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12
Mar

Setting Up the CyberSalonAZ Network

Step 1: Install WordPress

Cheryl purchased the cybersalonaz.com domain name and installed WordPress to her existing Dreamhost server. Mary Jane Onnen donated $20 to pay for two years of domain name registration. Installation of WordPress can be quite simple, as most hosting companies have 1 click install. However, Cheryl decided she wanted for the site to be as secure as possible, so she did a manual install through sftp. You’ll have to talk to her about what all she did.

Step 2: Create a Network

Cheryl created the network in WordPress 3.1 and chose to use the subdirectories option. She basically followed the directions for doing so on the WordPress Codex page (Create a Network). I think this can probably be the most challenging step, but if you follow directions it’s not hard. When you set up a network in WordPress, you have the option of either using subdirectories or subdomains for the network blogs you create. For example, in my setup for my class, all my students have their own blogs. I had to decide what I wanted the URL to their site to look like:

  • Sub-domains — like site1.eng101online.com and site2.eng101online.com
  • Sub-directories — like eng102online.com/site1 and eng102online.com/site2

Cheryl chose subdirectories because it was easier to set up. When I chose subdomains on my ENG101online site, I had to open a help ticket for my hosting account to ask them to set it up for me. Keep that in mind if you like that option.

Step 3: Install Plugins

We both installed BuddyPress, Achievements for BuddyPress, FeedWordPress, BP Posts on Profile plugins, and set the Akismet API key for the spam filter. If you’ve ever installed plugins on a WordPress blog, you know how easy this is. The hardest part was finding the right plug in. When I did a search for BuddyPress, there were so many plugins that the main plugin didn’t even show up on the first page of results. One I found it though, it was 1 click install. So quickly I’ll explain these main plugins and our reasons for installing them. First, BP adds the social networking features to the WordPress network we set up. To simplify what it is, let’s just say BP is Facebook added to your WordPress. It adds member profile pages, groups, activity streams, friends and friendship requests.

Next is the Achievements for BuddyPress plugin. I’m most excited about this plugin, so of course we had to install it right away. If you’re not familiar with the concept of gamification or social gaming, I’ll be posting more on this later. It basically turns your site into a gaming site where members can earn points, awards and badges for doing certain activities or actions that are determined by the site administrator. As an example, I set up an “event” achievement with the condition of: “The user rejects a friendship request from someone.” When a user performs this event, he automatically earns a badge called the “Asshole Badge.” I just used a image I found on the internet for the badge. I also set it up so the asshole earns 5 points for his efforts.

Connecting our existing individual blogs to the site is important, so we installed the FeedWordPress and BP Posts on Profile plugins. The first is an Atom/RSS aggregator for WordPress. You set up feeds that you choose, and FeedWordPress syndicates posts from those sources into your WordPress posts table. So most of our members have personal blogs where they currently blog about technology and education, and we can now grab the RSS of those existing blogs and have those posts post to the new site’s main page. It’s a really cool plugin in that it automatically maps up with existing users who have the same user name or email address if is listed in the RSS feed. The BP Posts on Profile plugin takes those aggregated posts and displays the posts on the members profile page. So when you’re looking a members profile, there is a posts tab. In that tab, it displays all the posts they have posted.

Lastly, Cheryl set up Akismet by plugging in her API key. As most already know, Akismet protects your blog from comment and trackback spam.

Step 4: Choose a Theme

I chose a BuddyPress theme I purchased for my ENG101online course. We’re not sure it’s the best theme for us yet, but for now we are working with it. It’s called BPSlick and I purchased it for $30. It was the best looking BuddyPress theme I’d seen, and it was recommended by Boone Gorges when we attended his workshop at Wordcamp Phoenix in January. There aren’t many BP themes out there yet -not nearly as many as there are for WP. Cheryl created the purple header to match in Photoshop.

Step 5: Play & Learn

Play with it and learn how to do whatever it is you want to do with your own social network. My first need was: How do I get a RSS feed for a Twitter list? Twitter provides an RSS feed for user tweets, but not for lists. I searched high and low and found that I can do it with Yahoo! Pipes! Yep, Pipes. Check it out: http://pipes.yahoo.com/pipes/pipe.info?_id=fb60de5ff93e81319e3c5fa207b9b276 Someone already created the pipe, so all you have to do is type in your username and the name of the list you want the feed for. Sweet! I created a page on the network called Tweets and I posted the feed to Twitter list: @soul4real/Maricopa.

10
Feb

Five Card Story: Yearning for Knowledge

Five Card Story: Yearning for Knowledge

a ds106 story created by soul4real


flickr photo by pakalko21


flickr photo by HelenaRAmos


flickr photo by PUBLIreflexions


flickr photo by duncandonuts56


flickr photo by les.epinards

Here I sit gazing out the window, looking for knowledge. Is it out this window? Or down this road and across the great divide? I needn’t go very far, as knowledge can be obtained just by using a mouse. But don’t snooze on that or you’ll miss out on all the bright new ideas that are shining bright and ready to consume.


10
Feb

DS106 Radio (Not Really) Live Show

Welcome to another episode of Pimp My Class. Click the link to listen. Tonight’s show will take you back to old school storytelling. We got a letter from Anna in Cave Creek who wanted to know if there were simple audio tools to use in the classroom for storytelling. Why yes, Anna, let’s Pimp Your Class with some easy to use audio tools.

Assignment Description: Come up with an hour-long, themed show for #ds106 Radio that you both conceptualize and produce, then deliver on-the-air live over. It can be an ongoing show, or a one-time affair.

So I’m taking a stab at radio show hosting. Someone be sure to tell me to keep my day job. I created a radio bumper, 3 mini commercials all rolled into a 5 minute episode of a show I created called Pimp My Class. I recorded in Audacity and added a few sound effects and StackTraxx music which I have a license for.

Links for tonight’s show:

Transcript:

You are listening to ds106 radio with soul4real broadcasting live from Phoenix, Arizona.

Welcome to another episode of Pimp My Class. Tonight’s show will take you back to old school storytelling. We got a letter from Anna in Cave Creek who wanted to know if there were simple audio tools to use in the classroom for storytelling. Why yes, Anna, let’s Pimp Your Class with some easy to use audio tools, but first…

Old school storytelling is all about the story and the storyteller. A good story was conveyed through words, and often by improvisation or embellishment.(Much like I’m doing now) Stories have been shared in every culture as a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation and in order to instill moral values. The same is true today, but storytelling has certainly changed. Today’s storytellers have so many other tools other than the spoken word or movement of the body to convey the story. Today we have endless types of media, including a ton of Web 2.0 tools that can create everything from a still photo to mashups of video to help us tell a story. It can all be quite over stimulating. However, there are many purists still out there that believe storytelling should be only about the narrative. Just sit down. Unplug. Listen. Just like in the old days when we would all gather around the radio to listen to an episode of the Lone Ranger. SCRRRRRR! Okay, okay. Yeah, I wasn’t alive in the 1930’s, and I’m not buying this purists crap either. Gimme a good old fashioned Web 2.0 created story any day. In fact, let’s get right down to my top 3 super techie story telling audio tools.

First is AudioBoo. There’s nothing better than telling a story around a picture, but who has time to take a picture, go home, transfer it to your computer, pretty it up, and then upload it to the web? Then you’re only half way done. You still have to record the story. Back up there a sec. Snap a picture with your fancy smart phone, open up your AudioBoo app, record your story about the picture you just took, attach the photo and send the whole thing to AudioBoo with the push of a button. AudioBoo then posts your story for the whole world to see and hear just like magic. Truly awesome sauce, don’t you think?

Okay, number two on my list is iPadio. Again, who has time for old technology. That would be desktop computers and uploading photos and stories to the web, in case you forgot. iPadio is another tool that lets you use your mobile phone to create audio. iPadio gives you a toll free number to call, so just dial the number and start telling your story. When you’re finished, hang up and your show is live on the web. In fact, if you wanted to actually be live, you can do a live storytelling broadcast. Totally rad, right?

Finally there is AudioPal for those time when you are stuck in a boring textbased discussion forum reading endless boring diatribes about whatever the teacher has assigned. Let’s assume you are not the teacher. That would be bad. But anyway, why not bust out in story right in the middle of that boring discussion with AudioPal. AudioPal lets you record audio directly to the web browser using a microphone or your telephone. And if you’re truly lazy, you can use text to speech. Any way you choose you get your story recorded, and AudioPal will email you the embed code to your story. You can then embed your story right into the discussion, so when all the other bored students get to your post, they get a surprise story to brighten their day, and all is right in the world once again. Okay, well, maybe not, but anyway, Anna you can pimp your class by introducing any of these storytelling methods into your class. I hope that helps and good luck to you.

Okay, that’s it’s for tonight’s episode of Pimp My Class. If you would like to get some tips on how to pimp your class, send your email to dr.coop at yahoo.com. Until then, this is soul4real signing off. Have a great evening.

5
Feb

Random Assignment for DS106 – Playlist Story

As I was scanning through the DS106 RSS feed reading posts and listening to lots of content, I came across an assignment that had to do with writing a story using your music playlist. I couldn’t find the “official” assignment anywhere on the ds106.us website. I’m still trying to figure it all out. Anyway, this assignment was a bit less academic than the one I was currently working on (reading and reflecting), so I thought I’d give it a whirl. It looks like someone named Colleen created her own assignment. The jist of it is:

Using Windows Media Player*, construct a playlist of songs (using song titles only) that can go together to form a sentence, a poem, a new song, etc. When you are done, print your screen, paste it in paint and upload it to your blog, flickr, etc., tagging it.

By passing the Windows Media Player for iTunes (does anyone use WMP anymore?), I got started making my story. Interestingly enough my story ended up being quite a depressing love story. I recall someone else making a similar comment on his on music playlist story. I guess writing poetry is easier if there is a sad story in it.

5
Feb

Assignment #4: Dailyshoot Redux

This is an easy one. I started doing Dailyshoot over a year ago but grew bored when the assignments seemed to repeat. As a result of not participating, my photo production dwindled to almost nothing. Every time I wanted to take a picture of something I had to go searching for my camera. Before I would always have one with me. So I’m enjoying getting back into photography mode. I’m going to try to not be so obsessive about this time though. 🙂

Some other cool places to participate in daily shoots are on Flickr 365 Project and 365project. There are lots of great photographers out there, and participating is a great way to practice your own skills. Below is a slideshow of my 199 Dailyshoot photos on flickr.

19
Jan

Experimenting with WordPress Plugin to Stalk My Students

I’ve been blogging for years, and I have well over 10 blogs on WordPress.com, self hosted WordPress and Blogger. No, I do not try to update them all, just as I would not try to wear all my clothes on the same day. They are there for when the mood strikes me to post about xyz; I go to the blog that applies and post. But recently I began teaching my online courses out of WordPress blogs. I started with WordPress MU (multi-user), which was pretty close to a nitemare, but recently when WordPress updated to 3.0 the networking and multi-user features were built. Well, sort of. There’s one little step that needs to be done to activate it, but that was a lot easier to do than setting up WordPress MU.

Setting this all up as my course management system to replace Blackboard required a lot of experimenting. In fact, in this second semester of using it for my online classes, I’m still experimenting. For instance, with my ENG101 course last fall I installed BuddyPress to add more networking features, but in my ENG102 and ENH295 courses I did not.

BuddyPress: Social networking in a box. Build a social network for your company, school, sports team or niche community all based on the power and flexibility of WordPress.

I decided I liked the added social networking features of BuddyPress, but I wasn’t comfortable with using it or the look of it just yet, so I put that on hold. Instead I’ve been experimenting with some other plugins to add similar features.

One of my favorite plugins is Who’s Online. I have 72 students in 3 sections of ENG102, and it helps to know who has logged in recently. With this plugin I can add a widget to the sidebar that displays all 72 students’ pictures, names and last logged in status. Or if they are currently online, it will display that. I love looking at all the avatar photos of my students, and it’s easy to take “online roll call” with this feature. What would really be cool is if I could click on the photo or name and be taken to a profile page to read more about each one. Oh wait, that’s what BuddyPress does. Ah, I’m not ready for that just yet. Maybe next semester.

So I’m not really stalking my students. That was a pretty good attention getter though. Don’t you think? If you’d like to see a pretty good WordPress site running BuddyPress, you should check out @Teach42’s Fit42 Challenge. Not only is he running BuddyPress, but he also installed the Achievements plugins that allows him to award badges to users for completing various tasks. It’s really cool. I’ll save more on that for a later post.

13
Jan

Coop Here: Going Old School

The first assignment is to do a short introduction and tell a story about something that happened to you recently. So I made a video in iMovie, as I was trying to learn how to do green screen in iMovie ’09. I wanted to be able to teach a colleague how to do green screen movies for her class and she only has a Mac. I’ve never done it in iMovie, as I use Pinnacle Studio 12 on a PC and not my Mac for movie editing. I was not successful, as you will see, but I have a story none the less. #ds106

11
Jan

Not Your Grandmother’s Storytelling

Okay, I’m jumping in the water. Giving this open course thing a test. I thought: storytelling, hmmm…, I can handle that. But after having a quick look at this storytelling, I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed. What the heck are these people talking about? What happened to throwing some pics together in iMovie and laying down some narration. That’s the storytelling I know. But crowdsourcing, mashups, cyberinfrastructure, fan fiction? WTH? Okay, I can handle this. Calm down.

I’m still not clear what I’m suppose to be doing. The Reverend preaches: “Now let’s create some art, damn it!” Okay, okay, I’m going. I’ll figure this out. You’ll see.

9
Jan

Online Quizzing in the Absence of a CMS

I survived my first semester of online teaching sans Blackboard. Overall I felt as if it was a success, but there were some things that I just wasn’t happy with. The biggest being the lack of a good quizzing feature. Now I’m not saying quizzing in Blackboard was any treat, so this is by no means a negative on my switch to WordPress for my online classes. In fact, I think if I were still using Bb, I’d more than likely start using my new quizzing solution with it as well.

So here’s the run down. I like to give reading quizzes to keep my students on their toes and hold them accountable for the required reading in the class. These quizzes are not major and usually consist of about 15-20 questions. I’m not a fan of “multiple guess” questions, so I like to be able to ask questions in a variety of ways. My favorite quiz question types are fill in the blank and matching. My solution last semester was to use ClassMarker to create and deliver my quizzes online. It’s actually a fairly good tool, but I had two problems with it. First, I couldn’t write fill in the blank and matching quiz questions. Well, I could do fill in the one blank, but no multiple blanks, and no matching at all. I was bummed, but I made do. The second problem was that I couldn’t embed the quizzes into my WordPress site. Students had to visit the ClassMarker site, log in with a username and password, and then take the quiz. This doesn’t sound like much of a problem, but it just creates one more username/password for students to remember. They already have email, the class site, and the online gradebook, plus we used Diigo and Bibme for our research projects. I did simplify things my making everything I set up for them use the same student ID for username, but I still felt guilty about the number of required logins students needed.

So for this semester my goal was to try to simplify things for them, and my first solution was to retire ClassMarker and find a better quiz solution that would allow me to create flash quizzes that I could install on my own web server and then embed right in the course site. I don’t really need anything fancy for storing or analyzing quiz results. This is not real assessment for me. I just want a score. I was surprised to find many tools available, but I narrowed it down to two. What follows are my thoughts on the two products.

Wondershare QuizCreator

Wondershare QuizCreator is a powerful Flash quiz maker that enables trainers and educators to make quizzes with multimedia objects for online testing.

I like QuizCreator because it is easy to use. I can create 9 different questions types, and I can create questions with images, audio and narration, and embed videos. But best of all I can publish a flash quiz to the web that sends student results to my email address. I created an orientation quiz in QuizCreator. I was able to create the kinds of questions I like: True/False, Multiple Choice, Multiple Response, Fill in the Blank, Matching, Sequence, Word Bank, Click Map and Short Essay. But one downfall is I couldn’t create fill in multiple blanks questions. Also I didn’t like that you couldn’t easily award partial credit for a question if students got part of the answer correctly. To do this, I think I would have to make each part of the answer worth at least 1 point and then go in individually and designate each part of the answer as worth 1 point. That makes the question worth too much then. I would like to have partial points (1/4, 1/2). I like how I could add images, videos, and audio. I can either upload or record audio right in the question, but videos have to be in the flash format (swf or flv). That was a bummer.

In quiz properties I had the option to collect name, email and other information about students or even create accounts for students. That was a nice touch. The default was to ask for a username and email address. I would love to have it ask for a real name instead of the username. I could also create a one password entrance to the quiz and set it up so the student results are emailed to both me and the student. You can buy a QuizCreator educational license for $99.95, and I certainly think it is worth it.

iSpring QuizMaker

iSpring QuizMaker: Create interactive and fully customized Flash quizzes with 10 different question formats and results based feedback.

QuizMaker is also very easy to use, but right off the bat I noticed that QuizMaker has a much nicer look on the published quizzes. I’m not sure what the difference is, but it just looks nicer. It also has different question types: True/False, Multiple Choice, Multiple Response, Type In, Matching, Sequence, Numeric, Fill in the Blank, and Multiple Choice Text (Choose one correct answer in each drop-down list). The Fill in the Blank can have multiple blanks (Yay!), and I’ve never seen the Multiple Choice Text question, but I already love it. Questions can be marked to score with partial credit without having to figure out the scoring on your own. It does it for you. I can add photos, videos and images. I can’t record audio directly into the question, like with QuizCreator, but for videos I could upload all the major formats (avi, mpg, mp4, wmv). I’m guessing it converts it to flash for you, saving you the extra step.

In the Settings, I don’t have as many options for collecting student data. Default is to request real name and email address. Quiz results are sent of my email address by default, but there is no option to send results to the student as well. You can buy a QuizMaker educational license for $150, although I think that is just a tad bit high if I have to pay out of pocket. Interestingly enough if you buy a User Pack of 10, the price is $98 each, so it’s cheaper if you get your school to buy it for you and 9 other teachers.

Overall Impressions

I really like both, and both do so much more than I mentioned in this post. I just tried to touch on the differences. For instance, they both have customizable players, integration with Blackboard and SCORM compliance, offer an online LMS to manage quizzes, testing time limit, pass score, shuffle questions, question pools, custom feedback, and self grading. Both are fairly inexpensive and offer a free trial so you can try it out. I could live with either, but iSpring QuizMaker almost makes it feel like I’d be choosing a Mac over a PC. They both work great, but it seems to work and look just a little bit better. And just like a Mac, it costs more. I have 30 days to decide, or better yet, beg for some money from the college. I haven’t tried that yet at GCC. Wish me luck.

29
Oct

Why WordPress is Better than Blackboard (Video)

So I’ve been writing about my escape from Blackboard to WordPress for my online course management system. Some people were wondering what this looks like. I can’t just give you the link because the classes are live and are in locked down mode (private), so I create a screencast so you can see an what an online course in WordPress might look like. I also talk about the feature I like best in comparison to Bb.