I am very pleased that I’ll be continuing my part time role as product owner for Glow Blogs. When my recent contract finished in June the job was opened for applications. I was successful and am just sorting out the paper work. I do this work over an above my class teacher role. I would have been gutted if I didn’t get the job.

This post was inspired by Andrew Canion’s Blogvember Prompt List. This arrived in micro.blog at he same time as #mbnov, microblogvember.

A test of snapthread which has been updated to version 2. When I tried the 1.8.1 version I rather liked it. It was then an app to stitch live photos into wee videos on iOS. Version 2 adds a lot more features. I still like it.

This video should not be used to judge the quality of the output, I used ‎CloudConvert to squash the 38MB 1440 × 1080 mp4 down to 4.5MB 1.

My class used the free version, limited to 30 seconds of video, last session a bit, we had a few crashes, but I think it is a promising app. Ease of use, limited time of the free version and lack of stickers, for now 2, are useful for the classroom. My class use iMovie and Clips too, but sometimes we might not want the greater complexity of iMovie or the wacky possibilities of clips.

Unfortunately CloudConvert doesn’t work for me on the school network, I’ve tried a few apps that convert and squash video but no really found a good one for pupils to use. I would like my pupils to be able to do that, to save space on their blogs and to speed up uploading. I am not sure on the official line on posting to silos in North Lanarkshire. Social media, especially twitter, is very popular. That is staff rather than pupil posting, I’d like my pupils to be involved in the uploading of video to their e-Portfolios and the class blog without my interference.

For Glow Blogs, I’d also like the app to change the file type to mp4 or m4v as .MOV files, that are apples favourite, don’t play nicely with all browsers. We made a change to standard WordPress functionality to accept .MOV files as video, but some browsers don’t play them. Strangely, just editing the file extension, from .MOV to .m4v works, at least for Chrome. I can’t find a way to change extensions on iOS but I’ve tested on the desktop.

FWIIW Snapthread’s videos are .MP4 when exported to the camera roll, so only need squashed for my needs.

  1. Thanks to Martin Coutts for the pointer to CloudConvert
  2. Snapthreads developer has a really interesting post about the development of the app: Journey to 2.0: Market Appeal | Becky Hansmeyer

Watched Jolly Brancher Demo from youtube.com

Following from this conversation
Tom Woodward whipped up a plugin to clone posts on a WordPress Multi-site blog to one of your own.

I think this could be a really useful way of giving pupils a template for e-Portfolio post. I’d be very interested in exploring getting this into Glow Blogs. I’ve been asked about this sort of functionality a few times.

The new WordPress editor is now official. It comes with a new editor Gutenberg. I’ve tested Gutenberg on and off for a while, mostly worrying about iOS in particular iPads. That has improved steadily.

My concern is pupils using Glow Blogs will find the new editor more complicated.

I am somewhat relived that pasting from Apple Notes on an iPad works fine in the blocks editor, paragraphs generating new blocks. Adding images above or below a particular block seems a little footery but nothing pupils will not handle 1.

Now WordPress 5 is out I need to think about my own use. I don’t usually write in the web editor, preferring to either cut and paste from a text editor or post via micro.blog or xml-rpc. TextMate has a lovely blogging bundle, and I use drafts and shortcuts on iOS.

I’ve installed WordPress 5 on a couple of other sites, and had a quick play. Posting from TextMate, via xml-rpc put the content in a classic block if Gutenberg is enabled.

I’ve also enabled the classic editor plugin on these sites and this one. The ability to toggle back and forward between editors seems like a good idea, but on the sites I’ve tried it has mostly failed 2. This would be a good way to introduce the editor to Glow Blogs users, start with the classic editor, add in the ability to toggle to Gutenberg. I do worry that having two editors will lead to folk having problems or getting confused. I am not looking forward to updating the Glow Blogs help. This is probably a bit in the future as we should wait and see how Gutenberg is going on multi-sites before upgrading.

My other personal worry is that at the moment the indieweb post_kinds plugin is not compatible with Gutenberg. This is compounded by the fact I can’t update that plugin on this site at the moment. I am presuming that things will get shaken out and improve over the next year or two.

My plan is now to upgrade this blog to WP 5 but use the classic editor, waiting to see how the indieweb plugins evolve. I’ll continue writing in TextMate, drafts and the like while I keep half an eye on developments.

  1. I was pleasantly surprised watching a pupil happily collapsing meta-boxes to get her e-portfolio tags the other day. I had at some point shown the class how to expand them after they accidentally collapsed them, but not talked about it in any depth. I suspect pupils will adapt to new interfaces easier that I will.
  2. I will test this a bit more and try to see if it is something I can report. Update version 1.2 of the classic Editor has fixed this for me.

Bookmarked Update on Gutenberg (WordPress News)

Progress on the Gutenberg project, the new content creating experience coming to WordPress, has come a long way. Since the start of the project, there have been 30 releases and 12 of those happened…

WordPress 5.0 could be as soon as August with hundreds of thousands of sites using Gutenberg before release.

Source: Update on Gutenberg — WordPress

Although GlowBlogs will not be getting this until later in the year and after much testing I am still watching and occasionally testing Gutenberg.

From a selfish POV (my class uses iPads) I am still seeing some of the same issue on iPad as I mentioned before: Gutenberg on iPad. A lot better now, but the active text still goes behind the keyboard on occasion. I hope to do a bit more testing over the summer break.

I got a request from a teacher who wanted to download a years worth of images from a Glow Blog (for end of year slideshow).

Although there are plugins that can do this these are not available on Glow Blogs. I was stumped apart from going through the site and downloading them 1 by 1. But after a wee bit of thinking I though I’d try using the REST API via AppleScript.

The REST API will list in JSON format the media:

http://johnjohnston.info/blog/wp-json/wp/v2/media/

Look at that in FireFox for a pretty view.

JSON Helper is

an agent (or scriptable background application) which allows you to do useful things with JSON directly from AppleScript.

So I can grab the list of media from a site in JSON format use appleScript to download all the files.

The script I wrote is not great, you can’t download from a particular year, but a quick look at the JSON will help in working out how many files to download.

I am sure there are more efficient ways to do this and I’ve only tested on a couple of site, but it seems to do the trick and might be useful again sometime.

Continue for the script:

Replied to Three Ways to Keep Track of Students’ Blog Entries by Aaron DavisAaron Davis (collect.readwriterespond.com)

This is one of the big challenges with student blogging. When I used Edublogs in the classroom, I would moderate everything, therefore I would know what is being posted that way. However, I have been wondering lately about the idea of creating a formula in Google Sheets using IMPORTFEED where each n…

In Glow Blogs, we have the Glow Blogs Reader (Follow Blogs)

The Glow blogs reader allows you to ‘follow’ a number of Glow Blogs. In following blogs you will be able to see which of these blogs has been updated in your dashboard rather than have to visit each site to check for updates.

Useful because 1. it allows you to follow private blogs which an RSS Reader will not and 2. For teachers unfamiliar with RSS and readers it will be a lot simpler.

It doesn’t have the facility to mark off or record posts that you have commented on which is of interest to Aaron.

 

I just saw a provocative link from Aaron Davis, down with syndication, it was a reply on his site to an original post with that title by Ben Weirdmuller.

Arron has be a great example of an educator exploring the IndieWeb of which Ben is a major proponent.

Ben’s post is concerned with the idea of gaining more independence from the silos (twitter, Facebook and the like) and publishing more on his site. A lot of IndieWeb concepts involve publishing to your own site and sending links or repeating the posts across social media (like a link to this one will be auto posted to Twitter).

In his post Ben writes of leaving the silos behind completely. Just keeping things on his own site:

I think it might be more effective to move all the value away: publish on your own site, and use independent readers like Woodwind or Newsblur to consume content. Forget using social networks as the conduit. Let’s go full indie.

Ben mentions IndieWeb readers, that allow folk to create their own ‘syndication’ and reply, bookmark etc on their own site.

Nothing I’d disagree with there. I am quite shallow and enjoy likes, especially from Instagram coming a back to my blog via brid.gy but, in theory, I love the idea of full independence.

The provocation, to me came from the word Syndication. Before I’d heard of IndieWeb I’d been involved in DS106. This means that for me syndication means something different than a silo. To me a syndication is something set up for a group, long or short term that can be completely separate from any silos. DS106, and many other educational syndications uses a WordPress blog to syndicate content from other sites. Alan Levine, @cogdog, has set up many examples of this sort of thing.

When I was involved in the migration of Glow Blogs one of the features I managed to get included was a syndication plugin. This took quite a lot of insistence on my part, but the University of Dundee and Derek Robinson have certainly made that worthwhile with EduShare which syndicates trainee teacher reflections. 1

These non-silo syndications are, if not a gateway drug to the IndieWeb, a great way to get people considering how and where they publish to the web and how community could be built.

These syndications can be used for long running or short projects 2, the participants don’t need the expertise beyond setting up a blog. You can participate in different communities from the same blog.

The great thing about a syndication is that the content doesn’t go away if the syndication does. Any discussion can take place on the participating sites. All the hub does is make it easy to read and make connections. Micro.blog reminds me of this in many ways, although the participants are not grouped round a class or topic.

Now I am thinking I should do a lot more to publicise the possibilities for syndication in Glow Blogs.

Featured image: Silos | Darko Pevec | Flickr Creative Commons — Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic — CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.

  1. The UoD is by far the biggest and best example of syndication in Glow Blogs. I’ve used it for a couple of smaller examples but it is IMO one of the features of Glow that could be used much more widely.
  2. A example of a short aggregation I organised on Glow Blogs Blogging Bootcamp #2 | Get your blogs up and running Autumn 2015

This is a summary of my presentation for PressED – A WordPress and Education, Pedagogy and Research Conference on Twitter. I’ve pasted the text from the tweets, without the conference hash tags below.

I am @johnjohnston a primary school teacher in Scotland. I acted as ‘Product Owner’ for Glow Blogs from 2014 to 2016 & continue the role on a part time basis.

Glow is a service for to all schools & education establishments across Scotland.

Glow gives access to a number of different web services.

One of these services is Glow Blogs which runs on WordPress.

  • Glow Blogs consist of 33 multisites
  • Total number of blogs 219,834
  • Total number of views in February 2018 1,600,074
  • Number of blog users logging on in Feb 2018 243,199

All teachers and pupils in Scotland can have access to #GlowBlogs via a Single signon via RMUNIFY (shibboleth)

 

Development

#GlowBlogs developed & maintained by Scottish Government considerable amount of work going into dev, testing, security and data protection. This differs from many edu #WordPress set ups as changes developed relatively slowly.

Major customisations include shibboleth signon, user roles & privacy. Teachers/Pupils have slightly different permissions.
Blogs can be public, private or “Glow Only”
There is also an e-Portfolio facility added via a plugin.

 

How the Blogs are used

Glow Blogs are currently used for School Websites, Class Blogs, Project Blogs, Trips, Libraries, eportfolios. Blogs By Learners, Blogs for Learners (Resources, revision ect), collaborations, aggregations.

 

e-Portfolios

ePortfolios supported by plugin, custom taxonomy. ‘Profiles’ print or export to PDF. Pupil portfolio blogs can have sparkly unicorns or black vampire styles but the profiles that come out look clean and neat.

Pupils

Pupils can learn to be on the web but with <13 we have duty of care.
Pupils can create blogs. Cannot make blogs public.

A member of staff can make pupil’s blogs public. Pupils can be members of public blog and post publicly.

 

Examples

Possibilities

Only scratched the surface of the potential of #WordPress the tools are in place, Scottish teachers and learners are exploring the possibilities but it is early days. We are tooled up for the future.