WordPress Learning Project Recap

Seems strange to do a final blog post on a learning project that will probably continue long after the course, but I guess that’s the beauty of authentic, real world learning. It doesn’t just stop when the classes finish. Jane will still have an interest in playing the guitar and Melody the ukulele. Harprit will still be a good cook and Heidi and Tanya will still be finding their inner zen. Not to mention all the other great learning projects that have occurred this term. My project was not particularly creative or flashy. I started out wanting to learn something to improve my fitness by learning squash. I managed one blog post (https://gallowayjourney.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/learning-project/) before my basement filled with water, life came crashing all around me, and I realized that I had more ‘pressing’ issues to learn.

In blog #2 I decided then to focus my time on a skill that was valuable and necessary for the course. Blogging. I had some experience with a Weebly class account but only used basic features so vowed to learn more about blogging and specifically create a WordPress blog. (https://gallowayjourney.wordpress.com/2015/01/25/learning-project-re-visited-colds-and-floods/)

Blog post #3 detailed the skills learned in starting up a blog. And just to be clear, I started at zero knowledge of WordPress. I was excited to have choices of themes and colours and spent hours picking and choosing my basic design. https://gallowayjourney.wordpress.com/2015/01/29/wordpress-work-in-progress/

Blog post #4 was entitled “Change is difficult” and was basically a vent about how difficult I found navigating the WordPress site. Interestingly, now when I read my words I’m laughing at all the things that I found hard to do. https://gallowayjourney.wordpress.com/2015/02/01/change-is-difficult/

Blog #5 detailed my participation in an online MOOC that I found entitled “WordPress Bootcamp”. It was a good, basic introduction to the platform and allowed me to interact with other people who were also learning. https://gallowayjourney.wordpress.com/2015/02/09/wordpress-bootcamp/

Blog #6 I presented my thoughts on blogging in a Haiku deck format. Matching visuals to my thoughts helped me to think about the emotions and images related to blogging. https://gallowayjourney.files.wordpress.com/2015/02/learning-project-update.pdf

Blog #7 was created using emaze http://app.emaze.com/@AOWRTIQT/wordpress-learning-project-update-copy1#3. I enjoyed playing with the new format to demonstrate the new additions I had made to my blog, but looking back it seems a bit over the top. The emerging flowers, while beautiful, take away from my message. Not sure I would use this tool again.

Blog #8 https://gallowayjourney.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/finding-a-better-fit-learning-project-update-8/ detailed my continuing frustration with WP and my search for other blogging platforms.

This last blog was intended to be a Dear John style letter to WP that would go along these lines.

Dear WordPress,

This is just not going to work. It’s not you, it’s me, well maybe a combination of both. We simply aren’t matched and want different things out of life. I don’t understand your jokes or the coded way in which you communicate. You seem detached from me and often go out of your way to make simple things difficult. I am tired of being frustrated, of having you block my wishes and desires by being obtuse. Why does everything have to be a battle?

But the interesting thing is, that as I have been using WP for a number of other blogs, I have now become more familiar with the platform. Looking back at my previous blogs shows me that the little things that I found so difficult have now become easy. I have gotten used to the idiosyncracies and hidden content of WordPress. I am now faced with the difficult choice of continuing this blog or reverting back to Weebly. Initially Weebly would have won hands down, but now I’m not so sure. I may have to keep my Dear John letter after all. WordPress, despite all its faults, is starting to grow on me…..

Finding a better Fit -Learning Project update #8

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This week I am finally going to address the biggest stumbling block with my learning project. I don’t actually like using WordPress to blog. I have given it my best shot. I have really, really tried to get used to the dashboard and to figure out all the tools and widgets. I have watched many you tube tutorials and read endless blogs. There is no shortage of people who love it and are willing to share hints and step by step instructions on how to use WordPress. But here’s the thing. I have now come to a place in my blogging world that I am comfortable with. I use blogging to communicate with my parents, my classmates and my PLN. The WordPress blog that I have so far created meets those needs. It organizes my blogs, shows recent comments, has a twitter link and provides me with information about how many times it is viewed. The next step in my WordPress journey would be to add plugins to increase viewership, choose a host to manage my own site and figure out how to keep current with updates, security, and backups. I don’t feel the need to do any of those things.

So this week, instead of adding needless plugins, I chose to explore sites, and talk to people about the pros and cons of WordPress over the other options out there. I quickly realized that I am not alone in thinking that WordPress is ‘clunky’ and ‘overly complex and difficult for new users to use and navigate.’ Even  John O’Nolan–designer, developer and former deputy head of the WordPress UX team– decided in 2012 to come up with a simpler tool for bloggers called Ghost. See below for sites comparing WordPress to other options:

WordPress vs Ghost

WordPress vs Blogger

WordPress vs Squarespace

WordPress vs Weebly

The 15 Best Blogging Platforms today (updated June 2014)

WordPress is lauded for being a powerful, open source platform with open codes that anyone can use and customize. While I can appreciate the fact the WordPress has over 29,000 plug ins to customize my site, the mere thought of it overwhelms me. The thing is… As harsh as this may sound, I don’t care. At this point in time I am not interested in learning to code. I am not a skilled developer and have no desire to develop my own tool to sell to other users. I also don’t like not being able to see what my post is going to look like live as I write. I am constantly having to preview my posts to see if the links work or the picture inserted correctly. The fact that people hire ‘word press contractors’  or developers to help them create their sites speaks to the difficulty of navigating the site for the common folk.

WordPress is great if you want to create an eCommerce store as there are over 600 plugins in the directory that provide shopping carts, inventory management systems, etc. Online companies can benefit greatly from a well organized WordPress site. BUT… I am a classroom teacher. I don’t need an online store nor do I ever see myself needing one.

As all the reviews state, a blogging platform is highly personal and should reflect the needs of its users. I don’t think I am the demographic that WordPress is looking out for. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a great tool (74.6 million people can’t all be wrong) just that it isn’t the tool for me. Obviously, at this stage of my learning project I am not about to throw out my blog and start again, but I am going to start taking a closer look at the options out there to see what might be a better fit.

It would be most helpful if you could let me know what you use.

WordPress learning project Update #7

Tried something new this week to update on my learning project. A presentation tool called emaze. Similar to Prezi but with many ready made templates available. I found it fairly easy to use but was frustrated with the lack of flexibility. I created my presentation and then wanted to change the template but was unable to do so without starting over. The tool allows the user to import pictures and video very easily but does not have an audio feature which would have been nice. It also was not easy to import into WordPress as the embed code did not work. I would be interested to hear from anyone who uses this in the classroom to hear of other practical uses.

http://app.emaze.com/@AOWRTIQT/wordpress-learning-project-update-copy1

Haiku Deck Learning Project Update #6

This week I thought I would try something new to blog about my Learning Project Update. I discovered Haiku Deck while looking for different presentation formats. It is simple to use, has a huge library of images and transforms boring content into something rather pretty. I definitely enjoyed putting the presentation together more than I enjoy simply writing. Finding images to match my thoughts added a layer of metacognition and reflection. Let me know what you think of it. I’m wondering what other uses there could be for Haiku Deck in primary classes. Perhaps a bank of images for digital storytelling….

WordPress Bootcamp Update #5

After returning from a much needed family weekend getaway up in Parksville I have renewed appreciation for the flexibility and personalization of online learning. As part of my EDCI 591 learning project, I had enrolled in an open learning WordPress Bootcamp that started on Saturday and runs until Wednesday. It wasn’t until Monday that I was able to sit down and review the class materials but was immediately  impressed with the amount of support available and with the organization of the course. The class has a google+ site, a twitter hashtag #edtechopen and a website. Activities are archived and allow participants to engage at their own time.
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WordPress bootcamp. Retrieved from edtechopen.com website:http://edtechopen.com
The main page is well organized and is easy to navigate. I am pleased to see that the initial contact allows people to introduce themselves and explain why they are taking the course. There are not a huge number of students (only 13 in the introduction forum) which actually makes me feel better and worse both at the same time. I am happy to not be interacting with thousands of strangers but apprehensive that now someone will have time to read and respond to my posts. I might not get away with lurking on this one….
The first activity is a discussion about the relevance of blogging. Why should we blog? It is an interactive session with participants providing links to valuable resources and articles and explaining their reasons for wanting to learn more. I am fascinated by the range of professions using blogging and the variety of responses. I immediately have an entire afternoon of links to search and read on the subject of blogging. I am also impressed with the contributions of instructor Lisa Read. She provides a personal view of blogging with her own examples given. The openness an honesty of her posts is inspiring. I realize that by providing personal anecdotes and stories to her students she has provided a connection point, an opening to get to know her, not as just a teacher but as a daughter, mother, citizen. Too often we hold back the very information that could draw people close to us by putting on a facade that fits the situation. I am still struggling with embracing and building my digital identity but thanks to Lisa realize that allowing myself some freedom and humanity while blogging will help to build a more meaningful PLN. Sometimes you need to give a little in order to receive.
I highly recommend you drop in and look around the course site, if not for this course then for future offerings.
Blogging Links provided by John Goldsmith

Change is difficult Update #4

I must admit that I am not loving WordPress yet. I have spent many hours pouring over a multitude of help sites but I have found them all to be very text and jargon heavy. I am really missing the simplicity and ease of my old Weebly. I miss the simple visual icons and the ease of importing pictures. I miss the bright colours and happy feel of my old blog. My WordPress site feels very proper, very prescribed. I still feel that it controls me rather than the other way around. It’s like an old school teacher with rows of desks having me fill in endless worksheets. Weebly felt more like a supportive educator, providing enough scaffolding to provide skills, but then stepping back and allowing time for exploration and play. I felt successful on Weebly and managed to create an interesting site with multiple pages in little time. WordPress feels like working with an annoying office manager who thinks that saying “Beep, beep, boop” whenever I attempt a new post is helping me somehow. The urban dictionary defines it as a way to describe a geek or nerd. What is with that! Some sort of computer geek humour taunting us useless minions. I need to hold myself back from ‘bopping’ the screen. I am aware that my own incompetence is probably causing most of my frustration and that with time WordPress will (I’m told) prove to be much more useful. With that in mind I thought I should recap the week.

images-3License: CC0 Public Domain / Free for commercial use / No attribution required

New things learned: (very short, despite hours put in)

– A category is like a table of contents for your blog. You should have no more than 1-2 categories per post

– A tag represents an index for your blog and allows people to search by keyword

-I have learned how to insert a poll (This week I am searching for reasons that people like WordPress..)

– I can track the usage of my site and see where people are visiting from- I like the map feature

-I have experimented with a variety of themes and explored many options for users, tools and settings. (I’m not yet ready to do much with them but I know they are there.)

-Have learned to link words to urls.

-I read a blog post by Mardelle that stated she isn’t a fan of WordPress either (feel much better)

Frustrations I have had this week: (very long, despite hours put in)

-Every time I do something to my site a new window appears on my screen- results in confusion trying to figure out which is the latest window.

-My sidebar is repeated on the front page of my blog-no idea why

-Trying to insert pictures takes me to a media library- I have no pictures in my media library and am trying to figure out how to put some there.

-Despite all the ‘helpful’ sites out there I have yet to find one that emulates or comes close to having tech support at my side using simple, comforting language (I need a cloud granny!)

-I have an unknown feed error on my page that I need to remove

-Just realized that when I post a draft of a blog just to see what it looks like, and then delete it, it automatically tweets it out- aah! (Have just found the preview button to avoid this in the future)

-Have lost my title and don’t know why. It appears in my draft but not in final post.

-Too many words everywhere I look. Give me some pictures people!

-I’m starting to feel like the Bridget Jones of blogging 😦

All in all a rather frustrating experience. I’m beginning to wish that I had tried yoga as a project as working on my blog is not helping me manage my stress levels. I am going to walk away and go put some steps on my Fitbit- a much more satisfying endeavour!

WordPress- Work in Progress Update #3

So I have bowed to public pressure (and expert opinion)  and left my Weebly behind in order to branch out into new and supposedly better places. I have spent the last couple of weeks reflected on my digital identity and have found it somewhat lacking in inspiration, focus and pizzaz. I have some experience with WordPress from a previous university course but it ended badly with the entire site being frozen and then completely disappearing. Months of work gone in a single poof! Not good for someone who wrote directly on the blog and didn’t back anything up. In despair I fell back on a Weebly blog, as I already own and maintain a classroom site. But, having been challenged, I am now a little more savvy and ready to get back into the game.
First step was signing up for a free WordPress account. No problem. Next step, picking a theme. Usually I just scroll around for something that looks nice (preferably in my favourite colour- blue) and try to copy it, but this time I took the time to read the WordPress tutorial and boy have I been missing important information. According to the tutorial before choosing a pretty picture it is important to consider:
Style
Function
Content
Time and Energy
“Pick a theme that says you.” suggests the tutorial. Wow, I could take a lifetime trying to figure that out! Who am I? A wife, mother, teacher, student. Do I want to appear hip and cool or teachery and clever? I have different identities for different parts of my life. Do I need more than one blog or do I create a hybrid entity that encompasses bits of me? The site recommends looking at existing blogs to find one to emulate. I quickly lose track of time and find myself engrossed in an endless range of witty, pointless and highly entertaining sites out there. You really can write about just about anything! My favourite part though was reading the blog titles. They were all catchy and aimed at getting your attention like “Truth and Cake” “Highly Irritable” “Harmless Drudgery” or my personal favourite “Aging Gracefully My Ass”.
After going a bit cross-eyed after looking at all my options I decide to bite the bullet and pick something knowing that if don’t like it I have the option to change later. Wilson  is listed as a “clean, simple and bold theme”. A tad boring perhaps but simplicity is appealing at this point. I feel bold just having made a choice – perhaps my theme is working already. Now for the customizations. One good thing about going for the free version is that choices are limited. Colours are set unless I want to upgrade and pay. I continue reading but start to glaze over at all the details.  I have now been on the computer for over an hour and only have a blank blog with a bad title. Decide to switch to the “Get Going Fast: A Checklist” page. The fact that the page exists tells me that I am not the only one with a life.
To tell the truth, it is a bit overwhelming to suddenly realize how little you know about a topic. The funny thing is,  some of my colleagues at school think I am rather tech savvy because I have a class blog and use Twitter. I am beginning to feel like a fraud and a wannabe. I realize that I have very surface level knowledge and that I need to invest a lot more time and energy into really understanding what a WordPress blog can offer. So please don’t laugh at my new site with the sidebar containing features I still have no idea about.
Stay tuned. I am planning on adding a few new features every week. It currently feels like a block of stone full of potential just waiting to be discovered…
Update: I have discovered the perfect MOOC- A WordPress Boot camp offered by   http://edtechopen.com that promises to teach me:
WordPress basics and how to create more than “just another Blog” and creating a website with more. Share links, connect networks, manage themes, styles, widgets and plugins– and have a rich discussion about all the ways this tool can be leveraged for personal, professional and educational uses.
P.S I love the proofreading button I just found

Learning Project Re-visited- Colds and Floods Update #2

It’s amazing how a bad cold and a flooded basement can bring clarity and focus to an issue. I had convinced myself that learning to play squash online was something I that I both wanted to learn and had time to explore. Then life, as life does, handed me a double whammy of a nasty cold and a knee deep flooded basement. I didn’t realize how close to the edge I was until these two little (well maybe not so little) events caused me to crumple. My precious blog writing, deep researching and thesis defining weekend morphed into piles of crumpled kleenex and endless phone calls to plumbers, insurance companies, and restoration services.  “I don’t have time for this!” I wailed to the universe in vain. I had a teary moment where I briefly entertained the notion of jumping on a plane and leaving it all behind- starting fresh in some tropical, sunny country where husbands don’t work away, children don’t need to eat or have clean clothes, masters projects write themselves and dirty, flooded basements are non-existent. Reality interrupted my thoughts when I heard yelling and realized that two of my son’s friends, drawn by the excitement of a disaster, were now wading around in the basement begging to be electrocuted. My son meanwhile was trying to Macgyver his own pump system by dismantling a fountain in the yard- hoses, clamps and tape strewn everywhere. I realized that feeling sorry for myself was not an option and someone had to take control of the mess before things got even worse.

Right. First assess the situation.

  1. Basement filling with water
  2. No food in the house
  3. Dirty clothes overflowing hamper
  4. Lit review to write, articles to read
  5. Blog needing to be switched from Weebly to WordPress
  6. Kids need to be taken to and from sports
  7. Watch squash videos and practice

Need a plan.

  1. Call plumber
  2. Call my mother
  3. Go grocery shopping- buy kleenex
  4. Ask for help driving children
  5. Put on load of laundry
  6. Try to carve out time to watch squash video and play squash     Hmmm…..

Suddenly learning how to play squash seemed the least of my worries. In the spirit of survival I decided to combine my learning project with my new blog. I will now be learning how to create a super sized WordPress blog. I will learn how tags, categories, pings and SSR feeds work and check out the myriad of options that WordPress offers. A quick glance assures me that I can spend hours viewing tutorials and experimenting with features. I am keeping in mind that I am starting pretty much from square one so I’m not sure if I will be hosting my own website at the end but I know that I will improve my online identity and I will be learning a necessary skill that will allow me to both nurse my cold and regularly check the sump pump in the basement. It is good to have a plan.

Learning Project #1

For my EDCI 591 learning project we were given the option to learn something online. I had a good time thinking of all the options but kept coming back to the fact that I am already spending way too much time just sitting in front of my computer. My new Fitbit has encouraged me to become more active and I want to continue making fitness a priority as it had slipped so far off my radar in the last year that I am in danger of losing all motivation forever.

In the last year my children and husband have all become very interested in playing squash. My son is very good, playing competitively for his school team and my daughter has decided that she too wants to play regularly. On the weekends my family heads out to the squash courts and leaves me to do my work on the computer. I have decided that I don’t want to be left behind to slog away on my papers anymore while they have all the fun. I want to play too!

Therefore, I have resolved to learn how to play squash online so that I may join in on the family fun and learn a new skill. I initially thought that I would have a hard time finding online resources as I have never heard of anyone learning a hands on sport online. I was very pleasantly surprised by the volume of squash advice on the internet. Videos, rules, step by step advice, dos and don’ts all a click away. I plan on learning online during the week and then heading to the court with my iPad to document my progress. I’m curious to see if learning a sport cerebrally while sitting down in front of a computer will translate to better form and confidence on the court. Wish me luck!
The first sites I will be visiting are:
http://squashskills.com/

http://www.squashgame.info/

//www.youtube.com/watch?v=3gQsAKZ71tU