There is a lot of options available to HelloSpace.Me customers. Below are the five most recommended for teachers to use. These are relatively easy to install, manage, update, and are useful. Our members only need to login to their own cPanel, go to Softaculous, and choose what they want to install. Softaculous provides one-click automatic installation on to your own website, and doesn’t require any coding or technical skills. To see what is available, see Softaculous in your cPanel, or the KnowledgeBase.
It’s obvious to suggest, but let’s look at why. Our first advertisement we posted was to the KOTESOL website, which was an animated banner repeating this mantra, “A teacher’s blog is their online textbook, noticeboard, career portfolio, and a lot more”. We believe that a blog is the most useful tool for this mantra, as it allows teachers to provide access to information, knowledge, and sources to students, parents, colleagues, and to potential employers. We have even written a page with +9 Reasons Why, which is actually currently on eleven reasons.
There are many blog software options. However, we strongly recommend WordPress because it is currently the most popular (about 30% of the world’s websites uses WP). Being the most popular comes with a number of important benefits, including the security and third party support. This means you can add a range of plugins to add useful features to the blog. Also, there is a huge range of themes, which means your blog can look as unique as you like.
Finally, there is a smartphone and tablet app that makes creating and updating your WordPress blog easy. Whilst your students are working, you can on your phone be updating the homework list, or correcting a minor error on the website. All you need is a device, the app, and an internet connection.
Mahara describes itself as an ePortfolio System; we call it a Learning Management System (LMS). Most people will say that Moodle is the best LMS. It is popular, or popularly known; however, in our experience, it is visually unattractive, and so students are actually less inclined to use it. If the software looks good, then they’ll more easily, more frequently, use it. Consequently, Mahara has the edge over Moodle. Furthermore, third-party Moodle apps are often behaviouristic, rather than humanistic, in nature. In contrast, Mahara allows for collaborative work, making it more humanistic (and more Vygotskian). It allows students to record evidence of their learning, and stores it for your easy access. Additionally, there is a Mahara app available for your smart device that allows you to create content on your Mahara site. You can add images, video, and journal entries. More info at Mahara. Other honorable mentions include Chamilo and Claroline.
With Softaculous, it is really easy to install ProjectSend on your own website. ProjectSend is a great way for your students to upload electronic copies of their work for you. If you need an electronic copy of assignments for plagiarism checking, for paperless marking, providing feedback, whatever, this software is perfect. It’s also a great way to share files with your classes. Language teachers can create their own audio samples of pronunciation lists or dialogues, and share them with their students to practice listening skills. Find out more at ProjectSend.
DropBox is not an option for everyone for a variety of reasons (see next weeks blog story). So, why not host your own cloud storage on your own website? It is easy to install. ownCloud on your own website is a great place to keep and store handouts that will be accessible from any internet connected device. And yes, there’s an app for that, too (see the Apple AppStore). You can share folders so sharing files is much easier. Hosting OwnCloud gives you far more control, than other commercial options. Learn more at OwnCloud.
Install this on your own website, and use this for asking for opinions or to assist in a class research project. Develop students’ statistical and informational literacy. Use this to get feedback from students, or to check their comprehension. Researchers can even use this for their projects. Learn more at LimeSurvey.
Bonus: Open Conference Systems
Are you a member of a teacher’s organisation, and you need to host a conference, organisation publication, or more? You can easily install your own Open Conference Systems onto your own website. You can issue a call for abstracts, manage reviewers, manage acceptances, and a lot more. Find out more at Public Knowledge Project. Similar to this is Open Journal Systems, which assists in managing journal submissions and publications. Learn more at PKP/OJS.
To avoid conflicts between software installations, we strongly recommend all members to do the following:
- Backup any web apps you currently have installed
- Create a new subdomain (in cPanel), for instance /blog or /lms
- Go to Softaculous and install it into that subdomain.
- Do not use “admin” as the administration username, as it is the obvious one that hackers will use.
- Use a secure but memorable password.
A subdomain is like a separate filing cabinet, so files don’t get mixed up. The downside is, you may need to install a separate SSL certificate onto it. This might not require any additional purchase; try it and find out.
Often these software packages will use MySQL as the database system. Each new package you install will have it’s own database in MySQL, and make sure the username is unique. For instance, for WordPress do not use “WP”, as it is the name that hackers will target, but something like “WP007”. The WP is so you know what it means, and the number is meaningless, but makes it much, much more difficult for hackers to discover. All hosting packages have a limited number of MySQL databases allowed. Check your plan to see if you need to upgrade or not.
Most of the software we mentioned above are free and open source. Some require payment or subscriptions. Most allows you to customise at a fee. HelloSpace.Me and Softaculous only make it easy for you to install these web apps, and all other responsibility is shared between you and the software creator.
Finally, we really recommend checking YouTube for introduction videos and demonstrations on how to setup and use the software. Of course, most web software we make available for you is free, so try installing something, try it, and then uninstall it later if you don’t like it.