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Creating a New Page in WordPress

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

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

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.

5 Reasons You Should Be Using Evernote

For many, Evernote is an indispensable tool. If you are not yet an Evernote user, here are five reasons that you should consider becoming one:

Capture Anything

Evernote allows you to capture almost anything and store it for later use. Notes can be text that you type in directly, a voice recording you make with a mobile device, or a photo from your smartphone. If you come across a webpage that you want to save the Evernote Web Clipper makes it as easy as clicking one button. Evernote is also a great place to store important files that you may need quick access to such as user manuals or research articles.

Access Notes Anywhere

Be it a computer, tablet, or smartphone, you will be able to access and update Evernote. There are clients for Windows and Mac OS X if you want to use it on desktop and laptop computers. For mobile access, apps are available for iOS, Android, Blackberry, and Windows Phone 7. If all else fails, there is a web based app that can be accessed from almost any modern browser.

Find Things Fast

The search and filtering capabilities in Evernote are incredible. Searches can be based on keywords, tags, dates,  or note types (such as images, audio, PDF, etc.). With a small amount of planning in how you use notebooks and tags it is possible to find exactly what you are looking for, whether it was created yesterday or 4 years ago. If you subscribe to Evernote premium ($5/month or $45/year), any PDF documents that you attach will be searchable as well.

Share with Friends and Colleagues

Evernote lets you share your notebooks with whoever you want. Notebooks can be made public via a link that can be posted on a webpage or included in an email. If security is important a notebook can be shared with only specific Evernote accounts. The premium version of Evernote lets you give others permission to edit shared notes for true collaboration.

Go Paperless

All of the combined features of Evernote make it possible to go almost completely paperless. Instead of printing an article from a webpage, just send it to Evernote and read it on your mobile device. The built in PDF functionality make it easy to scan a document, save it to Evernote, and find it whenever or wherever you need it.

A Brief Introduction to Google Docs

Google Docs is a service offered by Google that offers the ability to create, edit, manage, and share documents online. It is possible to make text documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and forms. Google Docs can be compared to software suites such as Microsoft Office or OpenOffice but is housed online so that it can be accessed from almost any computer or device with an internet connection. Assuming that you have a compatible device with access to the internet, the only other requirement is that you have a Google Account.

After signing in to Google Docs, the Docs list is displayed. The Docs list is the command center for creating and managing all of the document types.

The Google Docs list

The Docs list is where you create new documents or edit and manage existing ones.

Any existing docs can be viewed or edited by clicking on its name in the list. To create a new document click the Create button. The type of document must be selected. Whether editing an existing doc or creating a new one, the interface will be familiar to anyone who has used an office suite application.

 

Editing a document

When editing a document the interface has many features that are similar to that of traditional word processing applications.

It is possible to upload documents to Google Docs as well. Almost any type of file can be uploaded. For many file types Google Docs can automatically convert it to the appropriate Doc type. For example, a Excel spreadsheet file can be converted to a Google Docs spreadsheet. Once a file is converted it can be edited just as easily as one that was originally created in Google Docs. Similarly, any Google Doc can be downloaded to a computer or device by first opening the doc and then choosing “Download as” from the File menu.

The sharing features of Google Docs is where it really shines. A document can be shared in multiple ways:

  • A doc can be emailed directly to someone as an attachment.
  • A link to a doc can be placed on a website or in another document.
  • Another person’s Google Account can be specified allowing that person to see the doc in their own Google Docs list.

If a link is placed on a website (or elsewhere), any changes to the document after the link was provided will be seen by users clicking on the link. If the doc is shared with another person’s account they can optionally be given editing, commenting, or ownership rights to it. These sharing features make Google Docs a great tool for collaborating with others.

For more information about Google Docs, checkout the recording of the Google Docs webinar that was offered by the Academic Technology Resource Center on April 10, 2012.

Recording Room Blues

Here in Academic Technology we talk about crafting screen recordings or doing narrated videos from your PowerPoint slide deck, and we really are emphasizing these functions since the recent purchase of Camtasia Studio for all district computers.

However, the one resource that can be in short supply on campus is finding a quiet place to get recordings done. That’s where the “Blue Room” comes in. For the last seven years Academic Technology has maintained the “Faculty Technology Center” in room LL-111 on the first floor of the Library building on the San Marcos campus. The ancillary room LL-111A, pictured below, has come to be known as the “Blue Room” for obvious reasons.

Wide angle view of the LL-111A room layout

With all-new computer equipment (the “all-in-one” model of workstation soon to be in the LL-109 computer lab classroom, coming this Summer) it is easier than ever to record material using Camtasia in the Blue Room. To ensure that you get the best sound quality we have covered the walls with sound-proof foam pads, and with the door closed there is a sound difference that has to be heard to be believed. (Truly, just about all the ancillary echoes that we take for granted are dampened down, which gives a richness to the quality of the silence in the room.)

Headset, workstation, document stand and lamp, everything for a great recording session.

As you can see above, the small room has a headset, webcam, document stand… everything needed to record academic content for your students. And, of course, it’s within ten strides of the ATRC offices, where the techs will be able to assist you with anything you might need during your recording sessions.

So come on down, and try your hand at recording in the ATRC Blue Room!

WordPress Themes from ElegantThemes Now Available

We began offering WordPress sites at Palomar College during summer 2011. Anyone who has used WordPress already knows just how powerful themes can be. Themes allow you to change the look (and sometimes the behavior) of your site with just a couple clicks of the mouse. There are over a thousand themes available for free at WordPress.org. Many of them are very attractive and easy to use. For those who are looking for something even better, I am happy to announce that we now have all 72 of the premium themes offered by ElegantThemes available for use on our Palomar hosted WordPress sites. These themes are, to put it mildly, beautiful. Here is an example of one of their themes:

The DeepFocus theme from ElegantThemes

For those who do not already have a WordPress site at Palomar, it is easy to create one. If you already have a WordPress site, choosing a new theme is easy. Just log in to your WordPress site, go to the Dashboard, and choose Appearance -> Themes. Form there you will be able to browse through all of the available themes and activate the one that you would like to use.

Important note: The preview option does not work for many of the themes from ElegantThemes. To get an idea of what they look like and what features they have I recommend browsing through them at the ElegantThemes website. Once you find one you like, go back to your own WordPress dashboard and activate it.

Getting the most out of Google Scholar

The Palomar College ATRC webinar topic this week was “Using Google Scholar”. The Google Scholar site is so easy to use that most visitors will not have any difficulty right from the start. There are, however, a few tips that will make it a little bit easier for you to find exactly what you are looking for.

Tip #1: Set your Scholar Preferences

At the top right corner of the page, look for the gear icon.

Clicking the gear icon will allows access to the Google Scholar Preferences.

Clicking the gear icon will give you the option to open the Scholar Preferences page. From there, you can set a number of options including your Library Links. Library Links allow you to specify which libraries you are a member of so that you can access their subscription based materials.

For those of you at Palomar College, simply type the name Palomar in the box and click the Find Library button. You will then see three different Palomar College Library access links. Check all three boxes and then click the Save Preferences button at either the top or bottom of the page.

Enter the name of the library that you are a member of and then check the boxes for the appropriate databases.

Setting up your Library Links is important because Google Scholar will include links to the full text of articles when they are available at the chosen library. (Library log in may be required for off-campus access.)

Once your Library Links are configured, the results include links to the full text of many articles.

Tip #2: Use Quotation Marks When Searching for Phrases or Names

When searching for an article by title or author, enclose your search terms in quotation marks. Using quotation marks will make Google Scholar return results for items that include all of the words (or names) that you searched for. For example, if you search for articles written by Craig Venter, search for “Craig Venter”. If you do not include the quotation marks, Scholar will includes results for articles written by anyone with the name Craig or Venter.

Quotation marks should be used for searches when you want to find an exact phrase in the text of articles as well. For example, searching for “quantum dot solar cells” will return results that contain that specific phrase but not articles that only refer to quantum dots or only solar cells.

In this example, searching without quotes returned more than 15,000 results.

The same search terms with quotes returns fewer but more relevant results.

Tip #3: Use the Advanced Scholar Search to Narrow Down Results

The Advanced Scholar Search page gives a lot of control over what is searched for and what results will be returned. Click on the Advanced Scholar Search link next to the Search button to access it. From there you can limit searches to just the titles of articles, only the author names, a specific subject, and many other options.

The Advanced Search page allows you to narrow down the search results.

From 35mm slide to digital

Remember 35 millimeter slides?

Yeah, me neither. No, really, although most of us don’t have occasion to use slide projectors any more, there are still boxes and carousels of slides floating around out there. Occasionally we in Academic Technology are asked “is there some way to have my slides scanned?”

Yes, yes there is. Meet the ImageLab slide scanner.

imagelab 35 millimeter slide scanner

As you can see demonstrated in the video below, this little device makes it easy to digitize any 35 millimeter slides or negatives you have lying around. The scanner outputs JPG files, so there’s no fuss about using non-standard file formats; there’s not even any custom software to worry over, just pull out the SD card or plug the scanner in via USB to pull your pictures off the scanner. This thing even runs on AAA batteries, so you could sit in your living room easy chair with a box of slides and the scanner and just work away until you are done.

As mentioned in the video, the Academic Technology department does have one of these available, either to use in the LL-111 Faculty Technology Center or to check out to faculty for short periods of time. It doesn’t take long to actually scan the slides, either. That slide carousel shown in the movie contained 76 slides, and I was able to digitize the whole batch of them in just under 25 minutes.

So, if you’ve got slides or negatives to convert to image files, we’ve got you covered. Just come on down to the Academic Technology offices and we’ll help you get started.

Passwords are secret, really!

I’m never sure, when selecting a topic to blog about, how basic is “too basic”.  I felt a bit silly mentioning this topic in a training workshop I offered last week, as it is truly one of the fundamental fundamentals.  Then I had a professor (not from the workshop) email me today, who confessed that they had just made this mistake…

When you log into any system here at Palomar, you are prompted for a username and password.  Your username is not going to be something private; at Palomar the faculty just use their first initial and last name in almost every case.  Your password, however, is private.

Do not tell anyone what your password is.

College employees will never ask you for your password.  We don’t need it, have no right to be told it, and it is a violation of the Telecommunications Use policy at Palomar to tell it to someone else.  This moribund on sharing your password includes: in person, on the phone, through email,as part of a support ticket,writing it on a post-it and leaving it stuck to a tech’s keyboard, writing it on the whiteboard before your online class orientation, telling it to the students who want to add your class for them to use until they are officially enrolled, and yelling it across a crowded student-use computer lab for someone on the phone with tech support to relay to the tech.

I truly wish I was making up ANY of those scenarios, but I have seen them all happen.

The negative results I’ve seen from these behaviors range from “someone locked me out of my account”, through “someone wiped out all my email”, right up to “someone bulk deleted all the content, including grades, from all of my courses.”  Mind you, that’s not the worst case scenarios, such as someone wrongfully submitting final grades or (if you’re the type to use the same password in multiple places) someone gaining access to financial information.  The ones I listed above are, again, just the ones I have seen happen.

So, I’m not going to bother telling you to change your password regularly, nor am I going to tell you to use an extra-esoteric password with special characters avoiding anything that is in the dictionary.  I will urge you, though, to not give out your password.

Passwords are secret, really!