Posts tagged "WordPress"

January 23, 2013

Interesting Developments on the WordPress Front

wordpress-logo-stacked-rgbWith so many of us working on collaborative projects like the Gamified Curriculum Delivery System that Mike Skocko’s Mega Students of the Mac Lab developed, many of us are looking at getting a more global presence with our course materials. Others of us just lose every sheet of paper that hits our desks (myself a prime example) and want to eliminate paper from the classroom and have the curriculum available 24 hours to our students. For many of us, WordPress has proven itself a great solution. In fact, here at the educationleaders blog, we’re running a wordpress back end also.

 

WordPress is amazing. Take a look at this list of benefits:

  • It’s free, So it fits a teacher’s budget
  • It’s easy, so we have time to focus on content rather than the construction of our sites
  • It’s scalable, so we can ramp it up to a school wide or even district wide enterprise
  • It’s extensible, so you can add cool features easily, like Skocko’s students
  • It’s popular, so there’s a TON of help, lots of free plugins (add features) and themes (the layout and look)

 

What’s been missing is a great plugin that does all the classroomy, traditional stuff that we’re used to… traditional assessments for pre- and post-tests, monitoring of student access to the site, gradebook incorporated online, etc. I used to run a moodle install alongside my WordPress install for assessment and tracking of student work, but I found it cumbersome to have to manage 2 sites that acted like one.

A screenshot of my class site running on WordPress with Skocko's Plugins

A screenshot of my class site running on WordPress with Skocko’s Plugins

Finally, there’s a solution that is looking pretty good and it’s exiting beta soon. Don’t have details on prices yet, but it may be a great all-in-one solution for the classroom. I’m mainly looking for something that can track the users and provide pre-and post tests to help find where the kids are not completely comfortable with the content yet… I use tests not to see where the kids failed, but where I’ve failed the kids. If everyone’s missing a certain question, then it’s feedback to me that I haven’t covered this concept well enough yet or they’re still not comfortable with the terminology (and let’s face it… our industry LOVES it’s terminology and acronyms!).

I’ve been keeping an eye on this LMS plugin to replace my missing moodle functionality. I really want an online gradebook so that the kids can monitor themselves… Whether it’s self-reported (easy to do with a test) or actual, traditional testing and assessment, this plugin seems to fit the bill without sideloading moodle in my sites.

LearnDash is the plugin and the plugin’s author, Justin, has been very helpful and responsive- which is great for a plugin that is running your classes! Don’t have to worry about no support at all (which is common with wordpress plugs… you get what you pay for.) I encourage you to sign up for his newsletter and grab a copy when it’s time to test out on your wordpress site for class.

And if you HAVEN’T yet set up yourself with a wordpress blog for class yet… what are you waiting for? Even signing up with a free wordpress.com blog is a great way to get started in sharing your content with other educators across the globe.

And don’t forget to cross post your stuff at the Adobe Ed Exchange!!! It gives you great visibility to teachers that might not find your site elsewhere… but posting to your own blog ensures that all your students and parents can access your classroom resources easily.

Keep your eyes open for a series of blog posts here on setting up wordpress for your classroom and helpful plugins, themes, and tips for keeping it innovative and awesome!

6:56 PM Permalink
January 24, 2011

Designing a WordPress Child Theme Using Adobe CS5

I’ve been wanting to take control of my personal blog theme for some time in order to both simplify how everything was being displayed, and to obtain a greater degree of flexibility over time. There are a lot of great themes out there for WordPress, and I’ve been fairly happy with many of those I’ve tried – but they still were not exactly what I wanted.

I decided to come up up with something of my own by creating a child theme of the default WordPress “TwentyTen”. Seeing as how I don’t need many features on here, and that “TwentyTen” is a modern design that supports all the new 3.0 features, a child theme sounded perfect. I also tend to shift these around over time, and this would allow that as well.

Adobe Fireworks

Adobe Fireworks

The first thing I did is sketch out on paper a sample of the sort of layout I was looking to create. I then created a basic measured layout in Fireworks, followed by a number of textured image segments for the navigation menu, page background, and content area. Fireworks is great for stuff like this, due to the robust texturing system available.

Adobe Dreamweaver

Adobe Dreamweaver

Dreamweaver CS5 has extended support for PHP-based CMS and blogging systems like WordPress. During prerelease, I was playing around with these features quite a bit but had actually never done any work with the final release. It’s actually very convenient to be able to view and interact with the live website files (on my testing server, of course) while designing and tweaking elements of the theme. Dreamweaver can also be enabled to provide code-completion for core WordPress functionality, although I didn’t need it in this case.

Most of what I did was remove a lot of the header stuff I didn’t need, and create a custom navigation menu along the top of the page. The rest of the work was just a lot of CSS hack and slash to get things looking right, setting up new elements, and skinning everything with my exported images. It actually went a lot more smoothly than anticipated.

Adobe BrowserLab

Adobe BrowserLab

Most of the cross browser rendering checks were done on my local machine using Chrome 8, FireFox 4 beta, and Internet Explorer 8. I have other machines I could log into and check browsers like Opera or the IE9 beta, but don’t have a way to test on OSX from my home. Anyone familiar with DropFolders knows the snails-pace I take when it comes to doing any Apple stuff… So I fired up BrowserLab and was able to check my basic design rendered on what must have been nearly 20 different browsers across Windows and OSX.

It is interesting to see how relatively similar the design rendered across browsers. The most trouble that I noticed was lack of support for my embedded fonts in older browsers. You can also see in the above image that we definitely have some shifting going on in regard to the positioning of elements on the page, but nothing so terrible to render the design unusable.

I’m very pleased with both the resulting design, and the simple, unified workflow involved in getting to this point. There are lots of little things that will probably come up which I’ll modify in the future… but it’s great to know now how very simple it will be to do so.

Check it out over at http://inflagrantedelicto.memoryspiral.com/!

8:39 PM Permalink