Kyle Dickson's Archive

Fall WordPress Update

0 Commentsby   |  08.27.12  |  Updates

This fall marks our fourth year with WordPress class blogs on campus and our second with portfolio blogs for students and faculty. As you think about things you’d like to do with your blogs this year, here are a couple new plugins and capabilities to get you started. (*To make each available on your blog, go to the Dashboard and activate it in the Plugins menu.)

Elegant Shortcodes – the Learning Studio has been using a theme from Elegant Themes for the last year and wanted all faculty and students to have access to some of the same layout and formatting options. Shortcodes are [simple commands] in brackets that surround the content you want to put in a box, in a column, etc. Here is the page that lists all your options.

Jetpack – a collection of features and widgets previously only available to blogs on WordPress.com. You can turn on basic blog statistics, post/comment subscriptions, and a half-dozen other additions. Jetpack requires a free WordPress.com account.

RV Embed PDF – several faculty producing tenure portfolios on WordPress asked for a plugin that embeds PDFs. Once you activate RV Embed, you simply upload your PDF file using the Add Media button above the post/page editor.

Twenty Eleven Theme Extensions – many of our portfolio users have used one of Automattic’s new default themes, Twenty Ten or Twenty Eleven. The latter included a dozen new features as well as some oddities that some users will want to alter or turn off. Twenty Eleven Theme Extensions adds a long list of theme customizations for those already using the Twenty Eleven theme.

Wolfram CDF Plugin – requested by colleagues in math, the Wolfram plugin gives blog owners the ability to embed interactive models into their blog. For more information on the CDF standard, check the Wolfram site.

 

Student Portfolio blogs

0 Commentsby   |  11.01.11  |  Tutorials

Many faculty on campus have been asking for a simple way for  1) students to archive major assignments and projects and  2) entire classes to share reflections or other posts to a central class blog. The new Portfolio Blog system attempts to solve these two challenges. 

Portfolio Blogs have been created for every student on campus to allow them to share their best academic work with a public audience on the web, including:

  • essays, presentations, and other files
  • photography and visual products
  • audio, video, and experimental media
  • research notes, links, and media examples

Your portfolio blog represents personal development as a process rather than a single product, and allows your teachers, peers, and family or future employers a glimpse at how your thinking has been shaped across multiple semesters.

Getting Started

STEP 1: First, if you haven’t already, you’ll need to locate your portfolio blog. You’ll find it by adding your MyACU username to the main blog address:  http://blogs.acu.edu/abc12d , for example.

STEP 2: To edit blog posts or customize the layout of your blog, you’ll also need to find your portfolio Dashboard. Just add “wp-admin” to the end of your portfolio address:   http://blogs.acu.edu/abc12d/wp-admin , for example.

STEP 3: Watch the introductory videos below to learn more about publishing content and customizing your portfolio blog.

Videos Tutorials

As part of our first semester supporting portfolio blogs, the Learning Studio developed the following short videos introducing key concepts in managing your first blog.

Introducing your Portfolio Blog  (3 min)

How to Post Content to my Portfolio (2 min)

Customizing my Portfolio theme and navigation  (7 min)

Post by Email for your Blog  (6 min)

Using Categories to submit work to Class Blog  (5 min)

For more specific questions like adding images to a blog post or widgets to your sidebar, see the WordPress Screencasts page or come by the Learning Studio during afternoon staff hours.

Fall Break Updates

0 Commentsby   |  10.23.11  |  Updates

For those looking for new ways to work with your class blog after the break, here are a few plugins now available to all blog admins. To activate any of them on your blog, go to the Plugins panel on your blog Dashboard. Come by the Learning Studio if you have any trouble.

  • Random YouTube Video – This plugin is exactly what it sounds like. Activate it and you’ll see a new “Manage YouTube Videos” option in the Settings section of your Dashboard. This lets you add video links they can be randomly selected. **NOTE: you may have to “edit” your YouTube links so they match the www.youtube.com/v/youtubeID# format where the final bit is the unique ID code found in the URL. Finally, go to the Widgets panel and add the “Random YT Video” widget to your sidebar and you’re done.
  • GeoMashup – Some of you may have noticed that the WP iOS app we turned on this fall offers you the ability to add location information to your posts. This wouldn’t typically be useful, but plugins like GeoMashup can create Google maps that allow users to view a range of posts (by category, etc) based on where they were created. If you have students in the community posting content that is location-based, this could be an interesting way to visualize their content. Talk to me about digging into the power of this plugin.
  • WordTwit Pro – We’ve offered plugins in the past for pulling Twitter feeds into the sidebar, but WordTwit Pro now allows you to update users of activity to your blog with tweets sent when you publish a post. To edit settings to your Twitter accounts, check the WordTwit Pro panel now at the bottom of your Dashboard sidebar.
  • Capability Manager - If you’ve ever wished you can change what students with a certain WordPress role could do on your blog, this plugin will allow you to revise those capabilities. Once activated, look for the Capabilities option under the Users panel in the Dashboard to make changes.
Thanks again to users who sent in plugin upgrade requests. Feel free to send future requests along to me or the Help Desk.

WordPress iOS app now supported

Tags:

0 Commentsby   |  08.22.11  |  Updates

One other addition to ACU Blogs this summer is support for the WordPress iOS app for iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad. Anyone managing blogs on our WP server can now edit posts and pages, approve comments, and upload a quick photo or video wherever they are. The following video walks you through key features of the app. See below for a download link and setup instructions.

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WordPress for iPhone 2.0

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To add one or more blogs to the app, follow these setup instructions.
  1. Install the WordPress app
  2. From the app homescreen, choose the “Add self-hosted WordPress blog” option
  3. In the URL field, type “https://blogs.acu.edu”  (*the “s” in “https” is important)
  4. In Username and Password fields, type your MyACU login username and password
  5. After saving, select each of the blogs you want to manage using the app

If you have questions about the app or just about any other feature on ACU Blogs, drop by the Learning Studio during staff hours.

Upgrade to WordPress 3.2.1

0 Commentsby   |  08.05.11  |  Updates

Anyone noticing a few changes around their blog dashboard has already figured out ACU Blogs upgraded to WordPress 3 this summer. Here are just a few of the features now available:

Admin Bar – If you manage a number of class blogs (WP 3 calls them “sites”), the new Admin Bar will help you keep up with them, offering easy access to other blogs or to frequently used Dashboard panels for the current blog. (*To turn off the Admin Bar, go to Dashboard > Users > Your Profile.)

Themes – ACU Blogs now supports a number of custom themes to add personality to your blog. Themes like the new Twenty Eleven introduce a range of new features (like horizontal “Menu” bars and custom post types) but may not support custom ACU sidebar widgets.

New Plugins - In response to user requests, we’ve also added a handful of plugins you may be interested in for embedding more types of media, files, and calendars or for sharing blog content on a range of social media.

AddThis or ShareThis plugins – Two options for adding icons to your blog for easy sharing to Facebook, Twitter, or other social media sites. (Activate plugin and sign-up for free account.)

Embedly plugin – simple embedding of content from over 200 sites by copying and pasting URLs. (Activate plugin and sign-up for free account.)

ICS Calendar plugin – alternative for embedding Google Calendars into blog post or page. (Activate plugin then find the ICS code from a public Google calendar.)

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For a couple quick notes on what is new in 3.2, watch the launch video.

Introducing WordPress 3.2 "Gershwin"

Quick note on Lightbox

0 Commentsby   |  01.21.11  |  Updates

In the last couple semesters, I know several faculty who regularly use images on their blog have found Lightbox didn’t work on ACU Blogs. Well your long wait is over. . .

Out of curiosity this evening, I just activated the plugin and it’s working again. First, here is a look at what Lightbox does for browsing groups of images taken from our Digital Academy last fall:

If you’re interested in trying Lightbox on your ACU Blog, here is the process:

  1. Go to the Plugins section of the Dashboard and ACTIVATE the Lightbox 2 plugin.
  2. Add several images to a post or page, and instead of inserting them as individual images make sure to insert a WP Gallery. (The following video shows you how to Insert an Image Gallery in 30 seconds.)
  3. Make sure when you insert your gallery that you “Link Thumbnails to Image File” instead of an Attachments page. This is essential if you want the plugin to work.
  4. Finally, if you’ve uploaded particularly large images, go to Settings–>Lightbox 2 in the Dashboard and make sure to “Shrink large images to fit smaller screens”.
  5. Remarkably, the new Lightbox works equally well on mobile devices.

That’s in. Your Lightbox image viewer should now be working. Let us know if you find other plugins that don’t seem to be living up to your expectations.

Blog Calendars this Spring

0 Commentsby   |  01.18.11  |  Tutorials

Though ACU Blogs has seen several additions over the holiday break, much of the work by Web Integration and Programming focused on server updates to keep WordPress blogs humming along. Since our launch in 2009, faculty and staff at ACU have created more than 1,000 blogs and those numbers will continue to grow in 2011.

One important holiday update improved the Google Class Calendar system in a several key ways. Most importantly, faculty can now edit every event on a class calendar from one screen (see part #2 of the podcast below).

The following three-part podcast walks you through 3 ways to get course calendars into your WordPress blog.

#1 – Copy and Paste a Reading Schedule from Word (3 min)

We’ll start with the easy stuff, but if you already have a reading schedule typed up at the end of your syllabus, copy and paste may be all you need.

Click to play

#2 – MyACU Calendar Editing Tool (2 min)

One tool that will make working with Google Class Calendars much easier this spring is the new calendar editing tool in MyACU.

Click to play

#3 – ICS Calendar Plugin for WordPress (7 min)

The new plugin that really brings your Google Calendar into your blog is ICS Calendar. This podcast breaks the process of embedding a calendar into your blog down into easy to follow steps.

Click to play

Other Holiday Additions

Here are a few of the other plugins and projects that were tested and installed over the break. Please continue to send along suggestions for future updates.

  • FeedWordPress is a plugin that brings in content from any blog with an RSS feed and aggregates it on a single blog (see example at Feminist Blogs hub). Colleagues at the University of Mary Washington have been using it to create “mother blogs” where students each create their own blogs but share their feeds back to a central class blog that consolidates dozens of external discussions.
  • WP LaTeX is a plugin to help get math formulas and equations into blog posts and comments. Here are a couple examples to see how LaTeX turns code into formulas presented as small images.
Finally, this is less a plugin than a plug, but Greg Straughn and Nil Santana worked long hours over the break to adapt the main Cornerstone Portal theme developed last summer by Mike Wiggins for use in the next CORE class coming online to produce the CORE 120: Identity Portal. Both versions of the theme demonstrate the flexibility of WordPress to solve complex web publishing challenges within the university.

What’s New this Fall 2010

0 Commentsby   |  08.28.10  |  News, Updates

This Fall a significant amount of our work on WordPress was getting ready for the new Cornerstone Portal.

If you’re using the ACU Blogs theme and have forgotten where some of the settings are, here is an ACU Blogs Cheatsheet that Dr. Chris Willerton suggested for new and returning users.

Here are a handful of other details you may have noticed:

  • Most noticeably, a new feature of the Cornerstone theme is the addition of author avatars in the upper-left hand corner of posts or pages. *If you want to turn this off, go to Theme Options in the Dashboard and turn off page or post avatars there.
  • One new feature that came with our WordPress update is the ability to add post or page thumbnails. These thumbnails can appear in two places. If you have turned on author avatars in posts/pages on the previous note, thumbnails (if they exist) will appear in this same location.
  • The other place that post or page thumbnails can appear is in the new mobile interface of WPtouch. If you’d like to see this working, check the Cornerstone Portal where the calendar icon has been replaced by post thumbnails. To turn this feature on, go to the WPtouch settings in the Dashboard.
  • Embedding videos from YouTube and other sharing sites has also gotten much easier. Just copy and paste the URL of the video onto its own line in your editor and you’re done. Here is a list of all the video sites that now work this way. (*If you’re already using the WP Video plugin shortcodes, then you can continue with either option.)
  • The Image Widget plugin makes adding images to the sidebar simple.
  • Finally, the Google Analytics plugin makes tracking weekly usage of your blog or individual content possible.

5 Lightning Tips for Advanced Users

0 Commentsby   |  03.19.10  |  Updates

One other update you should notice after Spring Break is the new ACU Blogs 1.5 theme. The 1.5 theme will look and feel exactly the same as the current version but includes a few hidden features for advanced users. If you’re feeling adventurous after the break, here are five quick tips to upgrade your course site.

#5 – Upload Custom Header Image (4 min)

Okay, this is already possible with the current theme, but the new theme doesn’t recognize your current header image. The first tip simply helps you retrieve the custom image you’re already using after upgrading to ACU Blogs 1.5.

light5

Click to play

#4 – Remove Image Border (3 min)

If you’ve ever uploaded an image into a post and wanted to turn off the box framing your picture, learn how to go “borderless.” This is a CSS Class we’ve added to the theme; watch this quick tip for how to apply it.

light4

Click to play

#3 – Exclude Category from Homepage (6 min)

As faculty begin assigning student blog posts, the main homepage can become challenging to manage. One option is to create a separate category for student blog posts. This tip walks you through excluding a category from the homepage and adding the ACU Recent Posts widget to your sidebar to display new posts from the excluded category.

light3

Click to play

(*This tip assumes you’re using Post by Email and all student email posts are assigned a category in the Postie–>Message panel.)

If you’re not afraid of HTML, you can add basic styling to widget titles on any of the custom ACU widgets. Below you’ll find the example codes for text color and background, but feel free to experiment with your own.

EXAMPLE (please type the following into a widget. Copy/paste won’t work.)

<div style=”background:#d9d9d9″><a href=”http://blogs.acu.edu/1020_BLOGname/category/student-post/”><span style=”color: #662e70;”> Type Widget Title Here</span></a></div>

<a href=”http://…”> </a> – the link itself (make sure you put title between the two)
<span style =”color…”> </span> – the title text color
<div style=”background…”></div> – the title bar background color

You can replace the “#color codes” above with your own: HTML color codes chart.

#2 – WordPress Image Galleries (5 min)

Once you’re comfortable adding individual images to a blog post, you may run into posts that need to present a handful of images at once. Tucked away in the Add an Image window is the Gallery tab that makes this easy.

Click to play

Click to play

#1 – ACU Blogs Media Galleries (9 min)

The final tip introduces two quick ways to present any documents, images, audio or video files you have uploaded throughout the semester in one place. The Media Gallery templates are new to the ACU Blogs 1.5 theme (see tip #5) but offer a simple way to quickly view files in your blog’s media library in one place.

light1

Click to play

If you hang on until the end, you’ll see how to use the “media-gallery-filetypes” custom field to limit a gallery to only display files of certain types (png, jpg, doc, pptx, pdf, etc). You could create one gallery for images and photos and another gallery for PowerPoint slides or podcasts. Here are two quick examples:

Media Gallery – Grid View

Media Gallery – List View

Spring Break Updates

0 Commentsby   |  03.12.10  |  Updates

Several useful updates will be added to ACU Blogs over the break. Here are a couple video summaries to get you up and running with new plugins and features.

Part 1: Image Widget for sidebar (4 min)

If you’ve been looking for a simple way to add photos or graphics to your blog sidebar, this is it. *You’ll need to Activate the Image Widget plugin before beginning to use it.

spring1

Click to play

Part 2: PollDaddy Rating plugin (6 min)

Last semester we added the PollDaddy plugin for blog polls. This semester they’ve added a 5-star rating feature for your posts and comments that works with our desktop theme and the mobile blog interface. *You’ll need to Activate the PollDaddy plugin and create a PollDaddy account at their website before beginning to use it.

**PollDaddy Ratings require the ACU Blogs 1.5 theme.

(For a review of blog polls, here is the PollDaddy screencast from last October.)

spring2

Click to play

Part 3: Feedburner plugin (1 min)

Finally, for advanced users, here is a plugin that gives you more control over how users keep up with new content on your blog using RSS readers. For a quick introduction to the idea of RSS readers, try RSS in Plain English by CommonCraft. If you decide to try Feedburner, here are instructions from WordPress as well as the Feed 101 page at Google.  *You’ll need to Activate the Feedburner plugin before beginning to use it.

Click to play

Click to play


Kyle Dickson's Comment Archive

  1. This is an example of a comment. Comments can appear at the bottom of any posts or pages when you you check Allow Comments in the Discussion box.

    *If you have trouble with an avatar appearing on ACU Blogs, check to make sure you’re using your MyACU email address for Gravatar.com. To find this email address, log in to MyACU and look in the Courses box to see what email address is listed with each of your classes.

    • This is a threaded comment. It shows up as a Reply to the previous comment (indented from the left margin) because I chose the Reply button.

      If you just want to Comment on the post, just go to the comment box and submit as you normally would and your note will appear at the bottom of the list.

      Threaded or nested comments help visualize some of the back and forth of a discussion board without the confusing interface.

  2. This is an example of a comment. Comments can appear at the bottom of any posts or pages when you you check Allow Comments in the Discussion box.

    *If you have trouble with an avatar appearing on ACU Blogs, check to make sure you’re using your MyACU email address for Gravatar.com. To find this email address, log in to MyACU and look in the Courses box to see what email address is listed with each of your classes.

    • This is a threaded comment. It shows up as a Reply to the previous comment (indented from the left margin) because I chose the Reply button.

      If you just want to Comment on the post, just go to the comment box and submit as you normally would and your note will appear at the bottom of the list.

      Threaded or nested comments help visualize some of the back and forth of a discussion board without the confusing interface.

  3. Kyle Dickson on Leave a Comment
    11:27 pm, 08.29.09

    We’ve worked with Tanya, but let us know if anyone else has classes that need to be cross-listed on a class blog.

  4. Kyle Dickson on Leave a Comment
    10:04 pm, 08.19.09

    Thanks John. We’ll look at it once school starts on the test server.

  5. Kyle Dickson on Leave a Comment
    10:03 pm, 08.19.09

    Thanks Kenneth. The initial rollout will focus on managed blogs automatically connected to a particular class though we intend to offer faculty access to unmanaged blogs soon. These would be helpful for faculty who prefer to maintain a single blog over multiple semesters or want to focus on a broader audience than a single class. In the future this will help ACU Blogs serve multi-section classes as well as other departments and organizations on campus.

    Let’s talk about options for this semester.