Publishing data via WordPress blogs

How can we easily publish not just text, audio and video, but also supporting data? One possibility is to store the data in a public Google Spreadsheet, and embed a view of that in the blog.

Here’s an example of how this might work for sharing a database (spreadsheet) of skills, a project that I was exploring with Kathy McGrane and Pauling Inglis yesterday: This is part of the ACfE Principal Teachers as Leaders of Learning work.

  • embedding in the blog posts, or page, lets you make the data visible to your blog’s visitor
  • easy shared updating of the data via the Google Docs system
  • visitors can go to the public spreadsheet and get access to the data if they want to sort it, report it etc


  • this can’t be done through the user interface, the blog’s template needs to be modified – but it’s fairly quick
  • because the data is stored with Google, we need to be careful about information security

Student Quotes Work Well on Yester P7’s Benmore Blog

Yester Benmore blogYester’s P7 class, on last week’s trip to Benmore, provide a good model for how to get the student’s voices onto the blog without too much time being lost to blogging. They used short quotes from many pupils, which went down very well indeed with their audience.

We’ve already seen from Law Primary P7’s Loch Insh trip that regular blog posts can be hugely popular with those left behind. Their first post from Loch Insh got 69 comments, for example.

Evidence is building up that this wasn’t a one-off. Longniddry Primary, for example, have successfully blogged trips from Ardmay and from Barga in Italy.

Today I noticed some exceptional feedback on the Yester P7 blog which I thought worth pulling together. Michael Purves and Lucinda Stuart did alternate posts of photos and news. Each “news” post included quotes from large numbers of pupils. This post, for example, Benmore, Day 2- Tuesday 22nd May, includes 20 pupil comments. Maybe this way of including contributions from such a large number of the pupils was a factor?
Here are some extracts from comments left which relate to the blog.

  • … Huge thanks to Mr P and Miss S for giving you all such a great time.We love the blog!link

The eduBuzz server’s getting busy…

The dedicated server hosting the eduBuzz WordPress Multi-User blog system is now spending a lot of its time quite heavily loaded, although performance hasn’t been noticeably affected. Right now, for example, the CPU load is at over 90%, and it’s nearly midnight.

Working on it yesterday from Tranent Primary School, on a very slow network connection, we hit some problems with sessions breaking. WordPress displayed a screen saying, in effect: “you can’t connect to the database – maybe your password’s wrong?”

I guess these were due to time-outs occurring, perhaps due to the combination of server response time delays coinciding with network delays. Once the network speeded up, everything went back to normal.

eduBuzz blogs – Flickr Gallery plugin removed

This plug-in let eduBuzz users work with their Flickr photos from inside WordPress. Unfortunately, though, it disabled normal upload of files.

Perhaps it was developed for an environment where upload of photos wasn’t wanted, and the idea was that users would store all their images on Flickr?

Twice in two days I’ve found people with problems uploading files, and in both cases they had activated this plug-in. I haven’t time just now to dig into the details, so have removed it meantime.

ACfE Inter-Authority Conference

As Dave Cain has already mentioned I had an opportunity today to do a short talk on eduBuzz to an inter-authority group working on developing A Curriculum for Excellence in Scottish Borders, Midlothian and East Lothian.

We’re already using an edubuzz blog as a place for sharing information between the 3 authorities involved in the project. The idea today was to give people a better idea of how easy these tools are to use, and to show some examples of how they’re being used to support the kind of collaborative network we need to build for ACfE development.

We looked at examples including:

  • how easy it is to create a new WordPress blog at
  • how publishing to the web is now as easy as sending an email
  • an example of a student’s blog showing what an interest-based project might look like
  • an example of a busy blog-based school web site from Law Primary School
  • a blog which supports an ACfE curriculum project, Active Learning Partnerships
    • (more on this is available from Barry Smith at Preston Lodge High School)
    • this site is maintained by a number of contributors from a range of agencies
    • we saw how it uses video to capture learning experiences such as rock climbing , an approach which led to increased engagement of participants
  • briefly, how an aggregator such as Bloglines can enable monitoring of a large number of blogs from one screen

Midlothian’s Innovation Centre was a good choice of venue and had fast, reliable internet access.

Please leave a comment if you’d like to get involved in helping build the ACfE inter-authority network, either by keeping a blog of a project in your authority, contributing to the existing site, or just finding out more about what’s possible.

In class, I have to power down

David Puttnam, in today’s Guardian Education asks why it is, despite children having been quick to grasp the joys of new technology, schools are lagging so far behind.

At a recent digital education conference in San Francisco, one of the more memorable remarks quoted came from a child: “Whenever I go into class, I have to power down.” That roughly translates as: “What I do with digital technology outside school – at home, in my own free time – is on a completely different level to what I’m able to do at school. Outside school, I’m using much more advanced skills, doing many more interesting things, operating in a far more sophisticated way. School takes little notice of this and seems not to care.”

He refers to a recent Demos report, Their Space (81 pages, pdf). This report, supported by the National College for School Leadership, includes a whole range of ideas that could help inform eduBuzz developments, for example this from Chapter 4 , “Start with People not PCs, How schools can shift investment”:

This chapter has laid out a set of changes that when taken together add up to a shift in values: a shift in terms of the kind of investment that is needed to reach the potential for change in the system, and a shift in terms of the kinds of skills, experiences and relationships that schools value. Shifting schools’ value systems in this way will create more meaningful learning experiences for young people, and also more active and engaged learners. It will also enable schools to reconnect the currently disparate parts of young peoples’ lives – in school and out of school – and enable them to transfer knowledge and skills across a whole range of experiences. But finally it is important because by building on young peoples’ interests and enthusiasms, and doing it in ways that are going with the grain of their lives, schools will succeed in effectively providing all young people with a set of tools that they can use far beyond their formal learning experience.

How can the web enable improved parental involvement?

Partnership with ParentsSocial software looks set to play an important part in enabling a step-change in parental involvement within East Lothian schools. The 2006 Parental Involvement Act places important new duties on education authorities, which are explained on the Parentzone site. These duties include:

Education authorities have a duty to ‘promote involvement of parents in school education’.

Education authorities are required to develop a ‘strategy for parental involvement strategy’ and in doing this they will have to consult with parents, pupils and any other interested parties.

Susan Guy is now completing that consultation in East Lothian. From her work, it’s clear that social software, such as eduBuzz blogs, has the potential to play a major role in supporting new parent involvement arrangements. We’ve been looking at what such a blog site might look like, and how it might work. A useful source document has been the Partnership With Parents document (30 pages, pdf file) issued by HMI as part of the How Good Is Our School series.

The idea is, in Primary Schools, to use a class web site (blog) as a focus for parental involvement at class level. Such a site turns out to be ideal for providing the kind of information, and level of interaction, that parents want. There’s a skeleton “framework” site at showing a possible model. Over the next couple of weeks we’re planning to develop the idea with the Pupil Council at Dunbar Primary. We attended their meeting today and showed them examples of what was possible, and their reaction was very positive. They also enjoyed leaving a few comments on the Law Primary site, such as this one and this one!

How to trap, not just search for, web information

Information TrappingTonight I browsed a copy of Information Trapping: Real-time Research on the Web by Tara Calishain. It’s an excellent guide to the use of RSS feeds, tags, feed aggregators and web page change detectors to bring information to you as and when it’s published.

Coverage included, amongst other things:

  • What is RSS?
  • The difference between meaningfully structured (XML) feeds and web (HTML) pages
  • Choosing and using feed aggregators
  • Tagging
  • Advanced use of search engines such as Google and Yahoo
  • Setting up notifications of changes on specific web pages
  • Using email notifications

By far the majority of students still think that finding information on the web is all about using a search engine. This book is ideal for getting people past that stage. Well worth trying out in a few school libraries, not just for students – it’s ideal for librarians wanting to get up to date on these new research skills.

eduBuzz blogs get Google Analytics

Google Analytics logoThe eduBuzz blog system now has Google Analytics monitoring every blog – we hope. Time will tell if we’re collecting everything we think we are.

Back in December 06, Exc-el bloggers gained a Google Analytics plug-in. That worked fine at first, but before long there were complaints of stats “flat-lining”, although checks showed the stats were still being gathered OK.

Checking the Google Analytics support information at the time led to the conclusion that we were using it in an unsupported way. We had various individuals registered with Analytics accounts, and their multiple accounts were monitoring pages within the same domain. The supported arrangement is to use one account with one domain (although I can’t find a link to that info just now).

Now we’ve removed that plug-in and embedded the tracking code into the WordPress template files using guidance from the WordPress MU forums. Link.

If you’ve an eduBuzz blog and want access to the Analytics stats, let me know the email address under which you’ve set up your Analytics account and I’ll set that up for you.