TEDxUofC

It looks like the University of Calgary is planning a series of TEDx events: TEDxUofC – the first one being next week, just days after the TEDxYYC event. After previously saying I wouldn’t go to a TEDx event because of the way they’re set up, I’m happy to post that they don’t have to be […]

It looks like the University of Calgary is planning a series of TEDx events: TEDxUofC – the first one being next week, just days after the TEDxYYC event.

After previously saying I wouldn’t go to a TEDx event because of the way they’re set up, I’m happy to post that they don’t have to be that way.

Registration for TEDxUofC is open, and cheap. Students get in for $5. Everyone else gets in for $10. It doesn’t get cheaper than that. And there’s no “how awesome are you?” filter on the registration. You prove your awesomeness by showing up.

Now this is interesting. A series of focused events, each on a different topic, open to anyone who wants to come and make a difference. Sure, the speakers are selected ahead of time. Sure, the topics are selected ahead of time. That’s ok, and the way it’s set up looks like it could provide an interesting series of events.

Now, to try to arrange child care for The Boyâ„¢ twice a month, so I can head down to Hotel Alma (the new facility on the main U of C campus). Actually, I wonder if he’d like to go. He is a student, after all…

UofC Kickoff 2009

Today was the annual Kickoff event – the home opener for the U of C Dinos football team, combined with a party welcoming students to campus for another year. This year, the whole family went to the game, and we had a blast. Also, this year was different because it was the first time in […]

Today was the annual Kickoff event – the home opener for the U of C Dinos football team, combined with a party welcoming students to campus for another year. This year, the whole family went to the game, and we had a blast. Also, this year was different because it was the first time in a long, long time that I was able to score the free tickets offered to students…

We had to leave at half time, because it was just too much sun for The Boyâ„¢ to endure, but the first half of the game was a great one. When we left, the Dinos were ahead 10-8 over the Golden Bears. Sounds like the second half was exciting, too, with the Dinos holding onto the slim lead to win the game. Whew.

game - 6dexopen! house!dino pridetakedowngame - 5

UCalgaryBlogs.ca Growth

I spent some time this afternoon poking around in the database that runs UCalgaryBlogs.ca to see if I could get a better sense of how it’s growing. Turns out, it’s growing MUCH faster than I thought it was (and I thought it was growing pretty darned fast). It’s still pretty small scale, compared with giants […]

I spent some time this afternoon poking around in the database that runs UofCBlogs.ca to see if I could get a better sense of how it’s growing. Turns out, it’s growing MUCH faster than I thought it was (and I thought it was growing pretty darned fast).

ucalgaryblogs_growth

It’s still pretty small scale, compared with giants like WordPress.com and Edublogs.org, but the growth looks pretty much exponential. I’m glad we’ve got lots of room to scale this puppy. And that campus IT isn’t upset with growing demands on database resources.

UCalgaryBlogs.ca Redesign

I’ve been meaning to redesign the main site at UCalgaryBlogs.ca for awhile now – the Edublogs Clean theme isn’t intended to be dropped in as a stock theme, but as a starting point for hacking something tailor-made. The Edu-Clean theme is available as part of the fantastic Premium WPMUDev subscription – and it certainly helped […]

I’ve been meaning to redesign the main site at UofCBlogs.ca for awhile now – the Edublogs Clean theme isn’t intended to be dropped in as a stock theme, but as a starting point for hacking something tailor-made. The Edu-Clean theme is available as part of the fantastic Premium WPMUDev subscription – and it certainly helped me get UofCBlogs.ca off the ground quickly.

Edu-Clean has bugged me because it hijacks the front page by using home.php, rather than using a page template to render the front page. The annoying part of this technique is that it makes it difficult to list blog posts within that site – so news updates posted on the main blog only show up on the “latest posts” widget, and then disappear from sight when they roll off the bottom of the widget.

And, the Edu-Clean theme, while looking fantastic and being very well designed and polished, is really just the Edublogs theme. So, my straight reuse of the graphics and styles was a bit confusing (I had a couple people mention “oh, that’s edublogs. I know that.” – um. no. it’s not, but it’s using the same theme… confusing…)

So, today I decided to sit down and hack the best parts of Edu-Clean out, and graft them into a copy of the sweet and flexible Carrington theme.

I’ll post a description of what I did, why, and where, but for now it’s basically working. It’s still very much a work in progress (I’m thinking it’s a little busy, but I like the focus on community, content and function rather than marketing). The other nice thing that the use of page templates allows is the WordPress front page setting – I can set the front page to be rendered by a static template, and set the “real” blog to be displayed at another page on the blog – Site News, for example. Much better, IMO.

Here’s the previous design, powered by the elegant Edu-Clean theme:

And the redesign, based on Carrington:

I’m certainly no designer, but I like that the featured content is right up front, rather than marketing info about the service. It’s also much easier to spot the login info (if not logged in) and stuff you can do (list of your blogs, etc…) without having to scroll down.

I’ll be tweaking it, but I think it’s a keeper.

Walking tour of University of Calgary Campus

Back in the heady early days of podcasting – all the way back in 2005 – one of the first use cases of the technology was to create “walking tours” where a narrator could guide students through a tour of an area. When video podcasting became possible, it would make the guided tours more effective […]

Back in the heady early days of podcasting – all the way back in 2005 – one of the first use cases of the technology was to create “walking tours” where a narrator could guide students through a tour of an area. When video podcasting became possible, it would make the guided tours more effective because you could show supplemental or orienteering images to support the narration.

Fast forward to 2008, and the TLC just produced a walking tour of the U of C campus, featuring Julie Walker, a naturalist and hiking guide with the University of Calgary Outdoor Centre.

Grab a copy, drop it on your iPod (or PSP, or cell phone, or laptop, or cough Zune) and follow along with Julie as she guides you across campus.

University of Calgary Walking Tour

Leslie Reid on team projects in large classes

I had the distinct pleasure of introducing Dr. Leslie Reid this morning, for her presentation “Creating Team Projects that Work in Large Classes: Redesigning a Large Science ‘Service’ Course” – part of the Teaching & Learning Centre’s 10th anniversary series of presentations. She talks about her experience in redesigning a large class (300 students with […]

I had the distinct pleasure of introducing Dr. Leslie Reid this morning, for her presentation “Creating Team Projects that Work in Large Classes: Redesigning a Large Science ‘Service’ Course” – part of the Teaching & Learning Centre’s 10th anniversary series of presentations. She talks about her experience in redesigning a large class (300 students with 13 weeks of lectures) into a format based on group projects (250 students with 6 weeks of lectures and 6 weeks of group work).

The video recording of the presentation is just over an hour long, and includes some questions from some of the faculty members in attendance. I recorded the session with my little Flip Ultra camera, and it did a surprisingly good job.

UCalgary Dinos vs. UAlberta Golden Bears Kickoff ’08

The Boyâ„¢ and I went to the Kickoff ’08 game, and had a total blast. Lots of fun, and the Dinos won (but we missed the action of the fourth quarter – had to leave a little early with a worn out 5 year old )

(slideshow not visible …

The Boyâ„¢ and I went to the Kickoff ’08 game, and had a total blast. Lots of fun, and the Dinos won (but we missed the action of the fourth quarter – had to leave a little early with a worn out 5 year old :-) )

(slideshow not visible in RSS feed readers)

Syndicating and republishing decentralized content with WordPress

I was going to write up a post describing how to use the cool FeedWordPress plugin for WordPress to syndicate external content into a blog, and republish it in the context of a class or group. But, of course, Jim Groom has beaten me to the punch, and done a much more thorough job of […]

I was going to write up a post describing how to use the cool FeedWordPress plugin for WordPress to syndicate external content into a blog, and republish it in the context of a class or group. But, of course, Jim Groom has beaten me to the punch, and done a much more thorough job of documenting the process than I would/could have done. So, yet again, I’ll just refer to Jim’s work. What I can do is provide a demonstrating workflow to show how FeedWordPress could be used to pull content from one blog into others in the context of a group, project, or class.

Take, for instance, this post I wrote back in July about the Learning Community for Blogging and Student Publishing. It’s published to my blog, and stored in my own outboard brain. But it’s not presented in the context of the University of Calgary.

What about my campus blog at dlnorman.ucalgaryblogs.ca? Should I copy and paste the post there, because it relates to UofC? Nope. I’ve just enabled FeedWordPress on that blog, and anything I publish to my “main” blog using the tag “ucalgary” will automatically get republished on my campus blog.

What about the Learning Communities blog? That post would also be useful to the participants in the project, and I’m not about to expect or compel them all to subscribe to my blog. So I just configured FeedWordPress to pull the “learning communities” feed from my “main” blog and republish posts to the Learning Communities blog.

FeedWordPress in action

FeedWordPress in action

This gives some pretty easy flexibility – I don’t have to manually republish things into various community resources, and I don’t have to make anyone subscribe to anything they don’t want to. If a one-stop-shopping type of resource is useful for a community (class, group, department, etc…) then why break that? Just use syndication and republishing to get the best of both worlds – decentralized publishing and centralized contextualization.

This process also gets around the hassle and confusion of republishing content. I’ve never wanted to publish to any place other than my own blog. I’ve never accepted invitations to write for other blogs. If I want to write something, I’ll publish to my blog. But, with automated syndication and republishing via tag-based feeds, it becomes trivial to allow content to flow into various other blogs and websites where it might be beneficial.

There is one wrinkle in the love fest that is FeedWordPress. Although it can suck categories and tags from items in an RSS feed and put them into categories in the receiving WordPress blog – it doesn’t currently create tags. It just adds category after category after category. Which works, but is messy. Hopefully a future revision of the plugin properly groks the category/tags distinction…

Finally, this post is tagged with “ucalgary” but not “learning communities” so I know it will automagically appear on my campus blog, but not the Learning Communities project blog. And I won’t have to do anything else to make that happen. Very cool stuff.

on campus blogging at the university of calgary

I currently run two separate blogging services on campus, and think both actually have their place and so continue to maintain and manage both a community blogging service running on Drupal, and a more individual blogging space running on WordPress Multiuser. weblogs.ucalgary.ca is the Drupal-powered community blogging system. It’s got the organic groups module enabled, […]

I currently run two separate blogging services on campus, and think both actually have their place and so continue to maintain and manage both a community blogging service running on Drupal, and a more individual blogging space running on WordPress Multiuser.

weblogs.ucalgary.ca is the Drupal-powered community blogging system. It’s got the organic groups module enabled, with access control configured, meaning people can easily login using their campus LDAP credentials, create groups, and publish content knowing that only members of the specified group(s) can see it.

I first set the service up three and a half years ago, and in that time it’s seen activity by 1060 users, publishing 1599 posts. That’s a whopping 1.5 posts per person. Not a lot of high end activity, and a lot of tire-kicking (and possibly content deletion) going on.

The second service, ucalgaryblogs.ca, is less than a year old, and has received almost no marketing or promotion. Only a handful of people even know it exists (mostly readers of my blog). I just snuck a copy of WPMU onto a server, configured it to host subdomains aplenty, and let it sit there.

Why haven’t I started pimping the heck out of it, in the hopes of fostering something insanely awesome like Jim did at University of Mary Washington?

I’m not convinced that the Institution needs to host a blogging platform anymore.

WordPress.com, edublogs.org, and any of a number of other blogging services are doing extremely well, for free, without requiring any of my time to maintain any software.

The reasons I keep coming back to needing a campus-hosted blogging platform are:

  • integration – potential integration with other services, explicitly campus-wide logins so people don’t need Yet Another Account to remember. This may not be a big deal. It’s not hard to remember a new username/login, and if you forget, it’s easy to get a reminder.
  • trust – if it’s on a campus server, there may be a higher level of trust and/or confidence that the service will be there, that it will not change terms of usage, and that it won’t get sold to another third party that may not align with the needs of the users. This one could also go the other way – it’s possible that students may trust an off-campus service more than they would trust one offered by The Man.
  • authority – having a campus-related URL may be beneficial, especially for people trying to build an online identity – but this could also go the other way, because it backfires for people who may be leaving the campus community and would then have to pack up their stuff and move to a new URL after ditching any googlejuice they’ve generated.

With that said, none of the high profile blog projects on campus (the President’s blog, CIO’s blog, solar challenge team, etc…) use either of the services I provide. Maybe that’s a sign that they’re really not necessary?