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Google Drive Integration

I am ridiculously excited about this new functionality on the Commons, which allows a seamless link between your Google Drive and your Blog. Now students can use Google Drive to collaborate on work, and then publish it to their blog.

This will be particularly helpful from an iPad, where locating the embed code of a Google Document was cumbersome.

Here’s the instructions:

Once we are done testing this in our environment, we will open source it to the WordPress community. As always, if you find glitches, reach out here.


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Working with Calendars

The Events Calendar and Events Calendar Pro plugins add a calendar to your website. A third plugin, called The Events Calendar – iCalendar Importer allows you to feed your blog with a calendar from another source. I’ve created an Elementary and Secondary Calendar with all of the board holidays and PD Days, along with the rotary days, at this link:




In the HUB, you can grab an ics link by clicking on the Subscribe button under your Course Calendar. By default that feed contains all of the information from all of the courses you our your student (whomever is logged in) has access to, but if you are feeding a blog, you might want to click the Drop Down menu on that Subscription window and select a specific course. This will automatically add events like due dates created through the Dropbox tool, not only onto your calendar within the HUB, but on your calendar on your blog as well.


Alternatively, you can now import events into your course in the HUB using the Import Events button. This button will take an .ics file. Unlike the Commons, the HUB won’t accept a URL, so you will have to manually update the calendar on occasion. Open the first link I’ve shared here in a browser, and save it to your Desktop to get an .ics file you can import into your course.

If you import this today, you’ll notice that the feed ends around March. This is a event number limitation with the Outlook calendar feed, which will slowly rectify itself as we move closer to the end of the year.

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Purge the Subscriber List

It’s the end of another school year. This seems like a good time to clean up the subscriber list on your blog so it’s ready for a fresh batch of parents in September.

Some of you will just need to go into the dashboard and click the Subscriptions menu to remove them all. Others may be running an older subscription service: here’s how to clear that one:

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Archiving and Clean up

Those of you looking to archive your work this year, particularly in cases where your classroom blog isn’t a record of your own learning as much as it is a portfolio of learning experiences from your current students, might want to take a look at this video, that details the process of taking your blog and exporting it into an ebook keepsake for parents.

This BlogCleanUp PDF provides a detailed tutorial on how to sort through and clean up the digital wing of your classroom.

Students should leave their blog as a record of their ongoing learning here at HWDSB. Don’t delete any of that great work!

Have a great summer.

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Don’t Flag this Post as Inappropriate

Those of you with blogs will notice a new functionality that allows users to flag posts and comments on the site as inappropriate. This has always been an option on the main site, and we are now extending it to all of the sites on the Commons. Only logged in users see the option to flag content. When an item is flagged, the 21CL team is notified, along with anyone who holds the admin role on the blog on which the content exists. We’ve also enhanced these notifications so that they not only send an email, but also result in a message in the top toolbar: this is particularly useful for our members who aren’t checking email regularly, but are logging into the Commons and noting their unread notification alerts.

Some of you may have noticed these emails populating your inbox. There are two types:

  • One that indicates that something you have posted has been identified by someone else as inappropriate
  • One that indicates that an item on the blog you are the administrator on has been flagged

Please speak to your students about what constitutes content that should be flagged. As always, if you have questions, comment away.

#moderation, #plugins, #updates

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A New Look for the Learning Network

In an effort 2015-06-03_17-14-53to make the Learning Community easier to navigate, We’ve updated the theme. The biggest change you will notice is the new sidebar navigation layout. In the previous theme all of the menu items on your profile were located at the top, beneath your avatar. Each of the main navigational elements (Activity, Profile, Sites, Notifications, etc.) had an associated sub-menu that appeared as a smaller font below below. Now those main elements are available on the left, with the sub-menu populating across the top in a way that highlights the main features and provides better separation between elements.

In the comments below, let us know below what you think of the new layout, or if you come across anything that looks out-of-sorts, let us know that too.

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If you think your blog needs a bit of a change, I’ve just uploaded 4 new themes to the Commons to give your site a bit of a refresh. You can go into Appearance/Themes and preview how the new themes would look on your site. If you want to see an example populated with content, here’s a few links to demo sites using the new themes over on





There are a few themes reaching the end of their life, and will need to be retired from the Commons theme repository. Specifically Chapters, Crisp, Editorial, Slanted are starting to look their age, and don’t meet our current code standards. If you are using those themes, I would head over to the Theme repository and try something new on for size.


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Going Mobile

WP-Touch — One of the plugins we offer as an option on the Commons — has been network activated. I wrestle with how we deploy plugins. If you are not familiar with the idea, a plugin is like an “app” for your blog, adding additional functionality that by default you don’t have. We don’t activate all of them because we know there are a lot of different ways that people use the Commons, and some plugins don’t fit the type of site you are building. Running too many un-necessary plugins can create bloat, and could slow down your site. But sometimes I wonder if more people would use a certain functionality if they knew more about the plugins we have available. This is one I think everyone should be using, especially when you consider the amount of users who are accessing your site via a mobile device.

If you want to read more about how Google is prioritizing search on mobile-friendly sites, you can do so here: That link will also explain how you can customize your mobile theme on the Commons through the WP-Touch menu.

It doesn’t hurt that WP-Touch is a product of our local #HamOnt friends over at Brave New Code. Hope you like the new mobile experience. As always, add your comments below if you have have anything you would like assistance with.

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Open Graph Protocol

Open Graph LogoI’m exploring the open graph protocol to enable links shared on social media to be content-rich. This functionality exists already on the Jetpack enabled blogs.  The same functionality should now exist for all blogs that don’t have Jetpack active: like this one.

When tweeted, this post should have a media-rich Twitter Card.

Like this:


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We moved the Commons over the March break. When we started this journey back in June 2011, the only server option we had was an internal Windows server here at the board. Of course it was a big win just to be able to launch our own blogging platform, so we weren’t about to quibble about server flavours.

Those of you who know the server landscape, will know that running WordPress on IIS (Windows) is not a popular option. Traditionally the open source community has embraced Linux as the server of choice. Google runs on Linux. Facebook runs on Linux. Invariably in the discussion forums where we lurk to sort out issues and glitches, suggestions abound for how to fix something on Linux, with little to no information on how to sort out the issues on IIS. Although there have been improvements in how IIS handles PHP code, we always knew there would come a time when we would need to move to Linux to serve our growing user base more effectively. That day has come. With more than 18 000 users, and more than 5000 blogs, often the Commons was the most frequently visited server in the board.

We’ve moved to a Linux, running NGINX on SSD servers. We are now on the cutting edge when it comes to server infrastructure. We trust that this move, which also includes a redundancy solution that should make server downtime an incredibly rare occurrence, will help us grow to continue to meet the needs of all of our HWDSB bloggers. We are very excited about this change. There are improvements and functionality additions that we couldn’t make on the old server, that we will be able to provide here.

That said, for the next few weeks we will need your support as we sort out all of the implications of moving the server. Any irregularities you find, please don’t hesitate to post them here in the comments, send an email to @jarbenne, or connect with the IIT Help Desk.