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  has 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?

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)


Thing 5 – The Big Picture

This post continues my reflection for my work on the K12 Learning 2.0 workshop. This post is a reflective post about an item of interest in my feed reader.

I know this course is about education – and the edublogosphere – but one of the greatest things about RSS is it allows me to get up-to-date news and current events. One of the best resources I’ve found, both for my own personal interest and for use in the classroom, is the The Big Picture.

Alan Taylor canvasses the wires to find pictures of interest. His most recent entry commemorates the 20th Anniversary of Tiananmen Square.

The whole blog screams “visual literacy” and I have seen entries related to math, science, history, geography and probably every other subject imaginable.

Check it out!