eduBuzz sign-up limited to fight spam blogs

Unfortunately the number of spam blogs being created at has gone from being an occasional nuisance to a many-times-a-day problem. We’re not alone in this: others are having similar problems.

We’ve been managing these manually, but as the frequency has increased this has become difficult.

As a temporary control, sign-ups have been currently restricted to email addresses within the following domains:

  • (school staff)
  • (non-school staff)
  • (some pupils)

Our aim is to eliminate automatic spam sign-ups using software controls, but attempts to date haven’t been successful, possibly because many of these are relatively new, and maybe don’t take account of possible WordPress Multi-User configurations.

New parent blogger Mumble: a must-subscribe

MumbleI’ve just read the first post from our new parent blogger Mumble. Put it this way, guineapigmum hasn’t just got company, she’s got competition.

Highly recommended: I’m looking forward to the next instalment already. Here’s a sample:

Yikes. Broadcasting is scary! I was aiming for the beginning of term for this but being a bit of techno-woose I had to go for a lie down after seeing the instructions and it’s taken a couple of weeks to get a calm clear space to try to work out how it works. I think this is that space, though the baby might wake up at any moment and snooker it. Link

School web sites can engage hard-to-reach parents

Good school web sites can engage parents who want to help, but just aren’t comfortable setting foot in school, or talking to teachers.

In talking to Mhairi Stratton today about developing the Humbie Primary site, and class blogs there, she told me the story of how she discovered from her pupils at a previous city primary that parents were going to great lengths to get access to the internet so that they could get involved via the school’s web site. Yet these same parents, the children explained, would not come into school, or talk to teachers.

This suggests that there may be an unexpected benefit here from East Lothian’s plans to develop class blogs as a key part of the new Parental Involvement arrangements.

Where’s my “Latest eduBuzz posts” widget?

A recent update to this means it will have vanished from the sidebar of any eduBuzz blog using it.

If you’ve been using it, and you want it back, the good news is that it can just be dragged back again. Go to Presentation / Sidebar Widgets and drag “Latest eduBuzz Posts” to wherever you want it to appear. Don’t forget to save the change.
The changes were:

  • title: changed to latest eduBuzz posts (not Exc-el)
  • config settings: now default to showing both title and author, both were defaulting to hidden

Maybe you’ve tried it before, and wondered why you didn’t see anything? If so, why not give it a try? It has proved one of the most popular ways for people to keep in touch with what’s being posted across the site.

eduBuzz – now with added Widgetbox Widgets

Widgetbox LogoEdubuzz blogs now offer Widgetbox Widgets in addition to the standard Text and RSS ones.

Thanks to a new plugin from incsub and ringofblogs it’s now easy to incorporate Widgetbox Widgets into a WPMU site. The plugin has been developed originally for the blog hosting service, and is being shared under the GPL licence.

Widgetbox offer a huge range of Widgets, many of which have direct educational uses. For example, I’ve just been experimenting with one which offers instant translation of the web page into various languages via the AltaVista Babelfish translation service. You can currently see that one here:

James Farmer has done a 3-minute tutorial video here on how to use them. It requires a bit of cut-and-pastery with Notepad, for example, to extract an ID from the Java code provided by the site, but it’s simple and quick.

I now need some willing testers to try it… feedback welcome.

Class Blogs to Support Parental Involvement

LongniddryDuring today’s In-Service, Longniddry Primary staff got some hands-on practice with the eduBuzz blog system so more people can update the school site, and so that they’re ready to make a start with class blogs.

The school’s Development Plan for the year includes work on parental involvement, and the blog-based school web site is one of the tools they’ll be using. They’re also keen to develop class-specific web pages which will provide a more to-the-point channel of communication with busy parents.

East Lothian’s Parental Involvement consultation found that primary parents liked the idea of a class-specific web page. A survey finding was that today’s busy parents might want to be involved with the school, but only had time to be involved with their own children’s classes. For that purpose, a whole-school site can be a turn-off, as these people don’t have time to dig around in search of class-specific informatiion.

After the CPD session, Melanie Bertram and I explored some other new ways to use the school blog:

  • Subscribe by email: we used Feedblitz to set up an email subscription service for the school site (subscribe here)
    • This is set to provide a nightly email with the latest posts.
    • Feedblitz is a powerful RSS-to-email service which offers a free basic service.
  • Linking class blog posts to the school site: using Chris Hatcher’s firstRSS plugin, we explored how up-to-date headlines from a class blog can be syndicated to that class’s Page on the main school site (example here).
    • This enables interested readers to click-through to see the full post on the class site.

I’m looking forward to seeing what new ideas this group come up with over the next few weeks.

eduBuzz sign-up back to normal

The fault with eduBuzz sign-up has now been fixed and tested.

For the curious: the fault was being caused by an incorrectly configured plugin, danalog’s site-wide tagging solution, which we’ve been experimenting with. This plugin doesn’t read the domain name automatically, but requires it to be coded into the plugin. And until you do that, it has a placeholder in there of – you guessed it – “domain.tld”.