I’ve been involved with Glow Blogs as product owner for a few years now 1. I think my main aim has been to avoid the stagnation that happened with the previous system and to keep the service as useful as possible for teachers and pupils 2.

So far we have I think managed that by keeping up with WordPress releases and adding features to improve various different aspects.

Since the rebooting of Glow in October 2014 there have been around 3 major releases of Glow Blogs every year. At the end of last session it was decided that these gradual improvements were going smoothly enough to drop back to one major release each year 3.

It was also decided to formalise the way we get ideas for improvements a little. To do this we are trying to gather suggestions in one place as opposed to the rather ad-hoc system that was in place before.

It seemed like a good idea to use the blog service itself to gather these ideas so a page has been added to the Help Blog for suggestions.

Anyone who is interested can suggest ideas and these will be triaged into the release for next summer.

This doesn’t mean that all suggestions will be taken forward. I’ve learnt my lesson a few times with suggestions of my own. Some ideas might be too expensive, some might be insecure or too difficult to implement in our setup. It was surprising how complicated adding features to Glow Blogs turned out to be. Glow Blogs is, I believe, the biggest WordPress set up in Europe so changes cannot be made lightly. On the other hand the service needs to met the needs of teachers & pupils in Scotland.

If you are a user of blogs I hope you will take a bit of time to think of how the service could be improved. Then it is just a case of filling in the form and we will take it from there. If you leave contact details with your suggestion I’ll certainly get back to you, possibly with some questions. We will also post the suggestions as they are made to the help blog to allow others to comment or express interest.

One more time, here is the link for suggestions. The cut for next years release will be at the end of November.

Featured Image: Image from page 196 of “Suggestions for handwork in school… | Flickr No known copyright restrictions.

  1. Now on a part time basis.
  2. And others involved in Scottish education.
  3. In addition to any security releases of WordPress itself.

I am looking from help on this one. Perhaps from one of the many #MSIEExpert folk on twitter.

Now Sorted, Sort of…

This post has been updated several times since posted. We didn’t get a complete fix, but have stopped the errors, documented further down.

I’ve a small class of pupils, with 1-2-1 iPad Airs 1s.

After having syncing problems with using the Word iOS app I switched to using a OneNote Class notebook for some distribution and collection of ‘work’.

Most of it has been very lightweight, text in the main.

I work on a Desktop iMac using OS 10.11 the OS and OneNote app are kept up to date. The pupils iOs version of OneNote is kept updated too.

The workflow is I create a page, in the teachers only or content library and use the Class Notebook distribute page facility to send the pages to pupils. The pupils can add text, occasionally edit inserted documents and I should be able to see the changes on my mac or iPad.

This mostly works, but first one then another pupil began to get sync errors. Despite repeated attempts to sync, logging on and off again these error persist. I’ve now got 2 out of 13 pupils where the workflow fails.

The error messages do not all seem to make much sense:

It looks like this isn’t a valid OneNote section file. It could be a different file type thats been renamed with a .one extension. (Error code: OxEOOOOOCE)

Since we don’t have access to the files either on the mac or the iPads this seem particularly unlikely.

Can’t sync section: _Content Library,’Literacy Worksheets We can’t sync this section because it’s read-only or because access to the file is denied. [Error code: OxE000004A)

I am left wondering what do to? Should I remove the pupils and add them again? Should I delete the problematic sections? (I’ve emailed onenoteedu@microsoft.com but only had a robot response so far.)

For such a basic piece of classroom practise, worksheet distribution and jotter work, I can’t really have something that fails so frequently (like losing a couple of pupils jotters).

Any ideas gratefully accepted, drop them in the comments.

Update: getting a fair number of suggestions and me toos on twitter. These from Sarah clark (@Sfm36)

I am finding lots of sync errors with iPad at the moment. Can copy the page and delete corrupted section (1/2)

(2/2) then can try closing notebook and opening again

have you deleted history?

Michael Sinclair Suggested:

One thing that stopped sync for me was moving the folder from its initial place in the OneDrive

I’ve not done that. I’ve not strayed from standard use at all.

The twitter thread is getting to be a bit of a mess with other problems crossing in so:

More Updates 2016-12-18

: Michael Sinclair Suggested:

One thing that stopped sync for me was moving the folder from its initial place in the OneDrive

I’ve not done that. And note that I created the notebook through Glow in the Class Notebook app. Since then I’ve mostly edited on mac.

Mark McShane (@mmcshane) has lots of OneNote & OneDrive problems too.

the business with Share-point sites/OneDrive/ondriveforbusiness is a mess. I think that, tied with Glow/SharePoint, is problem

Mike Tholfsen suggested that I send an email to classnotebook@onenote.uservoice.com? I’ve done that and await any reply.

At some point Sarah asked have you deleted history?

After a bit of poking around I found history on the desktop OneNote app, but nothing to delete there.

Michael Sinclair had

Another possibility – you’re using a new computer / device and whole notebook hasn’t had time to sync.

But I’ve been using this Class NoteBook on and off for weeks.

Next Steps

I am guessing that the best thing to do is to copy and then delete some of the problematic sections.

My worry is that some of the sections are shared in the content Library and some are sections on Pupil’s sections. If I delete the Literacy sub-section 1 on the two pupils sections that are giving problems will I be able to distribute work to the new Literacy sections I create there? Are these sections just identified by name or something hidden, an id of some sort?

Concerns

On the mac/iOS versions of OneNote there is a lot of smoke & mirrors. Ian Stuart, a OneNote expert, has explined to me that you can get direct access to OneNote files in the full windows version. This would explain and hint at a fix for the It looks like this isn’t a valid OneNote section file. It could be a different file type thats been renamed with a .one extension problems.

There does seem to be a fair bit of this sort of problem about, I’ve heard elsewhere of problems with windows versions too, content being lost, syncs failing. The concept behind OneNote (as explained by Ian), would seem wonderful. In its original Windows version it seems to have been rock solid for years. The app gains features and updates very quickly indeed, but I wonder if this is at the expense of reliability and fixing existing bugs?

My class has invested a fair bit of time in the system, it take youngsters a wee bit of time to get familiar with workflow and systems. I am now wondering if I should look at something else next session.

Many thanks t othe folk who offered help on Twitter yesterday, ver much appreciated.

More Updates 19-12-16

I’ve had some suggestions from Mike Tholfsen, which involve getting problematic pupils to log out, force quit app and log in and sync again, (Leaving oneNote open, plugging device in and turning off screen lock overnight). We have done that with one app, adding a complete deletion of the app and reinstall. I await overnight results.

I also got one of the pupils who is having trouble to use an iPad that has never had OneNote installed on it before.  The could load the Class NoteBook and it synced, apart from the contents that had not synced up from their own iPad.

We can see a sync error there:

sync-error-content-library

Hoping to find some good news on the overnight sync tomorrow.

Sort of Sorted 2016-12-21

I’ve had a fair bit of help from Microsoft both from Raymond a OneNote Education Support Engineer and via Mike Tholfsen: Yan from OneNote team and Ivan from the Class Notebook team! This is pretty amazing support for one wee classroom from a big company (I’ve missed a few folk in the cc list who deserve thanks too).

We had a variety of suggestions, mostly around trying to completely log off and restart, including leaving overnight to sync. Given the problem persisted when we move to a ‘lean’ iPad I was a bit doubtful. Both pupils continued to have sync fails after that.

One avenue we explored first was to go though the browser to onenote.com. Both pupils saw no errors there, there were a few pages they had created missing, I guess because they never got off the iPad, but all looked ok.

Finally I got the pupils to delete the app, re-install and log on again. After a short while syncing the Class NoteBook seems to be working, we tried creating a new page and that synced and I created a page on the desktop and that appeared.

There were a few pages missing but we can live with that. I am somewhat surprised that it has worked after the test of a clean setup, I can only presume that in that case we had a new problem.

We have not done much in the way of real life testing given that this is the last week of school before Christmas. Carols, nativity and parties have taken over, the only use of ICT has bee na little portfoloing and some Christmas Giffing.

Next Steps Next Year

This process has been a bit of a time sink, especially writing it up. I am not much further forward in understanding the problem and have nothing much more than hope that an update will sort things out.

There does appear to be ongoing issues with syncing across devices and from the release notes in the iOS app store there are some logging on (or having to repeatedly log on) problems too.

But the affordances of OneNote are worth giving it another shot (I don’t love the app, but the ease of distribution to pupils and review of pupil contribution is great). The main factor for me is the use of a Glow logon and the assurances of Education Scotland that security ad data checks have taken place. Setting up another system would involve a lot of work and no guarantee of success. The pupils would land on a different learning curve.

I have now got some contact with the MS folk, the app is in very active development. Certainly worth a wee bit of perseverance. I will recommend that pupils take a copy of written work in their local Notes app, before syncing. I’ll also stop and sync before the last minutes of a lesson hopefully minimising failure. I would be less confident in using the iOS/OneNote class notebook set up in a secondary if the material was exam critical.

Many thanks to all the folk who tweeted suggestions and help, most have been synced in in comments below. I appreciate the time it takes to put answers together.

1. I am not sure I am using the right terminology, there seems to be sections within sections in a Class Notebook.

At the weekend during pedagoo muckle there was a mini TeachMeet. Everyones name was in a bowel and there was a series of random 2 minute talks. I though I was prepared with this tip. In the event I was quite glad I didn’t get picked all the people who got picked had two minutes of great ideas, as opposed to a wee tip.

I did mention it to one or two folk at my conversation and it was well received so I though it would be work posting.

One of the minor hassles I’ve been having with Glow and iPads is multiple logons. Some of the MS apps seem to get themselves in a state of confusion, requiring pupils to log on frequently, and more than once. This is a particular pain if you work in Word, save to Onedrive and then upload that file through the browser. I’d like this to be a thoughtless and painless process for my class but it is not. This is compounded by the fact you need to put a glow email address into an MicroSoft iPad app, this them loads the RM Unify logon where you need to use your glow username and password. Given you can use your glow email in place of your username this make the tip even more useful.

iOS has a text replacement function. You can type a shortcut and the predictive text will offer the expansion to insert.

You set these up in the Setting App, General-> Keyboard- Text Replacement, the phrase would be your glow email, the shortcut something memorable, not part of a real word. We used gw and initials, so mine is gwjj.

Here is a gif showing how much easier it it to log on with a shortcut.

shortcut-gwjj

As a bonus, some of the pupils in my class added other shortcuts, for example d: for define: which hlps find the meaning of words in google.

I’ve started a new blog Glowing Posts | Collecting interesting #GlowBlogs Posts.

The title says it all. The purpose of this new blog is to collect some examples of interesting ways that Glow Blogs are being used. I’ve found some good ones already.

The idea is to highlight posts rather than whole blogs. If you know of any you can let me know via a form on the site, twitter or any other way you can thing of.

#Autumn #autumnleaves

I’ve not really checked out the new features of WordPress 4.4 in any depth but this new feature looks interesting. Just pasting a url to another WordPress blog post into the editor creates an embedded ‘card’ with some details.

I could imagine this would make a nice way of linking to pupil or class blog posts in a school blog. Hopefully we will not wait too long before Glow Blogs get to WordPress version 4.4.

I’d have like it even more if the embed above had picked up the featured image for the post. Update, I think there is something unexpected going on with this post, either from the styles here or on the embedded post. looking at the source, there does seem to be an image in there! More investigation tomorrow. Update 2: the thumbnail shows up for me now!

The talk will give a view of how blogging with WordPress fits well with Scottish education’s ‘Curriculum for excellence’. Some loose linkage of Community, Connections & Openness in software and education. How Glow blogs, a set of 32 multi-sites with a total of >160,000 blogs are used and are developing. Some notes of the ‘Product Owner’ role and working at large scale to fit the needs of stake holders from a wide range of ages and needs.

Source: Speakers | WordCamp Edinburgh

 

I am talking about Glow Blogs next week at  WordCamp Edinburgh not my usual audience of colleagues so wish me luck.

Urban Dictionary: wean.

On Tuesday this week we released the Glow Blogs e-Portfolio plugin

The biggest reason for creation of a blogs in the Glow Blogs system has be e-Portfolios. There are 10s of thousands in the system. Until now the system used was based on one of 60 different e-Portfolio themes created by Alex Duff during his time at Education Scotland.

The old system had a couple of problems, firstly the creation of blogs was time consuming due to the way the old Glow Blogs were hooked into SharePoint, secondly the themes all needed maintenance and updating. This maintenance would be expensive as the 60 themes were all different. The amount of development and testing would have needed more resource and time than we have available. The first problem was solved when the blogs were decoupled from Sharepoint in October last year. The e-Portfolio plugin solves the second.

Early on in our planning of the new WordPress blogs in glow and the migration of the old plots we decided that the best way to tackle this was to move away from theme based e-Portfolios to ones based on a plugin.

This plugin would produce profiles from posts that were added to the blog. The profile is really the only way that the e-portfolio blogs differ from a standard blog.

Initially our thoughts were to separate the e-Portfolios and other blogs onto two different instances of WordPress with different functionality. At the start of development it became apparent that this would be both technically difficult and would risk loss or damage to the data in the system. As we got nearer to the old system being shut down it was decided that the e-Portfolios would be developed in a future phase after the initial migration and upgrade to the WordPress software.

During this time we did develop the requirements for a new system, and over the past year I’ve discussed these plans with a lot of our stakeholders. The requirements were put together and rationalised beautifully by Sonali Nakhate who was first the business analyst and then project manager for Glow Blogs.

We finally had space and time to start developing the e-Portfolio solution and Stephen Harris was brought into the team to carry out the development. Stephen took our ideas and turned then into an elegant solution that fits in seamlessly with the WordPress backend. For example on the profile creation screen you can reorder the sections of the profile by drag and drop. You can also tab through the sections and use the arrow keys to move the sections up and down.1

Running along side this development and feeding off the requirements was the creation of a test plan. David Orr and Grant Hutton from the Glow test team planned to test all of the new functionality and equally importantly that the new features does not break any of the old ones. As development finished the test team fed back and the odd bug were found and squashed. It is testimony to Stephen that the testing took less time than planned allowing us to get to release ahead of schedule.

The development and test teams are coordinated and run by Geoff Turnbull Glow’s technical architect, Geoff also fed into all aspects of the blog requirements gathering and development from the start. Many other members of the Glow team fed into the process along with colleagues from the digital directorate and other parts of Government (procurement, security and more). All of the blog team are also involved in other parts of the Glow program too.

There are still two other phases of e-Portfolio work planned, the adding of class sets to user mange to and a way for teachers to easily see activity from the pupils they are working with without having to visit individual sites to check for activity. I am look forward to watching these developments from a bit further off as my secondment finishes at the end of this month.

One of the most interesting and enjoyable parts of my secondment has been the chance to work in the blog team alongside these folk who both understand their respective jobs and how they fit together. In the past when I started blogging and podcasting with my pupils I hashed and bashed my way through the technicalities, it has been delightful to see the way this can be done well at scale.

We are developing some help for the e-Portfolio plugin on the glow blog help site.

1.
I think the biggest smile I’ve had on my face in the last couple of years was on first seeing this page.

Featured image: Team Working Flickr by Mauro Public Domain.

UoD EduShare | The central sharing hub for #UoDedu teacher education students at the University of Dundee

Derek described the project succinctly:

On of the things I am most happy about in my involvement in Glow Blogs is the syndication plugin. The UoD EduShare site is a better example of its use than I could have hoped for.

UoD EduShare aggregates posts from student teacher’s blogs at the University of Dundee. In the short time it has been running it has pull in links to and excerpts from over 400 posts from over 90 blogs. A few clicks and a bit of reading shows how involved the students are with their learning and an enthusiasm for sharing their thoughts.

I am excited about this project because it is a great example of what blogs and syndication can do. Longer term we will have teachers entering the profession with a great understanding of this digital environment.

Bugs and Fixes

Previously I’ve used the syndication plugin a couple of times now for Blogging Bootcamp #2 and #ShareOurLearning. These are smaller aggregations than the one Derek is running. In fact Derek found that the plugin had problems. Once he had added around 70 blogs he could not add any more.

This bug has been fixed and the fix applied to the blog service last week. We are currently very lucky in having a great team working on Glow Blogs. Our technical architect prioritised this as a degradation of an expected service and between our developer and test team a solution was found, developed, tested and released quickly.

DIY

If you are a user of Glow Blogs and want to use the syndication plugin there is a help page on using the plugin: Syndication Plugin and I’ve put together a page on Running An Aggregated Course or Collaboration in Glow Blogs. I’d be more than happy helping folk get started with using the plugin on Glow Blogs.

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