Tag Archives: Coding

Getting the best value from Microsoft 365 for Education with Jonathan Bishop from The Cornerstone Academy Trust

In this podcast episode, we speak with Jonathan Bishop, the CEO and Executive Headteacher of The Cornerstone Academy Trust (TCAT), about getting the best value from Microsoft 365 for Education.

TCAT is based in the southeast of England and comprises four primary schools. Their motto “Fortune Favours the Brave” is undoubtedly reflected in their forward-thinking approach to IT and technology, as Jonathan explains in this podcast episode.   



“We run our academy trust like one school with four campuses. We use technology to bring our four schools together and pool our money and resources to do everything centrally,” Jonathan tells us. 

TCAT has spent the last few years rolling out one-to-one devices to each student in their trust and working with Cloud Design Box and other partners to move all their infrastructure to the cloud: 

“We had a clear vision to have one device per student, with a cloud-based learning platform that allows flexibility and enables a teaching and learning strategy built around blended learning,” Jonathan describes. 

Because of their success with technology, they have been involved in several Department for Education programmes, working with schools regionally and nationally on a number of projects.  

The EdTech Demonstrator programme is one example – this is where TCAT works with schools and trusts across the UK to deploy networks and devices, set up learning platforms and help with ed tech strategies.  

On top of this, all four schools within the trust are Microsoft Showcase Schools, English Hubs and run the Science Learning Partnership. 

“This allows us to have a big outreach and work collaboratively in partnership with other schools on school improvement projects.”  

How do you get the best value from technology in education? 

“Getting the best value out of technology is not about getting the cheapest option. It’s about looking at what outcomes you want to achieve and choosing the solution that will deliver those outcomes best,” Jonathan explains.  

“The danger with going for the cheapest option to get ‘the best value for money’ is that if it doesn’t change the outcomes for the children and doesn’t have any impact, then it’s not value for money, is it?” 

When looking at your ed tech strategy, Jonathan explains that you must first look at your infrastructure.  

“You could spend lots of money on devices but have utterly frustrated students and staff because they don’t work due to slow internet speeds or short battery life,” he adds. 

“Device selection is so important, and changes depending on your desired outcomes. For example, when we built our TV studio, we wanted a place to create media content for the curriculum, do staff CPD and bring our schools together for assemblies and conferences. So we needed high-end machines, hardwired with good broadband. However, when we looked at one-to-one devices for our students, we wanted mobility and long battery life.”  

Investing in IT to enable specialist learning. 

This approach to ed tech strategy has enabled TCAT to work in new and flexible ways, transforming how they deliver the curriculum. 

One example is the ability to get the most value out of specialist teachers. 

By investing in noise-cancelling wireless headsets and mics, the trusts can now deliver specialist learning (like languages and coding) to hundreds more students at a time. 

“Before, we would have 30 children in a classroom with one teacher and maybe a teaching assistant. Now, we have 250+ children in one lesson – they could even be across different year groups – being supported by specialists in that subject.” 

“What you’ve got is value for money because while I’ve invested in the headset, the digital pen and the tablet, I’ve got lots more children getting a better-quality education, delivered by a specialist.”  

Jonathan Bishop shows the noise cancelling headsets he invested in for TCAT.

Your ed tech strategy isn’t optional – trusts cannot afford not to invest in IT.  

Jonathan is a firm believer that if schools and trusts aren’t investing in ed tech, then they are denying students vital opportunities and skills: 

“Too many people think ‘we have no money, so we can’t achieve this, and therefore we’re not going to do it’. But, you’ve got to think differently. Getting the right devices and technology in the right hands of students and teachers brings MAT-wide efficiencies – it’s not an option,” he continues. 

“We’re in the business of education, and I’m a teacher. And whilst I might oversee these four schools in this role, I want to get as we all do the very best for children, the very best experiences, opportunities and outcomes for children.” 

Catch up on all the episodes of our podcast on YouTube, Spotify or on our website.

If you would like to find out more about our Cloud Box platform and how we can help improve communication and collaboration in your school or MAT, book a free demo today.  

Creating a WordPress RSS feed for custom terms

A quick break from the SharePoint posts to share something that I couldn’t find a solution to on the internet.

In WordPress, there is no out-of-the-box RSS feed for custom post types filtered by taxonomy terms. If I’m creating a custom post type for news items and within that, I create a taxonomy to tag news with categories, there is no RSS option to show only news items of a single category.

This can be limiting, especially if you are using MailChimp to send out newsletters per news category. MailChimp has a great feature in which it will automate a regular newsletter from an RSS feed.

So, the only way I found to achieve this without using any custom plugins, was to create a custom RSS feed.

Register the RSS feed

I followed this excellent post on WPBeginner on how to register and create a custom RSS page. In the functions.php file, we register our custom RSS feed:

add_action('init', 'cdbcustomRSS');
function cdbcustomRSS(){
        add_feed('newscat', 'cdbcustomRSSFunc');
}
function cdbcustomRSSFunc(){
        get_template_part('rss', 'newscat');
}

Create a new RSS file

As I registered this as “newscat”, I then create a new file in my theme called “rss-newscat.rss”. This is the place where WordPress will look for the custom RSS feed.

To see this page, navigate to [WordPress URL]/feed/newscat. You may have to reset your rewrite rules to see this page. Re-save your permalinks page to refresh this.

Variables

I want to pick up a category from the URL so I’m going to use the following line to grab the “category” variable.

$cdbcat = $_GET['category'];

At the start of the file, I’m also going to set variables for the custom post type and the taxonomy name. I have hard-coded these but you could also pass them through the URL if required.

$cdbposttype = 'news_item';
$cdbtaxonomy = 'news_item';

Header and RSS format

We then define the header and feed in normal RSS format. A good place to find the clean starter RSS code is on this WPBeginner post.

<?php
//headers
header('Content-Type: '.feed_content_type('rss-http').'; charset='.get_option('blog_charset'), true);
echo '<?xml version="1.0" encoding="'.get_option('blog_charset').'"?'.'>';
//main body
?>
<rss version="2.0"
        xmlns:content="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/content/"
        xmlns:wfw="http://wellformedweb.org/CommentAPI/"
        xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/"
        xmlns:atom="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom"
        xmlns:sy="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/syndication/"
        xmlns:slash="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/slash/"
        <?php do_action('rss2_ns'); ?>>
<channel>
        <title>My News - Feed</title>
        <atom:link href="<?php self_link(); ?>" rel="self" type="application/rss+xml" />
        <link><?php bloginfo_rss('url') ?></link>
        <description><?php bloginfo_rss('description') ?></description>
        <lastBuildDate><?php echo mysql2date('D, d M Y H:i:s +0000', get_lastpostmodified('GMT'), false); ?></lastBuildDate>
        <language><?php echo get_option('rss_language'); ?></language>
        <sy:updatePeriod><?php echo apply_filters( 'rss_update_period', 'hourly' ); ?></sy:updatePeriod>
        <sy:updateFrequency><?php echo apply_filters( 'rss_update_frequency', '1' ); ?></sy:updateFrequency>
        <?php do_action('rss2_head'); ?>

Looping through the posts

We can then loop through the posts in the taxonomy and custom post type. Each time we compare the term with the category in the variable. If the category matches, we output the RSS for the post.

<?php
//get news_item terms
$custom_terms = get_terms( $cdbtaxonomy);
//get posts
foreach($custom_terms as $custom_term) {
    //echo var_dump($custom_term);
    wp_reset_query();
    $args = array('post_type' => $cdbposttype,
        'tax_query' => array(
            array(
                'taxonomy' =>  $cdbtaxonomy,
                'field' => 'slug',
                'terms' => $custom_term->slug,
            ),
                                
        ),
        //order of posts
        'order' => 'DESC',
        'orderby' => 'modified',
    );
    $loop = new WP_Query($args);

    while($loop->have_posts()) : $loop->the_post();
        if($custom_term->name == $cdbcat){
            ?>
                <item>
                        <title><?php the_title_rss(); ?></title>
                        <link><?php the_permalink_rss(); ?></link>
                        <pubDate><?php echo mysql2date('D, d M Y H:i:s +0000', get_post_time('Y-m-d H:i:s', true), false); ?></pubDate>
                        <dc:creator><?php the_author(); ?></dc:creator>
                        <guid isPermaLink="false"><?php the_guid(); ?></guid>
                        <description><![CDATA[<?php the_excerpt_rss() ?>]]></description>
                        <content:encoded><![CDATA[<?php the_excerpt_rss() ?>]]></content:encoded>
                        <?php rss_enclosure(); ?>
                        <?php do_action('rss2_item'); ?>
                </item>
        <?php
        }
    endwhile;
}
?>

The feed should now work using the URL: [wordpressURL]/feed/newscat?category=My%20Category

Conclusion

While this isn’t most efficient way to do it, it does return the desired results. I will look forward to your thoughts and comments on how this can be improved!

Full Code

<?php
/**
 * Template Name: Custom RSS Template for News Categories - newscar
 * By Cloud Design Box Ltd 2017
 */
 // get variables from url
 $cdbcat = $_GET['category'];
 //set post type and taxonomy name
 $cdbposttype = 'news_item';
 $cdbtaxonomy = 'news_item';

//headers
header('Content-Type: '.feed_content_type('rss-http').'; charset='.get_option('blog_charset'), true);
echo '<?xml version="1.0" encoding="'.get_option('blog_charset').'"?'.'>';
//main body
?>
<rss version="2.0"
        xmlns:content="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/content/"
        xmlns:wfw="http://wellformedweb.org/CommentAPI/"
        xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/"
        xmlns:atom="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom"
        xmlns:sy="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/syndication/"
        xmlns:slash="http://purl.org/rss/1.0/modules/slash/"
        <?php do_action('rss2_ns'); ?>>
<channel>
        <title>My News - Feed</title>
        <atom:link href="<?php self_link(); ?>" rel="self" type="application/rss+xml" />
        <link><?php bloginfo_rss('url') ?></link>
        <description><?php bloginfo_rss('description') ?></description>
        <lastBuildDate><?php echo mysql2date('D, d M Y H:i:s +0000', get_lastpostmodified('GMT'), false); ?></lastBuildDate>
        <language><?php echo get_option('rss_language'); ?></language>
        <sy:updatePeriod><?php echo apply_filters( 'rss_update_period', 'hourly' ); ?></sy:updatePeriod>
        <sy:updateFrequency><?php echo apply_filters( 'rss_update_frequency', '1' ); ?></sy:updateFrequency>
        <?php do_action('rss2_head'); ?>
<?php
//get news_item terms
$custom_terms = get_terms( $cdbtaxonomy);
//get posts
foreach($custom_terms as $custom_term) {
    //echo var_dump($custom_term);
    wp_reset_query();
    $args = array('post_type' => $cdbposttype,
        'tax_query' => array(
            array(
                'taxonomy' =>  $cdbtaxonomy,
                'field' => 'slug',
                'terms' => $custom_term->slug,
            ),
                                
        ),
        //order of posts
        'order' => 'DESC',
        'orderby' => 'modified',
    );
    $loop = new WP_Query($args);

    while($loop->have_posts()) : $loop->the_post();
        if($custom_term->name == $cdbcat){
            ?>
                <item>
                        <title><?php the_title_rss(); ?></title>
                        <link><?php the_permalink_rss(); ?></link>
                        <pubDate><?php echo mysql2date('D, d M Y H:i:s +0000', get_post_time('Y-m-d H:i:s', true), false); ?></pubDate>
                        <dc:creator><?php the_author(); ?></dc:creator>
                        <guid isPermaLink="false"><?php the_guid(); ?></guid>
                        <description><![CDATA[<?php the_excerpt_rss() ?>]]></description>
                        <content:encoded><![CDATA[<?php the_excerpt_rss() ?>]]></content:encoded>
                        <?php rss_enclosure(); ?>
                        <?php do_action('rss2_item'); ?>
                </item>
        <?php
        }
    endwhile;
}
?>
</channel>
</rss>