Bling Your Blog

Screenshot of the front page of WordPress Theme: Twenty Eleven

WordPress Theme: Twenty Eleven

Aesthetically speaking, I really like my site. I’m currently using the theme “Twenty Eleven,” which is clean and straightforward. The organization of pages is functional (though I need to be thinking forward to the portfolio). The header image I created on Canva, and use it to tie my academic web presence together.  But, I still have some technical kinks to work out. I had two main goals for this assignment: change my landing page and make connecting to my social media easier.

My “About” section was seriously lacking and, unfortunately, it was my landing page. I had a picture and hyperlinks to my teaching website, Twitter, and Diigo. Really it said nothing “About” me at all, which is not an exciting place to start exploring the site. But, I also had no immediate plans to expand my “About” page, so I figured the next best thing was to land on the blog. This process was relatively painless, though I would have liked the opportunity to name it something other than “Home.” I fought with the renaming issue for a while but eventually gave in. Regardless of the name, I feel much better about people starting their experience on the page with my posts.

Screenshot of social media options (RSS, Email, Facebook, Twitter, and Google+) provided by the plug-in Ultimate Social Media PLUS

Ultimate Social Media PLUS: Screenshot

The second task took me a little bit longer. I downloaded the “Ultimate Social Media PLUS” plugin, and chose which sites I wanted to link to. Previously, I had the hyperlinks on my “About” page and a Twitter feed widget, but I wanted it to be easier for visitors to find me elsewhere on the web.

I had a vision for where it would live on my site: up above the header by the search box. What I figured out is that my search box is actually built into my theme and I had no (simple) control over what lives up there. There’s a way to do it manually, but I found out pretty quickly that I’m not very CSS savvy. My next best option was to put it at the top of my main sidebar, and the colors make it eye-catching (which, for the moment, I like). To include Diigo and my teaching website, I created “custom” buttons and uploaded the icons. I rarely use my Google+ or LinkedIn accounts, so I chose not to list them.

Future Bling Goal: Learn how to change/add things manually in CSS.

“A Personal Cyberinfrastructure Revisited” – Rich Reflection

Article Title & Link:

“A Personal Cyberinfrastructure Revisted” (Video) by W. Gardner Campbell

Excerpts:

(2:07) “It’s not simply a matter of technical skill. It’s not even, in some respects, a matter of being able to make a web that can be the kind of curation spot and the cyberinfrastructure for your own data driven life. It is those things, of course, but it’s also about the ability to externalize a model of one’s own conceptual framework having to do with the information in which one lives, which one produces, which one comes into contact with…”

(12:59) “By becoming a sys admin in this way by actually operating this distributed publishing system by operating a server you are actually much closer to understanding how the net works…”

Reflection:

The concept of digital agency has been lurking in the shadows of my past couple posts, and it’s time I should pay a little more attention to it. While no one has come out and named it directly in the definition, I think it’s a key player within digital citizenship. Figuring out what digital agency could mean is another issue: From what I’ve gathered, it speaks to an individual’s capacity for action and creation of a product in a digital environment. For W. Gardner Campbell, digital agency takes the form of a personal cyberinfrastructure. His video elaboration of some ideas from an earlier article gives specific examples of current spaces that allow users to start the process of developing their server. Projects such as BlueHost and EC2 for Poets provide the tools for those who are ready to exercise their digital agency and collect/organize/publish their life online in a meaningful way.

One aspect I appreciated about Campbell’s plan was that he has very high expectations. The superficial interactions we have online regularly will not cut it. Not only will you curate your digital products, but you will design the server that hosts them in a way that specifically reflects how you engage with information as a whole (and do so without having an existential crisis). No pressure. A personal cyberinfrastructure is digital agency flexing its muscles and taking things into its own hands as the sys admin.

And while the idea may at first seem a little overwhelming, maybe we shouldn’t be shying away from this kind of engagement with the digital world. My instinct is to say that Campbell’s idea, in its most ideal form, is currently out of reach. I know it would be awesome if we could set a precedent for this in schools, and that Campbell is correct in saying that this is a huge step towards a better understanding of the Internet, but I still hesitate. Why is it so hard to think of ourselves as not just creators but owners/system designers? As we transition from blind consumers to eager creators, we should have a little forethought for the next step in the process, an example of which I think Campbell is offering here. What could our digital experience look like when we start exercising control on a larger scale?

 

“A Personal Cyberinfrastructure” – Rich Reflection

Article Title & Link:

“A Personal Cyberinfrastructure” by W. Gardner Campbell

Reflection:

A Personal Cyberinfrastructure for Students: Here's one idea... Assign students a web server upon matriculation. Students pick domain name. Students receive constant support from instructional technologist, librarians, and faculty advisors as they start exploring server management tools, playing with wikis and blogs, and installing scripts. Eventually their platform will be able to support publishing, archiving, importing and exporting, and internal and external connections.What I found most interesting in this article was Campbell’s step-by-step guide to helping students build their own personal cyberinfrastructures in an academic setting. I based my concept map on two different excerpts. The first excerpt provided the detailed plan, and the second excerpt discussed the importance of guidance/support by instructors who are engaged and modeling the process (which in my map is represented by its position as a jumping off point for each new task):

  1. So, how might colleges and universities shape curricula to support and inspire the imaginations that students need? Here’s one idea. Suppose that when students matriculate, they are assigned their own web servers — not 1GB folders in the institution’s web space but honest-to-goodness virtualized web servers of the kind available for $7.99 a month from a variety of hosting services, with built-in affordances ranging from database maintenance to web analytics. As part of the first-year orientation, each student would pick a domain name. Over the course of the first year, in a set of lab seminars facilitated by instructional technologists, librarians, and faculty advisors from across the curriculum, students would build out their digital presences in an environment made of the medium of the web itself. They would experiment with server management tools via graphical user interfaces such as cPanel or other commodity equivalents. They would install scripts with one-click installers such as SimpleScripts. They would play with wikis and blogs; they would tinker and begin to assemble a platform to support their publishing, their archiving, their importing and exporting, their internal and external information connections. They would become, in myriad small but important ways, system administrators for their own digital lives.3 In short, students would build a personal cyberinfrastructure, one they would continue to modify and extend throughout their college career — and beyond.
  2. To provide students the guidance they need to reach these goals, faculty and staff must be willing to lead by example — to demonstrate and discuss, as fellow learners, how they have created and connected their own personal cyberinfrastructures. Like the students, faculty and staff must awaken their own self-efficacy within the myriad creative possibilities that emerge from the new web. These personal cyberinfrastructures will be visible, fractal-like, in the institutional cyberinfrastructures, and the network effects that arise recursively within that relationship will allow new learning and new connections to emerge as a natural part of individual and collaborative efforts.

“As We May Think” – Rich Reflection

Article Title & Link:

“As We May Think” by Vannevar Bush

Reflection:

I chose to annotate the article using Hypothes.is, focusing on the ideas of access and preservation (and anything that made me laugh). In retrospect, I should have posted my annotations publicly, but instead I made a private Nousion group that you are all welcome to join. Once you’re in, you can choose the article and turn on your Hypothes.is extension to see the annotations. Feel free to post annotations of your own on the article.

Sorry for the inevitable confusion as I learn how to use a new tool!

 

Metathink- Blog Engine

Having my own website/blog/portfolio for the ONID program has made me far more eager to use personal sites in my own classroom. I’m not 100% sure I could help every student through the process of Reclaimhosting and installing WordPress (even though the provided instructions were well written), but even if were just a Google Site I think it’s a great place to collect student work. Especially if students are creating digitally born media most of the time, an online portfolio just makes sense. For secondary teachers, I think Google Sites even has some privacy settings that could take out a portion of “students publishing publically” headache. There can be all sorts of policy weirdness there, but I think doing the legwork to make it happen would be worth it.

My own domain has kind of taken a back seat to all the work that I’m posting. The “About” section has sat empty since I created the site, and I’m not sure I want to put something there quite yet, so I’m open to interesting suggestions for a stand in. I also think I could be using the “tag” feature more efficiently as up till now I’ve just been categorizing posts by course number. I think I’ve reached the point where I should have vision for what it should look like in the long run. Needless to say I’m excited to spend some time on the “Bling Your Blog” assignment!

Advice to future lords of new domains –

Don’t be afraid to try a new WordPress theme if you’re starting to fall out of love with your portfolio.