Using WordPress as a Classroom Website

Last week I decided to create a classroom website. Over the last year there have been compounding issues which have drove me to this point.  Now that I’ve got something functional up and running I wish I’d been made to do this long ago.  I am finding it to be an AMAZING tool for my kids and (more importantly?) myself.

At the beginning of the semester we were faced with massive budget cuts. We were warned of having very limited resources going forward for the rest of this year and continuing on into the foreseeable future. To do my part, I decided to stop printing off assignments.

My thinking on this was that the majority of my students had smart phones (which I was constantly trying to keep them off of). The assignments that I was printing were made in Office.  My thought was to just send them the file and have them answer the questions on their own paper.

For the majority of the semester my process was to:

  1. Create assignment in Office
  2. Transfer assignment to Google Drive.
  3. Obtain a shareable link for assignment
  4. Copy that link into a Remind message and send it to the students.

My classroom management issues regarding phone usage have actually decreased since going this route.  Instead of actively trying to be sneaky with their phones they’re not having to devote any energy into making sure I don’t see them.  This being the case they actually end up using them as they need to be used.  Are they checking their texts?  I’m sure they are, but it’s not an all encompassing thing.  It’s one less battle I have to fight.  Which is awesome.

However, I started having issues with the process of getting the assignment to the students. It was tedious AND anytime I made a change to the assignment I would have to make sure that the changes that were made were live.  This sometimes caused the shareable link name to be different.  So changing the assignment in 2nd hour might mean 1st hour didn’t get the updated version.

By making the decision to have a classroom site I’m no longer making the assignments in Office.   Instead I’m making the assignment directly on the website.  It takes a little more time to format the information but any time lost is more than made up by not sending the students the shareable link and with not maintaining an updated copy on Google Drive.

If you’re a TLDR type let me clarify.  MY CLASSROOM SITE SAVES ME TIME!

I’m also finding several other nice little added benefits to having my own site.  I’ll detail those in the future.

But now let me get to the point for writing this.  I was amazed at the lack of information out there regarding how to actually make a classroom website.  At least one like what I was looking to accomplish.  So I’m created a new post category called “Classroom Website” where I can put information regarding how I’m using my site.

And with all of that said and done, here’s the link to my classroom website: Chisspy.com (it’s an anagram for Physics).

OkiePi.com – Running a webserver out of my garage

I bought a Raspberry Pi 2 about a year ago.  Like lots and lots of other people I didn’t really know what to do with it.  For several months I thought I’d set it up for the 4 year old to play with, but developmentally he wasn’t ready for it.  So it sat unused. This spring break I made it a mission to put it to work.  Out of that came OkiePi.com.

Initially I was tempted to place JetShack in the same sort of setup, but in addition to the webserver (and more importantly) I’d have to set up a mailserver, which I do not want to do.  Also, Uverse blocks port 25 which is what most mail servers need to send mail (anti-spam measure).  I don’t want to try to figure out the workaround for that.

I did decide to use Namecheap.com for the purchase of OkiePi.  I think I like them… rephrase that, I know I like them.  I think I like them enough to move all of my domaiins to them.  I’ll be doing that over the next couple of months.  In so doing I suspect I’ll move jetshack to their hosting package (which I think is cheaper than awardspace.com (where the site is currently hosted)).

Namecheap Logo

I digress though…  Long story short, after a bunch of false starts I was able to connect the Raspberry Pi to the switch in my garage and then get a webserver up and running on it hosting okiepi.com.

Linux Mint a Windows Replacement

My laptop had been acting squirrelly for the better part of several months.  It finally got to the point where I decided it was time to flatten it and start over.  And so I did the fdisk think and started going to town.  I had my Vista install disks and my MS Office disks and everything I needed to start fresh.  Everything was going swimmingly until I hit the point where I was asked to enter my key.  Which I did.  It was at this point that the install process came to a screeching halt.  Evidently Microsoft was suspicious of this installation.  I don’t know why.  I think this was the second time I’d ever used the installation media.  It was suggested that I call MS support to verify my installation.  I don’t know why, but for some reason this really really pissed me off.  I didn’t want to call MS to verify my key. I spent ~$100 on this software, I should be able to use it without getting permission.

And it was at this point that I decided to take a look and see what had been going on in the Linux world.  I’ve used various Linux distributions in the past.  Occasionally they worked to do what I needed to get done…  which was usually something fairly specific.  More often than not it was a huge pain in the ass.  It had been such a pain in the ass that I’d never really considered using Linux as my main O/S.  I think the last time I’d made an honest stab at getting a Linux setup working was on an old machine that I wanted to use to move VHS tapes to digital.  After much tinkering I had managed to get Puppy Linux to work on it.  That machine ended up having a catastrophic failure in either the ram or the processor.

But back to my laptop…  I spent quite a bit of time researching different distributions before making the decision of what to install.  As the title suggests, I decided to install Linux Mint, specifically version 17.1 Rebecca.  I downloaded the installation image and burnt it to a DVD and then prepared myself for the hell that was to come.

Then something totally unexpected happened, it worked.

Seriously, straight up worked.  I was floored.  Everything worked.  No tinkering.  But I knew that this was Linux so I knew sooner or later the monster would raise it’s head and breath destruction.  I’m still waiting for that to happen.  I’ve had Mint installed on this laptop for over 6 months and I’ve only had to reset the system once and funny enough it was when I tried emulating a Windows program.

I find this hard to believe much less say, but for nearly every type of user this distribution of Linux can be considered a replacement for Windows.

 

Mint Desktop

Mint Desktop

 

Start Menu

Start Menu

The Physics of the Roadrunner

I’ve used the Physics of the Roadrunner and the Coyote as an introduction to Physics several times in the past.  I think it helps the kids realize that physics doesn’t have to be scary, and that they already innately have an understanding  of the topic.

Up to this point I’ve always used the power point created by Dan Burns (last image).

But every time our IT department burps every computer in the district gets fubared.  So I decided to update it a little bit and make a Prezi out of it.  Longest part was downloading all the videos from his site and then uploading them to YouTube.

I’m still in the process of writing out my notes for each slide, but thought I’d post this up now in case anyone else wanted to use it early in the semester.

The Physics of the Roadrunner Prezi

Physics First Day Activity

Instead of going over the syllabus or setting the rules or all that other nonsense that usually goes on during day one, I made a presentation and we had a group discussion on how their model of their universe was flawed.

It went freakishly well.

Here’s the presentation I used.

For their exit pass I had them write down at least one thing they’d learned in class.  No one listed less than 2 things.