February 2010: Update your blog, email, and forum settings

Check your email:

  • manage your contacts
  • deal with your spam
  • organize mail into folders
  • turn chat on/off
  • create or update a spreadsheet document

Login to (or create) your blog:

  • update your profile – email address
  • manage your comments
  • manage your links
  • update your tagline
  • manage your categories and tags
  • confirm your privacy settings
  • confirm your theme
  • manage your sidebar widgets
  • enable/disable a plugin or two

Login (or register) to STJ Forums:

  • update your profile – email address
  • contribute to a discussion
  • begin a discussion
  • update your profile – email address

dsader Wins 2008 WPMU Plugin Competition

Today, I won first place in the first WPMU Plugin competition for a plugin called “Toggle Admin Menus“. The plugin allows SiteAdmins to reshape the core user menu system for WordPressMU.

Here at STJ I needed the plugin to simplify the admin menus for students for a couple of reasons. First, some core menus had functions I was not interested in enabling for students such as deleting their blogs, uploading certain media types, and editing permalinks. Secondly, some menu functions needed replacing so students could “enhance the artistry” of their communication so I’ve reworked or tweaked Tagging, Widgets, Comments, and Themes. This plugin allows me the simplicity of ticking checkboxes to turn on and off a variety of core Worpress menus/functions without having to edit code in the WPMU download/install package.

This plugin was one of my many plugins I worked on this summer. The plugins I wrote were written solely to support my own deployment of WordPressMU at iblog.stjschool.org. My involvement in this type of communcation technology project emphasizes the following: synchronous and asynchronous student interaction, general outcomes in the Alberta Language Arts curriculum, my skill set as an education technology specialist, the role of student and teacher as digital citizens in the 21st century. To that end my plugins tend to be popular with “edubloggers” whose sites are more of a “walled garden” version of WordPressMU.

In particular, I need to thank the following mentors, hosts, troubleshooters, and testers of my plugins:
Farms at incsub.com (creator of edublogs.org)
Andrea_r from Homeschool Journal
Marko at boonika.org
indojepang at Terminalmusik
James Groom at Mary Washington University
Nemo at Domus Neminis

Focus Questions for LA 9, English 10, and English 20

After mulling over the possibilities of focus in my own mind, discussion in the STJ forums amongst students, and reflecting on literature choices from the first two weeks of class I’ve decide the following:

Language Arts 9 will focus on “The Human Condition – In Search of Self.” Early course discussions emphasized relationships (family and friends) and feelings that confuse or hinder the development of new relationships. We’ve seen doubts and fears in our approach to self and others and we’ll continue to grow in our maturing voices and sincerity.

English 10 will focus on “Decisions – Action or Apathy.” Students have been focusing on adolescent decision making: pressures to fit, or not; conflicts between work, family, and school; dealing with consequences to decisions and exploring the role of emotions in “life’s lessons.”

English 20 will focus on “World Perspectives – The Social Experience.” The discussions of our first text, Brave New World, have really determined our focus for us. The discussions go well beyond a defense of personal happiness(or lack thereof) and explore individual, group, and social responsibility. We’ll need to emphasize further the role of literature as a means of Social Criticism. We need to bring into the classroom real analysis of systems that exemplify shortcomings in Canadian Society.

These focus questions will heavily influence all major assignments and the mid-term exams in LA 9, English 10, and English 20.

Are your posts “readable”?

I’ve added a bit of mumbo jumbo to the edit-post form to show readability stats. The function shows word/sentence count and:

The Gunning-Fog index gives the number of years of education needed to understand the text. Short, plain sentences score better than long, complicated sentences. Based on words per sentence and “hard” words per sentence.

The Flesch-Kincaid index gives the number of years of education needed to understand the text. Short, plain sentences score better than long, complicated sentences. Based on syllables per word and words per sentence.

The Flesch index, usually between 0 and 100, indicates how difficult the text is to read. The higher the score, the easier the text is to read. Based on syllables per word and words per sentence.

This short post warrants the following scores so far:
Words: 123 Sentences: 10 Fog: 9.1 Kincaid: 7.0 Flesch: 67

These simple stats basically mean anyone in about grades 7-9 should be able to easily read this post.

It might be interesting to look back on posts you’ve written, click on edit, and see what scores these formulas calculate for your readability.

According to wikipedia, the formula is 50+ years old and is built into MS Office as well.

I promise not to get too fired up about linguistics, but I have been doing oodles of programming lately… and I am an English teacher, after all.

Now I’ve scored: Fog: 9.4 Kincaid: 6.5 Flesch: 69


Big changes in the Mac Lab

The new MacPro server is set up and ready to go and each new iMac is lit up and rolling. Still a couple install bugs I have to sort out: like naming each computer(minor error at startup as Leopard assigns its own name). They should get you to the net and back.

I’ve spent far more time than I wanted setting everything up, but I know the value of an automagic, autonomous Mac lab. Each iMac has the standard out of the box Mac stuff, iTunes, Garageband, Safari. But I’ve added the usual favourites as well: Firefox and Microsoft Office. No Adobe applications yet as there was a mix up somewhere and it hasn’t arrived. The new cameras and their bell’s and whistles should be here soon. I still have to order more audio gear(keyboard and mixer) and other odds and ends. The Comtech blog will have details as they unfold.

The iblogs have been updated, again. Little surprises, mostly. New themes, better support for tagging. Recall how we had to add code to align an image in a post, you’ll like the automagic stuff there too. Trackbacks still do what trackbacks do, but we’ll use Pingbacks from here on in.

Post tagging will be emphasized(3-5 tags per post is enough) which means a post should only need to be in one category. This summer I added tags to all my old posts, but in the process deleted all my categories, so I have new work to do there someday :grrr

I’ve added a new blog devoted to tags called iblog.stjschool.org/tags/. It updates on the fly when any post is published at iblogs.stjschool.org. I’ve written a couple widgets to support the rollout of the sitewide tags blog too.

Reminders about blogging at STJ: abide your signed “Computer Use Agreement.” Set your privacy and comment moderation settings to whatever level is comfortable to you (Private blogs do not appear in the tags blog/widgets, though). Don’t forget to update your blogroll and refresh your tagline.

If you are looking for ideas for your first post, my Random Idea Generator, Focus Question Generator, Critical Thinking Generator, Learning Log Generator are all now plugins you need to activate in order to add them to the Edit Post form. Or you could browse Snowflakes, or Ideas won’t keep.

If you want to boast, help, cry, complain, or belly-ache about something about the site go to the Forums. I need some help, again, choosing the course focus questions . . . hint-hint.

Course Outlines and Reading lists for Language Arts 9, English 10, and English 20.

In 2008/9, each CTS student I teach must earn 2 credits in Information Processing before moving on to the ComTech modules. At least one credit must be in Keyboarding, if you can’t get a second keyboarding credit I recommend Information Highway 2. What Comtech modules will be ready will depend on circumstances in and beyond my control. I have some very interested “Industry Partners” willing to share in our efforts in ComTech.

My son Malcolm took this last image, I like the surreal blur as I puzzle over the Leopard Server install manual in microprint. Notice the 14 inch monitor(circa 1996) The cinema display has since arrived via China–>Alaska–>Ontario–>Calgary–>Edmonton…

Semester Begins: Overcoming Tech Obstacles

Welcome to new STJ bloggers. No doubt you are learning new skills very quickly, but take your time to figure it all out, depend on each other, and ask questions of your teacher.

Grade 9 bloggers overcame a snag in the STJ email server(again!). The server simply stopped sending email until our division techies fixed the clog(again!). Emails sent out at 9:15AM Thursday did not get to their inboxes until Friday morning. I was able to sign-up bloggers manually but bloggers need to now edit their user profiles to set their password and website URL, … a task handled by the auto-magic email registration/confirmation before. I see a couple duplicate users/blogs now as students responded to late arriving emails, so I’ll be sorting that out right away.

Grade 10 bloggers for the most part were already registered but hit a snag of a different sort. The topology of the STJ LAN has all school workstations accessing the Internet through a single IP address, a common scenario. This requires me to make sure that the IP address of the STJ outgoing server is entered into the firewall of the stjschool.org incoming server so it doesn’t ban our IP for exceeding the limit on simultaneous connections. Our division techies changed our outgoing IP in December, … stjschool.org firewall now has the correct IP to bypass. Coincidentally, a major failure in the mediterranean undersea Internet cable caused higher loads on many router/server farms so diagnosing the problem had some sluggish “trace-routes” as well. Did you know you can monitor the health of the Internet in real time?

The “tens” are sharing their first posts and comments as well, but we’ll soon be in the regular classroom continuing our study of Julius Caesar. Blogging about Shakespeare, an anachronism that is not so out of place.

I wonder what challenges this week will bring?

Now, the “niners” are adding friends to their RSS aggregators and blogrolls. And sharing their first posts/comments with each other.

I’d like Grade 9s to trackback their first post here.