Using a guestbook to post links for students

You can use a simple guestbook script (such as Big Sam) to post links and a brief description of what was covered each week for students, especially evening students who come to College once a week and who will inevitably need to miss lessons now and again.

The best strategy is to use a script in a directory for a specific class you teach and then spend 20 min or so putting a link to a Web page that is specific to the previous week’s teaching. I also add a sentence or so just describing what we did in the lesson, and where we got to in the scheme of work. Students who were at the lesson can use the link to help with homework or to reinforce their learning. Students who missed the lesson can find out what went on.

The golden rules are

  • keep the Web address of the guestbook as simple as possible, use notlong if you need to
  • add something new each week
  • provide a short summary of what was covered with textbook references
  • provide a link to a carefully chosen Web site

The Big Sam guestbook script is written in php and it is pretty easy to hack to provide rudimentary protection against spam posts – I’ll post my hacks here soon. Big Sam also has an ‘admin’ mode so that previous entries can be deleted or re-edited. By default the script shows the 20 most recent entries on the first page then provides links to earlier entries. The script does not need a database on the server – it creates a simple flat file to store the entries in. Big Sam works fine on a server running PHP in ‘safe mode’ as long as you set the permissions the directory you put the script in to 777 to allow the script to write to the text file.

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