The Mother Blog Primer

February 5, 1906

The Concept

FeedWordPress is the plugin that allows us to create our “mother blogs.” Consider it an example of the “you are what you eat” concept. The “mother blog” is composed of the consumed feeds. FeedWordPress is our spoon. The mother takes all the student posts from their personal sites and unites them in one place. It helps answer questions like –

  • How can students work in their own sites and use them for multiple courses but still provide the class/cohort advantages of a central/standardized community hub?
  • How can I allow personalization but not go crazy going to 50 different student sites with different layouts?
  • Are there interesting ways I might reconsider the work students do if I can aggregate that work, can provide different lenses of focus, can keep it beyond the narrow confines of a course, and have other students use it in interesting ways?


A Brief Overview of the Mechanics

Some Tips

  • The child (source) blog needs to be public for this to work. If a child blog is set to Visible only to registered users of this network, Visible only to registered users of this site, or Visible only to administrators of this site then the feed won’t work. Here is how you change that.
  • Add /feed/ to the URLs you’re adding as children in the FeedWordPress panel. This will make your life easier.
  • You can use a Gravity Forms form or Google Form to gather the source URLs from students.
  • Want to add a list of authors and the number of posts in the sidebar? There’s a widget for that (and a video tutorial).
  • This works with posts. Pages don’t syndicate normally. That matters when you consider what you’re asking students to do.

Much More In-Depth FeedWordPress Discussions (from Alan Levine)

Weekly Web Harvest (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Field Botany Changed the World

Two pretty telling student quotes from the video1 above.

“I was real excited that our blog is now an example for anyone. If you want to look up high bush clover you can look on one of our blogs and find our pictures.”

“I think that knowing that the blog and the material would be accessible to anyone made the idea of putting it out there made the idea more exciting in some way but also I put more thought into it for that reason.”

The Field Botany blog ended up with 3,675 posts from 27 students. That’s some pretty serious output.

That content will remain accessible and the site can evolve2 with each iteration of the course.

Two rather simple questions stay in my head lately.

  • How can we have students do more than stairmaster work? – I’ve never cared for burning calories just to burn calories. I’d rather go somewhere. Even running in a circle is better than running in place. I can’t stop thinking about how much time and energy go into things that neither the student nor the teacher want.
  • Since we can aggregate and archive student work, how does that change what we ask students to do?
    Student work can be valuable. It can add value in the context of other student work. It can be a resource for other students. It can help set norms, build community, provide a really important window on programs . . . there are so many things this simple possibility might allow if we reconsider what we have students do.

1 That video is Molly’s great work.

2 I need to do so many things to make it better.