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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: *.commons.hwdsb.on.ca, 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 mrpuley.ca, suedunlop.ca, adunsiger.com, and mrjarbenne.ca. 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 

    We 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).

     
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