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!

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.

Also on:

I tried this iPhone app out before the summer on the recommendation of Ian Stuart. At that time it was not integrated with O365/Glow and its main selling point seemed to be it took great pictures of whiteboards and straightened them up nicely.

Back then I gave it a try and it did that job, but not, IMO, as well as Scanner Pro. Scanner Pro is £2.99. (I like paying for apps, if you are not the customer…).

So last week when Ian mention that it was now integrated with O365 for business/school (ie Glow), I didn’t get that excited but I did download it. Not being at a conference or near a whiteboard I just did a quick scan of a newspaper and saw that it uploaded.

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Also on:

Sway has arrived for Glow users.

Sway allows you to

Create and share interactive reports, presentations, personal stories, and more.

I blogged a bit back in May.

Basically the app helps you present media online in a slick way. I’ve mostly looked at the iOS version. The different versions, Windows, web and iOS so far have different feature sets and a personal Microsoft account allows you do do slightly different things from a business/education account.

The app feels as if it is in pretty active development. Features that were coming soon in May are here.

What is particularly interesting, from my point of view, is that sways can be made public on the web and can be shared ready for remix.

This evening I used the iOS app on an iPad to build another sway (The featured image on this post is a screenshot of the borwser version of the sway, not the iPad view):

It didn’t take very long to add text and images. One difference I noticed was if I was signed into the app with a personal account I could upload video in iOS, I could not do this with my Glow account. Hopefully coming soon.

The browser app has a lot more options, including built in searches over flickr, youtube and other media sources.
Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 21.29.19

It also looks like if you create or even edit a sway in the browser you cannot edit it afterwards on iOS (I might be wrong about this). I do not think either of these things are a great problem, we now know an iPad is a great content creation device and I would hope pupils would be using there camera and their own images for the most part on mobile.

Swaying in Public!

I’ve got the same feeling about the slickness of the creations as I had back in May, mostly about the ‘automatic creativity’ but the most exciting two things about Sway are public sharing and remixing.
Screen Shot 2015-10-26 at 21.19.24

Users have control over who the Sway is shared with and if they will allow their Sway to be duplicated by others.

Learning Opportunities

This is the first of the O365 services to allow public sharing which is very encouraging for those who see value on pupils sharing widely.  I also think that the ability to remix, change and improve someone else’s creation is a important skill.

There is obviously the opportunity to discuss aspects of publishing in public, Internet safety and copyright. The copyright issue is also nicely lead into by the browser version:

sway-copyright

We want pupils (and teachers) to understand aspects of copyright and creative commons. Unfortunately the editor does not auto-add attribution but it can be copied and pasted in the browser.

Glow Blogs?

I can embed a sway in this blog using the embed code. Unfortunately this is via a iFrame. iFrames are not supported in Glow Blogs. I do hope we can develop oEmbed like functionality in the Blogs soon in the same way as we have for ClickView video.

It looks like Sway itself supports oEmbed of other content so I’d hope that oEmbed of sways is at least under consideration.

I’ve barely scratched the surface of Sway, and look forward to seeing how it is used in Glow.

Update 11.11.2015 Glow Blogs support the embedding of sways, just paste the url to a sway into the editor: Embedding Media | Glow Blog Help.

A few days ago @GlowScot pointed me to this tweet:

After a few exchanges I ended up with:

and now have time to type a few notes.

Video blogging is obviously a powerful tool for learning, used in Flipped classrooms, for showing learning of all sort and an engaging activity in its own right 1.

In the ‘old’ Glow Blogs using the old version of WordPress you could only upload files of <8MB you could use the Anarchy Media player to display video, uploaded or linked from elsewhere.

Our more up-to-date version of WordPress supports better video embedding without plugins and we set the maximum file upload size to 50mb.

Apart from file size video formats are a bit of a barrier to using video in blogs. It is better to use an external service such as YouTube or Vimeo. These services prepare the video for playback on a wider ranges of setups and also will hold much bigger video files. The disadvantage of these services is that they may be blocked on school networks.

When planning the upgrade to Glow Blogs we were advised by the technical team that the blog environment was not an appropriate place for hosting video. I pushed for 50MB file upload as a stopgap in case video file hosting in Glow did not develop in a way that could be used by the blog service.

Using YouTube & Vimeo video on Glow Blogs is a snip, both provides support oEmbed. This means that you just paste the url to a video page into the blog editor and the video will embed. The first time you see this happening is quite a pleasant surprise as the video is embedded in the editing field to.
Flickr video works in the same way but flickr video is limited to playing 3 minutes.

Here is an example of school blog using Vimeo: St Patrick’s Press Gang. A youtube example: Youtube test again | John Johnston. and Flickr Video

In the most recent release on Glow Blogs, August 2015 we added support for ClickView video too. ClickView does not support oEmbed, but or developer added the ability to take the url from a ClickView embed code and use that in the same way.

There is also the possibility of using Office O365 video from the glow tenancy. Currently O365 video is awaiting contractual clearance. Of course at the moment Office Video, like the rest of Glow O365, is behind a logon, so not practical for public display.

If you do want to host the files on Glow Blogs there are a few things to consider, the viewing of video files is a complex matrix of the video files and operating systems and browser ability to view them.
The best bet is probably to go for MPEG4 2. These files usually have the extension mp4 or m4v. Lots of video editors export to mp4. If you want to make your video file as small as possible you may want to add an application for compression int othe mix. currently I’ve found HandBrake a very useful tool.

HandBrake is a tool for converting video from nearly any format to a selection of modern, widely supported codecs.

Handbrake only works on the desktop. If shooting on a mobile, you will want to edit the file and export at a smaller size or use a app for shrinking video rather than uploading raw footage. Many mobile phones produce excellent quality video that results in large file sizes.

Personally I’ve found uploading to Glow Blogs works fine for example the Videos on Blogging Bootcamp vary in length between a couple of minutes and forty. These are screencasts which typically compress well.

Caveat, there are Video problem on iOS. The issue is now understood by the developers and we hope it will be fixed in the Glow Blogs environment very soon.

Summary

Upload to Glow Blog: limited to 50MB, currently doesn’t play on iOS
Youtube: May be blocked
Vimeo: My be blocked
ClickView: costs
Flickr Limited to 3 minutes
Glow Office O365 not yet available. May not be publicly sharable.

Personally my needs are met by keeping my videos under 50MB and uploading them to Glow Blogs. This will be improved when the iOS fix is in place.

  1. Next weekend I am heading to the Scottish Film and Learning Festival – Home to record and broadcast for Raido #EDUtalk. A quick look at Workshops – Scottish Film and Learning Festival indicated Film’s increacing importance.’
  2. A quick scan of the MPEG-4 Part 14 – Wikipedia page gives an idea of the complexity of video formats.

I’ve spent the last couple of days talking about Glow and Glow Blogs in particular at the Scottish Learning Festival.

Today I was co-presenting at a seminar on Blogs with Mrs Andrea Hunter and three of her pupils from Whinhill Primary. I asked Andrea to be involved as I enjoyed her blog last session at Gourock Primary, for example: Why Blog? Andrea has since moved on to Whinhill Primary and is blogging with her class who joining in with Blogging Bootcamp #2 like champions.

The Pupils did a great job and Mrs Hunter spelled out how to organise blogging in the classroom supporting and scaffolding their learning perfectly. This allowed me to just talk about blogging in general, touch upon my favourite topic of syndication.1 and explain a little about how the e-portfolio plugin is coming on. The seminar was filmed and I hope it published somewhere as Andrea and the pupils presentation is well worth sharing wider.

My day was made when later on twitter let me know about this post: SLF 2015 on Diary of a Whinhill Pupil. The Whinhill team had gone off around the SLF floor and must have commandeered a few computers to post to their blog.

I also managed to show a demo of the new Glow Blogs e-portfolio/profiling plugin to a few folk over the two days and it was well received. We hope to have this released later this year.

Featured image Mrs Andrea Hunter, used with permission.

1. I might have mentioned on the blog a few times that I like aggregation, and believe this is a wonderful addition to Glow Blogs. More on this soon.

I’ll be talking about Glow Blogs in a seminar at SLF on Thursday along with Andrea Hunter PT at Whinhill Primary School and some of her pupils. Andrea’s class blog at Diary of a Whinhill Pupil.

I’ll be at SLF both days spending some time on the Glow stand. If you are at SLF and have an interest in blogging, podcasting and the like please do have a chat. You can catch me on twitter @johnjohnston.

I’ll also be at TeachMeet SLF15 on Wednesday evening. We will try to stream that on Radio #EDUtalk.

Last night I saw this tweet:

The mention Karl was mentioning came from the Suffusion theme which has just been retired from Glow Blogs. Or developers had warned us that they though there would be too much technical debt in supporting it in the long term.

The Suffusion theme had given Glow Blogs many useful features, especially before the WordPress update at the start of this year. One of the features that folk found useful was a google translate widget. Ironically this was one of the things that started us seeing that the them would need a bit of TLC from the developers, they had to edit the theme to support serving blogs over https.

Currently you cannot add a google translation widget to a Glow Blog, you can add a link to an automatically translated page for one language, and visitors can swap languages to that page.

Here is a link to translate this blog to Dutch

You could link to a google translate page using a text widget on the side of your blog.

Here is how to do it:

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