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

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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.