“Making Your School Website Dynamic” is a popular course!

Today after-school I ran a 90-minute CPD session on creating dynamic school web sites using WordPress. Until I arrived, I was expecting around 5 people, and had prepared, just in case, for up to 10. In the event, there were 13 on the latest list, and everyone made it. There was great enthusiasm, and I went away convinced the group will be making full use of what they learned.

The course outline is here as a Word document:  It covered: ECS371 Making Your School Website Dynamic – outline Continue reading “Making Your School Website Dynamic” is a popular course!

Exc-el blogs – new WordPress themes available

Blue Moon screenshotExc-el bloggers now have more themes to choose from.

Choosing the blog theme is important to developing a sense of ownership, particularly among student bloggers. We’ve been on the lookout for some more themes that would be attractive to students, and these additions include some that will help, such as this one, Blue Moon, by Stephen Reinhardt.

Regulus in particular will probably be a popular choice.  As well as offering a choice of 8 header images, and 6 colour schemes, it permits bloggers to use their own header image. Even better, it includes instructions on how to make your image the right size.Regulus 2.2

The new themes added also include:

A theme pack from Farms is the basis of these additions. It contains a range of widget-friendly themes that have been modified to be suitable for WordPress Multi-User. Where a theme was already installed, no change has been made.

Keeping Bubbleshare-ised blogs loading quickly

Bubbleshare Albums, such as those on the Pencaitland Primary Blog, are a great way to illustrate blog posts. But the blog can become slow to load if there are lots of Bubbleshare albums visible on the front page.

[bubbleshare 118790.b2ad07edbb5]

(If you’ve not tried this, activate the Bubbleshare plugin, then add a pointer to the album to your blog Posts – or Pages – like this: [bubbleshare*118790.b2ad07edbb5] (replace the * with a space) where the code part is album’s ID, easily visible from the URL.)

The reason for the slowdown is that each album contains a number of images, which visitors can play in-situ using a slide-show. Continue reading Keeping Bubbleshare-ised blogs loading quickly

Let your (Post) feed subscribers see a comments count

If a visitor subscribes to the main RSS feed from an Exc-el WPMU blog, they’ll see the recent Posts, but not the corresponding Comments. To see if there are any comments on a given Post, they’ve got these choices:

  • subscribe to the Comments feed, and use that by:
    • going to the comments feed in their aggregator, then
    • browsing through the list of comments looking for matching titles
  • visit the blog itself, and look at the comments count there
  • click the Comments link for each post to actively look for Comments on a given Post

Any of these requires a bit of clicking around. Wouldn’t it be good to avoid that? Continue reading Let your (Post) feed subscribers see a comments count

firstRSS: In-Post RSS Aggregator

One of the biggest hurdles we’ve got in the edublogging community is bridging the RSS chasm.

  • If you’re an edublogger, chance are you’ve got at least a basic idea of what it’s all about. You’ll probably use an RSS reader, or aggregator, such as Bloglines, to keep track of the blogs you read. You maybe even use an RSS feed or two to provide some content for your blog, such as news headlines.
  • For most people in schools, though, RSS is just another bit of jargon. The potential benefits of RSS tools in education can’t be obtained. And because – if you’ll pardon the Rumsfeld-ism – they don’t know they don’t know it, let alone what the benefits might be, there’s no demand for training…

What has to happen for people to “get it”? In my experience, demonstrating a feed aggregator is a key step. I usually use Bloglines for this, as it has a good user interface. But if you want to try to explain RSS in your blog, as Tess does here, you’re at a disadvantage – you can’t so easily show a live feed in the context of your writing.

But what if you could put a little RSS feed reader right inside your blog post? Continue reading firstRSS: In-Post RSS Aggregator

On-screen editor upgrade

If you’re an Exc-el blogger, you may notice the on-screen editor has changed.

You can now do subscriptslikethis and superscriptslike this as well as use coloured text and highlighting. There’s also a custom character button which provides, amongst other things:

  • maths symbols (¼, ½, ¾, ?, ?, ? etc)
  • language symbols ( ç, è, é etc)

These new features that were included with the Anarchy Media Player but have just been enabled by changing the Anarchy config file. These features clearly increase the usefulness of the editor for many students, and maybe even add a bit of fun too. Hopefully the more complicated looking editor toolbar won’t cause any difficulties for our youngest bloggers. Feedback on this would be appreciated.

This was part of trying to solve a problem for Alan Coady with the upload of music files. We learned from that exercise that Anarchy doesn’t appear to handle AAC files, although in many other situations they seem to be interchangeable with mp3. We converted Alan’s AAC file to mp3 using iTunes, but the end product still wouldn’t play in a blog post. Opening that with Audacity, then saving a new mp3 file, finally produced a file that Anarchy played happily.

Eventually this should lead to having special editor buttons to enable easy embedding of Google video, for example, in blog posts. Once we work out why they’re not appearing yet…

More buzz at eduBuzz.org/explore: Snap Previews

We’ve just added a bit more buzz to the eduBuzz explore page. It’s a WordPress blog, and by switching on Snap Preview plug-in, we’ve got all its links now displaying a pop-up preview if you hover your mouse over them. As should the links on this page, if you’re wondering what I’m talking about…

Because many of the “Latest Post” links haven’t been Snap Previewed before, there’s a bit of “Queued for Capture – check back shortly” going on, as the Snap site learns what they look like. That will sort itself out over time – but the first to try to preview the “latest posts” links are always going to be caught that way.

Of course, if you’re an Exc-el/eduBuzz blogger you can do the same with your blog – instructions are here.
Does this help, or are things getting a bit too busy? Let us know what you think.

The C word and WordPress Multi-User

How much control do we have over what students can do on a WordPress Multi_user (WPMU) site? This is cropping up in a few conversations, so I thought it worth providing a summary (based on the WordPress documentation site) now that we’ve got some experience.

Our guiding principle here is that we will allow as much autonomy as possible to promote intrinsic motivation.

Continue reading The C word and WordPress Multi-User