What’s New in WordPress 3.5

Now that the Palomar College WordPress system has been updated to version 3.5, this would be a good time to write about some of the changes you can expect to see when managing your sites. Here’s a rundown of the most important new stuff:

All New Media Uploader

The biggest change in version 3.5 of WordPress is the new media manager. Adding images or documents to a post or page is now easier. The new Insert Media screen, seen below, is much more streamlined. This is very helpful when uploading multiple files or creating image galleries.

Insert Media screen in WordPress 3.5
The new Insert Media screen in WordPress 3.5

 

Embedding Media

A feature that many do not know about is the ability to easily embed content from some third-party sites such as YouTube, Twitter, or Flickr. With WordPress 3.5, it is now possible to easily embed content from additional sites such as SlideshareInstagram, and SoundCloud. What makes this feature so great is that it is simple to use. All you do is paste a URL to content on any of the supported sites and it will embed the content in your post or page. For example, to embed audio from Soundcloud just copy the URL from the clip you want to embed from your browser’s address bar and paste it into a WordPress post. It will embed a player right on the page like this:

 

New Default Theme: Twenty Twelve

There is a new default theme for WordPress called Twenty Twelve that sports an attractive, minimal design. It is also responsive, meaning that it adapts to different screen sizes. As more of our users are browsing our sites with phones and tablets, responsive web design is becoming very important.

Twenty Twelve WordPress theme
The new default WordPress theme, Twenty Twelve.

 

 

Other Changes

The changes listed above are the most prominent but there are many more that you may not even notice including:

  • Remote publishing option turned on by default
  • Privacy settings moved to the Settings -> Reading area
  • All new Welcome screen for new WordPress sites

WordPress keeps getting easier to use and more powerful at the same time. If you have any questions or comments about WordPress 3.5 please use the comment box below.

Inserting Links Into WordPress Pages and Posts

WordPress Logo

Links to webpages and files are a basic part of the web. In fact, without them it wouldn’t be much of a ‘web’. The WordPress content editor makes it easy to insert new links and edit existing ones. There are three types of links that will commonly be inserted:

  • Internal pages or posts – These are links to pages or posts within your own WordPress site. WordPress makes it really easy to choose which existing page or post to link to.
  • External websites or files – Anything that is outside of your WordPress site is an an external link. WordPress allows you to specify a URL for any external content.
  • Internal files – The WordPress content editor makes it really easy to upload a file and link to it, all in one simple interface.
The following video demonstrates how to insert all three types of links:

How to Disable Comments in WordPress

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One of the most frequently asked questions about using WordPress for managing a website is:

How do I disable the comments on a page or post?

While the comment system in WordPress works really well and can be a great way to get feedback, there are many instances when comments from site visitors are not necessary or appropriate. By default, the option for a site visitor to leave a comment is on. It is not obvious how to turn comments off when creating or editing a page because the option is initially hidden.

The following short video shows how to disable comments on a page or post and how to change the default setting so that comments are off when creating new content.

Customizing Menus in WordPress

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Managing navigation menus on a website is usually a difficult task. WordPress takes way most of the difficulty of creating menus and, some would say, even makes it fun. In fact, on many WordPress sites the menu will automatically be configured as you create each new page. Page settings such as the ‘Parent Page’ and ‘Order’ allow you to control where in the menu the page will be listed.

There are, however, many cases where the menu needs to be customized. For example, if you need to add a link to a third-party webpage or add a post category.

The following video, part of the “Getting Started with WordPress” series, demonstrates how to create and manage a custom menu:

Creating a New Page in WordPress

WordPress Logo

If you intend to use WordPress  as more than just a blog, and in my opinion you should at least consider it, it is necessary to understand how to create pages. While there are many similarities between creating a post and a page, there are some significant differences.

The following video gives an overview of creating a page and the various options available:

For more video tutorials on how to use WordPress check out the How-To page at the Palomar College WordPress Central site.

Creating New Posts in WordPress

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After obtaining a new WordPress site, one of the most important tasks to learn is how to create new posts. Posts can be used in many different ways within WordPress, but their primary use is as discrete entries in a blog. The home page of a new WordPress site is what is referred to as the posts page. Any page in a WordPress site can be designated as the posts page, but the home page is the default.

Posts are a great way to get fresh information online, keeping your site from appearing stale. The beauty of WordPress is that posts are quick and easy to create.

The following video demonstrates how to create a new post and talks about many of the options when doing so:

Easy Websites with WordPress

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Managing a website may not ever truly be easy, but WordPress can certainly make it easier. For those unfamiliar with WordPress, it is a web content management system that allows you to use a web browser for creating and editing a website. It can be accessed with any modern web browser from almost any internet connected computer. No special software or skills are needed.

The Palomar College Academic Technology Resource Center offers workshops on using WordPress. In particular, I would like to point out a new series of workshops called “Website in a Month”. Here’s the workshop description:

Don’t have a website? Is your existing website in need of a renovation? Whatever your needs are, this series of workshops is meant to get your website project started and finished in just 4 weeks. Using WordPress, you will learn how easy it can be to setup and manage a website. Whether you’re on your own or you have a team of people to work with, you will have a site that you can be proud of. The first meeting will cover how to get your site started and explain how the 4 week program will work.

The goal of the workshop series is to give as much hands on assistance with either creating a new site in WordPress or converting an existing site. The workshop dates/times are:

  • Tuesday, September 25, 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, October 2, 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, October 9, 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, October 16, 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

If you don’t yet have a WordPress site and would like a staff/faculty site to begin working with, these simple instructions will get you started: How to Create a WordPress Site [pdf]

If you are interested in creating a WordPress site for a department, discipline, or program submit a request through the ATRC Help Desk.

Tech Toolbox: Educreations

Educreations icon

Occasionally when the techs here are speaking with faculty, particularly in the free-form discussions that come up at our Wednesday morning “Blackboard with Cream & Sugar” sessions, the techs will mention tools we use that faculty are unaware of. Sometimes those tools can be adapted to use in the classroom, so I’m highlighting some such tools on the blog under the “Tech Toolbox” name.

Today’s addition to the Tech Toolbox is an educational content creation and distribution tool: Educreations.

From the website:

“Teach what you know. Learn what you don’t. Create and share great video lessons with your iPad or browser.”

Image of the Educreations app on an iPadEducreations may be created using the free iPad app, or by using the Educreations.com website. Of course, creating via the website may be tricky if you do not have some good drawing surface. Of course you could run out and purchase a multi-thousand dollar Wacom display tablet, but it might just make more sense to borrow one of the Inspiron Duo touch-sensitive portable computers from Academic Technology.

But what, at its core, is Educreations? In a nutshell, an Educreation is a recording that will play back an audio recording of what is said, along with a video feed of the drawing you do either on a blank canvas or over the top of still images. It is NOT an actual screen recording, so you won’t be recording the activity of any interactive websites. However, it is certainly possible to do quick screenshots from a website, then pull them into Educreations and annotate the result.

As an example of that, I used one of the ATRC Duo computers to create this brief video on how to get help on Blackboard using our support helpdesk.

Now that recording was just using the built-in mic on the Duo; I’d have a much more robust sound quality if I’d bothered to hook up a good external microphone, such as the USB wireless mic available for checkout from the ATRC. I also used a stylus instead of my fingertip, which accounts for much of the shaky line fidelity. (Sometimes a stylus works really well; this was not one of those times.)

I’m not utterly pleased with the screen interface on the PCs at my disposal (although any touch screen makes recording simple compared to using a mouse – I have no idea how the Kahn Academy videos come out so well using a mouse as the drawing device), but I am quite happy with the interface on the iPad. This video was recorded using just the iPad’s built-in mic, while working through some 2nd-grade math homework with my son:

The iPad gives a much smoother interface, and on all the systems I have tried out Educreations on, it wins best of show. However, as touch interfaces become common on home computers (my own personal computer I purchased this spring has one) then the ability to just record marking up and drawing content will become that much more useful.

Regardless of which device you actually do a recording on, once the recording is complete you save it to the Educreations website, which actually has provisions for organizing your recordings into courses, and even contains some basic question and answer function. In theory you could run class discussions wholly from the Educreations website, although this is not something I would recommend. (After all, the true value of Palomar’s Blackboard system is that individual faculty do not need to bother about managing student account information and the minutia of other such administrative drivel. Trying to maintain your own course system elsewhere would dump all those tasks right back in your lap.) Once your recording is posted to the site, if you have made the video available to the public you can then grab the embed code off the page and drop that into a blog post (such as this one) or even into a Blackboard Item in a content area. (Since the embed code is HTML you will, of course, need to toggle over to HTML Mode before pasting the code in, then toggle back and Submit the Item.)

If you found my own recorded videos to be lackluster (I know I find them that way) then I’d encourage you to take a look at the numerous recordings made available on the Educreations website. Their gallery of offerings are far more complex and well done than my own, such as the following video on the nature of light:

Still have questions about Educreations? Chances are the company already has your question answered on the Educreations FAQ page.