Computer Security in the Classroom – How to Lock Down Your Educational Blog

There are two situations where you might want to restrict access to your educational blog to just a few specific computers.

First, you might want to restrict the entire blog so it can only be accessed by people using school computers.
Second, you might want to restrict the login pages of your blog, so that students can only edit or modify their work using school computers. (This also helps prevents your site from getting hacked by observant students who have figured out your password.)
If you are pretty comfortable around computers and run a self-hosted blog (or have access to your website’s servers), then you should be able to lock down your class website to a few locations (IP addresses).

Why would you want to prevent your students from logging in at home?

I usually don’t allow my students to take their English work out of the classroom; I’m tired of dealing with lost homework. Besides, you can never be sure how much help a student receives at home.

Over the years, I’ve developed a folder system where all of our work stays in the folder. It’s great. First, students always come prepared to class (because their notes and drafts never leave the room). Secondly, the students have a portfolio documenting their learning over time. It’s great for metacognition because students can flip back through previous assignments in an attempt to prevent the same mistakes from happening again. Finally, I know exactly what a student is capable of because I can see all of their prewriting and drafts leading up to the published version.

However, a blog potentially ruins this keep-it-in-the-classroom policy because students can log in to their user accounts from home. The beauty of WordPress and other blogging platforms is that it can you can blog from anywhere in the world.

Also, some older students might be flexing their computer literacy (or vandalism) muscles. The login page for any blog powered by WordPress can usually be found by adding /wp-admin at the end of the website address. By locking down the wp-admin folder to a few specific IP addresses, you can greatly limit access to the administration back-end of your class blog.

How to lock down your (educational) blog’s administration / login folder.

If you have a self-hosted WordPress blog, the following trick will prevent students from logging in (or hacking your website) at home. Note: You need to have access to the .htaccess file on your website. Our web host provides access to this file, however, apparently not all web hosts do.

Figure out the IP address of the computer that you want to use to access your blog. An IP address is your internet address online. There are various sites that will tell you your current IP address.
Use a text editor (i.e. notepad) to create a file named .htaccess and cut and paste the following lines of code into the file…
Replace 123.456.789.123 and 12.345.678 with your real IP address. Hint: If your Internet Service Provider gives you a range of IP addresses (For example 123.456.789.000 to 123.456.789.999), just drop the last octet number to allow a range. (For example, allow from 123.456.789)
Upload your .htaccess file to your blog’s wp-admin folder. Now the only people who can access any file in the wp-admin folder must be using a computer with an IP address on your safe list (white list).Note: If you want to use the .htaccess file to limit access to your entire blog from specific computers, then you’ll need to copy and paste the above code into the existing .htaccess file on your website’s public folder (or wherever your WordPress blog files can be found). You must add the code into the existing .htaccess file instead of overwriting the file because WordPress has some important information in there already.

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The Educational Benefits of Website Blogging

Blogs all over the world are being used for very different reasons, from social commentary to making money. Blogging thus has become a vital source of business, information and social interaction. It has also begun to be used within the teaching system, enabling interaction on educational issues outside the normal classroom experience.

The blogging community is vast and varied, making it the perfect way to speak out and discuss topics you are interested in. Discuss particular political issues, hobbies, social debates and information particular to your course. Like online educational journals, blogs can be used for sources of information for you interest or course, with the added bonus that you can directly interact with author and other bloggers to debate and discuss the issue.

Blogging is becoming particularly valuable to shaping the way we learn in an educational setting. The debate element encourages outside of the box thinking and enables a student to articulate themselves in a debate. It is particularly useful for the shier student, who shies away from speaking out load in class, as it allows them to still interact, get across their opinion and debate the topic without feeling uncomfortable.

So what are the main pros of using a blog in an educational setting? It encourages class mates to share, discuss ideas and debate an idea. It essentially allows people to develop their own opinion and enables them to express themselves with not many limitations. It’s a great way for an individual to develop their sense of self, their beliefs and opinions, which is vital to confidence and self-esteem levels and in turn educational performance. Not only this, a blog allows for a great amount of autonomy, allowing the person to keep any information private.

Furthermore, a blog also creates a community in itself, enabling the sharing of information and the creation of friendships. It is a great way to boost teacher-student and student-student relationships by breaking down some of the barriers in the normal classroom setting.

There are a few cons of using a blog in an educational setting as the information may be at times unreliable or biased, simply because it is based on opinion rather than fact. This can be a problem as sometimes educational blogs are seen to be factual in nature, which in often more than not true due to the very medium. Regulation can also be another issue, as rude or undesirable comments may appear time to time. This problem does mean you often have to regulate comments, which can be somewhat time consuming.

A blog if monitored and used correctly for educational purposes can be an ideal platform for discussion and self-expression, as well as a place for community and friendships.

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