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    jarbenne 10:53 pm on June 27, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    SSL Everywhere 

    Warning; technical details ahead: Over the weekend, the entirety of the Commons was switched over to the HTTPS protocol. This has been in the works for a few months now, and took a few key steps.

    We first needed to secure all of the content that you share on your site. We accomplished this by shifting all our media content to be served up using an S3 Offloads plugin developed by a company from Nova Scotia named Delicious Brains. For the most part all 200 000+ media items made the shift over to their new home. You might find you need to add your header back to the top of you blog, or if you manually referenced an image or file in a widget on your sidebar, you may need to grab the URL again now that it’s being served from a different server.

    The next step was to procure certificates for all our our custom domains. Most of the sites on the site are covered under a wildcard certificate: *, but users who have opted for a custom URL aren’t covered by this certificate. We leveraged an exciting new initiative called Let’s Encrypt to secure sites like,,, and Although these sites comprise a small subsection of the 7097 sites hosted on the Commons, I’m inspired by the work of the Domain of One’s Own project, and would love to eventually see our work extend out to allow students to being building out their own digital cloud, as referenced in that linked article from Wired Magazine:

    “Writing for EDUCAUSE Review in 2009, Gardner Campbell took the argument a step further. In A Personal Cyberinfrastructure he argued that learning to build and operate a personal cloud was a life skill students would need and should be taught”

    If you don’t see the green lock at the top of the browser bar, you might have “mixed content”. A picture of a browser bar, with the green link indicating an SSL connection.This is caused by elements on the page that aren’t secured, and are still being delivered via http, and not https. In many cases, you can navigate to the post in question, and just add an “s” to the end of the “http” portion of the URL in the embed code (most sites that offer embedded content are secured by SSL. If you use a service that isn’t secure, reach out to them on Twitter and ask them to secure their embeddable content). Mixed content has been an “issue” within the HUB (Desire2Learn/Brightspace) for a few years now, so users who navigate that space will be aware of the issue. There is a movement to secure the web that we heartily support.

    We couldn’t have done this without the help of our web-host and WordPress security specialist @boreal321.

    As always, if you run into issues, don’t hesitate to comment below, or reach out to your 21CL Consultant via email.

  • Profile photo of jarbenne

    jarbenne 12:52 pm on April 14, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Moving Media 

    We’ve started to move existing media over to a faster server to help increase the performance of the site. If you notice any issues or problems (disappearing photos would be the assumed impact if things go wrong) please reach out so we can provide a fix.

    Happy Blogging.

  • Profile photo of jarbenne

    jarbenne 9:57 pm on March 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Broadcast Posts 

    2016-03-29_21-53-15We are deploying a new functionality on the Commons called Broadcast. The Broadcast box at the bottom right of the post edit page will allow you to take a post and cross-post/duplicate/broadcast the post to another blog.

    Historically we have always felt that students should have one main blog, on which the post all of their work. We recognize that classrooms and initiatives set up group blogs for a variety of purposes, but we didn’t want students to have numerous blogs established for one grade or one course that would have one or two posts on them, and then would be abandoned, when one of the key features of blogging is the ongoing portfolio of work it provides for a student to look back on. We have attempted to endorse the idea that students could use categories to properly categorize their work, much like I do on my blog, with topics like technology, pedagogy, and the Commons.¬† This is fine, but it can make it difficult — particularly in secondary (in elementary we find the teacher is usually responsible for multiple subjects and can just Follow the blog) — for a teacher to locate the posts a student has written for History, and Science, and English, if they are using the blog for multiple courses during the same semester.

    Broadcast is our attempt to attend to this. If the English teacher creates a group blog for the course (using the Hub Sync functionality to add their students as Authors), then the students can broadcast their posts to that central blog using the new broadcast function. This provides a central location for students to see the work of their classmates. Currently comments left on the group blog sync to the student’s individual blog. The students can set it up so that the links on on the group blog will redirect back to the parent permalink (back to the student’s blog where the post was initially created.)

    We are still crushing some bugs, but would love some classrooms to test out this functionality and either email me or comment below with feedback and commentary.

    I’ve Broadcast this post over to my personal blog (so meta).

  • Profile photo of jarbenne

    jarbenne 2:58 pm on March 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply

    Publish Unlisted Posts 

    Did you know you can now post an unlisted 2016-03-07_14-53-31post on the Commons. This post won’t show up in your blog feed, or when users search your site, but will be available directly at the link for anyone you’ve shared the link with.

    Check it out by toggling the Edit button beside Visibility in your Commons Dashboard, directly above the Publish Button.

    This could be useful if you are looking to share a post more selectively with  smaller audience, or as a means of submitting a blog post to a Dropbox within the HUB prior to opening it up for comment by the blog reading public.


  • Profile photo of jarbenne

    jarbenne 2:51 pm on March 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: feedback,   

    Provide Feedback on a Draft Post 

    We have a new functionality within the Commons that allows users to add feedback to a post prior to it being published on the site.

    Here are the steps.

    This could also be useful to submit a blog post to a dropbox within the HUB prior to publication. Comment below if you have any additional questions or run into any issues.

    Thanks to Automattic for sharing this plugin on Github.

  • Profile photo of jarbenne

    jarbenne 2:22 pm on March 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply  

    Post by Email, and Other Jetpack Functionality 

    We’ve heard some feedback from users that posting from small devices like phones can be problematic. I’ve just completed an instruction sheet for activating Jetpack to allow users to leverage the Post by Email functionality to use the email app on their phone, which may provide a better editing experience. The initial steps in this tutorial would also allow users to enable other items like the Publicize settings, that allow auto-posting to social networks like Twitter and Facebook. Currently only staff are able to access this functionality because we don’t have a good way to identify student users over the age of 13. A good deal of this functionality can also be achieved using recipes on the website.


  • Profile photo of jarbenne

    jarbenne 11:27 pm on February 29, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: media   

    Managing Your Media 

    We have updated the storage provider for the Commons. This should have no impact on your site, but it has allowed us to increase the default storage capacity of your blog to 5GB (from the 750MB we previously provided). Our continued hope is that both students and teachers are able to utilize the Commons as an ongoing archive of learning from across their entire tenure at HWDSB. We will continue to monitor usage, and increase this as necessary. This increase, coupled with the ability to embed content from your Google Drive (this doesn’t impact your storage on the Commons, and your Google Drive has unlimited storage capacity) should attend to storage concerns.

    I would like to take this opportunity to ensure that everyone understands how the media library on the Commons works. All media you upload to posts, pages, or directly into the Media section of the dashboard will be listed in the Media Library. If you delete posts or pages from the blog, the media (photos, videos, files) stays in the media library. This functionality is in place to allow a blogger to re-use media in multiple posts (eg: a stock photo of students reading in every post about reading: if you deleted one of those posts, the other posts using that photo would still have access to the media). If you have deleted posts, and want to delete the media that was attached to that post, you will need to go into the Media Library and delete that content separately.

    With that in mind, note that if you delete items from the Media Library, they will no longer be available in any of your blog posts. Deleting media from the library deletes the media permanently: it cannot be recovered. Deleting files from the media library deletes the files from your blog posts.

    If you have reached the maximum quota on your blog, please email someone on the 21CL team, so that we can help increase the storage capacity of your site, or assist in finding media you are no longer using.

    As always, if you are having issues, or need assistance, you can email the 21CL team, or comment to the posts on this site.

  • Profile photo of jarbenne

    jarbenne 9:10 pm on February 7, 2016 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: , s3,   

    Some Changes to File Storage 

    We’ve instituted a change to how we store files on Commons. We’ve done extensive testing on a staging server, but there are always scenarios we may not foresee in our testing, so I’m hoping you’ll let us know if you run into issues with imagery in the next few days.

    This change should allow us to provision a larger storage capacity to all of you avid photo-bloggers out there. Please let @jarbenne know via the comments below, or via email, if you are seeing any strange behaviour with uploaded files.

  • Profile photo of jarbenne

    jarbenne 8:27 pm on November 30, 2015 Permalink | Reply  

    Twitter Curator 

    Those of you familiar with Storify might want to look into a new (to me) service offered by Twitter living at

    It allows users to query Twitter and create embedable collections of Tweets that can be shared in spaces just like this:


    Thanks to @acarpino for prompting the discovery.

  • Profile photo of jarbenne

    jarbenne 4:08 pm on November 16, 2015 Permalink | Reply
    Tags: ,   

    Giving Everyone A Little Jetpack 

    Jetpack is a plugin we’ve been running on a number of different blogs for some time now. It adds some additional functionality usually only reserved for bloggers using the service. Some of you may have it activated on your site already. We’ve developed a way to give everyone access to some of the modules in Jetpack. Staff will be able to extend that functionality by going into Settings/General and toggling on the “Enable Jetpack functionality? ” which will open up the option to sign in with a username and password (separate from your Commons login) and add more modules.

    What this does is allows us to use Jetpack with students who otherwise wouldn’t be able to sign up for a username because of age restrictions, and allows staff to take advantage of the service on their blog if they want to add additional items.

    If you were previously signed in and are now seeing an Development Mode notice in the Jetpack settings, simply go into Settings/General and turn your JetPack back on.

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