WordCamp Portland: Educators and WordPress

Shan­non Houghton led the first uncon­fer­ence ses­sion at Word­Camp today. She’s a 2nd and 3rd grade teacher at an ele­men­tary school in Fed­eral Way, Wash­ing­ton. She uses a Word­Press site for her classroom.

The class blog is used to con­tact stu­dents as well as authors. Shan­non also posts les­son plans on the site as well that are all avail­able to download.

Access to sites can be a prob­lem in school dis­tricts. Shannon’s dis­trict usu­ally blocks access to blogs by restrict­ing domain names. Hav­ing a cus­tom domain name routes around this though and lets her stu­dents access the site from the school network.

Like many school dis­tricts they require all school data to be hosted on their own servers. Shannon’s site isn’t cur­rently hosted there but the dis­trict as a whole is mov­ing to Word­Press from Dreamweaver sites so she’ll likely be able to move on to the school servers.

One issue men­tioned with sites was con­trol­ling access and per­mis­sions to a site or a net­work. One plu­gin that can help do this is called Role Scoper. There are oth­ers like User Role Edi­tor. They’ll give you a level of gran­u­lar con­trol over user roles and permission.

Some­one in the ses­sion asked where the other teach­ers in the room got their tips and tricks from. Shan­non men­tioned Edu­topia as a great resource that isn’t blocked on school net­works. There’s also a large teacher com­mu­nity on Twit­ter that orga­nize nightly chats relat­ing to spe­cific grade lev­els or topic areas.

Another per­son men­tioned the biggest flaw in Word­Press as its lack of event cal­en­dar sup­port. School dis­tricts really need a good event cal­en­dar plu­gin. This dis­trict uses School­wires which has a gran­u­lar cal­en­dar fea­ture but was described as ter­ri­ble otherwise.

For set­ting up a demo site for your work I highly rec­om­mend using a local instal­la­tion on your com­puter. There are ter­rific instruc­tions on the Word­Press Codex that walk you through how to do this on a Mac or a PC.

For any­one who was in the ses­sion and has more ques­tions feel free to get in touch. I’d love to talk more about how Word­Press can help teach­ers and schools.

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