Post Documents for Student Comments

Students writing short papers and posting them for comments from other students is a fairly common pattern among VCU faculty. It’s a nice entry point because it doesn’t require any radical rethinking but still starts to expand the audience for the work, has possibilities around peer review, and is a possible gateway to writing on the web more natively. There are lots of ways to do this. I’ll break down one option path here. The faculty member wants students to keep writing in Word. There’s no immediate interest in writing in WordPress or in Google Docs. The goal is to have comments made by other students on the document as a whole (not specific to words/phrases/sentences/paragraphs). Initial Setup – The Form We setup a Gravity Form to create a post with a document embedded in it using Google’s document viewer. You can explain it as mail merge into a WordPress post or if that doesn’t help you might show them this image as most people have been on the failure end of a mail merge attempt. You’re probably want a minimum of three fields for the user to fill out and you’ll have two that are invisible to them. The three you’ll need for the student are their name, the title of the document (the post will get this name […]

Pushing/Pulling Data – Thinking Computationally? Differently? #IndieEdTech?

This post is going to be a bit like my head- a jumbled mass of things that are interconnected in my head but may not make any sense to anyone else. But what else is a blog for but for getting a better idea of what’s in your own head? Blogging in General The group I’m a part of (ALT Lab) has been struggling with blogging for a while now. We were/are aiming for a post a week for each member of the group. It’s not easy for many of us.1 It’s a pattern I’ve seen with lots of organizations and lots of individuals. You’ll have the usual pattern that varies somewhere between not knowing what to say, not having anything worth saying etc. The end result is that people don’t write. If you talk to them they’ll have a million things that would be interesting to read and that would be “worth” sharing. Maybe not having time gets referenced but given it’s a desired piece of our work, that’s not our issue. It feels mainly like it’s a holdover from time in formal education. Writing ends up becoming something done for an omniscient expert who will pass judgement on thee. It happens to me at times- both time limits and wondering if there’s any audience or purpose to what […]

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Filtering the My Sites List (Again)

I made a filter a while back to keep people who were associated with blogs through the bbpress/buddypress auto-enrollment feature from having tons of sites show up in their My Sites list. It was never a perfect solution and felt sloppy because it relied on having only one role and that role being bbp_participant. It also failed when I un-network activated bbPress because it couldn’t filter people who had no role (and there was still some invisible connection). And the final nail was that it seemed to fail intermittently and I had no idea why. Here is a very different path to the same result but one that appears to work better and will be proof against the ‘no role’ issue that hampered me earlier. It’s all made possible by the delightful array_interesect function. It’s one of those things that I am confident I’ll use down the road. I have no idea if it’s as commonly known as ABC or whatever but I had no idea it existed. This actually came to fruition on a plane trip because Mark Luetke told me about Varying Vagrant Vagrants and I was able to spend about twenty minutes working on this even without Internet. It has also made me reflect that lack of interruptions really improves my productivity on things like this.

Request: Pages to Gallery Page

I’m trying to do a better job documenting how to do some of the things people ask me to do. I’m doing it anyway, might as well do the documentation and share the love. This was request to make a gallery page from/for a series of interviews on listening for a music appreciation course conducted by the wonderful Steve Ashby. This particular series was done in pages and, very helpfully, they were all child-pages of a particular parent-page which makes this really very easy.1 The page-list plugin will make this very easy.2 I think it was one that Alan pointed out at sometime in the past. In any case, I can see the parameters for the shortcode here. We want all the child-pages and to show some sort of image. All we need to make that happen is this shortcode [pagelist_ext show_first_image=”1″] on the parent-page. Presto, we get what you see below (or at this link towards the bottom of the page). All in all, less than 10 minutes of work including writing this post. 1 If they’d been posts instead of pages I could have done something very, very similar with list category posts plugin. If they weren’t organized by category or by parent-child relationship, I would have been sad. 2 If you know it exists.

Weaving Tangled Webs

This is why things are more difficult than they might be . . . a story of why I have no idea about anything or maybe it’s a parable of complexity and human frailty. In the beginning, we created a WordPress Multisite install and turned on BuddyPress. To make the groups works correctly we network activated bbPress. As a result, anyone logged into their accounts who visited any other rampages site became a Participant of that site (a bbPress user role that allows forum participation). People got very nervous about people being in their user roles. Other people became very unhappy their My Sites list had too many sites. I had to figure out two things as a result. First, I needed to stop auto-Participant association. I eventually found a way to do that but I still had to deal with the stuff that already happened. The right way to do it was to delete the users who were participants across the multisite. But . . . at that time we couldn’t access our database through anything but php myadmin and it wouldn’t run because the database was too big. So I had to treat the problem and strip the sites from the displayed list. Fast forward a year or so. At this point, we were able to turn off […]

WordPress for Syllabus Submission

This post is specifically about addressing a syllabus submission problem but it’s worth thinking about more broadly. It should be pretty applicable to any structured data entry problem you have. These are often administrative chores (like this one) but could also be about cataloging grave markers or indexing resources or Collecting the syllabi for their department is one of those miserable things department chairs often have to do. They then need to store and reference those syllabi for a few years.1 The normal pattern is to ask people to email the syllabus and there is usually some desperate plea for a common naming convention.2 This plea is followed by ~2 people. People are bad at directions (giving and following). Email makes this basic flaw 20 times worse.3 This particular pattern for misery incarnate is repeated over and over at VCU and across universities everywhere. I recently met with a faculty member who’d at least been asked to submit the syllabus to a shared Google Drive folder but he was having issues because of directions and Google’s interface for this kind of thing being not what it might be. The department chair was also stuck with the naming convention falling apart already and they only had about 8 syllabi in there. Please don’t do that. It’s best to avoid directions as […]

Put The Events Calendar Month View on Your Homepage

Because I’ve been messing with The Events Calendar for the RVArts project, along came another conversation where that plugin seemed like a good answer. It answered all their needs except for one – the wanted to have the month view of events be the homepage for the site. I knew that didn’t happen natively but I figured I could do it. The first step is to create a custom page template. There are a number of tutorials on how to do that. I usually just duplicate the page template for the theme I’m using as a parent and go from there. The one I’m using is below. The Events Calendar has this nice function (tribe_show_month) which’ll pull the month’s data by default. That’ll get you something that looks like below (depending on your theme). It’s the right content but it’s not applying the same CSS/JS that’s on the regular month view. You could go in and rewrite CSS and JS etc. but that would suck for this particular project. It turns out you have to enqueue the right stuff and this post was so very helpful in telling what to enqueue. I updated it to the newer functions and presto everything worked just like the normal month events view. It goes into my child theme’s functions.php. This particular version only […]

WordPress Reverse List a Particular Category

I often get requests from instructors that ask me to get WordPress to behave in a way that’s just different enough that WordPress fights them. Now that I can mostly program, I could make quick child themes to deal with this but that causes me the hassle of keeping all that stuff straight so I still do some quick and dirty stuff with plugins. This example is based on an instructor who wanted one particular category (lesson plans) to list from oldest to newest rather than the default WP blog layout of newest to oldest. That’s a pretty easy thing to do if you use the List Category Post plugin. Once you’ve got the plugin on and you’ve found the category id (mouse over the category when you’re in Dashboard>Categories and look for id= in the URL at the bottom of the page) all you need to do is put in [catlist id=9 numberposts=-1 order=asc] In this case, it says get the posts in the category with id 9, -1 means get all of them, and order them from lowest to highest/ or oldest/newest. That’s it. I’ve now got a page that shows all 41 lesson plans from oldest to newest and no child theme to keep track of.

RVArts – Dealing with Dates in WordPress

We have an awesome general education course starting this semester called Cultural Passport (aka RVArts). The goal is to get students involved with the community’s cultural events – participating, promoting, reviewing them. The web side of this ends up being pretty interesting. See their video below for more details on the course. When we started this conversation last year, I thought I was going to go the Gravity Form submission route1 and use a js library to make it possible to add the events to various calendars. Like most projects, particulars shifted and we started changing things pretty radically right before winter break. We ended up shooting for full WordPress editor access for students to create events and the desire to write three different types of responses (interviews, reviews, and features) that would be associated with a specific event. Also, like most projects, this was all a bit beyond what I’d ever done before. I started off thinking I’d create a custom post type for events. I was trying to make up my mind between using Advanced Custom Fields and CMB to help do that when I realized I hadn’t really thought about repeat events. The complexities involved there really made me rethink my decision to do this from scratch. After that I started trying various plugins and eventually decided […]