Tuesday, June 18, 2013

"Papa Tech Class" - summer hacking with my kids

After completing graduate school, I'm taking the summer off with my boys, ages 8 (I) & 11 (Z). One of the things they asked to do this summer is "Papa Tech Class."

Today, on the first day of summer with just the three of us at home, Z asked to get a blog set up so he could write about one of his passions: soccer.

Z had previously asked about making web pages, and he learned how to do basic HTML by hand. He learned inserting images, creating links, and basic page structure. He could see the results by opening the HTML file locally in a web browser. We uploaded the file to a web server and he could see the page on the Internet. I think it's useful to at least see what's going on one layer down - though HTML and FTP are still pretty far above bare wire & bare metal!

To make the blog an ongoing concern, we signed up for a free blog hosted on WordPress.com. WordPress provides great blogging features like ready-made templates, WYSIWYG editing, and it's a very popular platform for blogs of all sizes. So it's got a great deal of room to grow, if Zeb wants to get fancier later on. So using WordPress lets Z focus on what he really wants to do: write about soccer.

I knew we wanted to have prior review & approval of anything Z wants to post, at least while he's getting started and learning the ropes. To set that up, I created one account for the parents to use, and created the blog during the sign-up process. So the parents' account owns the blog.

Next, I logged out of WordPress.com, and then created a second WordPress.com account for Z to use. During the sign-up process, you have the option to sign up for just a username without creating a blog, and that's what I did.

Finally, I logged back into the parental account, and added Z's account as a contributor to the blog. This way he can write articles any time he likes, but he can't publish them on his own. When he is done, instead of having a "publish" button, he has a "submit for review" button. This will send an email to the parents. We can then review the post and approve it, edit it ourselves, or discuss with Z what needs to be changed and why.

This isn't perfect; to make changes to the blog itself, like changing the theme or adding widgets, I'll need to log him in under the parents' account - but since I don't use that account for any other blogs, there's no worries there.

You can follow Z's blog at http://zebsoccer.wordpress.com.

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