The Wide World of WordPress Themes

Over the last few months I’ve been fortunate enough to get to dabble in WordPress quite a bit. I’ve take the opportunity to investigate what some of the themes can do and how I can maximize their potential for different end goals. Here are just a few of the sites (and a PowerPoint slide design thrown in for good measure.) I’ve been working on in addition to this one.

CTLR J-term Programming

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CTLR Tallmadge Event

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Library Newsletter Template

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Not a WordPress Site – PowerPoint Design

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Tweaking the WordPress Theme

At the end of last year I was asked to assist with a WordPress site for a series of sessions that was being presented by our Center for Teaching Learning and Research. It turned into a pretty fun experience as I chose a theme and begin designing around the content. In the end – all functioned as we’d hoped, but we did run into a few challenges that required me to tweak the theme a bit. In essence, (like many WordPress sites) I felt like I was manipulating the platform to do what I wanted vs. what it was intended to do (i.e. It’s a blogging platform but I want to create a WEB SITE!)

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Here’s what I learned:

  • Sometimes you won’t find a theme limitation until your content is fully loaded. In our instance the theme organizes content on the main screen based on timing (which I could control) and block size (which I could only slightly control based on text). This resulted in two events being out of order.
  • Being able to manipulate CSS can be the key to success! This was the only way I was able to remove the blog date from the posts. This was confusing since the blog date was different than the event date.
  • You can’t please everyone with design, but getting feedback as you move through the process allows you to at least be somewhat confident that you haven’t completely missed the mark. Each piece of critical feedback always hits me hard but I try to hide that from everyone because it’s what makes my designs better. Being able to absorb, analyze and process feedback without taking it personally is a growth process. Finding your voice to disagree with feedback and provide counter points is a whole other lesson that I’m slowly growing into as I become more confident in my design choices.
  • Creating something feels really good. It’s been a long time since art class for this technologist but being able to create something that others respond to is a meaningful exercise and one I hope to do more and more.

 

Tech Sessions

Below is a listing of the tech sessions/classes that I have taught:

iMovie

Fall 2013, for ENAM 1272A: Lit & Philosophy of Friendship (Professor Billings)

Fall 2013, for EDST 0305A: Elementary Literacy and Social Studies (Professor Hoyler)

Audacity

J-term 2014, for RUSS 0202A: Intermediate Russian (Professor Wieda)

Final Cut Pro

Spring 2014, for ART 0164A: Sculpture and Video (Professor Huddleston)

Twine

Spring 2014, for FMMC 0282A: Videogames: Art/Culture/Medium (Professor Mittell)

Wikipedia Tutorial

Fall 2013, for NSCI 0100A: Introduction to Neuroscience (Professors Cronise and Root)

WordPress

Fall 2013, for FYSE 1041A: Economics of Social Issues (Professor Holmes)

Fall 2013, for FYSE 1286A: Keys to Dan Brown’s Inferno (Professor Beyer)

Fall 2013, for FYSE 1401A: Bad Kids (Professor Tiger)

Spring 2014, for ENAM 0323A: Cinematic Movement: Poetry (Professor Van Jordan)

Google Sites (Google Apps for Education)

Spring 2010, Hannaford Career Center in-service for teachers

 

Annotating Texts to Deepen Meaning

CV Starr Professor of Russian & East European Studies Tom Beyer is no stranger to utilizing technology in the classroom. During the summer of 2013 Tom approached the digital media tutor program to see if we could assist with transitioning content from an existing Wetpaint site to another platform.

See the video below to learn more about the project and process involved.

 

Tracking Lab Stats: My First Infographic

My first infographic

Make room on the fridge – I’ve got something to post! Today I felt like I finally had success working on an infographic workflow. This has been a hot topic with the digital media tutors and one I’ve been trying to figure out through a variety of methods. My goals were:

  1. Locate a design component that was relatively easy to use and did not require a steep learning curve.
  2. Being able to output the result in a format that students could take with them. (One of my goals with everything digital!)
  3. Integrating data sets from Excel
  4. Being able to interact with the data would be frosting on the cupcake – but I wasn’t counting on that one. (Spoiler alert – I got FROSTING!)

So what did I do/try?

Thanks to one of our super librarians (thanks Brenda!!) I was notified that Lynda.com had a group of tutorials on infographics. I set to work watching and settled on “Creating Infographics with Illustrator”. Using the graphing function within Illustrator I was able to come up with the primitive version below….

My first attempt using Illustrator's graphing capabilities

My first attempt using Illustrator’s graphing capabilities

Did I mention that I’m not a designer? Ok – good, just checking. 😉 So although I found this quasi-functional, it seemed to require a higher level of design expertise to incorporate multiple infographic elements. (As a side note I thought it would be a cool idea to try to make the graph at the bottom of the page mimic the Green Moutains with the time starbursts starting as sun in the morning and moving to a moon at night. However, I quickly determined that was going to take more time that I feasibly could devote to trying to figure something out. It did sound like fun though.)

My next stop? Piktochart! I noticed this tool being used in the lab this semester by a few students and it was already on my radar from a few posts here and here. (Thank you Edudemic!)

I had already crunched the numbers by exporting the data collected on a Google SS via a Google form to an Excel spreadsheet, so I had segregated and totaled the data that I was targeting. Piktochart offers a few free templates, however I decided to go with a blank template to see how difficult it was to start from scratch. By adding blocks I was able to create different sections of data and a header for the chart. Since my main focus was data manipulation my end product is very chart heavy b/c I wanted to see how the different types of charts displayed on the screen. Curious what this non-designer, multi-color loving, tech-tinkerer created? Check it out below. BONUS – I was able to embed it in my WordPress blog using iframes…although I’m not sure how stable this method is. (Functions on hosted WordPress NOT on WordPress.com.) :’-)

It’s not perfect – I know, but it does represent what I think is a workable workflow that does not require a learning curve the size of the Grand Canyon…or even Middlebury gap for that matter. It’s do-able, interactive (5 stars there) and web based; which are all items that I think will be seen as beneficial. But I’m still curious.

Are you helping students to create infographics? What tips do you have to share?

 

 

 

 

PeopleAdmin

Served as Administrator for an institution wide (Middlebury & Monterey) applicant tracking system. Trained, supported and provided documentation for internal and external users as well as approvers. Organized and facilitated transition of 20+ active staff postings without interrupting searches or hiring timelines.

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