WordPress – customising the content of our blogs

WordPress includes powerful functions to enable the contents of a blog to be customised. For example, we might want to display Categories using their full descriptions, not their short names, in part of a blog. This is done using template tags. Typically a blog owner might do this by making changes to the PHP template files for the theme chosen for the blog.

With WordPress Multi-User, things aren’t so simple. Any given set of theme files, such as those for the 3K2 theme used for this blog, may be used for many blogs. Changing any of these files, then, will affect all those blogs. How to get round this? I spent a bit of time on this over the break, and thought of a number of ways it could be done with some pros and cons. Unable to find a discussion of the topic on the web, I raised a question in the WPMU support forum to get some pointers to what others do. There were 2 replies within two hours, this and this and problem is solved.

This quality of support is excellent, and better than that I’ve known under many expensive support contracts. I feel a strong sense that we should try to contribute what we can back into the WordPress community.

Exc-el blogs: Event calendar plugin added

Firetree.net’s Event Calendar has now been added to the Exc-el blog system. It’s ideal for posting details of future school or class events, such as parents’ nights, homework due dates, test dates.

To add an event, you just create a Post for it in the usual way, so you can provide plenty of details. The only difference is that once you’ve enabled the Plugin, you’ll have event start date/time and event finish date/time fields you can complete at the bottom of your Write Post screen.

You can see it working here at the Education ICT News blog here: https://www.edubuzz.org/eduictnews, where it’s installed as a SideBar Widget.

Quick guide to setting it up:

    Activate the Sidebar Widgets plugin if you haven’t already (you’ll need a Widget friendly, eduictnews is using 3K2)
    Activate the Plugin but don’t try to view your blog yet!
    Activate the Event Calendar Widget plugin.
    Go to Options / Event Calendar, and choose a Category for event posts, say “events”.
    Set any other options, details here http://wpcal.firetree.net/options.

Full details are at http://wpcal.firetree.net.

Out and about

Today involved:

  • planning for the first “new technologies” CPD session the Education ICT team are doing at Law Primary soon
  • quick meeting with website team at Preston Lodge to check the WebsiteBaker arrangements are going OK
  • got to end of Ollie’s session at Musselburgh, then took MGS WebsiteBaker planning a bit further forward there

There were so many people at the Musselburgh twilight session, I thought I’d got the room wrong. It was great to see that this approach can work so well. There’s clearly a large latent demand.Came back to number of emails about blogs. I’m now finding the blog handy for answering these, which is great. It’s surprising how often time can be saved by sending a link. And you don’t even have to remember what you wrote, too, which is handy…
It’s interesting to see how busy the Exc-el site is becoming. Noticed today we’ve already exceeded the number of visits for the whole of October, and we’re only 70% of the way through the month.

BT failing to meet WAN commitments?

Very disappointed to hear that BT may not meet the committed dates for the East Lothian schools WAN upgrade given here, and may even be asking for more money despite the whole project having been subject to competitive tender.

This would be extremely disappointing if true. I had a number of attempts at using the internet in Science and Maths classes over the last year or so, and ended up concluding that it simply wasn’t viable.

We have large secondary schools with less WAN bandwidth than many people now have to their home PC. Not only that, this bandwidth is shared with internal applications like web-based email. Email, of course, is so slow that many people don’t have time to use it. Most emails I get from teachers come from their home email addresses, and are sent in the evenings.

The bottom line is that if it’s impossible to get the WAN motorway in on time, we need to build a temporary bypass to get those packets flowing faster before we get gridlocked.

Even a single domestic ADSL link, running at up to 8Mbps, could be used. Maybe BT could bundle a couple of these, and we could connect schools using VPNs over the internet instead? Ideas, please!

New Exc-el blog – Taking Care: Our Environment, Ourselves

Eliza Sparks, a parent volunteer supporting the Humbie After School Care Club as their special projects manager, shares with you the ideas and information shaping their project via her new Taking Care: Our Environment, Ourselves weblog.

“We are currently preparing funding applications for our “Taking Care: Our Environment, Ourselves” project. Thus far, the response to our ideas – by our, I mean the Humbie After School Care Club students, playleaders, committee and volunteers; the Humbie Primary School Student Committees (Health and Eco-Environment); as well as my own research into outstanding initiatives and projects from schools around the world – has been wonderfully enthusiastic and supportive. We might be one of the smallest primary schools in East Lothian, but, as ever, we have big ambitions.”
Read the full post here.

The ink on the first few posts has just about dried now. Why not drop by and take a look? You might even be able to help. Eliza says, “Feedback, comments, suggestions are very welcome!”

Preston Lodge High School – web developments

Preston Lodge High School doesn’t currently have a web site – but that’s about to change. I met up with some of the people involved today. Interestingly, despite not having a site just now, they were unanimous that the school site they want needs to be one that isn’t just a dull electronic equivalent of a notice-board. There was a real recognition that students had to have a voice on the web, not just “the school”. Continue reading Preston Lodge High School – web developments

Dunbar Grammar web developments

Image of Dunbar Grammar web siteI’d a quick meeting with Anne Johnstone from DGS today about development of the DGS web site. Like Musselburgh Grammar, Dunbar are wanting to move the site on to make it more interactive, and to include more student input. With Ollie Bray, we’re now planning to get some collaboration going – and maybe even some healthy competition! – between the students at both schools.

Exc-el WordPress blogs: new 3-column theme and plug-ins added

3K2 screenshotThere’s now a 3-column theme – this one, 3K2, as used by jonesieboy – available, and some plug-ins, including Automattic’s sidebar widgets and the Democracy survey plug-in. Use the Plugins menu in the admin interface to select and activate available Plugins.