Oh the lessons just keep on coming!

So we go back to school tomorrow…or rather today as it’s 12:33am as I wait to finish migrating our Moodle site.

I got this e-mail from our Teentek.com administrator a couple of days ago…remember this kids 12!

I’m really sorry to bother you right when you get back from holiday,
Mr. Utecht, but something very bad has happened.
I logged on right after lunch to clear out the comments queue and
found a truckload of spam messages. Some of them are blank messages
sent by an unverified guest, and the rest seem to be advertisements
for drugs. It’s a good thing we enabled the approval queue, otherwise
these spam comments would be all over the site. I’ve left the comments
undeleted and unpublished in the approval queue so that you can see.
Mr. Utecht, the comments were sent around and after 7 PM yesterday,
when I was at my cousins house. I showed him the site for fun. I think
there might have been adware on his computer that started spamming the
site. If I’m not mistaken, Drupal might have an IP log or something like
that. If it does, we can block the IP address of the ad-bot (if it’s
static) If we can’t block the adware program, we might run out of bandwidth
due to the excess of comments (and I really don’t want to be cleaning
out the approval queue everyday) This is like Google Adsense being put on our site, but in a completely
different manner.

I hope we can solve this problem,

Questions:

  • What skills are we talking about?
  • In which class could/should they be taught?
  • If this student was not allowed to take this class and work through these problems with other students his age and within a safe learning environment. Where would he find these answers? How would he respond? 

The teachable moments just keep coming with this class. I’m to the point where I don’t make lessons. The students come and we just start chatting, surfing, discussing.

Here’s how I see class going tomorrow. Our administrator here will get up in front of the class and explain what the problem is and what he’s thinking. The rest of the class can all put in their responses on how they think the spam might have gotten there and how we can stop it. Then the admin is going to pick two other people (a committee of sorts) to help him resolve this issue. Of course they will have to report back to the class with their findings.

Why can’t every class be this much fun? This free? And this educational?….or can it. 😉

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3 Comments

  1. Wow! That’s so cool! I wish my 8th grade computer kids were thinking like that. All they want to do is ‘fun’ stuff like warping each other’s pictures in Photoshop – OK that is fun! and useful….some of the kids have really make some cool stuff with photoshop.
    Anyway – I keep meaning to show them the TeenTek site….I think I’ll do that tomorrow : ) Along with this post….

  2. Jeff, I visited your students’ site. I am seriously impressed. My kids (4th graders) have a web space this year, and have begun working in it, (tellraven.us) and I plan to show them – link to – your students’ site. They’re not old enough yet to handle admin duties, so that falls to me. I gather from your post that TeenTek is running on a Drupal installation. So is our Tell The Raven site, and I have a suggestion for your students for the spam problem. The problem solving discussion is a good idea, but so is a look at the Drupal modules. I had a lot of comment spam a few weeks ago, until I installed the Bad Behavior anti-spam killer module. Problem solved.

    Incidentally, I wanted to leave this suggestion on the TeenTek site, but I didn’t know who to contact. You might suggest to the kids that they put some contact info for their admin there in case anyone else wants to inform them about anything.

    What you’re doing there is very much like what I had in mind when I began learning about web publishing tools. You’ve set up a great example there. Well done.

  3. Blog spam is a problem but I’ve found that Akismet (pre-installed with WordPress, you just need to activate it with a free key) and Spam Karma 2 have taken care of almost 100% of my blog spam. Sadly these tools do catch a LOT of spam. One thing I have considered is turning off comments on posts after a certain amount of time. It seems more popular posts and ones with certain keywords can attract a lot more attention from the blog spammers. Turning off comments and pingbacks can address this, but it limits the dialog that is possible– often many weeks after the post was originally published. Good luck with your class dialog on this! 🙂

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