Is it worth it?

Now that I’ve gone through the capstone process, I wonder if its worth going on with it. That is, the installation itself is working fine (although there are some updates I need to do) but the way I see it being used it might as well be a stack of paper on a desk most of the time. Teachers are using it but in most cases it seems that it is doing the same old thing with a different tool. Students are given prompts and they post to the teacher’s blog. There is no engagement with people outside the class at all, let alone people of other cultures – something blogs are so suited to. The students might as well write it out longhand on a piece of paper and hand it in for their marks.

Students have no interest in using it all outside of what they are required to do by a class. I read innumerable posts by teachers all over the globe who are having their students create and keep their own blogs, collaborating with people around the world and having wild success. They talk about how much their students enjoy getting comments from other bloggers, conversing, creating…

I just don’t have the energy these days. Perhaps it’s just that it’s been a longer winter than usual.

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Ticking along

The slowdown in the dashboard appeared to be from the Whipple Hill plugin. The install is functioning as it should now and I just updated the server OS without any issues (although I did make a clone of the server beforehand, just in case. I’ve had some bad experiences with updates in the past and I’m purty careful these days.

Progress on getting students to use it other than posting on a teacher’s blog for class – not so much.

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The technical piece

The technical piece takes so much time that I wonder sometimes if I will ever make any progress with marketing blogging to students.

We have been having horrible slow-downs in the dashboard of some blogs and I am not sure why. We were getting server errors having to do with DNS (we thought) and it seems to be true that there is an old DNS entry hanging around somewhere. an nslookup will sometimes come up with the old IP of the site, before we switched from Paetec to Comcast.

Yet the error does not seem to be consistent.

Then, my supervisor, Jason Bourne, thought he saw slowdowns in the dashboards of all blogs created before January 12th but not before and I did see this myself so I spent a good deal of yesterday exporting the posts of several of the active English blogs, creating new sites just like the old, adding Authors to them and then importing. That seems to have woked. But this morning I posted on my own blog there and had no trouble, yet mine was created a long time ago.

I am beginning to wonder if it doesn’t have to do with the interface with Whipple Hill. When I log in to the school website it can often take simply ages and now the login is going through the Podium system before one can get to a dashboard.

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A continual battle

It seems to be a continual battle on the technical front. The Whipple Hill plugin does work for the SSO and there are three new privacy options:

I would like only users who are registered subscribers to see my blog

“registered subscribers” is a bit of a misnomer, as it is really registered users in whatever Role. However this gives some added security for those who want it. One of those people would me be as I want the KUA Technical Support site behind the Podium login. I can add things that I wouldn’t add if the site was available to the general public. I will choose option three:

However, some users have been experiencing slowdowns in the dashboard. I thought perhaps it had to do with the hosts file, edited that to reflect the host name but although that seemed to absolutely cure it for some, for others it hasn’t. My new theory has to do with the RSS feeds in the dashboard which I’d dearly love to get rid of anyway. I need something to replace them though. I should get my Using WordPress site together, that would be a good feed for the dashboard.

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Technical matters

In order to install the Whipple Hill Podium plugin, we had to recompile PHP with mcrypt. I hired this out through vWorker. However, Medic, my favorite programmer from Beklgrade couldn’t do anything without having the server OS upgraded so I did that, making an image of the server at each step as it was right before the holiday. I didn’t fancy having a non-op server right before I left for Christmas with my mother so I imaged one of the spare Mac minis we had so that I could just plop it in. Server upgrade seemed to go fine, ditto the WordPress upgrade to 3.0.3.

Medic recompiled PHP and everything was jake yes? No.

A severe, severe, slowdown in the Dashboard. Took me two days of forums and putting in new .htaccess files.. Server error logs showed difficulty resolving the server name so I put the IP in the hosts file and it appears to have been cured.

The Podium plugin was installed and now there is SSO (single-sign on) for all KUA users with a Whipple Hill account. Which is everybody.

It adds some refinements to site visiblility and faculty can add a WordPress channel to their class portal.

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a conversation

I had a conversation with the photography student this afternoon and she’s not very enthusiastic about an online portfolio. So it goes. I have another candidate in mind, at least he’s very good and has done some fabulous work.

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a Marketing and HCI lesson

The squib in the Daily Bulletin about the Digital Photography site drew a lot of interest from parents and they were stakeholders that I had completely forgotten would be reading the Daily Bulletin. Kathleen gave me a very good precís of who exactly I was reaching and what they needed when we sat down and got the link thing straightened out.

They probably read it more than the students who tend to check what’s for lunch and ignore the rest.

Continue reading

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Sigh.. marketing snafu

I had been waiting for the students to get back from Thanksgiving in order to begin steering them to KUAPress and the Digital Photography site so this morning I went down to see the woman responsible for sending out the Daily Bulletin push page.

“Kathleen” I said, would you put this in the Daily Bulletin for me?” and I wrote out what I wanted:

Check out the self-portraits in Digital Photography
kua.press.kua.org

Continue reading

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the digital photography site

One of the problems I had with the digital photography site, aside from the fact that it is hard to get any photos out of the class, has been what might seem like a minor detail – how to attribute the photos. Continue reading

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Why do People Write?

I wrote earlier in Case Three about the blog set up by Ms. Gray to try to spark discussion on why authors write. She asked me to come down and chat with her about it so I stopped into her office last week. Continue reading

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