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The NYSED Technology Plan’s first goal addresses digital content:

Standards-based, accessible digital content supports all curricula for all learners.

Accessible is defined as: content available anywhere, easy to retrieve using multiple technology devices, and content is universally designed. Aligning digital content to the New York State learning standards is how we will ensure quality and relevance in the PreK-12 environment.

Learners and practitioners both need access to rich digital media. Alignment with standards help make appropriate content more easily accessed by all.

New York has moved in this direction already through the auspices of state public broadcasting stations. EDVideoOnline is a portal to PowerMediaPlus which provides teachers with access to downloadable video, audio, and images for use with their students. They also include worksheets and quizzes.

Unfortunately, this is a subset of what was available in the past. When I started using this program, it included full access to the Discovery Education library. Public stations scaled back the program to the current offerings. They said too few were using it to justify the expense. I didn’t see a lot of teachers using it either, but those who did were excited about it.

Beyond PowerMediaPlus and Discovery Education, New York needs go further in digitizing and providing access to its own holdings. New York museums and libraries hold a treasure trove of material. Some institutions have done a great job digitizing materials and providing access, while others have done little.

I hope this means access to more content in the future. Access to a broader audience is also essential. While everyone can access some of the material, students are shut out of PowerMediaPlus. This repository could provided a wealth of content for independent study, exploration, and working on assignments.

Access to digital content also encompasses licensing. Let me relate my own experience. I have spent countless hours creating media rich presentations for delivering engaging social studies lessons for my class. They include historical documents, images, maps, and embedded digital video. Under fair use, there is no question that I was legally using these materials for my own classroom.

I thought it would be great to share these materials with other practitioners throughout the state (and ideally beyond), so I contacted PowerMediaPlus about doing such. In essence, they replied that there was no way I could do such legally.

We need to be able share what we create with this digital media with other learners and practitioners. They need to be able to reuse and remix that work to adapt it to their individual needs. NYSED should explore Creative Commons Licensing for content that is state owned and that of state funded institutions. They need to negotiate for means to more broadly share the content they pay for through entities such as PowerMediaPlus. Further, it needs to create a platform to facilitate such sharing.

In conclusion, there is more to digital content than availability. There needs to be access and the ability to remix it and share with others.

I will continue a discussion of New York State’s Educational Technology Plan in future posts, including a discussion of each of the six broad goals. I look forward to hearing your comments.

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As I ramp up our school’s WPMU blog platform, I look forward to rolling out the new 2.7 interface. I have updated and tested my favorite plugins. DSader’s More Privacy Options, and Peter’s Collaborative Email still work. To make things even better I found a pair of plugins that will make our configuration more secure and give greater control over user privileges.

First off, there was a security hole wherein students could view pending comments that have not been approved by an administrator. Dean Matteson discovered this flaw when he realized that student comments were appearing without his having reviewed them and wrote about in his blog. He came up with a plugin that blocks access to the comments page.

Looking for new plugins for our school site I found the WPMU Menus plugin that not only solves this problem, but it allows you to enable or disable not only comments, but almost every other function in the dashboard interface. Site Admin Options reveals new choices.

wpmu_menu

The screen shot encompasses only half the options available. Beyond security, this allows administrators to greatly simplify the back end user interface making it easier for younger students to navigate.

wpmu_menu2

This takes care of the comments security issue. I tested it further by appending edit-comments.php to the blog backend urls. I was still unable to access the comments page and it redirected me to the profile page.

The next plugin of particular interest is Role Manager. Role Manager is not a WPMU plugin. It must be enabled and configured on each individual blog. Role Manager allows you to change the permissions on any existing role or group of users. It also allows you to create new roles as well. Go to Users–>Roles.

roles1

While logged in as admin, you can also configure the permissions of an individual user by accessing their profile.

roles2

Of course, if you give a user the permissions to access a feature, you also need to enable access in the Menus.

I look forward to relaunching our school blogging platform this March with a fresh new back-end interface, greater security, and a simplified dashboard for our students. If anyone has any input regarding use of WPMU for the K12 setting, I’d love to hear from you!

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Since I work in a k12 environment, I needed to make a plugin that removed “Public” as an option when users post content. I didn’t take me long to locate the file engine/lib/access.php as the file that controls these functions.

I hacked the core code and indeed it functioned as I wanted it to. Hacks to the core are undesireable because it complicates upgrading, so I wanted to create an override. I worked many hours trying to create a hack of the core access.php, but I was unsuccessful. I just couldn’t figure out how to write a start.php that would function. Finally, I had a break through, but it had nothing to do with overriding engine/lib/access.php.

Diego Andrés Ramírez Aragón and Jens von der Heydt suggested that the key to this may reside in the views directory. I knew how to write an override of elgg views. First I created the initial directories for the plugin:

nopublic/
nopublic/views

To find the rest of the pathway, I had to find where the access file was in the views directory and mirror it. Since it was in

views/default/input/access.php

I created

nopublic/views/default/input/

Next I opened created a copy of the original access.php, made my hacks and inserted it plugins’s input folder.

$class = $vars['class'];
if (!$class) $class = “input-access”;

if (!is_array($vars['options']))
{
$vars['options'] = array();
$vars['options'] = get_write_access_array();
}

if (is_array($vars['options']) && sizeof($vars['options']) > 0) {

?>

was changed to:

$class = $vars['class'];
if (!$class) $class = “input-access”;

if (!is_array($vars['options']))
{
$vars['options'] = array();
$vars['options'] = get_write_access_array();
unset($vars['options'][2]);
}

if (is_array($vars['options']) && sizeof($vars['options']) > 0) {

?>

The start.php requires no hooks. Simply initialize and register the plugin:

<?php
function nopublic_init() {

}

register_elgg_event_handler(‘init’,'system’,’nopublic_init’);
?>

I put that in my plugin directory, along with an manifest.xml file so now I had:

nopublic/start.php
nopublic/manifest.xml
nopublic/views/default/input/access.php

That disables the public access option–the basic nopublic plugin. There are many directories in the views folder that can be overridden this easily.

Clearly, there is much to explore with views overrides. I look forward to learning more about the manifestations of each file. They provide important customization options beyond themes.

I’d like to hear how others are using views overrides!

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By request, I have written another access plugin. This one eliminates the “private” and “logged in users” options leaving only “public.”

That’s all it does. Not much else to say but download here.

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I plan on using Elgg in a K12 environment, particularly my fifth graders. In order to do this in a manner that complies with our school policies and culture, I had to make some changes. Since the Elgg environment is unmoderated, I had to remove all public access to content.

Elgg’s “Walled Garden” does part of the job in that it disables public registration, but any content that users created had the option of public access which would be visible to individuals not logged in.

I created a plugin with a view override that removes this option. Now users have the choice of private or logged in users (along with any friends’ collections) when setting the access to content.

Still, access to the site could be had by RSS feeds and OpenDD. I’m not sure how big an issue this is, but I’d like to be able to do it. Dave Tosh suggested, I created an override of owners’ block eliminating those options. I believe access to these can be had unless I delete the rss and opendd views from the core. That will work, but I wonder if I could create an override of those views that disables them. I plan on looking into this.

No links to subscribe to feeds

I combined my initial plugin, with Marcus Povey’s “Walled Garden.” With “Higher Walls,” not only is registration disabled, but so is public access. Links to RSS and OpenDD feeds are also disabled.

Another issue remains. If access to content is restricted to logged in users, then the Latest Activity on the default main page will remain as a header with nothing below it. I used Customindex plugin to change the mainpage to a login page by pasting:

$form_body = “<p><label>” . elgg_echo(‘username’) . “<br />” . elgg_view(‘input/text’, array(‘internalname’ => ‘username’, ‘class’ => ‘login-textarea’)) . “</label><br />”;
$form_body .= “<label>” . elgg_echo(‘password’) . “<br />” . elgg_view(‘input/password’, array(‘internalname’ => ‘password’, ‘class’ => ‘login-textarea’)) . “</label><br />”;
$form_body .= elgg_view(‘input/submit’, array(‘value’ => elgg_echo(‘login’))) . “</p>”;
$form_body .= “<p>” . elgg_echo(”) . “</a>  <a href=\”". $vars['url'] .”account/forgotten_password.php\”>” . elgg_echo(‘user:password:lost’) . “</a></p>”;
echo elgg_view(‘input/form’, array(‘body’ => $form_body, ‘action’ => “”. $vars['url'] .”action/login”));

into customindex/views/default/customindex/content.php.

Further modifications could be done on the custom index, but this certainly serves the purpose. It is comparable to what one would encounter in a password protected WordPressMU blog.

Now I am convinced that Elgg can be modified to work within the K12 environment. Higher Walls and removing rss and opendd views directories restricts access to the community very effectively. A better solution would disabling rss and opendd through the plugin rather than deleting core files.

Now that these matters appear worked out, I plan to focus more on Elgg in terms of pedagogy. Nonetheless, I will tweak “Higher Walls” over time.

Download

Thanks to:

  • Marcus Povey
  • Boris Glumpler
  • Jens von der Heydt
  • Diego Andrés Ramírez Aragón

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