Category Archives: Uncategorized
The ESTS Technical Service team just upgraded our Spark WordPress instance to WordPress 3.3.1.
Here’s a little video intro to the major enhancements which are mainly focused on the user interface:
- Medical – Compassionate Care Patient Exams
- Peer Review of Teaching
- The Gordon Institute – Conflict Resolution Role Playing
- Pediatrics – Case Presentation
- Engineering – Presentation skills
Today I gave a presentation to folks at the Vet School. The gist of it was an overview of the Spark website and tools. There were only a few faculty members in attendance but those that were there were very interested in what the Spark site had to offer. WordPress and Adobe Connect were the big hits but there was also a great deal of interest in wikis and MediaMarkup.
The take away sound bite from the participants was “we did not know that UIT offered such a range of tools”. Spark has been around for almost four years now. We really need to get better at spreading the word.
You can download the PowerPoint file here.
One of our latest consultations was with the Office of the Vice Provost. They publish the Research @ Tufts online newsletter, a component of which is a list of Tufts’ funded research projects. Presented in this fashion the list is quite cumbersome and unwieldy for easy browsing, searching, and discovery. It is hoped that providing easier discovery will help promote connections and collaborations amongst faculty and scholars.
After discussing a number of solutions (e.g. a custom programmed website, installing some kind of e-journal system, leverage our digital library system) we settled on building a prototype using our new WordPress installation.
WordPress proved to be an excellent choice to rapidly put together a proof of concept. The steps taken were:
1. Created a new WordPress blog and manually authored some posts. One post per project abstract and it’s associated metadata (e.g. principal investigator, sponsoring organization, duration).
2. Used the WordPress export feature to create an example XML file.
3. Once we understood the format of the exported file we set about creating an import XML file in the same format.
4. This file was created by scraping the HTML of the newsletter pages and then outputting the data gathered in the appropriate XML format. This not only included post information but also included a list of two category types: PIs and Sponsors. We used ColdFusion for this. The prototype contained about 100 abstracts.
5. Imported this file into our new blog. The import took care of creating a post for each abstract and associating the correct categories.
It worked well. With a little more tweaking of the theme and widgets the client will have a dynamic, searchable website with little effort.
UIT-AT is often asked to provide support for web-connected database solutions. Unfortunately, more often than not, we can’t take these problems on because they don’t fall within our scope (e.g. technology to support teaching, learning, and research). Usually its more in the office administration scope.
So, for those clients, here is one simple solution for managing data-collection via the web. Google Docs to the rescue.
The basic features are:
- You can create a custom form with as many fields as you want by selecting labels and format for the input of each field.
- Once you have created the form you can copy the provided “embed code” that will allow you to then embed the form in you web site, wiki, blog, etc.
- When a visitor to your site fills in the form the data is saved in a Google Docs spreadsheet.
- Google Docs spreadsheets provide you with the usual spreadsheet functions such as data formulas, graphs, sorting etc.
- You can set up your spreadsheet to automatically email you whenever a new entry is submitted.
Today I’m at the NERCOMP WordPress U SIG.
I’m impressed by how many of our peers are using WP for a whole variety of use cases and its generating a lot of ideas for how to enhance the UIT-AT service. I’m looking forward to putting the finishing touches on the Spark WordPress tool over the summer months to launch fully for “back-to-school” in the Fall.
http://digress.it/ looks like an interesting plug-in that could enhance student/faculty communication of feedback on writing assignments.
http://ocaoimh.ie/wordpress-mu-sitewide-tags/ – also looks good as way to create a blog that aggregates entries across blog.
WordPress.com rep talked about what’s coming with WP 3.0. Some highlights:
- Custom post types (e.g. assignments, tests, events) and custom taxonomies (e.g. department, course ID, professor). This might be just the ticket for the Ed Voice wiki replacement.
- Merging WP + MU = WP 3.0
- Custom menus.
Things I didn’t know about:
- Post templates (individual styling for posts of a certain category).
One of our early WP adopters asked about tracking access stats on their new blog.
Worked with Ian to identify a way to easily enable Google Analytics for WP MU.
This will allow us to view a report across all blogs but also let individual blog admins to set up and access their own reports for their own blogs.