Teaching with WordPress

I’m compelled by the Teaching with WordPress open course the folks at UBC are running over the next few weeks. This is a topic near and dear to my heart, something I have spent countless hours talking about on this blog. In fact, the infrastructure they’re using to aggregate this post is something I finally settled upon for UMW Blogs‘s aggregation model (and subsequently the blog hub for ds106 and UMW Domains) after a long conversation with Andre Malan at Northern Voice in 2008—a conference that was hosted at UBC. It’s all connected.

ds106 theme overhaul

I think the simple fact we have been returning again and again to WordPress over the last decade at UMW illustrates just how easy it is to build on top of this open source platform. It’s pretty crazy just how much you can do with it. I’ve already mentioned building a pretty sophisticated aggregation platform as just one example of what’s possible. When it comes to ds106, we were able to use WordPress to build an entire open course ecosystem: Martha Burtis built the ds106 assignment bankTim Owens built the Daily CreateAlan Levine built the Remix Machine, and two UMW students taking ds106 (Linda McKenna and Rachel McGuirk) created in[Spire]. Truly building the airplane while flying.

ds106 in[SPIRE]

Whether for a one-off course or an entire ecosystem, it’s hard to argue with the simplicity of use and expansive community that undergirds WordPress. The idea is not to rebuild the LMS, although some try with WordPress, but to actually reposition your teaching to become part and parcel of the web. That’s a shift WordPress has made simple for us over the last decade because faculty and students could wrap their head around it. WordPress exists in the sweet spot between ease-of-use and robust options for building an entire application on top of it. In comparison, Drupal was designed for those more complex applications, yet never addressed the ease-of-use and interface concerns. The result is CMS history: WordPress powers a quarter of all sites on the web, and Drupal has become a niche application for self-loathing sysadmins 🙂

I’m looking forward to using the Teaching with WordPress experience as an excuse to look at all the work we have done with WordPress for teaching from 2005, when having RSS built-in seemed insane, up and until just last week, when Ryan Brazell ran a DataPress workshop for UMW faculty focused on building research databases on top of WordPress using the Toolset plugin suite.

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2 Responses to Teaching with WordPress

  1. I lost track of that connection with Andre Malan at NV 2008, and had some fun reading your posts realizing how much more shaky Feed WordPress was then. The other thing cool for the Web Is The Place to Be mindset is the UBC Blogsquad aggregator is still going in 2015, as is maybe one of the longer running ones at UMW, the Study Abroad one.

    The old comments alone are good peek back into time (as is the continued drupal teasing, sorry Bill).

    All of my chops in Feed WordPress came from the DS106 training ground; one of the clever subtleties about Martha’s genius work on the assignment bank is that it is actually re-aggregating with FWP from the main ds106 hub- aggregators of aggregators is more than meta.

    A sad regret was that we were never able to engage the developer of the plugin after our 2012 conversation with him. I like to speculate a primary use of FWP was for building of link harvesting blogs (hence you see so many people adding to their post footers “This post was originally published by Bernice Blogger on the XXXXXXX blog”), that our abilities to aggregate distributed knowledge is founded by a platform used for lesser glorious purposes.

    Feed on! While the RSS still flickers…

  2. Reverend says:

    Yeah, I’m bummed the FWP developer never got back to us either. And as precarious as we thought that application to be, it has navigated the plugin waters for a solid 7 years now. That’s not bad in WordPress years 🙂

    There has been so much amazing development over the years from so many folks, and I think at least some of the innovative ways we approached ds106 had everything to do with a tool we felt comfortable enough hacking. There may be a lot of new systems out there, but WordPress has been the very best of the Web 2.0 tools and beyond. It’s been the archive of my ideas I always wanted, and I just pity the fools who found Facebook first.

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