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WordPress: Making Blog Building Easy

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Written by: Evan Sanderson

Let’s reveal a little secret–all those fancy blogs you look at aren’t really that hard make. In fact, a good deal of the Internet is built on the WordPress platform. WordPress is a website building platform that is easy to use and elegant in design.

With WordPress, you can create pages, post updates, and manage comments. Visitors can post comments and share your posts through social media platforms like Facebook or Twitter. And best of all? It’s basic functionality is free to use!

To learn more, watch the CTRL instructional video on WordPress here:

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Video is Worth A Whole Bunch of Words

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“If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth ten thousand.”
That’s the theory, anyway, when it comes to online content. Video is increasingly becoming the lingua franca of the digital realm. As advertisements, educational technology, and entertainment all train us in the visual and auditory vocabulary of this content style, it becomes incumbent upon us as educators to incorporate this skillset into the classroom. It’s a powerful tool in the toolbox of the educator.

To that end, the Teaching and Learning Resource Group has unveiled a new project that will put this theory into practice. We looked around our office and saw not only a wealth of information on a variety of instructional technologies and methodologies, but a group of engaging and creative teachers. Why not (we asked ourselves) create a video repository to leverage our collective knowledge? And so we have begun to do just that, figuring that if video is the language of the Internet, then it can also serve our purpose to supplement our workshops, events, and trainings.

Beginning this month, we plan on releasing a series of videos illuminating some of our favorite instructional technologies. From Google Drive, to Prezi, to RSS feeds–we want to develop a range of content that will be accessible and useful to AU faculty and staff. The videos will function as both promotions for various instructional aids, and as primers for their specific functions.

Take, for example, our Google Drive promo. We created this video specifically for educators, focusing on how Docs can be used to comment on students’ work, how Google Presentation can be used in lieu of PowerPoint to develop classroom lessons, and how Forms can be used to administer tests and quizzes. These videos are selected and designed for you.

If you have any suggestions for future video topics, or questions about the process, please feel free to contact us at CTRLtlr@american.edu. And stay tuned for our first video on Google Drive, to be released later next week!

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Mobile Tool Review: WordPress.com

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This Mobile Tool Review was written by Cathryn Panganiban, CTRL Trainer and Consultant.

WordPress.com

With a wide array of features and capabilities, WordPress is a great platform to use whether you are interested in starting a course blog or promoting your research (or both). Those who have limited experience in blogging platforms or website management may find the platform confusing at first, but the tool is easy to learn. With these advantages and more, it is no wonder WordPress is used by many popular websites today.

Cost

$0-$30 (depending upon upgrades)

Platform

Compatible with any Internet browser as well as iPhone and Android smartphones through the (free) WordPress app.

What does it do?

WordPress allows you to create your own website within minutes. Users can manage and update content with a single click. Furthermore, its accessible features enable the user to customize the look and feel of their site—HTML/CSS/web-design experience NOT necessary. Building your online presence has never been this easy!

Which class can you use it in?

While Blackboard allows instructors to facilitate online discussions through its own blogging feature, accessibility to this content is strictly limited to those with AU Blackboard access. WordPress offers the ability to create a public website, one that can garner an audience from around the world and extend a course outside the confines of the physical classroom. With that said, I could imagine a WordPress-operated blog to be a useful tool for students to learn how to participate in online discourse through commenting and tagged posts. The added ability to share multimedia posts may also be helpful for courses interested in ePortfolios, especially ones that focus on the arts, current events, and/or social issues.

Advantages

One of the many strengths of WordPress, when compared to other blogging platforms, is the myriad of features offered to users. Each individual user can craft a website that satisfies a particular goal (e.g. communal discourse, ePortfolio). I personally like WordPress for its many themes (templates)—many of which are completely free. Themes can be changed to update the overall look of a website. Its clean interface and the ease of creating new posts are major pluses as well. It’s also worth noting that AU marketing and communication blogs run exclusively on WordPress.org. BONUS: The mobile app is handy for those who are always on the go.

Disadvantages

The “myriad of features” also come at a cost—the seemingly endless number of options can get overwhelming and confusing for those who are new to any blogging or website design platform. In addition, editing capabilities for existing templates through the free version WordPress.com is limited. Users can change the color or background image of the template, but that’s about it. Purchasing CSS editing packages or templates costs money.

Overall Grade

A

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