How Did You Make This Website?
Currently, this website is hosted by an online company called BlueHost. They offer a nice rate ($4.95/month) with several free features (unlimited storage space, unlimited file transfer rate, unlimited e-mail accounts, and the domain name (mrloftuspe.com) registration & purchase was included in the hosting cost) and get good marks for customer service.
This website was originally, freely hosted on wordpress.com a free, online blogging service, much like blogger.com. But, the free version is limited in a few areas that I eventually wished I could utilize. When I moved the site to my own server (BlueHost), I installed WordPress (again free) onto the site as a management system. It is just easier to use than trying to do it by hand.
Here is what attracted me to WordPress compared to others:
I can create pages or blog entries (they actually are different) that are easily linked together. WordPress works with many third party plug-ins (widgets) that enable new features on the site. For instance, one widget connects to the NOAA Air Quality index, listing areas of the state that are under warning. (This is a nice resource for parents–and me–due to the outdoor nature of physical education.)
With access to the internet, I can modify the site or create new pages or blog entries from anywhere. Using my iPhone, I can do the same. I can also take pictures with the cell phone and upload them directly. Since this is something I carry with me during class (for emergency purposes), I can create a an entry while in class so students can see it immediately.
I can dabble with much of the underlying HTML code on each blog or page to get just the look I want (most blogs don’t allow this).
Connected to Other Technologies
I occasionally use Twitter to give my students an example of a healthy–and active–lifestyle. The entries (“tweets”) automatically appear on my site’s home page.
This is one of the more important elements of my website as students (and their parents) need access to many of the class documents (homework assignments, etc…), particularly as they often lose–or discard–the copies I give them in class. Due to the file storage limits on the free wordpress.com, I needed to find a 3rd party file storage service. Enter Scribd.com.
I chose Scribd because of its integration with WordPress: it easily allows me to link to the document or embed it into the page. Users can print the document or look at it onscreen.
Scribd, however, wasn’t working as well as I would have liked. Printing wasn’t as direct and easy as from a school workstation and confused the students. The actual printed documents were blurry because Scribd apparently downsampled the PDF’s I uploaded, from their original print-friendly 300dpi to a more space-friendly 72dpi. Scribd looks like it is designed more for online viewing than printing.
I will look into other file storage services, like box.net, to see if they print better. BlueHost, however, may be the solution. By allowing unlimited storage space, I can upload the files to them and link directly. Files will then download and print from Adobe’s PDF Reader application.
Initially, I had used a static web page as my default page (the one you see first). I have now moved over to the blog entries as the home-page. This allows me to enter home-work assignments on the blog and they appear automatically, in descending order of date. My students use the site a vast majority of the time as their homework repository. This, then, serves their needs more directly.
I can post directly to the blog using a couple methods: on my home Mac, from my work laptop, or from my iPhone. Using MarsEdit on my home Mac, I have access to digital photos or image files on my Mac or the web. I can post from my iPhone using an app called WordPress. (I can even take photos with the iPhone and upload them as well.) I post directly from my Windows laptop at work using Qumana. (I’m not overly happy with Qumana and am looking for an alternative.) Finally, I can utilize any computer with internet access to login to my site and make changes using the WordPress interface.
I highly recommend to any and all teachers to look into using Google Docs for a variety of tasks. I currently use it for:
- Feedback forms & requests
It masks my e-mail address
- Student data entry
It allows students to directly input items onto class worksheets they will use later.
A little bit of the site right now, but holding promise for future expansion, is a widget that lists other websites I have collected, or “bookmarked”. I take the URL addresses of these sites to Delicious and bookmark them there. I actually have all my bookmarks located on Delicious–even my personal ones–but the WordPress widget allows me to only show those that are specified by a “Physical_Education” tag. This makes sure that the sites listed are relevant only to this site.
I have been experimenting with Diigo. It is an awesome tool with great promise for research and collaboration. It allows you to save your bookmarks, just like Delicious. And you can “tag” your bookmarks with keywords that describe the bookmark, just like Delicious. But then they are different.
Diigo allows users to create and become members of groups. These groups can be public or private. I’m a member of the public Diigo In Education group. Any member of a group can add bookmarks to that group. With so many members pouring over the web, I get many ideas from Diigo in Education.
I also have set-up a private group that only allows me to add bookmarks. I use this as a limited subset of the internet for my students to research. When I ask them questions that they do not know the answers to and I have not covered in class, they can go to this group to search the websites for the answers. The tags associated with each bookmark make this easier–much like keywords from a library’s card catalog.
Anyone with an internet connection can look at this private group, but I am the sole contributor to it, allowing me to dictate its content, protecting my students. Eventually, I’ll be describing what I do to other teachers, and direct them to this group so they can have access to all the bookmarks and technology I have collected.
I post online video resources directly to the blog portion of the site. Due to the movement nature of physical education, videos are especially useful for projects or units. For now, I only occasionally post videos I think students may find interesting, that supplement the unit or physical education in general. I may have created the videos myself (using iMovie on the Mac orMovieMaker on Windows), but more often will have found the video online. At some point in the future, I will have students themselves create videos and post them online.
Our local school district utilizes website blockers to prevent students from viewing objectionable material. These blockers don’t allow some video services, such as YouTube, to be viewed through their servers. So YouTube videos I post won’t be seen by students using campus computers. Since not all students have computers or internet at home and have to utilize the computers at school, any content I post has to be available there.
There are some video sites, however, that LAUSD does permit through its block. One such is TeacherTube. TeacherTube’s video selection doesn’t come close to that of YouTube, but the videos are usually much more appropriate for our purposes as teachers.
Unfortunately, WordPress doesn’t recognize embedded videos from TeacherTube. The work-around for this, I found, is VodPod. VodPod is sort of a bookmarking site strictly for videos. After establishing an account, you create a pod (or several). In each pod is a bookmarked reference to videos you choose. These bookmarked videos appear to get around the district’s block, although I have to test it more.
WordPress recognizes these embedded videos from VodPod. In fact, there is even a widget I use off to the side of the main column, that lists my most recent videos colleted on VodPod.