesaver for teachers using blogging, one of the issues identified was the need to wade through posts that weren’t relevant. As a math teacher, I don’t really want to be notified every time students blog for their humanities class. Wouldn’t it be great if teachers could use RSS to subscribe only to a specific category?

Fast-forward a few months, and I came across the solution! Turns out it is dead simple. The only requirement (that I can tell) is that the blog cannot be using a service like FeedBurner, which redirects all feeds from a blog into a single feed. Here’s how you do it:

You can use this same hack to subscribe to posts with a specific tag or by a specific author as well.

(h/t WPRecipes)

 

Posterous and the Yearly Class Trip

Every year since I’ve been here, our grade 8 students have taken a trip to Hoi An and Hue. This year is no different and the leave on Monday!

Last year the students came back from the trip and created showcases using Shutterfly. This year, we’re aiming for something different…

The team of teachers who are running the trip decided they wanted some sort of real-time blog-based updates of the trip so that parents could stay up-to-date on what was going on. I thought this was a fantastic idea and set off to do some investigating. While we are a 1:1 school, we don’t have a culture of blogging nor do we have easy access to open blogging tools such as Edublogs Campus or a self-hosted WordPress installation. There was also the added complication of not having the students bring their own laptops on the trip. (The last thing anybody in a group of over 70 people is another thing to carry!). Students would have to rely on internet cafes or the teacher’s laptop.

Enter Posterous!

Genki has been using Posterous for the YIS Field Studies blogs for a few years now. I had dabbled with it way back when it was first introduced but hadn’t really touched it since. So, after playing around for bit, here’s what I decided to do:

The 66 students would be broken up into smaller groups of 4 or 5 students per group. In all, I needed to create 14 different Posterous blogs (7 groups of students are going from Hoi An to Hue; the other 7 are doing the journey in reverse from Hue to Hoi An). I could have created 14 sub-blogs, but I thought it would be too difficult to manage the invitations and passwords and what not. I decided to create 14 individual Posterous blogs instead. To do this, I used disposable email addresses based on my Gmail (such as clint.hamada+unisgrade8-1@gmail.com) to register for each blog. I then registered each student’s email account with the associated blog.

So now we’ve got 14 Posterous blogs set up for the entire grade. In order to write their posts, the students just need to use their school email account to send an email to post@posterous.com with the pictures attached and the text in the body of the email. They can even add tags by modifying the subject line!

I’ve also created bundles in Google Reader that I have shared with the teachers on the trip. In order to check all the posts for their cohort of students, the teachers just need to check a single link!

Total time in front of my computer setting this up: under 2 hours, I would guess. There may be an easier way to do this in the future (if you have any ideas, please let me know in the comments!) and there may still yet be some complications, but this was pretty dead easy to administer.

If you interested in following along as well, use the following links. Posts should start coming in on Monday evening!

Hoi An to Hue

Hue to Hoi An

Image Credit: Japanese Bridge by Pigalle licensed under CC BY NC SA

Thoughts on the IB Virtual Community

The IB Virtual Community (IBVC) has just been launched and is currently rolling out to IB schools who request access:

The IBVC offers IB stakeholders the ability to connect, communicate and collaborate with one another. Tools offered within the IBVC include blogs, wikis, discussion forums, file uploading (documents, images, audio and video), individual profiles, the ability to form groups and other social networking functionality.

I’m very curious to get a look at how it is laid out. Thanks to Adrienne, I’ve got a minor interest in design and usability so it will be interesting to view it from that lens. Personally, I think anything will be an improvement over the current system the IBO has for sharing best practice and connecting with others.

The day before the IBVC was launched, ReadWriteWeb had an article on 5 Ways Tech Startups Can Disrupt the Education System. Way #2?

2. It should encourage grassroots adoption

Along with the right price comes the right marketing and adopt ion strategy. As such, many disruptive education technologies are aimed at the individual teachers and students themselves, rather than at the districts-as-a-whole. This is important as this grassroots approach means that the tools pass the “smell test” of teachers in the classroom, meaning that the tools are usable and useful. With a multitude of free tools to chose from, however, interoperability will be key so that educators don’t find themselves locked in to one product or service.

Or, as @surreallyno said on Twitter:

I certainly hope not. I think the IBVC offers a great opportunity for IB schools, teachers and students to connect to one another.

My hope is that this will make it easier to connect, much like facebook made it easier to stay in touch with long lost friends/acquaintances or joining a Ning made it easy to find people with the similar interests. I think this has tremendous potential in increasing the amount of collaboration between schools that, while working within similar frameworks, tend to do a lot of work in isolation.

My fear is that, because of this (hopefully) ease of access, teachers will not share their knowledge or experiences in more ‘traditional ways’ with teachers outside of that community, kind of like how people now post all of their personal updates on facebook and would never consider blogging or Flickr or Twitter. Because the IBVC is not an open community, this might mean that a lot of good ideas will only be shared behind that wall of the IBVC. I’m also curious to know what the terms and conditions for use are. The IBO is quite strict with respect to copyright and I will be interested in knowing their stance on materials that are posted by community members.

How do you feel about the IBVC? Is this something that you or your school will join?

Where Does It All Go?

At the beginning of the school year I had an interesting chat with my principal. We were discussing the use of external blogging and wiki sites vs. our internal SharePoint blogs and wikis. He raised an interesting question, which I will paraphrase:

Resources developed for the school (or copies of them) are expected to remain with the school even after you leave the school. If you are doing all of your work on an external wiki or blog and you leave, how does that work remain with the school? Where does it all go?

Of course the external blogs and wikis are, for the most part, public so anybody can access them. But the admin rights to those resources remain with the teacher who has left the school. Is that a problem?

Does your school have a policy regarding intellectual property, whether digital or analog? Is this even something to be concerned about?