Rotating Gallery

The Rotating Gallery is a simple plug in that allows a user to have a (you guessed it!) rotating gallery of images appear in one of the sidebars of their site.  Each time a visitor refreshes or visits a new page, the image will change, giving them an appealing overall sense of the site activity.  Here’s a screenshot of the final result:

The set up is easy too!  Follow these steps:

1) First, go to your Plugins page (left hand menu of your dashboard), find the ‘Rotating Post Gallery,’ and click ‘activate.’

2) Once activated, ‘Gallery Post’ will appear in the left hand menu, click there, hit ‘Add Post’ and begin adding images via the media uploader (as you would on any page or post to which you’re adding images).  We do recommend reducing the size of these images, to help them fit the sidebar without distortion.  You can add text (see the arrow below), but there’s not much room in a sidebar, so keep it short!  Once finished, click publish.

3) Now visit your widgets page, which you can find at Appearance>Widgets.  Drag the Rotating Gallery widget to your sidebar, choose a number of images (type ‘all’ if you want all to appear), an image size, and you’re done!

We do recommend changing the image size when uploading the images, because the plugin will try to stretch images to fit in the sidebar, sometimes distorting them more than you’d like.  Changing the size in the widget helps this a bit, but choosing ‘thumbnail’ when uploading is even better.

As always, contact us with any questions!

This Week in Openlab! March 19th Edition

Image by Perfecto Insecto via Creative Commons License

Upcoming Launch!

With the Brooklyn spring here a bit early, consider this your first invitation to the official CityTech OpenLab launch, scheduled for mid-April.  More details to follow, but pencil it in for the 19th of April.  We’ll see you there!

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 Floating BubbleHeads
As more and more people and projects join the OpenLab, we’re finding more and more default avatars or, as we like to call them, “floating bubbleheads.”  Thought we’d  take a second to remind everyone that you can personalize your avatar under MyOpenlab>Profile>change avatar.
From there you can upload a personalized image that not only represent “you” all over the OpenLab, you’ll be making the OpenLab the dynamic, colorful, exciting place we all know it can be.

 

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This Week’s Tutorial

Many of our professors use the ‘comments’ function on course sites to have students respond either to one another’s work or to a prompt, as in the example from Professor Rosen’s above.

And comments are not just useful for professors–encouraging comments from users is one of the main ways for a site to interact with the public, particularly the larger public outside CityTech.  But until recently, users couldn’t edit their comments if, say, they rethought what they had said, had something additional to add, or even just misspelled something.

To deal with that, we’ve installed a new plug-in called “Ajax Edit Comments.”  This plug-in allows for comments to be edited by users for a set length of time (the administrator of the site can set that time-length), and it also has a spell check feature.

Unlike most plug-ins, which usually have a specific audience, we really recommend that all OpenLab users activate this one.  There’s a tutorial on it here, and as always, contact us with any quesitons!

Ajax WP Edit Comments

Many of our professors use the ‘comments’ function on course sites to have students respond either to one another’s work or to a prompt, as in the example from Professor Rosen’s above.

And comments are not just useful for professors–encouraging comments from users is one of the main ways for a site to interact with the public, particularly the larger public outside CityTech.  But until recently, users couldn’t edit their comments if, say, they rethought what they had said, had something additional to add, or even just misspelled something.

To deal with that, we’ve installed a new plug-in called “Ajax Edit Comments.”  This plug-in allows for comments to be edited by users for a set length of time (the administrator of the site can set that time-length), and it also has a spell check feature.  Unlike most plug-ins, which usually have a specific audience, we really recommend that all OpenLab users activate this one.

Once you’ve activated the plug-in users who post will see–depending on how long the administrator sets it for–an editing interface.  Clicking there will allow users to edit the message, the username, etc.  And they also will see a button which will allow them to request deletion:

All of these options, can be changed by the administrator, and you can do that on the plug-ins page, under settings.  DO REMEMBER THAT IT’S HERE, as the plug-ins page is not the most common place to find the settings interface:

Here you can change the length of time that users can edit, etc.

In addition, the administrator can edit all comments, and will find a more robust set of editing options on the dashboard.

Including an editing interface:

And even a way to adjust comment times, etc:

There’s more information on how to use the plug-in in the video below.  And as always, contact us with any questions!

http://youtu.be/JZyudPKg44g

This Week in OpenLab! March 12th Edition

MORE THAN 2000 USERS!

We here at the OpenLab promised ourselves we wouldn’t brag every week anymore about how quickly our community is growing, but we need this week to take a second to celebrate our latest milestone:  As of this writing, there are 2,094 active members of the OpenLab!  We couldn’t be prouder of the way the CityTech Community has so quickly coalesced behind the OpenLab, and we look forward to meeting our next thousand members, and the thousand after that, and the thousand after that…

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UPCOMING WORKSHOPS

As we mentioned a week or so ago, there are a full slate of OpenLab workshops scheduled for the rest of this term.  There are workshops for faculty and for students, and the workshops address a variety of subjects, from getting started to more advanced issues.  Check out the posters around the campus and just above for more information, and contact us to sign-up.

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WEEKLY TUTORIAL:  CONTACT FORM 7

Contact Form 7 is way of allowing visitors and users to contact you that is simple yet flexible (in wordpress that usually means there’s a simple set-up for people who want simple, and complexity for people who want complexity).  On the OpenLab, this plug-in is probably most useful to clubs and projects, particularly those who have visitors from outside the CityTech OpenLab community.  Here’s a screenshot of the final result:

If you like what you see here, more information and a tutorial can be found here.  And as always, contact us with any questions!

Contact Form 7

Contact Form 7 is way of allowing visitors and users to contact you that is simple yet flexible (in wordpress that usually means there’s a simple set-up for people who want simple, and complexity for people who want complexity).  On the OpenLab, this plug-in is probably most useful to clubs and projects, particularly those who have visitors from outside the CityTech OpenLab community.  Here’s a screenshot of the final result:

Below is a nice video with clear explanaition that shows how to use the plugin. Remember (as with many of the video tutorials you’ll find on The Open Road) the Contact Form 7 plugin is already installed on your site.  That means you only need to go to the ‘plugins’ (left hand column of your dashboard) and ‘activate’ it.  That also means you can skip any information in the tutorial about installation.  In this video, that means you can watch the first 30 seconds or so, and then skip to 2:33.  And most of the basic setup info ends about 2 minutes after that.

Hope you like it.  And here you can find support forums, an FAQ, etc.  And as always, contact us with any questions!

This Week in Openlab! March 6th Edition

We’re a little late this week, since we spent the weekend at the AWP conference in Chicago, which was wonderful and which had us thinking (again) about teaching and writing and technology, particularly creative writing, but really any writing, and then…

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Announcing the Journal of Interactive Technology & Pedagogy!

Speaking of teaching and digital platforms, the Interactive Technology and Pedagogy Certificate Program at the Graduate Center has released the first issue of JiTP, its new online journal.  It’s just grand:  a nice blend between the theoretical and the practical.  If you’re looking for ways to think about teaching with digital platforms, or just looking for good ideas for classes, it’s something to watch.  It’s particularly great to see the section ‘Teaching Fails.’  A great title and great concept.  This issue, Bill Kules writes about a particularly ineffective assignment, and what can be learned from it… and our own Charlie Edwards and Matt Gold are involved!

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This Week’s Tutorial

This week, we’re featuring WP Polls, a site that allows a course, club or project to ask a question or questions of members or students.  The poll have as many answers as you like, can appear in a sidebar, post or page.  The tutorial is here.  And as always, email us if you have any questions!

WP-Polls

Adding a poll to your site is a snap with the WP-Polls plugin!  Clubs and projects can use polls on the OpenLab to determine user needs, interests, or even just set up a meeting time!

This short video is a perfect introduction to this simple plugin.  If you have any questions, remember, you can always contact us!

This Week In OpenLab! February 26th Edition

Announcing our Upcoming Workshops!

All through the rest of the term the OpenLab team will be offering workshops for faculty, staff and students.  Whether you’re thinking of ways to improve your course management, just getting started, or would like to explore a topic of your own choosing, we’ll be here to meet your needs.  More information will follow, but the first of these workshops will be:

Working with Courses on the OpenLab (FOR FACULTY)  Tuesday, March 6. 11:30am – 12:45pm. A540 (in the library)

Thinking about teaching a course on the OpenLab? Already using the OpenLab for your courses? Bring your questions to these mixed-level sessions. You will need an account on the OpenLab, and your syllabus. Workshops are open to all City Tech faculty and staff. Part-time faculty are eligible to receive a small stipend.

What is the OpenLab?  (FOR STUDENTS):  Thursday, March 8th, 1:00pm – 2:15pm, A540 (in the library)

Please RSVP to OpenLab@citytech.cuny.edu. Please specify workshop date(s), and we’ll see you then!

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Featured Course:  ENG 2003: Introduction to Poetry

In most of our recent entries we’ve focused on the course site–today we’d like to highlight those project management tools you can find on your Course/Club/Project Profile page.  This can be a valuable place for students and/or members to work collaboratively on a particular document, or have a discussion that you might want to distinguish in some way from what is going on on the course/group/project site:  a project or club might use the Site for more public-facing announcements, etc, and use these discussion boards on the Profile page for in-group discussion.  Privacy settings are all customizable, so it’s easy to do.

And just as an example, one of our favorites, Professor Jody Rosen’s on-going glossary project, which one suspects gives students a great sense of accomplishment by the term’s end, and which you can see here.

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(image by Andrew Mertz, licensed via creative commons)

Weekly Tutorial:  WP-Latex

We mentioned last week that Jonas Reitz, a professor of Math here at CityTech, was helping us out with a tutorial for the WP-Latex plug-in, which allows teachers and students to write mathematical formulas directly into OpenLab comments, posts or pages.  You can find that tutorial here.

The plug-in presumes you know LaTeX, and as such is most useful to the mathematically inclined among us, but in the interest of intellectual curiosity, there is a useful tutorial/summary here.  In addition, Jonas has kindly allowed us to link to an assignment in his Calc II class which includes some basics, like fractions, radicals, and integrals.  You can find that here.  And if you’re trying to write LaTeX code, you’ll find that a tester is an invaluable too.  You can find a good one here.   Thanks to Jonas for all these resources!

This Week in Openlab! February 20th Edition

(Image by KitAy licensed via Creative Commons )

Greetings from Cleveland!  Some of us are scattering around the less clement parts of the country for various non-cuny winter breaks, and I for one am happy to be watching the OpenLab from inside.

Before we begin this week’s installment, special thanks to those clubs whose members we talked to at the CityTech Club Fair last week.  If we can get all that talent and all those interests growing and on display here on the OpenLab, I think everyone inside and outside CityTech will see even more clearly what an exceptional place this school is.  Contact us for help setting up your Club site, and thanks for having us!

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Featured Course:  MAT 1275, College Algebra and Trigonometry

Jonas Reitz is having his students write equations and work in LaTeX, which allows students and professors to write formulas directly into OpenLab comments, posts or pages.  We’ll have a tutorial up on that plugin soon, but have a look here for a wonderful example of an effective use of an online platform that all professors can utilitze:  not only are Jonas’ students learning valuable skills, we also see that Jonas is taking fulll advantage of the OpenLab’s transparency (between students, between professor and students).  By asking students to think about and write possible exam questions, he’s giving students an active role in reflecting on their learning and even shaping their own course of study.  All of which, of course, we love to see on this open platform.

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This Week’s Tutorial

This week we’re taking a break from the plugin tutorials (don’t worry, more are on the way!) to feature a few tips on image re-sizing.  This is important for a few reasons:  first, it’s good practice to keep images as small as needed in order to keep pages loading smoothly and quickly.  Note that most digital cameras and even some phones are likely to take image that are vastly larger than you’re likely to need (unless you’re NASA, then you might feel the need for this).

Second, all OpenLab posts and pages have media upload limits, and this can help you get under those limits.

And third, OpenLab sites themselves have storage limits–if you are running photograph- or image-heavy courses (as we do here in the CityTech AD/GA department, for example) or clubs, you might find yourself approaching that limit unnecessarily.  These tips will help with that, and you can find the tutorial here.  Do note, while all images can be changed later, we can’t recommend enough the importance of editing images when you upload, rather than setting yourself up for the daunting project of going back in to edit when things have gotten out of hand.  If you’d like a member of the OpenLab team to come to your class to discuss these best-practices with students, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Image Resizing

Image resizing gets easier and easier with WordPress.  Once upon a time editing of that sort had to take place elsewhere, but now most simple image editing can be done directly in the media upload dialogue box, or later in the Media Library.

That said, image-resizing is critically important for a few reasons:  first, it’s good practice to keep images as small as needed in order to keep pages loading smoothly and quickly.  Note that most digital cameras and even some phones are likely to be set to take images that are vastly larger than a user of a computer screen is likely to need (unless you’re NASA, then you might feel the need for this).  Second, all OpenLab posts and pages have media upload limits, and this can help you get under those limits.  And third, OpenLab sites themselves have storage limits–if you are running photograph or image heavy courses (as we do here in the CityTech AD/GA department, for example) or clubs, you might find yourself approaching that limit unnecessarily.  These tips will help with that.  Do note, while all images can be changed later, we can’t recommend enough the importance of editing images when you upload, rather than setting yourself up for the daunting project of going back in to edit when things have gotten out of hand.

To resize your images, after you upload your image click on ‘edit image’ in the media upload dialogue box:

Then click ‘Scale Image’ in the upper right of the dialogue box.  It depends on the theme you’re using, but as a general rule, most posts are about 600 to 700 pixels wide.  So if you don’t need your viewer to enlarge the image to see greater detail, no image needs to be wider than 600 to 700 pixels, and you can set that here.

Also note the Thumbnail Settings, which will allow you to choose which part of your picture will appear as a thumbnail in your post (this is especially valuable when the focus of your picture isn’t in the center–by default thumbnails will focus there).

And you’re done!  Also remember that you can resize images when inserting them into the post or page, but that won’t change the image size in the media library, just how it appears  on your site.  And as always, contact us with any questions!