3 Ways to Edublog – LinkUps

Academic blogs can be used by professors in many different ways depending on their subject matter, lessons, and pedagogical goals. To guide you in the decision of what approach will be best for you to achieve your pedagogical goals we have created the series 3 ways to Edublog. In this series we will feature 3 distinct pedagogical and technical ways to use your blogs as educational tools in your classroom. 

LinkUps

LinkUp blogging is when students can submit specific blog posts to a professor’s post with the use of a LinkUp tool. This particular way of blogging works best for situations where a professor wants students to write a response about a prompt/scenario.

The first step is for the professor to create a free account with a linkup widget such as http://www.simply-linked.com/ or http://www.inlinkz.com/. Once the account is created, the professor will set up a list or collection depending on the widget he/she decides to use. All widgets provide an html script code that should be pasted on the body of the blog post, but in the html editing mode:

Note: It is possible that after pasting the code in html mode you won’t see it upon returning to visual mode. To make sure your linkup works properly finish your blog post, paste the code in html mode, and publish it right away (from html mode).

How the students connect?

Whenever a student creates a wordpress post in their personal blog, a permalink is assigned to that post:

After publishing the blog post, the student goes to the professor’s post/prompt and submits the permalink address to his/her response:

Once the post is submitted, responses will look like this:

Pros and Cons
There are particular benefits for using this approach.  If some of your students already have wordpress blogs as public platforms or as professional portfolios and if you would like for them to be able to continue owning, managing, and customizing their own blogging environments this is a great approach. Also, this approach may encourage them to blog and reflect about other issues that are not directly related to your class that could be helpful in their development as a student and creative thinker. This approach gives teachers direct access to students’ blog posts about the prompt and other students have direct access to their peers’ blog posts.

Blogs offer students and faculty great opportunities for interaction with each other. Commenting on each other’s blog posts is a great tool for reflection and understanding of peoples views on particular issues and classroom content. WordPress blogs allow for customization of blogs with the use of widgets and some of the widgets show recent comments. This capability is very helpful to aggregate and show blog comments from an edublog classroom has many students. With LinkUps, this is not possible. Comments only show on the original posts, in the original hosted blog.

If you want to know more about blogs click HERE.

3 Ways to Edublog – Web Syndication

Academic blogs can be used by professors in many different ways depending on their subject matter, lessons, and pedagogical goals. To guide you in the decision of what approach will be best for you to achieve your pedagogical goals we have created the series 3 ways to Edublog. In this series we will feature 3 distinct pedagogical and technical ways to use your blogs as educational tools in your classroom. 

Web Syndication

Web syndication is when a professor gathers the website/blog material from the students into a classroom blog. The way this syndication is done is with the activation of a plugin called FeedWordPress. According to the plugin description:

“FeedWordPress is an Atom/RSS aggregator for WordPress. It syndicates content from feeds that you choose into your WordPress weblog; the content it syndicates appears as a series of special posts in your WordPress posts database. If you syndicate several feeds then you can use WordPress’s posts database and templating engine as the back-end of an aggregation (“planet”) website.”

Whenever a student creates a wordpress blog, a RSS feed address is assigned to that site. By activating the FeedWordPress plugin and configuring it to fetch the posts from the students’ site with their RSS feed address you can bring all of their posts, or select posts with a particular tag or category to a class website.

Pros and Cons
There are particular benefits for using this approach.  If some of your students already have wordpress blogs as public platforms or as professional portfolios and if you would like for them to be able to continue owning, managing, and customizing their own blogging environments this is the best approach. Also, this approach may encourage them to blog and reflect about other issues that are not directly related to your class that could be helpful in their development as a student and creative thinker.

Blogs offer students and faculty great opportunities for interaction with each other. Commenting on each other’s blog posts is a great tool for reflection and understanding of peoples views on particular issues and classroom content. WordPress blogs allow for customization of blogs with the use of widgets and some of the widgets show recent comments. This capability is very helpful to aggregate and show blog comments from an edublog classroom has many students. With FeedWordPress, so far, this is not possible. Comments only show on the original posts, in the original hosted blog.

For instructions on how to setup FeedWordPress click HERE. If a student blog feed doesn’t syndicate you should read THIS. If you want to know more about blogs click HERE.

WordPRESS, not WordSTRESS!!!

Are you a student needing tips on how to create a WordPress blog or portfolio for your class? Are you a faculty member who wants to use WordPress in class but doesn’t know the first thing about it? When you hear the word “blogroll,” do you think, “breakfast pastry”?

If this sounds like you, don’t get your hopes dashed in the Dashboard if you’re (Word)Pressed for time. The Electronic Library is here to help! Attend Edublogs 101 to learn WordPress on the fasttrack and pick the session that best suits your busy schedule!

Created specifically for faculty and students who will be using blogs in the classroom, Edublogs 101 will focus on the basics of using the WordPress platform within the Edublogs system at http://blogs.baylor.edu. Each session will last approximately 45 minutes and will explore elementary aspects of blogging and site administration. NOTE: You must have a site at http://blogs.baylor.edu to participate, and seating is limited to 24 users per session. All undergraduates and graduate students may get sites with a faculty sponsor in conjunction with their academic coursework. For more information about site registration guidelines and policies, visit https://blogs.baylor.edu/site-registration-instructions/.

Topics will include:

  • Basic site administration tasks
  • Creating blog posts, categories, and tags
  • Creating pages
  • Optimizing site navigation with custom menus
  • Managing images and media, such as YouTube videos
  • Changing the appearance of sites with sidebar widgets and themes

Seminar Schedule (all sessions take place in Moody Library G42, the library’s newest smart classroom adjacent to the TechPoint service desk on the garden level):

  • Tuesday, Sept. 4, 3:30-4:15 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 5, 3:30-4:15 p.m.
  • Thursday, Sept. 6, 3:30-4:15 p.m.
  • Friday, Sept. 7, 3:30-4:15 p.m.
  • Monday, Sept. 10, 4:30-5:15 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2-2:45 p.m.
  • Wednesday, Sept. 12, 3:30-4:15 p.m.
  • Thursday, Sept. 13, 3:30-4:15 p.m.
  • Friday, Sept. 14, 3:30-4:15 p.m.

For additional information, contact Lance Grigsby at lance_grigsby@baylor.edu. Hope to see you in class!

Something up with your site? Here’s the fix …

A couple of weeks ago, the Edublogs staff made some changes to its suite of WordPress themes. Unfortunately, these changes had an unintentional effect on our WordPress instance at http://blogs.baylor.edu: All sites using the Twenty Eleven theme were accidentally switched to the Edu Campus theme. The problem is easily fixed by logging in at http://blogs.baylor.edu/wp-login.php, clicking Appearance > Themes, and reactivating the Twenty Eleven theme (you might find it useful to search for Twenty Eleven by using the Search Installed Themes field on that page). All the customizations you applied to Twenty Eleven should be present when you revert back–if not, please let us know so we can help you restore your theme settings. NOTE: Any custom headers you uploaded should be present in your media library.

Very sorry for the inconvenience! While Edublogs will be looking into why this happened, they will be removing the Edu Campus theme, which will cause all “broken” sites to revert back to the Twenty Eleven default theme.

Change the default size of video embeds, images, and thumbnails

If you’ve been working with WordPress for awhile, you know how easy it is to embed a YouTube video in a page or post. Simply paste the video URL on it’s own line, publish the post, and you’re done. Occasionally, however, the size of the resulting video may not fit the main content area of the theme you’re using–the result can be a video that’s only partially visible in the player.

If you’re having this problem, here’s how to fix it: Visit the Dashboard and click Settings > Media and scroll to the Embeds section of the page as shown here:

Change the width attribute to a dimension that fits the width of the main content area on your site, which might require a little experimentation to determine, and leave the height attribute blank (this will cause the height of the video player to scale appropriately).

Likewise, you can do the same for images and thumbnails at the top of the page by changing the default sizes for those. This can be very helpful when you’re using WordPress galleries and need the thumbnails to be something other than 150px by 150 px. If you would like to change the thumbnail sizes in your galleries, however, make sure to do that in the Settings > Media before you create the gallery.

How to geotag your posts via WordPress for iOS

My previous post about the WordPress for iOS app explains how you can start posting to your WordPress blog from remote locations using your iPhone or iPad. We’ve since installed Geolocation Plugin for WordPress, which will allow you to add geolocation information to your posts in the form of Google Maps from the iOS app. If you’re planning to participate in one of Baylor’s study abroad programs any time soon, using this app and plugin combo might be a great way to keep up a photo blog of your travels, particularly if you plan to use a theme like AutoFocus.

Adding geolocation information to your posts is easy. The first thing you’ll want to do is make sure that geotagging has been turned on for the blogs you’ve set up in iOS:

(If you’re not sure how to do this for a blog you’ve already set up, go back to your lists of blogs and click the Edit button and then tap the title of the blog you want to edit–when you do this, you’ll get the screen shown above. This is where you turn Geotagging on or off.) When you write a post, you’ll see a blue icon in the title field of the edit post screen as shown here:


Tap that blue icon, and then you can see the location information for that post:

This is the map that will be shown in the post when you publish it. If you wish to configure how that information appears in the published post, you can visit the full dashboard and click Settings > Geolocation to change how the geolocation information appears. By default, it will appear as a link at the bottom of the post, which will display a Google map of your location when you hover over it:

Finally, if you need to fine tune your location information after the fact, you may do so in the full version of the dashboard, where you will see all the custom field information for your location and the Geolocation module showing the map in your post.

Mobile posting on iOS devices – a common hurdle

So you have an iPhone or iPad and the free WordPress for iOS app. Ready to start posting from your mobile device, right? Sounds easy enough, but forays into mobile posting via iOS often begin with this error:

A seasoned WordPress vet will know exactly what this error means, but for you newbies: There’s an obscure check box in Settings > Writing that you must enable prior to blogging via iOS called Enable the WordPress, Movable Type, MetaWeblog and Blogger XML-RPC publishing protocols:

… check that box, and you’ll be able to sync up your blogs with the WordPress for iOS app, error-free.

How to make a post “sticky”

Sometimes you may need a post to stay glued to the front page of your site. For example, you may decide that you need to give your students a reading prompt for their next blog assignment and need the prompt to be readily available for the students up until the deadline. You can accomplish this by making a post “sticky.”

To make create a sticky post, visit the Dashboard and either create a new post or edit an existing one. Go to the Publish box to the right and find the Visibility section and click Edit. After you click Edit, the following menu appears:

Check the Stick this post to the front page option and publish or update the post. All done! Your post will now be the first post everyone sees when they visit your blog until you uncheck this option, but you may also have more than one sticky post. Finally, an alternate way to quickly make a post sticky is to use the Quick Edit menu (shown below) for pre-existing posts.

When student blog feeds don’t syndicate …

If you’re a faculty member using the FeedWordPress plugin to syndicate (aggregate) your student blogs into a courseblog, you may occasionally experience errors with regard to blog and category feeds, or encounter situations where a blogger’s content is simply not showing up on the motherblog at all. Here’s a very common error you might see in the FeedWordPress admin page while attempting to add a blog feed:

This particular error often means that the blog you are attempting to syndicate has privacy settings enabled. Unfortunately, the breed of motherblog that relies on remote syndication of content will not work if the sites it is attempting to syndicate are not fully open to the web. In any case, if you experience this error–or others like it–visit with your students to 1). ask whether they have privacy controls enabled or 2). whether they’ve just categorized something incorrectly (in order for category feed URLs to sync properly, the remote bloggers must be categorizing their posts properly).

If your students are electing to blog privately, please see our recommendations for managing privacy in courseblogs. There are ways to have a fully open courseblog and still let individual students contribute private posts that are only visible to the blog admin.

 

Managing Privacy in Courseblogs

Scenario: You’re an instructor using the FeedWordPress plugin to aggregate your student blogs into your courseblog. You enjoy the convenience of being able to read all your students’ posts on one site, as opposed to having to visit each of their sites individually to make sure they’re on task. But what if one or more students insists on having private blogs? Sure, they could add you to their site and give you permission to read their content, but that requires you, the instructor, to keep up with more than one site. And what if that student wants to delete their content from the blog after the class is over?

The main problem is that blogs that are restricted from public view will not have usable feed URLs, which means private blog feeds can’t be aggregated into a courseblog. However, there is an easy solution for maintaining a courseblog with a mixture of private and public posts that allows the instructor to see all the content on one site. In addition, this alternative approach to courseblogging gives students full control over their content once the course is over–once added to a courseblog as an author, a student can write public or private posts and then, at the end of the course, remove those posts or export them elsewhere.

Here’s how it works: All students who want private blog posts should be added to the courseblog as Authors (learn more about roles in WordPress). To add these users to the site, click Users > Add New and fill out the Add Existing User field with the username/email of your choice, making sure to give that user the correct role.

add new user screen

In this case, the Author role is a good choice since it will allow that student to control the visibility of their posts on the courseblog.

Once the students have been added to the blog, they’ll have to visit the courseblog’s dashboard and write posts on that site. Getting to another site’s dashboard is easy if you’ve been given privileges to access it. Simply click Dashboard > My Sites to see the links to all the sites you have access to. From there, the students can write their own posts and set their posts’ visibility to Private in the Publish box on the edit post screen:

Once these posts are marked private, only the administrators of the courseblog (presumably, this is only going to be the instructor of the course) will be able to see those posts. The only other requirement is that the blog admin must be logged into Edublogs to see the private posts.