Archive for ‘Updates’

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.

 

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

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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.

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.

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#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.

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#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.

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(*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.

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#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.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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New Year Updates for 2010

0 Commentsby   |  12.18.09  |  Updates

As we prepare for a new year and our second semester on ACU Blogs, here is a quick list of updates to the core theme, sidebar widgets, and plugins available to blog owners.

ACU Blogs Theme

  • Author Archivesauthorarch

Now clicking on any name in a post or comment links you to the Author Archive page. Typically, author archives simply include the posts made to that blog, but we’ve added a comment archive at the bottom.

*If you’re grading a student’s contributions to a class blog, this will bring them all together on one page.

  • Blog Admin Comments

Another feature you may have seen on other blogs is a way to identify comments from the blog admin. Since in our case blog owners are often instructors, we have changed the style of the name block to set off admin comments more clearly.

  • Subscribe to Comments

Students now have the ability to receive follow-up comments to a particular post via email. *If you don’t see a checkbox beneath the Submit Comments button, check the Plugins menu on the Dashboard to see if you need to activate the Subscribe to Comments plugin.

  • Blog Excerpt Control

The ACU Blogs theme previously allowed admins to show either full posts on the homepage or one-paragraph excerpts. You may now select the length of automatic excerpts in the Theme Options menu as well as setting custom excerpts yourself in the post editor.

  • Homepages Categories

One other advanced feature on the Theme Options menu is to set individual categories to include or exclude from your blog homepage. You’ll need the category id number which can be a bit tricky to find, but this is a powerful way to limit which posts appear on the front page of the blog.

*For example, only posts with the category Announcements could appear on the homepage or you could exclude all student posts and have them appear on a different page.

ACU Widgets for Sidebar

  • ACU Loginaculogin

Many faculty and students wanted a faster way to get to the Dashboard or login to the blog. From the Appearance–>Widgets menu, just add ACU Login to your sidebar for login/logout as well as links to editing the blog and changing your avatar.

  • ACU Recent Posts

There may be times when you want to group links to posts by category. The ACU Recent Posts plugin can also work with the Homepage Categories feature above to make posts visible in the sidebar even when they don’t appear on the blog front page. The plugin will need the same category id you needed earlier.

  • ACU Custom Nav Sub-pages

Some users asked for sidebar links that expand and contract more like a webpage. The ACU Custom Nav widget now allows you to make sub-pages and sub-categories visible in the sidebar only when their parent is selected. For those with dozens of pages, links, or handouts to manage, this is a simple way to drill down to details when you need them.

Additional Plugins

This plugin will allow you to embed certain kinds of web pages into your blog, including Google Forms and Google Calendars.

For blog owners wanting to share Flickr photos and photo sets as well as search, embed, and link to Flickr photos with Creative Commons licenses.

If you’ve wanted to add your recent Twitter posts to the sidebar, Tweetable requires a simple one-time setup.

This powerful PDF viewer and archive can now embed Issuu documents directly into posts and pages.

For questions about updates or any thing else related to your class blog, send your email to blogs@acu.edu.

Four Ways to Post to a Blog Quickly

0 Commentsby   |  12.18.09  |  Updates

Heading into the semester, a number of things have changed on ACU Blogs, but one has stayed the same. The fastest way to add a post or file to your blog is Post by Email. Here are a couple examples.iphoneyoutube

  • YouTube and Vimeo videos

Now you can embed YouTube and Vimeo videos on your blog by pasting their URL into an email. Remember that the YouTube app on an iPhone or iPod touch also lets you share URLs by email.

Big Idea – Have students or a TA search YouTube for relevant examples of course content and share it to the blog.

  • Photos from an iPhone

Remember that the Photos app allows users to share images by email, so snap a pic and email it to the class blog.iphonephotos

Any image you run into while web browsing can also be shared. Just tap and hold on the image until the Save Image option appears. This will save a copy to the Photos app where you can go add it to an email.

Big Idea – Send students outside or to the web, searching for images that communicate a core concept they can then share to the blog.

  • Video and Audio from an iPhone

For those with the video iPhone 3GS, the Photos app also stores short videos. Shoot a short comment or interview question (50 seconds max) and email it to your class blog. (The new iVideoCamera app claims to offer the same capability to previous iPhone models.)

iphonevoicememoThe Voice Memo app on iPhones and iPod touches will also share recordings up to 8 minutes long by email in case you have more to say.

Big Idea - Send a class-wide evaluation of a recent assignment or ask students to share short discussion podcasts that document a group discussion.

  • Don’t Forget about Documents

If there are files or handouts you want students to have, send them as attachments in an email. Any Office document or PDF can be dropped into an email and linked from a post in minutes.

One quick way to generate PDFs from most any file type is Convert.io. Check the Convert.io blog to read more.

Big Idea - Send slides or assignment sheets to the blog before heading to class to make them available to students without making a photocopy.

Of course, the secret is that all four ways are the same. Post by Email is a deceptively simple way to make your class blog more than a once-a-week recipient of class announcements.

To Get Started

There’s only really one thing you need to do before sending your first email, followed by a couple options you may want to know about.
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  1. Activate the Postie plugin. Even if you used it last semester, check to make sure Postie is active on each class blog.
  2. - From the Dashboard, go to the Plugins menu.
    - Find Postie in the listing and if it is grayed out, click the blue Activate link next to it.

  3. Check the Postie menu for the class blog email address.
  4. - From the Dashboard, go to the Postie menu under Settings.
    - Check the Mailserver page for the Mail Userid.
    - You can also use @blogs.acu.edu if it’s easier to remember (for example, both 1010_ENGL22101@blogs.acu.edu and 1010_ENGL22101@groupmail.acu.edu point to the same class email account).

  5. If you plan to have students post by email, you need to give them permission. (By default only the teacher can post by email.)
  6. - From the Dashboard, go to the Postie menu under Settings.
    - On the User page select the Roles that can Post.
    - Permission to Post can be given for a class period, a week, or all semester long by simply changing this setting.
    - You may also choose to accept student posts, but only as Drafts to be approved by you before being published to the class blog.

  7. Finally, the Post by Email scripts typically check for new mail every 10 minutes or so, but you can Run Posti manually at any point.
  8. - From the Dashboard, go to the Postie menu under Settings.
    - At the top of the Postie Options page, simply click Run Postie.

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