Category Archives: Open Online Courses

OOE13 Twitter chat on open education

As noted in the previous post, I helped facilitate an open online course called OOE13 (Open Online Experience 13) in 2013 and 2014. In April 2014 I was in charge of the topic of open education for the course, and we had a couple of Twitter chats. This was actually the first one though it is coming second here in my post order.

I’m archiving the tweets here because Storify is going away in a few days. So think of this post as having been here since 2014.

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OOE13 Twitter chat on OER

From Sept. 2013 to May 2014 I helped co-design and facilitate an open, online course for educators (Open Online Experience 2013)  on topics ranging from connected learning to digital literacy to digital storytelling to open education. The domain we had is no longer kept up and has some other website on it, so you can’t get information there. But you can see a couple of other posts about it under the OOE13 category here on my blog

In this post and the next one I’ll be pasting in Tweets from Twitter chats we had in April of 2014, when I was in charge of that month’s topic, open education. Now that storify.com is going away, I need to archive what I had there, here on my blog!

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Why Open Twitter chat on CC licenses and “Why Open?”

On August 29, 2014, I helped facilitate a Twitter chat for a course I was co-designing and facilitating called Why Open? at P2PU (Peer 2 Peer University).

I had this Twitter chat archived at storify.com, but since it’s going away I’m moving the Tweets here to my blog instead. So imagine that this post was made in 2014!

I took out some tweets whose URLs went nowhere; apparently they have left Twitter or moved their accounts…

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CLMOOC16 Find 5 Friday

I participated in #CLMOOC (connected learning MOOC) in the summer of 2016, at least a little bit (see a couple of posts in the CLMOOC category here on my blog).

I created a “Find 5 Friday” post on Storify during that time, and as Storify is shutting its doors and deleting all content in a week or so (May 2018) I’m archiving important stories from there, here on my blog.

So, this is from July 2016….

CLMOOC Find 5 Friday Week 1

http://clmooc.com/2016/make-cycle-1-make-with-me-who-are-we/

1. A thought-provoking thought

Nazife posted in the #clmooc Google plus group a couple of lines from Rumi:

“Why do you stay in prison

When the door is so wide open?”

If you click on the link to the G+ post above you can see the very apt image she posted, with these lines superimposed on it.

I found this very thought-provoking, and wondered what prisons I am staying in, even without realizing it. That is a theme for my #F5F (of which one is the Nazife’s post!). Some of the prisons I’m in are based in fear, so the following are ways I got past that this week.

2. Stealing and collaborating

Terry Elliott wrote a post in which he claims he “stole” a poem from Deanna Mascle and made something new from it.

He asked on his Google Plus post about this post, “We are collaborating with our #DailyConnect , but…what if the collaboration is unbidden.” He didn’t ask, he just took the original and made something new.

That’s something I’ve very familiar with from #ds106–taking what someone else has created, even without asking, and making something else. It’s part of the culture of sharing and making there. So this wasn’t surprising to me.

And what was really cool is that Deanna had made her original picture from words she collected from others in CLMOOC. Talk about collaboration!

Deanna’s also a great post on its own, putting together many people’s contributions to week 1!

3. So this is number 3…

It’s a great example of showcasing what others have done and doing something wonderful with it.

Notable Notes: Exploring Identity with/in #CLMOOC

2. Back to number 2

What was surprising to me was that even though at the end of his post above Terry invited us explicitly to collaborate on his own poem made from Deanna’s picture, I was really wary about doing so. Here is the Hackpad he invited us to play on.

I did add some things and created a section of the pad that could stand on its own as a poem, but I left the rest of what he had written at the bottom, as if afraid to touch it. As if I shouldn’t really mess with it. Sure, it was partly to leave it in case others wanted to use that part and make something new, but really it was because I felt very awkward taking someone else’s words and changing them.

And that’s strange to me because I do it all the time with pictures in #ds106, but somehow with writing it felt different. The words felt like they were more attached to the person and I shouldn’t mess with them. Even when Terry explicitly said to do so!

But I got over that and did it anyway, at least to some degree. So I got out of that “prison,” so to speak.

4. Unexpected smiles

Karen LaBonte wrote in her week 1 reflection that she has often started off strong in MOOCs but then:

“typically, within a couple of of weeks, I am floundering in the backwash of folks who seem to instinctively know the who, what, where, when, and why: who to talk to, when, what to say, what they want to gain from the experience, what they can offer others, etc. As I teetered on the cusp of CLMOOC2016, I wondered whether MOOCs are made for extroverts, which in many ways, I am not.”

I found this really important to consider. I am an extrovert online, someone who puts herself out there in many ways and hopes for the best. This week I shared my very personal grief over some of the horror that has been happening in the world this summer, as I struggled with my emotions on one of the days this week and decided to do a drawing to try to express them. I was a little worried about sharing that pain and that drawing with strangers, but I decided to try and got wonderful support back (and even Daniel Bassill making a remix of my drawing, which helped me immensely).

I appreciated the reminder that some people find open, online courses difficult and can get lost in the flow, feel somewhat left out when others seem to know exactly what to do. What I can say, though, is that so far I am finding CLMOOC to be a very inviting space and I hope that people who might otherwise flounder a bit can find their footing here in this kind, supportive, open and fun group!

I also loved Karen’s stories about the unexpected smiles she shared one day, one through Pokemon Go and one just from someone on the street who wished her a good day out of the blue. Knowing that that still happens, and there are wonderful people in the world, was something I needed to hear this week.

5. On the edge

One of the #dailyconnects for week 1 was to explore one’s edge.

What is your edge and how do you approach falling off? That resonated with the theme I’ve chosen for my #F5F this week, of what prisons I find myself in based in fear.

Sheri Edwards created a lovely picture in which she explores her own edge.

Sheri talks about going over the edge of shyness, and realizing that when you fall off, that is when you can fly. And grow, and change.

One of my edges currently is with drawing. It’s something I’ve always thought I just couldn’t do, even while others could. Recently I decided to, well, just start and practice–because how can you get good if you never do it? That’s one of my edges I’ll be pushing in #clmooc this summer, and I’m glad to have a supportive and kind bunch of people to push it with!

 

Polarization and profits (#engageMOOC)

For topic 2 of #engageMOOC (Engagement in a Time of Polarization), we read an article by Chris Gilliard called “Power, Polarization and Tech,” and Chris was also part of live conversation for the course (I couldn’t join it live but watched the video recording). We also watched a couple of videos, and some of what by Zeynep Tufekci had to say in a Ted talk from September 2017 really stood out to me. Here I’m going to present some somewhat random reflections on both of these–things that really made me think.

Gilliard

I and a few others engaged in some annotations on his article “Power, Polarization and Tech” through hypothes.is. I noted there that, while I’m embarrassed to admit it, I hadn’t really fully grasped how social media, and perhaps other aspects of the web based on making money through keeping our attention, are designed in order to increase polarization. “Polarization is by design, for profit,” Gilliard notes, because it keeps our attention on the platforms that drive it (I mentioned this in my previous post for #engageMOOC as well).

It’s not just that Facebook and Twitter (for example) attract people who get enraged and abuse each other, nor that they don’t do enough to stop abuse (though they don’t), it’s also that people getting angry and outraged and posting about that new horrible thing the other side did is what these platforms require in order to continue to be financially viable…it’s what makes them tick. It’s built into the design of their profits so it’s not going to go away. At least not so long as those who create and run the platforms make their money through our attention and our data.

In the recording of the live discussion with Chris for the course, he points out how many of the apps and social platforms we use suck up our data in ways we don’t realize, and do with it things that we don’t know. He noted that when you update apps, you should re-do your privacy settings, which I hadn’t thought about before. The problem with this is not just “do you have anything to hide” but also that you have lost agency if you don’t know what’s happening. You can read the Terms of Service, of course, but they are often vague and don’t really tell you what is happening with your data. And it can end up, through being sold to others, affecting what kind of insurance you’re able to get (for example). Again, the issue here is in part about agency, about being in control, and we’re losing that with regard to our data.

Which is why, in my previous post, I wondered if one way to help address this issue would be to rethink how we engage on social media and in other apps. We have gotten used to the idea that the web is free (of cost in the sense of money) and so all of these wonderful free services seem like just the way things should be. But of course we are paying in other ways, and not just with our data; we are paying with divides between people built on outrage that is part of the bread and butter of our free services. And as we’ve been hearing lately, it’s all too easy for people to create bots who will stir up that outrage for political (or other) gains.

I have started to make a point of finding online apps and platforms I think are useful and paying for them. Partly this is to support those who I think are providing good things in the world, and partly because I think that this is one small way forward: if the people who create such things can make money in other ways, there will be less need for us to pay in data and attention (at least, I hope so). I realize I’m privileged in this regard; not everyone can pay for such things. And Gilliard notes in the live discussion the limitations of individual actions–just because I take shorter showers doesn’t mean things are going to change. I agree that bigger efforts on a larger structural level are required too. But smaller efforts aiming towards what one wants to see are at least something (and Gilliard notes they aren’t a problem, just not enough usually).

That’s one of the many reasons I prefer Mastodon to Twitter: I pay with money, not my data. And there are actually enforced rules against abuse (and a specific no-Nazi policy, as the instance I’m on is based in Germany). No emphasis on “freedom of speech is always good and we just need more of it to drown out the Nazis” kind of rhetoric on the instance I’ve joined. Find me at clhendricksbc@mastodon.social. I’m also at chendricks@scholar.social, but I post less there.

 

Tufekci

Zeynep Tufekci, by Bengt Oberger, licensed CC BY-SA 4.0 on Wikimedia Commons

I really found her Sept. 2017 Ted talk quite powerful. I don’t have a lot of time so I’ll just mention one or two things in particular. Tufekci was talking about machine-learning algorithms and how the mountains of data that are being provided about us through our interactions with platforms and apps can lead to personalization of content. Some of it seems innocuous, like when you look at some product online and then ads for that product follow you around in other apps and platforms. Some of it even seems beneficial, like how you might get discounts on something you want, like tickets to Vegas. But it can be dangerous too, because the algorithms may realize that the people who are really likely to buy tickets to Vegas are those addicted to gambling, and since they have no ethics the algorithms will target such people. And further, they can work to provide you with more and more of worse and worse content once you start, e.g., watching something a little bit fringe or violent on YouTube–the suggestions on the right are poised to take you further and further down that path (which, as a parent  of a pre-teen boy I really paid attention to).

One thing that hit me in particular was that the personalization these algorithms can do can lead to use getting different content in our social and news feeds–that’s not news to me, but Tufecki pointed out something I hadn’t really focused on before: “As a public and as citizens, we no longer know if we’re seeing the same information or what anybody else is seeing, and without a common basis of information, little by little, public debate is becoming impossible ….”

If the algorithms are showing us different news stories (e.g. on Facebook) and posts from different people with very different political leanings (because they think you will like one kind of post and I another, and we don’t see the other posts even when we’re following the same people), then no wonder we end up unable to have effective public discussions.

I guess I have always held hope in the idea that people who genuinely want to come together and find solutions will do so. There are many people who really want to consider various sides carefully, who want to listen and consider the “other side” and whether there is anything there they should be paying attention to. But people like that are going to have a really hard time coming together if they don’t even have a shared basis of information or if the “other side” they see is interpreted through lenses that demonize them because this is what keeps your attention, and this is what the algorithms think you want in order to keep your attention.

 

Awareness as a first step?

This is all very depressing and all I can hope right now is that helping people see what is going on will encourage us to change the structures that continue to support it. Gilliard talks about looking at the EU as a start, where some of the privacy regulations are much more stringent than in the US as regards companies like Google and Facebook collecting data. It may take governmental regulation to help us move in the right direction. But it’s also going to take awareness on many people’s part to even see the problem.

 

 

Creating meaningful communities (#engageMOOC)

I am participating in a two-week long MOOC called “Engagement in a Time of Polarization,” hosted on EdX. It’s related to the Antigonish 2.0 project (you can read Bonnie Stewart‘s May 2017 Educause article for more: “Antigonish 2.0: A Way for Higher Ed to Save the Web.”

The course is broadly about what the title says: how to engage people together when the context around us emphasizes polarization. At least, that’s what I’m getting from the bit I’ve done of the course so far. As Chris Gilliard notes in his post “Power, Polarization, and Tech,” polarization is profitable for social media and many other parts of the web: “Polarization keys engagement, and engagement/attention are the what keep us on platforms.” So how do we engage with one another, create meaningful communities, work together to address issues we face in our local contexts, when our digital lives are influenced by moves towards polarization?

Meaningful participatory communities

Today I watched three videos in the course, from people working on different aspects of creating meaningful communities, of helping to create “participatory public engagement” (in the words of the introductory video for Topic 1 of the course). The Highlander Center in Tennessee, USA, is one group working on such efforts. According to the video interview of two people from the Center, (among other things) they bring people together to learn from each other about issues in their own communities, plan actions to address them, and carry those out. The emphasis here is on people bringing their own experiences, their knowledges and cultural practices, and learning from each other through those.

This sounded like an amazing group (they’ve been at it since the 1930s), and I couldn’t help thinking: okay, so the people involved learn and take action, but what about the next generation? And the next? How do we build something like this into just part of what it means to be living in a society (or at least, a democratic one)? I suppose one can do so through the three levels of the Angtigonish movement: local groups, k-12 and higher education, international networks.

Meaningful participatory communities on the web?

How might online platforms or other aspects of digital life contribute to such communities? Right now, often they don’t. As noted above, much of social media is based on profits that can be made through engagement, for which polarization is an important driver. What other opportunities exist?

I like to think blogs are one option here: they can encourage longer writing, longer reflections, deeper engagement. And then through comments people can connect together. But I’m finding there aren’t that many people commenting lately, whether on my blog or others’ (this is purely anecdotal!), and I wonder if social media is taking its place. Just do a quote-tweet instead and that’s your comment! And maybe doing so can connect more people (the message about the post gets amplified beyond one’s own original message on social media, e.g.). Still, social media posts, while permanent in some ways, can often be hard to find later, whereas blog posts and comments are a bit easier I think. Not to mention that social media platforms can filter what you see, or when you see it.

drawing of an elephant with an "m" and "joinmastodon.org" underneath it

Find Mastodon logos and stickers through their press kit at http://joinmastodon.org

Another interesting option is social media that isn’t driven by profit. I posted about Mastodon on this course’s discussion board as one such option. The discussion question was about this quote and whether it is correct:

“It’s not that there’s anything particularly healthy about cyberspace in itself, but the way in which cyberspace breaks down barriers. Cyberspace makes person-to-person interaction much more likely in an already fragmented society. The thing that people need desperately is random encounter. That’s what community has.”

– John Perry Barlow, 1995, from http://www.lionsroar.com/bell-hooks-talks-to-john-perry-barlow/

I posted on the discussion board and then realized that that is not visible to people outside the course, and also that it will disappear once the course is finished in two weeks.

So I’m reproducing my post below.


There are probably never any truly random encounters in online spaces, because where you go depends on your past, your current experiences, your desires, etc., and others end up there too because of their context…but I have found that I have been able to reach out beyond my fairly small social bubble online through a new-ish social media platform, Mastodon (http://joinmastodon.org). When I joined in the Fall of 2016 it was a small space with a small number of users, few of whom were from my own, already-established online circles. As soon as I made my first public post someone replied to welcome me, and for awhile there was a culture of welcoming new people with a friendly reply, which I joined in as well. I got to know a number of people in those early days, some of whom are still there and some of whom have moved on. But it felt like a small community of friendly folks that I didn’t meet randomly, but that led to connections I would not have made on my usual social circles online.

Now Mastodon has gotten much bigger, but the nature of how it works still fosters small communities if one wants them. It is a federated social network, which means no one big person or company owns all of it. You join an “instance,” which can be big or small, general or focused on particular interests, and run by one or a group of people. The code is open source and anyone with the tech know-how can spin up an instance (and the helpful thing to do is to contribute to your instance host’s expenses and time with a regular donation such as on Patreon or something like that). Each instance has its own rules and policies; many are much stricter on hate speech and harassment, for example, than what you’ll find on Twitter.

But the beauty of federation is that you can still talk with people on other instances. You can either just see the posts from people on your own instance, or on all instances that yours federates with (usually, if one person follows someone on another instance, then that leads to the instances connecting to each other; but this may differ according to different instances’ rules/practices).

Not random encounters, but expanding circles. the ability to stay in a small community or branch outwards, The ability to be on an instance with policies you agree with and people you want to spend time with. And while there are disagreements and some ugliness at times, it is nowhere near the deep polarization and horror I sometimes see on places like Twitter.


I should also mention that there is even a co-op instance on Mastodon, where the members collectively run the instance, decide on policies, etc.: social.coop

I am not claiming that Mastodon will solve all our social ills…far from it. But I think it’s a move in the right direction because the way it’s structured has the capacity for instances to focus on engagement rather than attention, connection rather than polarization … in a way I don’t see current mainstream social media platforms doing.

And if you don’t want your attention and your data to be the product, be willing to put forward a little money to support your instance host! :)

 

Summer of tears and hope

This summer has been tough. Hell, this year has been tough. Okay, this lifetime. But it seems there have been more and more reports, each week, of atrocities around the world. And each time they hit me hard.

Somehow the attack in Nice, France on Bastille Day 2016 hit me the hardest. Maybe because it was a family event, a happy and fun event I can imagine my family going to anywhere in the world. Maybe it was the extreme violence of it. Maybe it was just because it came on the heels of so much else. But it’s really hard for me to take.

So I decided to draw a picture. Maybe art therapy would help? It helped a little.

IMG_2261

 

I was trying to express my crushing sadness without letting it crush me, while also reminding myself of hope and work to be done and beauty and love that still exist and that we must cultivate.

 

I also took up an invitation to participate in a collaborative poem through #clmooc, on this post by Terry Elliott.

He had taken a poem by someone else and focused on a few words.

picture of a poem over another poem with words turned into colours and a circle image

Image from here, original here

 

Now, this original creation (the words in colours) came from work many of us did in #clmooc. See Deanna Mascle’s post about it.

Then Terry invited others to play with his creation on a Hackpad, so I did. And the result kind of resonated with my feelings today and the image above, without me trying to have it do so. I kept focusing on the words “struggle” and “love,” and realized they can go together and help me think through my pain and outrage. Struggle and love.

So I, too, took words from the picture and then added them to Terry’s chosen words. I then left some of it for others to play with, later. The first screenshot below is Terry’s poem; the second is my additions (at the top).

 

 

I have to say, doing all this today has helped me feel a bit better. Especially the part where I am in a collaboration with others to make things, things that make you think, that invite others to join in. That’s really what I need right now. Maybe many of us do.

 


Post script later that day…

Daniel Bassill added to my drawing in a fantastic way that extends its meaning and impact. Please see here!

Having someone else resonate and connect and extend what I did is amazing. Thank you, Daniel!

 

Intro for #clmooc2016

I have sometimes participated off and on in #clmooc–Connected Learning MOOC. This is an open, online course that’s about connecting with others and making things. I don’t know how much I’ll be able to participate this year either, but I’ll do what I can!

The first “make cycle” is all about introducing ourselves and getting to know others. We were encouraged to introduce ourselves in one of numerous ways. I’ve recently been trying to practice more drawing because it’s the one thing in my life I feel like I just “can’t” do, and that poses a challenge–well, I won’t be able to unless I practice more! And I got inspired to do that at the Sketching in Practice Symposium at the end of June. So I decided to do a drawing.

I was inspired to do this particular one after reading a blog post by Helen DeWaard called “The True You: Iterations of a Bio.” She reflects on bio statements and how we craft different ones for different purposes. When I thought about this, I realized that most bios I’ve written are still just about my professional life. Maybe that’s because the contexts are somehow related to my professional life, but still. I feel like that aspect of my life takes over a lot of the rest of it, too often.

DeWaard also asked a question that struck right at the heart of this issue for me:

When it comes to social media, your bio is part of your presence. Do you reveal who you are or what you do? Is there a way to reveal both?

Mostly I reveal what I do. Or what I care about, but even then it’s related to what I do.

 

Thinking about these things, I came up with a series of drawings to act as a preliminary intro to me. To who I am and what I do. Or maybe just what I do but not all about work. I still haven’t decided how to reveal “who I am.” Or really, who that is.

You can see the images larger if you click on each one…

 

 

 

I taught myself some CSS! (and am very excited about it)

I am working on a teaching and learning portfolio right now because I’m going up for promotion to Professor of Teaching (the highest rung in the “teaching” faculty track here at UBC). I decided to create it on my own domain I got with Reclaim Hosting, so I could have more control over the theme/plugins (and the freedom to break it, of course, that goes along with that).

Through this experience I’m beginning to understand why UBC Blogs only has a few themes available; I have tried numerous free themes on my own WordPress install, and have found several problems with many of them. Only after working hard to customize them the way I want, of course. Then I find out something is weird/buggy/doesn’t work the way I need, and I don’t have enough expertise to fix it.

I finally found a theme I think I can deal with, Moesia, which I first heard about through Alan Levine, and which was recommended when I took the You Show course (well, I participated a little bit at least), so I figured I was probably safe with it not having too much wrong.

Here’s the shell of the site so far (content to be inputted this week!): http://chendricks.org/portfolio

(On this domain I also have my DS106 blog: http://chendricks.org/ds106, but don’t try going to http://chendricks.org because you’ll just see a message about it being under construction. Later I’m going to make that my general hub of info/links about me, but it’s not ready yet).

Teaching myself CSS

So I liked a lot of things about Moesia, but there was still a problem. The menu items in the Section Widget (see here for plugin–made here at UBC!) were showing up with a different colour for links than the rest of the links on the site. What’s worse, they were a kind of medium-grey colour, and you couldn’t really tell they were links until you moused over them. I wanted to change those links to the same colour as the rest of the links on the site.

Enter web search for “change colour of links CSS.” That works fine if you want to change all the links on the site, which actually I wanted to do because I didn’t like the colour of the links on the main pages of the site. From this site I learned you can do this:

——————————–

/* unvisited link */
a:link {
color: #FF0000;
}

/* visited link */
a:visited {
color: #00FF00;
}

/* mouse over link */
a:hover {
color: #FF00FF;
}

/* selected link */
a:active {
color: #0000FF;
}

———————–

Of course, you just add in your own colour codes for what you want.

That would have worked fine except it changed not only the links in the body of the pages but also in the title and menu bar, which I didn’t want. The title and menu were white on black, and when I changed the rest of the links these looked bad on the black background.

Enter “inspect element”: go to a place on a page, right click, and select “inspect element” (at least that’s what it says on Firefox). I learned this trick from the WordPress drop in sessions at UBC. Then you can mouse over various parts of the code on the bottom and see what they refer to on the page. Below I have the problematic section widget highlighted.

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 9.38.50 AM

 

From this page I learned how to change the colour of links in a particular section of a site. And from here I learned the difference in the CSS for div vs. class.

I tried at first to change the colour in the “page-list” class, but that didn’t work. I can’t remember exactly what CSS I used, but it didn’t work anyway.

Here is what I finally came up with that worked, after many, many trials and errors. I figured this out by looking in the right pane on the screenshot above and finding where the colour was for the links.

—————————————-

/*changing colour of links in sidebar pagelist widget*/
.widget-area .widget a {
color: #B42C03;
text-decoration: none;
}

.widget-area .widget a:hover {
color: #2b7291;
text-decoration: underline;
}

.widget-area .widget a:active {
color: #000;
text-decoration: bold;
}

————————————-

Then I got bold and decided I wanted to change the colour of the other links in the site, but not the ones in the header bar–the title and menu. Using the same process as above, determining what the section was called for the body content of the pages (I tried “body,” but that didn’t work), I came up with this:

————————————-

/*changing colour of links*/
/* unvisited links */
.entry-content a:link {
color: #B42C03;
}

/* visited links   */
.entry-content a:visited {
color: #B42C03;
}

/* user hovers     */
.entry-content a:hover {
color: #2b7291;
text-decoration: underline;
}

/* active links    */
.entry-content a:active {
color: #000;
text-decoration: bold;
}

———————————–

I left the “visited” and “unvisited” both there even though they’re the same colour, in case I want to change that colour later (the code is there and I don’t have to try to remember it later!).

Then I realized the comment forms still had the old link colour, so I changed those too:

———————————–

/*changing colour of links in comment form*/
.comment-form a:link {
color: #B42C03;
text-decoration: none;
}

.comment-form a:hover {
color: #2b7291;
text-decoration: underline;
}

————————————

 

The last thing I wanted to change was the colour of the links in the sub-menus in the menu bar. Here is what it looked like before:

 

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 1.39.05 PM

It’s not too bad blown up like this, but on a big screen those links were hard to see against the white background. I wanted them the same colour as the other links on the site.

When I did “inspect element” on that section it said <ul class=”sub menu” style=display: block;”>.  So I tried the following, and it worked!

———————————-

/* unvisited links */
.sub-menu a:link {
color: #B42C03;
text-decoration: none;
}

/* visited links   */
.sub-menu a:visited {
color: #B42C03;
}

/* user hovers     */
.sub-menu a:hover {
color: #2b7291;
text-decoration: underline;
}

/* active links    */
.sub-menu a:active {
color: #000;
text-decoration: bold;
}

————————————-

Again, I left the “visited” and “unvisited” links both there and both the same colour, in case I want to change the colour of one of them later.

 

Next steps

I really don’t know what I’m doing with CSS. This was the result of a lot of trial and error over the past couple of days. And I still don’t really know when to use something like .sub-menu versus #sub-menu (one is for a div and one for a class I think, but I don’t know which is which so I just test them out; and I don’t know what a div or a class is, actually).

I’m a total geek about this stuff. I really love being able to do this, to have control beyond what the theme allows under “customize”–if they haven’t provided me with the option to change the link colour with the free theme, I want to be able to do it anyway. I vividly remember my first coding experience in junior high school (grades 8-9), in BASIC (yes, I am that old). I loved it. It was like a puzzle and you got to see right away if you figured out the answer b/c things either worked or they didn’t. Then I learned some FORTRAN at university, but then didn’t do anything after that. And I kind of miss it.

If I had time I’d do a course on html and CSS, like this one from Code Academy.

But right now I’m busy working on my promotion portfolio. Maybe I’ll keep learning CSS as I go, as things come up that I want to do.

Like for instance I want to change the font size on this site (I’m getting old and can’t deal with small font)! Gotta figure out how to do that….

Students posting on WordPress on the front end

I use WordPress for all of my course sites, and for some of my courses I ask students to post directly on the course site (for one they set up their own WordPress sites and they are syndicated to the course site). So far when I ask them to post to the course site I’ve had to teach them how to sign up as an author on the site, then log into the dashboard and make a post, how to add images, etc. It is quite a to-do, as the three screencasts I created for a course this summer attests to. I’ve decided to look into a front-end posting system and see how that would work.

The first thing I thought of was gravity forms, because that’s what we have used for the Directory in the Teaching with WordPress open online course I’m helping to facilitate. For that, we asked people to upload an image, gave them input boxes for text and also for a URL if they wish to connect a website. It seems I could use something like this to ask students to:

  • write a blog post on something associated with the course (differs according to different assignments)
  • include a URL or two if relevant
  • include an image if relevant

What I’d also like them to be able to do is to embed a video file from the front end, like you can do from the dashboard in WP where it just embeds automatically from YouTube and Vimeo (and maybe others too…those are the two I’ve used).

For example, this summer term I asked students to find and write about philosophical activity out there in the world beyond the course, and they had to include at least one image or video embed or audio file. It would have been great if they could just fill out a form on the front end to do so.

I don’t know how to use Gravity Forms for this; Rie Namba set it up for us on the Teaching with WordPress site. But I can go to a WordPress drop-in at UBC to learn (we have a two-hour drop-in time every week, which is just super cool to have).

And Pauline Ridley sent me this link on Twitter, which talks about how to set up a Gravity Form so users can submit a blog post with images through it: http://gravitywiz.com/use-gravity-forms-to-create-user-submitted-posts/ This looks really useful!

When I tweeted about this desire of mine, Mariana Funes reminded me about the P2 theme for WordPress. She and John Johnston have set up a P2 demo site for Teaching with WordPress, and anyone can play along if they contact Mariana or John (try Twitter, or if you want to contact them but don’t have a Twitter account, comment below and I’ll connect you to them!). I forgot about this site and haven’t tried it out yet. I’m going to as soon as I get my login credentials (again…can’t find them) from Mariana. Then I’ll be able to see if it can do all of what I want.

screen shot of TRU Writer

Screen shot of TRU Writer

Alan Levine created some things called SPLOTs for Thomson Rivers University, which are super excellent, easy way for people to make various kinds of posts on the front end of WordPress. The TRU Writer looks particularly good for my purposes. But it’s not (yet?) easily available as a WP theme; the source code is on Github, but that’s beyond my abilities to deal with. And plus, I can’t just upload new themes to our UBC Blogs site where my course sites are; the themes and plugins are controlled centrally. Hmmm…maybe I could convince them to try the SPLOT? :)

 

Editing after posting?

One thing I’m wondering, for all of these options; is there any way for students to edit their posts after posting from the front end? I know that’s not the case with the Gravity Form we used for the Directory for the Teaching with WordPress course. Any edits that needed to be done were done by one of us after it was posted. And the TRU Writer says the post is final once it’s submitted as well. Not sure about the P2 theme.

 

Anyone else have another idea to try for front-end posting?