eduBuzz server trouble

Now that school term is over, at least in East Lothian, this afternoon we hit the first technical problems in a long time. Apologies if you’ve been affected by that. Anyone trying to access the site would have seen a WordPress “can’t connect to database” error.

The eduBuzz web server ground almost completely to a halt, and a call had to be raised with the ISP  All now seems back to normal, so hopefully the fault has been identified and fixed: I haven’t heard back yet. Fingers crossed…

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

eduBuzz Server Back in Action

The edubuzz server had to be rebooted this morning, and is now working normally. This was the first reboot since October 2006.

First thing today, before 7, we still had a very heavily loaded server, but it was still working. Plan A was to try and find out today what was causing that, but we’re on to Plan B now as the server was rebooted at about 10.40am. This followed failure of the name (DNS) server. If you’d tried to access the site before the reboot, your browser wouldn’t have been able to find it.
I’ve had a couple of emails asking if it’s sensible to plan for classroom use. As far as we know, the service is back to normal, and performing much better than last week, so there’s no reason to change plans.

The good news is that the server load is back to sensible low levels, although it has only been back up for an hour. Unfortunately, because of the reboot, we still don’t know exactly why the server load became so high. It could have been visitor workload, or it could have been some kind of fault. Hopefully server log files will offer some clues, but we don’t know yet.

Please contact me, or leave a comment below, if you notice any further problems.

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.

eduBuzz gets RockYou plugin

RockYou logoRockYou is a web-based tool for creating dynamic, eye-catching photo slideshows. Not surprisingly, our primary schools have spotted it, and we’ve now installed Jia Shen’s plug-in to enable embedding of RockYou slideshows in blog posts or pages. The plug-in’s entry in the plug-in menu describes how it’s used.

You can see it in action over on the Pencaitland Primary blog’s Spring Fair post.

Avoid RSS overload – subscribe to WordPress blogs *by Category*

Now that the number of Exc-el / eduBuzz blogs is going up, it’s becoming more important to develop ways to sort out the information you want to see from the stuff you don’t.

Maybe you’ve discovered RSS feeds, and are using them to subscribe to blogs of interest. So far, so good. In your RSS aggregator, say Bloglines, you’ll see an entry for each blog you’ve subscribed to, and beside that entry a number showing how many new posts there have been since your last visit.

But what if the blog’s very active and wide-ranging, and you’re only interested in posts on one subject? Subscribe to the blog’s feed, and you’re going to have to browse through every new post looking for the ones you want. That’s a waste of time.

Fortunately WordPress offers a better way: it lets you subscribe to posts in selected categories. Continue reading Avoid RSS overload – subscribe to WordPress blogs *by Category*

Inter-authority web support for Curriculum for Excellence (ACfE)

Click to open a larger version of this image in your browser There’s now a prototype web site to support inter-authority work on A Curriculum for Excellence. We’d appreciate feedback on it.

This site, which is based on an Exc-el blog, is is the first step towards building web support tools to help Scottish Borders, Midlothian and East Lothian local education authorities collaborate on new curriculum development.

The basic idea is to develop that site as a “big picture” entry point which enables visitors to find out about, and engage with, ACfE developments at inter-authority level. It provides links and information to put the work into context and to provide an overview of what’s happening. Because comments are enabled on every Page and Post visitors can contribute their perspectives. There’s also an Event Calendar.

Visitors can then easily browse, click through to, and engage with more detailed information on individual pieces of the picture. An example you can look at just now is the Active Learning Partnerships project page from Preston Lodge High’s Althernative Curriculum project. There you’ll see summary paragraphs being fed from the main ALPs project blog.

Feedback on this site would be welcome. It’s currently operating in “Stealth mode“, so shouldn’t yet be picked up by search engines such as Google and Technorati, and isn’t appearing in the “Latest Post” lists on the eduBuzz blog.

“Making Your School Website Dynamic” is a popular course!

Today after-school I ran a 90-minute CPD session on creating dynamic school web sites using WordPress. Until I arrived, I was expecting around 5 people, and had prepared, just in case, for up to 10. In the event, there were 13 on the latest list, and everyone made it. There was great enthusiasm, and I went away convinced the group will be making full use of what they learned.

The course outline is here as a Word document:  It covered: ECS371 Making Your School Website Dynamic – outline Continue reading “Making Your School Website Dynamic” is a popular course!

Exc-el blogs – new WordPress themes available

Blue Moon screenshotExc-el bloggers now have more themes to choose from.

Choosing the blog theme is important to developing a sense of ownership, particularly among student bloggers. We’ve been on the lookout for some more themes that would be attractive to students, and these additions include some that will help, such as this one, Blue Moon, by Stephen Reinhardt.

Regulus in particular will probably be a popular choice.  As well as offering a choice of 8 header images, and 6 colour schemes, it permits bloggers to use their own header image. Even better, it includes instructions on how to make your image the right size.Regulus 2.2

The new themes added also include:

A theme pack from Farms is the basis of these additions. It contains a range of widget-friendly themes that have been modified to be suitable for WordPress Multi-User. Where a theme was already installed, no change has been made.