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Creating a Classroom Forum

Posted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 2:54 pm
by gallopsean
Does anyone know if it is possible, easy, straightforward, etc. to create a simple classroom forum similar to this RaspberryPi Forum.

In my efforts to improve student skills in key areas of English, Math, and Computer Science I find myself often giving long and dense responses to student emails. I think that students find such direct input helpful, the feedback personalizes my instruction, the feedback models good writing, and the surgical nature of my responses allows me to direct student focus onto important problems which are difficult to address properly in class.

That said, I find that am repeating myself multiple times to multiple students on small variations of the same problem. For example, I enclose below a recent exchange between myself and a student. It would be great if I could post that student's email and my response to a Forum category (e.g., Homework Questions) so that all of my students could benefit thereby saving me the effort of writing 10 individual variations of the same email.


8:15 PM (11 hours ago)
to me

Dar Mr. Gallop,
Could you please help me with something. I am having a ton of trouble with putting this into the right words. Please save me. "Due to Bard's murder of Smaug and his survival, Bard preserved through adversity, which made him a hero."


Gallop, Sean <[email protected]>
8:02 AM (10 minutes ago)
to Jane

Dear Jane,

As an English student you have been trained for two outcomes: 1) to analyze chunks of text to extract meaning (e.g., why does the Ploughman turn away from the disaster . . .) and 2) to relay plot details. This year, I am going to ask you to elevate your game by developing abstract ideas about a text (i.e., Musee des Beaux Arts is about how indifference to the suffering of others is embedded into human nature).

This third English outcome is going to be hard, and you (and you classmates are going to struggle). With perseverance however, I am confident that you (and your classmates) are going to develop independent and powerful ideas which are fully supported by the text.

For now, please let me suggest a theme to you which you can use, change, or reject: Perseverance is a key skill of a modern hero. That's an idea, and not only is it an idea, it is an idea which you can support with the plot element that Bard persevered, and, in so, doing, became a hero by killing Smaug.

I hope that helps,
Mr. Gallop

Re: Creating a Classroom Forum

Posted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 3:21 pm
by DougieLawson
Install a LAMP (Linux, Apache2, MySQL (aka MariaDB) and PHP) stack and you can easily install phpBB3 on there.
The fastest way to install that is
sudo apt-get install phpmyadmin
as that pulls in Apache2, PHP & MySQL in one simple move.

https://www.phpbb.com/downloads/
That's the underlying, seriously ugly, feature missing pile of stuff that runs this forum.

Do NOT open that up to the public internet without spending some time installing ufw and fail2ban and making your pi userid more secure and less powerful.

Re: Creating a Classroom Forum

Posted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 3:37 pm
by gallopsean
Thanks for the quick reply. I am certain that with proper attention, your solution would work great. Unfortunately, my school has me overbooked and under-resourced with respect to time, training, and materials. I am also fairly certain that my school would bury me if I created an insecure classroom resource for 150 teenagers. I was hoping for, perhaps, a simpler solution (e.g., GoogleGroups, Google+, etc.) which I could incorporate easily, securely, and with minimal additional effort into my existing wobbly educational infrastructure (GoogleClassroom, GoogleForms, Gmail, etc.)......

Re: Creating a Classroom Forum

Posted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 4:37 pm
by kusti8
gallopsean wrote:Thanks for the quick reply. I am certain that with proper attention, your solution would work great. Unfortunately, my school has me overbooked and under-resourced with respect to time, training, and materials. I am also fairly certain that my school would bury me if I created an insecure classroom resource for 150 teenagers. I was hoping for, perhaps, a simpler solution (e.g., GoogleGroups, Google+, etc.) which I could incorporate easily, securely, and with minimal additional effort into my existing wobbly educational infrastructure (GoogleClassroom, GoogleForms, Gmail, etc.)......
Isn't Google Groups a forum software where you can create a group and discuss and have it private if you have a Google Apps account?

Re: Creating a Classroom Forum

Posted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 5:15 pm
by gallopsean
that is my understanding, I just don't have any experience with GoogleGroups and was looking for someone who had . . .

Re: Creating a Classroom Forum

Posted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 5:17 pm
by kusti8
gallopsean wrote:that is my understanding, I just don't have any experience with GoogleGroups and was looking for someone who had . . .
I've used it a few times. Just go to Google Groups, make a group and then give all the kids the link. Simple.

Re: Creating a Classroom Forum

Posted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 5:23 pm
by DougieLawson
Your RPi is not secure, it's had lots of the security features deliberately disabled to make it easier for folks coming to Linux for the first time to not get tied in security knots.

If you're going to run any server you have to do some work to harden your server, you can't leave pi:raspberry as the userid:password for a userid with sudo privileges. That's the first thing everyone will try (including the kids in your school) and that's not to say they're malicious, it's just such a simple exposure that's easy to exploit.

You should configure ssh so that you can only login with a public/private key pair. You should activate a firewall. You should update /etc/sudoers (use sudo visudo) so that in future sudo needs a user's password. You should activate an intrusion detection system - fail2ban is simple and does most of the stuff without additional configuration.

You shouldn't just dismiss the RPi as too much effort. Use this as a plan for a lesson, teach your Computing 101 kids some of the basics of hardening systems. Get them to explore what's wrong with the default security model and learn something from it. Give them a hardened system and a prize for anyone who can crack it before Xmas.

Re: Creating a Classroom Forum

Posted: Sat Sep 03, 2016 5:27 pm
by gallopsean
I did not think of creating a classroom Forum and addressing RPI security issues as perhaps a classroom project. That's a great idea; I will include it as a group project for some of kids interested in security and hacking issues.

Re: Creating a Classroom Forum

Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 5:43 pm
by ejolson
kusti8 wrote:Isn't Google Groups a forum software where you can create a group and discuss and have it private if you have a Google Apps account?
While a discussion may not be viewable by everyone on the internet, it is not clear by default that Google groups, or even the data required to create an account, compiles with educational rights and privacy legislation which may be even more restrictive than individual data privacy laws. At any rate, having each student obtain an account from a free service that is monetised through advertising and data mining is likely to raise some eyebrows.

One solution is to directly contract with Google or other commercial vendor for a school service that complies with educational privacy laws. Alternatively you can set up your own. Since the actual data in your example doesn't include grade information, this may be pretty easy to do. An open source software designed with schools in mind is moodle. However, I've never tried to run it on a Raspberry Pi.

Re: Creating a Classroom Forum

Posted: Sun Sep 04, 2016 6:54 pm
by kusti8
ejolson wrote:
kusti8 wrote:Isn't Google Groups a forum software where you can create a group and discuss and have it private if you have a Google Apps account?
While a discussion may not be viewable by everyone on the internet, it is not clear by default that Google groups, or even the data required to create an account, compiles with educational rights and privacy legislation which may be even more restrictive than individual data privacy laws. At any rate, having each student obtain an account from a free service that is monetised through advertising and data mining is likely to raise some eyebrows.

One solution is to directly contract with Google or other commercial vendor for a school service that complies with educational privacy laws. Alternatively you can set up your own. Since the actual data in your example doesn't include grade information, this may be pretty easy to do. An open source software designed with schools in mind is moodle. However, I've never tried to run it on a Raspberry Pi.
There's Google Apps for education which I assume the OP is using. In that, everything made is only available in the district and it complies with education laws because it's made for education. My school used it and it worked well.

Re: Creating a Classroom Forum

Posted: Mon Nov 07, 2016 11:08 am
by riaarora
In schooling while studying in a group .It's very important to create good atmosphere in a classroom .we, in kimber lite school educate children's with a good skills .in which include classroom atmosphere ,classroom behaviour etc.