Posterous: Class blog with no logins!

I have 2 rules for using technology in my classroom:

  1. send students to as few external sites as possible, and
  2. no new usernames and passwords!

That’s why I love embedding so much.  However, what are you supposed to do when you want students to share blog posts and comment?  Surely you must need to have them sign up to a blog service?  No longer!  Posterous steps in and fills this void nicely with a simple, but elegant solution that allows users to manage a blog that others can post to via email.  As a teacher, you can manage what Posterous calls a Space, and invite students via email to post blog entries.  Students simply send an email to a simple email (yourblogtitle@posterous.com).  Students can even include pictures and videos in their posts which will show up on the post.

To get started, head over to Posterous.com, where you will be asked to sign up.

Once you have created a login, you will see the following menu on the left side of the screen.  Select MANAGE SPACES.

This will bring up a list of all of your spaces, and on the right hand side you will see the option to create a new space.  You can choose to create Public Spaces that are open for everyone to see, or Private Spaces.  Private spaces will even allow you to password protect your site should you choose to.

When you create your site you will give it a name, and it will then create a suitable URL.  Your URL will be linked to the email students will use to post, so you may want to keep it as simple and easy to remember as possible.  You can always change the URL later through the setting menu though.

Once you have create a space, you might want to fiddle around with the settings.  If you select manage spaces you should get a screen that allows you to change the basic settings.  There are about 40 different themes to choose from, and you can select the options you want for posting and comments.  If you are setting this up as a student blog, then I suggest that you have CONTRIBUTORS CAN POST, and ANYONE CAN COMMENT selected.  MAKE SURE you have checked the  MANAGE COMMENTS tick box though to prevent spam and any other outside sources commenting on your class blog.

After you have set up your Space, you can invite students, parents, teachers, etc to post to your blog.  Click on the MANAGE MEMBERS tab on the right side of the page.

You will be asked to ADD PEOPLE TO YOUR SITE.  Simply copy/paste in your students emails, and select the CONTRIBUTORS tab.  I might suggest adding parents as FOLLOWERS so that they can see their student’s work, but not interfere in the discussion.

Students will receive an email, and be able to start posting via email immediately!

If you’d like, you can go to my G7 Math blog, where I have a specific post for my students explaining how to post using email.  (NOTE: This site will be up and running Term 2, so currently there are no student posts!  They’ll be there around mid-January if you’d like to check back then).

I have successfully posted from Gmail, my iPhone with a photo attached, and my iPad with a video attached.  My class webpage simply has a link to the blog, so students still only need one website, and one login (their emails).

If your not interested in starting a class blog without logins, but want students to make some simple webpages, you might want to check out my recent post on CHECK THIS.

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CheckThis: Student websites without a login.

Have you ever wanted to have students create a website, but either a) students did not have accounts on an appropriate hosting site (i.e. wordpress, blogger, google sites, wikispaces, etc), or b) you don’t want students to waste time on complex coding or layout?  If so, then CheckThis.com might be what you’re looking for.

This site is a simple tool for creating websites for quick feedback, but without the hassle of having to log in.  It’s as simple as heading over to CheckThis.com and clicking the Start a page now tab.

You or your students will be directed to a blank slate ready to insert information and links quickly.  Add a title, and then select one of the green tab options to insert text, a link, or a video.  Unfortunately there is no content uploading feature, so images and videos need to be hosted on Flickr or YouTube rather directly on the page.

Once you have inserted your content, then in the top right corner of the page you can select from a few options before publishing.

Selecting the Settings Gear will allow you to mark the page public/private/hidden, as well as how long the page will last.  This second feature is great for concerns of privacy.  Students work can be marked Hidden and to expire in One Week.  This will give you time to assess the information, but greatly reduce the chances of someone maliciously finding your students.  This combined with the anonymous nature of publishing provides parameters for strong protection of students that other publishing platforms cannot provide.

The Paint Drop will bring up various Appearance options such as the background image and basic color selections.  This will allow you to customize your page, but not provide so many distractions for students needing to quickly publish their information.

When the page is completed, selecting the Publish option will allow students to publish their site without a sign-in or opt to use Twitter, Facebook, or Google to save their work.  If work is published without a sign in, a link is given to bookmark for future editing if modifications are needed.

Suggested Student Uses:

  • Quick 1-2 period websites to present research
  • Share group brainstorms with the rest of class
  • Create a website instead of a report and include video and images

Suggested Teacher Uses:

  • Create quick web portals for various learning topics
  • Create quizzes that will expire in one week
  • Make a simple class website

Toon Doo

Toon Doo

Suggestions for Teacher Use:
– Create a toon to illustrate a concept or idea
– Create a comic book to illustrate step-by-step instructions
– Post fun reminders to your webpage
– Find toons that have already been created and embed them into your page
Suggestions for Student Use:
– Create a toon to illustrate understanding of a concept or idea
– Create illustrations to accompany story writing
– Create a comic book for a debate issue that shows a discussion of both sides of an argument

Voice Thread

Embed Voice Threads for students to share and collaborate.

Students and teachers can collaboratively create and comment on almost anything.  When finished you can play back the process.  Basically it’s a way to have a non-linear discussion.  Comments can be left in text, by voice, or by drawing on the presentation itself.

I’ve seen this tool used very effectively by our Mandarin teacher (@alisonkis on Twitter), for having students submit oral assignments as at home practice.  Truly though, this is great for any subject you want students to discuss outside of the class, or in class in a non-linear way.

Spicy Nodes

Spicy Nodes is a powerful mind-mapping tool. That uses algorithms to produce interactive movement between the components of the mind map.  Overall it gives it the feel of having weight and elasticity to the ‘nodes’ or mind-map bubbles.

It is still in a Beta testing phase, so there are still some bugs to be worked out.  I found that the larger files tended to be quite slow, so it might not be ready yet for mapping EVERYTHING you’re thinking, but it has some nice potential for education.
When creating your NODEMAP, as they call them, you have the option to choose some basic STYLES, which give you a starting background color, node color, and connector style.
EDITING CONTENT is admittedly a bit tricky.  You basically create an outline version of your mind-map, which will then be rendered into the nodemap.  It would be nice if you could edit the nodemap itself, but at the moment this is not possilbe.
When EDITING DETAILS you can add an optional description that will show up when the node is clicked.  One nice feature is the ability to load IMAGES and VIDEOS directly from the web into the nodemap via a copy/paste of a URL.  You also have the option of customizing the colors if you’re a control freak like I am!
Once you have all of the content set, you can go back to EDIT DETAILS and at the bottom of the page you will be given a few options.  GET URL will give you the nodemap url, that you can email to others, or paste into a link on your page.
To EMBED the nodemap directly into your own site, choose GET HTML.  Select the size you want the embed object to be; copy the code; then use an appropriate EMBED GADGET  to put the nodemap right into your page.
Below is the nodemap that I have in my class page.  I wanted to highlight the additional resources available to my students, and found that they often did not go to the links (or even know they were there!).  I have created this nodemap, and will be adding links and videos as they are relevant.  If you would like to see it actually in action you can visit my Grade 7 Math page.