16 Years of Web Hosting Changes with WordPress and Other Web Platforms: The Lessons Continue

This past December, I started the laborious and often stressful process of migrating my 40+ websites (mostly running WordPress) to a new web host. This time, I’m moving from a VPS (virtual private server) with Site5.com to a VPS with LiquidWeb. My monthly costs are doing down by $31, while my monthly allowed transfer is increasing from 1.5 TB (terabits) to a whopping 10 TB. My server RAM has gone down from 3 GB to 2 GB, but because the provided disk storage is on a SSD (solid state drive) it seems faster and snappier to load. My use of a WordPress caching plugin (Comet Cache) on most of my sites also contributes to their responsiveness. With this changover to Liquid Web, my disk space has gone up from 75 to 100 GB. I updated the graphic below which I originally created in January 2014 for the post, “Why I Switched My WordPress Web Host from WP Engine to Site5.” I’m not done with this migration process, but I’m about halfway finished, and have reached some notable personal milestones. In this post, I’ll share some of my lessons learned from the painful but necessary web host migration “this time around.”

Choose Your Web Host Carefully

How do you decide which web host to use? Since web hosting is generally going to involve a long term business relationship, you definitely want to choose carefully. Our local Oklahoma City WordPress Users Group (@okcwpug) has been a great place for me to get WordPress recommendations from others through the years, but my number one “trusted WordPress” organization since the late 2000s has been iThemes (@ithemes), a WordPress plugin, theme, and services company based in Edmond, Oklahoma. (Full disclosure: I did some contract work for iThemes for a couple years around 2012-13). I chose Site5.com on the advice of iThemes back in 2014, and since LiquidWeb is iThemes’ recommendation for fully managed VPS hosting now, that’s who I’m switching to. (Of course I did my own research and checking around, and LiquidWeb’s pricing and feature tiers are very competitive with others.)

I think it also pays to shop around for a new web host every few years. This definitely isn’t something you want to change frequently, but I’ve noticed that pricing for existing accounts and services seems to stagnate when you stay with your same web host. If you want a better deal, you have to shop around. While hosting costs haven’t declined precipitously, they HAVE gone down while provided hosting specs for comparable prices have improved.

Alan Levine (@cogdog) is a friend and another trusted source of WordPress advice. Based on his encouragement, I considered switching my sites over to Reclaim Hosting (@reclaimhosting), but it turns out the number of sites I’m running and my need for a VPS put me out of their target market. If you are an educator and just have one or a few websites to host, however, I’d definitely encourage you to consider them. The company has its roots in #ds106 and with the amazing Jim Groom (@jimgroom), among a host of others. They are a top notch group and are running a great company with excellent services.

Register Domains and Host Podcasts Separately from Hosting

In my experiences over the past 16 years using and paying for different web hosting services, I’ve found it’s a “best practice” to both register your domains as well as host your podcasts with a SEPARATE service from your web host. The reason is that when you have your domains registered with a different company than your web host, it’s a much simpler and faster process to switch web hosts. I recommend registering domains either with Google Domains or GoDaddy.

Back in 2014, when I briefly tried hosting my main website with WPengine, I had to move all my podcast content (about 400 episodes dating back to 2005) over to another service. The reason was that WPengine will host your WordPress website, but they won’t host media assets for podcasts. As a result of that experience (which eventually took me to Site5.com for web hosting) I discovered the benefits of hosting podcasts on the Amazon Cloud, specifically with the Amazon S3 service. I pay just a few dollars a month for quite a bit of podcast hosting and transfer costs with Amazon, and now I don’t have to worry about migrating that content when I switch web hosts because it’s not hosted on the same servers as my WordPress websites.

The notable exceptions to this are the two websites I still maintain which are running the wonderful, free and open source podcasting software “Podcast Generator.” I think I discovered Podcast Generator in the course of my dissertation research (“Impact Analysis of Phonecasted Lecture Summaries”) in the late 2000s. The podcast generator sites I maintain, and recently updated during my latest web host migration saga, are:

  1. testimonies and tales: audio interviews about Christian faith and mission work
  2. Lecurecasts by Wesley Fryer: audio recordings from class

The latter site includes all my class sessions recorded as MP3 audio files from the Fall of 2010 at the University of North Texas, and the Spring of 2011 at the University of Central Oklahoma. I have no idea if anyone has found these sites useful or beneficial since those courses concluded, but it’s still a good example of what’s possible and eminently “doable” with course lecturecasts if an instructor / professor wants to… as long as access to a PHP-capable web hosting account is available.

Consider Sitesucker Static Versions of Archived WordPress Sites

Here’s one of my newest lessons learned in the course of migrating and archiving websites: Consider using the MacOS-only software Sitesucker for WordPress websites which you no longer plan to add content to or accept comments on. As Adam Croom (@acroom) explained in his August 2017 post, “A Web Diet: Converting WordPress Sites Over to Static Sites,” there are at least four clear benefits to using a static site created with Sitesucker:

  1. …you are less vulnerable to becoming infected through an out-of-date theme or plugin. If you aren’t actively updating the site, you are making yourself susceptible to a lot of mean people on the web.
  2. You can host it on any type of web server.
  3. You can even just keep it locally on your computer and access it via your web browser.
  4. Because of it’s portability, it’s much easier to share a static site as an open education resource (OER).

I’ve experienced WordPress hacks several times in the past ten years, and it’s not something I care to repeat again. Our shared computing environment is MUCH more hostile today than it was “in the early days” when I first started dabbling with HTML, and if you don’t NEED the mySQL and PHP elements of WordPress which make sites dynamic, don’t use them! In addition to Adam’s post linked above, I also commend Alan Levine’s posts on archiving WordPress sites:

  1. Archiving Old WordPress Sites as Static HTML (August 2016)
  2. Organizing My Pile of Old Web Bones (January 2018)

For this round of WordPress website migrations, I opted to use Sitesucker to archive our son’s 2008 website “String and Me” which I helped him create to share 9 different string figure video tutorials, also included in this YouTube playlist. Per Alan’s recommendations, I turned off all commenting on posts before using Sitesucker to download the entire site. Sitesucker reminds me of a program that was a favorite when I first started teaching in an elementary computer lab in Lubbock, Texas, in 1998-99: WebWhacker. We used it to create offline copies of some websites our students used for web research, because “in those days” we didn’t have direct classroom connections to the Internet – We didn’t even have (yet) T1 lines connecting our buildings to the main district network. So, it’s old school, but it works and there are good reasons to use it for website archival.

One of the tricky things I had to figure out involved web server permissions for the uploaded files created by Sitesucker. I used to use a FTP client (like CyberDuck, which is free) to transfer files to and from my web hosting accounts, but a number of years ago I discovered the File Manager within CPANEL is much easier and can handle almost all my file transfer needs. One exception is resetting file permissions. I needed to set permissions for uploaded Sitesucker files to 755, which allows any web visitor to view and click on the static webpages. I couldn’t figure out how to do this “recursively” within CPANEL, but did with CyberDuck. After connecting to the folder containing all the Sitesucker files, you just press “Command-i” (on a Mac) and choose the desired permissions, and click the “Apply changes recursively” button. That’s it.

Beware of Wordfence File and Data Changes

If you run self-hosted WordPress websites today, you need to be running a security plugin like iThemes Security Pro or using a WordPress-specific security service like Securi’s Web Application Firewall. In the course of experimenting with and running a variety of WordPress security options, I used Wordfence on multiple sites for several years. While I don’t use it any longer, during my ongoing website migration process I learned that Wordfence makes changes to WordPress files as well as mySQL data tables that may not be deleted and fixed when you disable the plug-in. The Wordfence Assistant plugin is helpful in deleting much of that unwanted data, but I learned it’s not a complete solution. After a great deal of frustrating hand wringing and Google searches, I finally figured out that I needed to change the code in a user.ini file for WordPress to get my BackupBuddy archive to properly reinstall on my new web hosting account.

Backupbuddy is Your Best Friend for WordPress

BackupBuddy by iThemes is, without question, my most valuable and helpful web tool for migrating websites to a new web host, and also insuring that I won’t lose WordPress website data in the case of a hack or other unforeseen problem. They run different discount promotions throughout the year, and you can generally get their entire Plugin Suite for 35% to 50% off, depending on when you buy. I highly recommend it. (And they’re not compensating me in any way to say this!)

Wildcard DNS Forwarding

DNS forwarding is used when you change the web address of a particular website, and you want the old address to continue working. Alan Levine has a good description of how to make this kind of change to your DNS records with your web registrar in the January 2018 post I already recommended, “Organizing My Pile of Old Web Bones.”

In my case, I’d previously maintained a separate “Christian blog” which I’d titled, “Eyes Right.” (eyesright.speedofcreativity.org). I’ve been working on a book project for several years which has gone through several title changes, from “Digital Witness for Jesus Christ” (www.dw4jc.com) to now “Pocket Share Jesus.” I changed my Christian-focused Twitter ID from @eyesright to @pocketshare last year, but hadn’t changed my blog address. In making this migration to LiquidWeb, I changed my Christian blog title and address over to “Pocket Share Jesus” (pocketshare.speedofcreativity.org). For more of the backstory on this, check out the “About” page of my Christian blog.

The technical benefit to setting up Wildcat DNS forwarding for my previous site to the new one is that older tweets as well as Google search results should still work and resolve to their correct, “new” web links. I don’t have a ton of followers and web traffic to that site or that Twitter ID, but for the digital content I’ve shared previously I’m thankful to keep the links working! Avoiding broken links is a good thing, and Wildcard DNS changes can help as long as you still have control over the original domain name.

CPANEL Database Tool Repair

Sometimes WordPress mySQL data can become corrupted. This can happen from hacks, but it can also happen over the course of time as different plugins and web visitors access and use the mySQL tables. mySQL is generally a “black box” I don’t mess with directly, except to occasionally delete overhead using phpMyAdmin. For some reason, one of the WordPress sites I’ve been working to migrate the past week got corrupted and stopped working entirely. Visiting the site resulted in a WordPress database connection error.

I ended up resolving this by opening “mySQL Databases” in CPANEL, and under the MODIFY DATABASES heading choosing to REPAIR the database corresponding to my broken WordPress website. Fortuitously in this case, that fixed the mysterious problem which had disconnected by website from its database. If that had not of worked, I was planning to use the most recent BackupBuddy archive of the site to restore it on my new web host.

Siloed CPANEL Setup with WHM

One of the biggest differences with the new website setup I’m configuring now with LiquidHost involves the number of CPANEL accounts. Previously with my other web hosts, I’d just used a single CPANEL account to setup all my sites. I learned from the LiquidWeb support team that this isn’t a good idea. The best practice is to setup a separate CPANEL account for each web domain you have and maintain. While you can use the ADD-ON DOMAINS feature within CPANEL to add another domain in a single CPANEL installation, it’s better not to from a security as well as performance standpoint.

WHM (web host manager) is another web-based graphical user interface (GUI) offered by the CPANEL creators, which facilitates the process of creating web hosting accounts for different domains. Both the CPANEL and WHM software is licensed, so you generally pay a monthly fee to use it with your web host, but in my experience it’s WELL worth the cost. I’m not a Linux command line guru, so these tools are invaluable and allow me to do things with web hosting that I’d never be able to figure out (or certainly would be unlikely to take the time to both figure out and do) without them.

Value and Power of Recorded Audio

The last lesson learned I’ll share in this post regards the value and power of recorded audio. In the last couple weeks I migrated my short audio recordings from Audioboom and Audioboo over to Anchor.fm, to the channel anchor.fm/wfryer. Lots of the content there includes family recordings from vacations, holidays, and trips over the years, and there is some priceless stuff. I haven’t added to the site in 2 years, but I also just migrated a website I titled “Sounds of My World,”  which is an ambient audio and sound recording website I started just for fun sometime after I published my first book in 2011, “Playing with Media.”

I was inspired to start the site and project by Jess McCulloch’s (@jessmcculloch) website, “Life Sounds Like This.” I absolutely LOVE and am so thankful to have recorded many of the moments that are now preserved on that site. I considered archiving it as a static site like “String and Me” with Sitesucker, but after listening to some of the recordings I’ve decided to keep adding to the site when I can.

Another site I just migrated, but have continued to add to more consistently over the years, is my “Fuel for Educational Change Agents” podcast channel. This is a space where I’ve shared and continue to share unedited and “lightly edited” audio recordings of different conference presentations, by me and (with permission, of course) by others. Thanks to YouTube, podcasting platforms like Anchor, and many other media sites, we are absolutely awash in rich media choices today. The overwhelming plethora of sources for personal media consumption should not deter us, IMHO, from creating and sharing media about which we are interested and/or personally invested.

This includes both family-related audio recordings as well as stuff we can do professionally – and stuff that’s just fun! This is part of the thesis of “Playing with Media: simple ideas for powerful sharing” from 2011: The more we play with media, the more comfortable we will become as media creators and sharers, and that expertise can positively carry over into the classroom lessons we design and teach / facilitate with our students!

Here’s a closing personal example of why recording and archiving audio can be quite powerful. My wife’s dad passed away in January, and her mom has now been moved into a nursing home as she continues to battle late stage Alzheimer’s. This past weekend we visited her, and I honestly don’t know how much longer she is going to hang on to life. She was unable to speak, but did respond to my wife and I as we both sang different songs to her. She mouthed some of the words, and made eye contact with us at times as we sang. Other than those moments, her eyes were closed as she lay on her bed.

We sang verses from Jesus Loves Me, Jesus Loves the Little Children, Happy Birthday, and Christmas carols including Away in a Manger, Angels We Have Heard on High, and Silent Night.

As we sat on the floor by her bedside singing,  I remembered that I had a copy of our son singing “Jesus Loves Me” when he was about 4 years old on my phone. I’d uploaded it to Apple Music, so it’s part of our iTunes Match songs. I played it on my phone and she listened, it brought tears to my eyes (as it still does) to think about what a gift it was to be able to share this. I don’t think she knew it was her grandson singing about 16 years ago, but it was the sweet voice of a child singing a much beloved song that she still knew in her heart.

Here’s a copy of that short song, which I uploaded to my channel over on Anchor.fm. I do not think we can put a price on the value of this song to us today.

Among all the technical lessons I have continued to learn sharing content on websites and moving that content to different web hosts throughout the years, perhaps none is more poignant or important than this: Be bold and courageous in your efforts to both document and digitally share important milestones and moments in your life! Our family learning blog, “Learning Signs,” is another example of web content which has great personal value, and I’m so happy to be able to preserve.

Yes, we increasingly live in a surveillance state, but the tools available to document and share our lives as well as our learning with each other are unprecedented and easier than ever to use.

So go forth and share. And keep shopping for a new web host every few years!

(If this post has been helpful or even inspirational to you in some way, please let me know with a comment below or by reaching out on Twitter @wfryer.)

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Podcast460: UCO and OCCC Concurrent Classes, GitHub in CompSci, and Elementary Coding Lessons

Welcome to episode 460 of Moving at the Speed of Creativity by Wesley Fryer, from March 13, 2018. This podcast features a series of three recent interviews, and opens with a recommendation to try the newly updated Anchor.fm website and Anchor mobile app for podcast creation and publishing. The first interview is with high school senior Sarah Fryer, who shares her experiences and lessons learned taking concurrent classes from the University of Central Oklahoma (UCO) and the Oklahoma City Community College (OCCC) as a student in Oklahoma City Public Schools (OKCPS). Sarah took two classes from UCO in fall 2017, including one online course and one face-to-face course at the UCO campus in downtown Oklahoma City. This spring Sarah is taking two concurrent classes from OCCC, again one online and another face-to-face. The second interview is with Eric Ebert (@biggestmeow), the high school computer science teacher at Casady School. Eric shares a little about the growth of the computer science program at Casady, and how he has been using GitHub and GitHub classroom to help his students manage their coding projects. Eric also shared how he’s used audio podcasts created with Garageband and SoundCloud to encourage student reflection during and at the conclusion of coding projects. The third interview is with Shelly Fryer (@sfryer), a 3rd grade teacher at Casady School who has been integrating coding into her language arts lessons and Maker Studio time using the iPad app PBSkids Scratch Junior. Shelly taught an after-school class for 3rd and 4th graders in fall 2017 on coding with PBSkids Scratch Junior, teaching students how to create animations, tell stories, and create simple games. In spring 2018, Shelly has taught the same after-school class on PBSkids Scratch Junior for first and second graders. She has also co-led an after-school coding class using Scratch software for third and fourth graders. She shares stories and lessons learned from these coding classes, and also highlights her recent experiences at a Code.org workshop in San Antonio as one of three coding Ambassadors from Oklahoma. Please refer to the podcast shownotes for links to referenced resources and student projects from this podcast. Share your feedback as a comment on this podcast episode on speedofcreativity.org, or by reaching out on Twitter to Wes Fryer @wfryer.

Shownotes:

  1. Subscribe to Moving at the Speed of Creativity Podcasts
  2. Follow Wes Fryer on Twitter: @wfryer
  3. Anchor.fm (great platform for creating podcasts)
  4. Wesley Fryer’s Eclectic Recordings (Wes’ main Anchor podcast channel)
  5. Casady Voices Podcasts (on Anchor)
  6. Ferrite Recording Studio (free iOS app for podcast recording, used to record each of the three interview segments in this podcast)
  7. Classen School of Advanced Studies (ClassenSAS) in Oklahoma City Public Schools (@okcps)
  8. Concurrent Enrollment Guidelines for Oklahoma City Public Schools Students (2016-17 High School Academic Planning Guide)
  9. Eric Ebert on Twitter: @biggestmeow
  10. GitHub project on Jupyter notebooks, markdown, and fractals (Project in Informatics)
  11. Trading Game Podcast from Computer Science Class
  12. Shelly Fryer on Twitter: @sfryer
  13. Shelly Fryer’s PBSkids Scratch Junior Coding Tutorials
  14. Shelly Fryer’s Classroom Website: Scratch Coding Club
  15. Code as Poetry in 4th Grade Scratch Club
  16. Introduction to Scratch Videos by @dhackdheolu and @DhackInstitute
  17. Computer Science Fundamentals – Express (by Code.org)
  18. Code.org on Twitter: @codeorg
  19. Developing Computational Thinking with Scratch Coding by Wes Fryer (recorded 1 hour webinar for the Oklahoma State Department of Education in November 2017)

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Learning at the March Oklahoma STEM Consortium Meeting

This afternoon for lunch and after lunch, I had the wonderful opportunity to join our 6th and 7th grade science teachers at the bi-monthly meeting of the Oklahoma STEM Consortium facilitated by Anissa Angier (@AnissaSmiles). Anissa is the “K12 STEM Instructional Facilitator” for Edmond Public Schools, and has been helping organize and lead this group of STEM-focused educators for the past year. This is the first time I’ve been able to attend one of their meetings, and although we had to leave early for one of our teachers to get back to class, I picked up a number of tips and resources. I also enjoyed the conversation about many of the challenges facing STEM educators and STEM proponents in our schools. I created a “Twitter Moment” collection of my tweets from the meeting, and will summarize some of my reflections and learning takeaways in this blog post.

The most thought provoking part of today’s meetings involved discussions about what constitutes high quality STEM learning. As some schools encourage the integration of STEM skills and activities across the curriculum and grade levels, it is important for teachers to develop the independent capacity to both IDENTIFY as well as DESIGN engaging STEM lessons. Several of the schools and school districts represented at today’s meeting are utilizing or planning to utilize Project Lead the Way curriculum (@PLTWorg) to equip teachers with both skills in professional development as well as lesson resources to bring STEM learning experiences into their classrooms. PLTW and Engineering is Elementary (@EiE_org) are two of the STEM curriculum programs I have heard the most accolades for since I served as a 4th and 5th grade STEM teacher in 2013-15 and have continued my advocacy for STEM and STEAM learning the past three years as a school technology director. When I led a 3 day STEM Institute for teachers in Sao Paulo, Brazil, in March 2016, I led teachers through a series of STEM lessons which drew upon different curricular resources as well as individuals, including the always inspirational Brian Crosby (@bcrosby). Whether schools provide designated STEM courses led by STEM teachers, or ask teachers to integrate STEM learning into “regular” courses and course activities (or a combination of both) I definitely see the value and importance of adopting STEM curriculum. Hopefully, like other curricular “tools in the instructional toolbox,” these lesson resources can guide instruction and also help teachers design rich STEM experiences for students which are multi-disciplinary and encourage authentic inquiry into learning in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematical domains.

What is STEM learning and what should high quality STEM learning look and feel like? Participants at today’s STEM consortium meeting discussed this question, and how STEM activities should NOT constitute “Pinterest STEM.” I interpreted this to mean quality STEM learning can’t just be taken out of a single box, shared as a crafty lesson in 45 minutes with students, photographed for Pinterest, and then put away until the next “STEM time” arrives. Instead, quality STEM learning is almost always messy, leads directions neither the teacher nor the students expected, and is both open ended and generative in terms of the questions it encourages students to ask and pursue through inquiry.

We discussed how a harmful pedagogic mindset of some classroom teachers is to expect and even demand “lockstep” lesson procedures which are coordinated at a whole-class level. “Don’t work ahead, because the rest of us are not ready. Wait!” Perhaps this mindset is more common at the elementary level, but I think this can be found at all levels. These issues go to the heart of not only the question, “What is a high quality STEM lesson,” but also to the essence of a teacher’s own pedagogy of quality classroom learning. Elective choices, the freedom to ask questions, to inquire, to take learning beyond the printed lab or activity procedures… all of these instructional concepts should find their way into STEM learning.

While Lakeshore has (as was discussed at our meeting) put together some useful STEM kits for classroom lessons, it is critical to develop instructional understanding and capacities among teachers for STEM learning which go far beyond the “craft lesson in a box” mentality.

Our discussions today about high quality STEM lessons reminded me of Chris Moersch (@lotiguy) and his helpful “Levels of Technology Integration” or LoTI framework. (Shout out to Miguel Guhlin @mguhlin and Dean Mantz @dmantz7, who both helped me learn more about LoTI through the years!) Does a LoTi framework exist for STEM lessons? What modifications could LoTI have for it to be applied successfully within STEM and not just “technology integration” contexts?

The centerpiece of Chris’ advocacy with LoTI has, in my understanding, always focused on teachers looking behind the tools or the technology, and instead focusing on the student learning as well as engagement. This is vital for us to remember as we not only consider STEM lessons and STEM integrated lessons, but all learning which involves different kinds of tools and technologies.

I’d value any feedback or related resources you might be able to share along these lines, because I think these questions remain vital and will continue to be discussed as STEM education and STEM integration continues to gain more currency in educational circles as the twenty-first century marches on.

Here are a few other items worth mentioning that were discussed at our meeting and in our car ride to and from Edmond today.

The Oklahoma State Department of Education released (in January 2018) new standards for computer science education. You can check out these proposed standards online. They are scheduled to be presented to the state board for consideration on March 22, 2018. The always constructively disruptive and inspirational Levi Patrick (@_levi_) is the person at the center of this conversation we should all follow on Twitter. The proposal and (hopefully) implementation of these standards is both promising and positive for our state and STEM education generally.

“STEM in Action kits” are another classroom STEM resource to check out and consider if you’re searching for both lesson ideas and specific curriculum / supply resources to support STEM learning. I hadn’t heard of those before today’s meeting.

Finally, the Merge VR Cube (@MergeVR) is a latest “cool kids gadget” bringing a variety of augmented reality and virtual reality content via smartphone and tablet apps into our lives. We played a bit with a Marge VR cube at today’s meeting using the free “Galactic Explorer” iOS app.

The visual presentation of the planets in the app is very cool and engaging, but the actual content included is rather shallow. Still, this is something worth checking out, especially since (as we learned today) the Merge VR Cube is sold by WalMart under a limited contract for just $1 each at local Oklahoma stores instead of the normal $8.

Coincidentally, I saw this March 6th tweet from my friend Felix Jacomino earlier this week, and ordered my own MergeVR cube from Amazon that just arrived today. I’m eager to explore it more with its associated apps.

Thanks to Anissa for the opportunity to participate in today’s Oklahoma STEM Consortium meeting! I look forward to more opportunities like this to collaborate and learn together with other STEM advocates in our state.

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Code as Poetry in 4th Grade Scratch Club

The highlight of my Mondays now is getting to co-facilitate an after-school Scratch Coding Club with my wife. Today one of our fourth graders discovered a wonderful Scratch block that simplified a much more complex set of blocks I’d showed him a few weeks ago, and created a simple shooting cannon / animated cannon. I suspect this code sequence may become the genesis of several games which will be created by our students in upcoming weeks. Here’s the story of how this happened today.

We are using the excellent Scratch tutorial videos created by Adeolu Owokade (@dhackdheolu and @DhackInstitute), a Nigerian educator, to introduce our 3rd and 4th grade students this year to Scratch and basic coding blocks. Today’s video was “Look – I’m walking!”

After watching this 3 minute video, students worked on their Chromebooks in their own Scratch accounts to create a similar animation. Then, they were free to continue working on their own projects which they started several weeks ago.

One of our fourth graders asked me a couple weeks ago to help him create a cannon that would shoot. He created a sprite for the cannon and the cannon ball, but didn’t know how to make the animation. I had suggested a rather complicated script sequence which would make the cannon ball always move to the exact location of the cannon. We also talked about the “move to front” block which could keep the cannon ball hidden behind the cannon until the button was pressed to shoot.

Today, that 4th grader discovered (on his own) the Scratch “Go to () (Motion block)” which does the exact same thing as the block sequence I’d showed him, but in a simpler form. After he showed this to the class and explained it, I mentioned that sometimes people will say “code is poetry.” I explained more poetic code is often simpler and more concise, doing the same thing as longer code but in a shorter and more beautiful way. That’s what I thought of when we experienced this code discovery today.

Here is the almost 2 minute video of his Scratch creation, and explanation of his code.

After class I added this video to his Seesaw learning journal, so his parents can see and hear some of his coding work from today’s Coding Club and this video will become part of his school digital portfolio. It was so fun to learn some new coding blocks and animation strategies together today!

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?