Thoughts on teaching, technology, learning and life in an era of change.

Archive for November, 2009

Never underestimate WordPress
November 19th, 2009

Never underestimate WordPress. For years I basically created web sites using Claris Home Page and later, Macromedia Dreamweaver. I used another tool there for a bit but it’s name escapes me. My skill extends to nested tables, copy and paste JavaScript, a little XML and that is it. I can hack code after I have “read” it carefully. I can also tell the difference between acceptable and unacceptable design. I think.

My web site has looked like old brown web pages for two and half years now. It is actually based on a template called Gazette in iWeb. I liked the look and feel of “Gazette” and I reproduced it to some extent using Dreamweaver. It had an “old” look that was in keeping with my teaching of history. Well that look is cluttered I feel. I now wish to simplify site and page construction.

It is time to move on and I am going for something that is cleaner and a lot easier to navigate. A little more professional for want of a better word. I still hope there is something of me in the new site. We will just have to wait and see.

So, I have been rebuilding my web site from the ground up. Not the “antique looking” site you may be looking at right now but a site that is presently gestating within the confines of another sub-domain on my host as at the date of this post. I am using WordPress.

The thing about WordPress that I admire the most is it’s capacity to generate static web pages. That is simply excellent. You can have your blog and you can augment your ramblings and news with a variety of supporting content via the static pages.

One can be so empowered. One has the ability to produce a rather professional and elegant web site using WordPress and it is free. That contrasts so remarkably with some entities that charge you $500-00 for a web site with 5 static pages and an upkeep fee to match.

My new web site, which I hope I can launch before Christmas, will be built entirely using WordPress. Since the template employs drop-down nested menus I am free to incorporate quite a number of pages and navigation will not be such an interface hassle.

Some WordPress templates place the page based navigation in a horizontal bar across the top. That may limit you to say 7 pages. As well, other templates place the page navigation down a sidebar. That can be messy if you build an extensive site.

I have incorporated one code hack. I have taken the code generated by a flash album gallery generator and pasted it into the static page and blog post pages so I can easily display a bunch of images.

It is a little clunky but if I create a number of draft posts and pages in advance with the code added and simply leave them unpublished I can drop in a folder of say 32 aptly numbered images and the gallery will be created. All I need do then is finish writing the blog post or page content and publish. Not bad.

Some of the existing WordPress gallery plug-ins are nice but they are buggy or require you to host the images on their servers.

Getting the galleries right is important for me. My current galleries have poor navigation. I use a Photoshop macro to create the galleries at the moment.

I enjoy taking photographs. Good stress relief. So with this new WordPress based site hopefully users will find the galleries easier to navigate. I will also begin posting images up to Flickr more frequently so people can access the jpeg file if they so desire.

WordPress is powerful. Create pages with or without comments. Nested pages. Password protected pages. Publication dates predetermined. Embed flash. Podcasting enclosures. Rich widget capabilities. Mobile blogging is a snap. Self hosted Wordprsss users can tap into plug-ins and an extensive range of themes as well. A creative and devoted user/developer community.

I do hope WordPress will always maintain it’s logical ease of use and elegant ethos. I hope feature creep does not weigh WordPress down in the future. I would despair if I witnessed WordPress evolve into a bloated baggy monster.

Kuala Lumpur
November 19th, 2009

I have just arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It has been a few years since I was last here. I caught up with my brother Frank one day back in 2002 and before that I did a presentation at an Apple sponsored education technology conference.

I will be conducting a series of “Web 2.0″* workshops for academics from 23 universities from across the region on behalf of the Ministry of Higher Education, Malaysia (MoHE). I will be in KL for 8 days. I am working with Nanyang Technological University (NTU), Singapore, on this project.

Both the MoHE and NTU are taking excellent care of me. They have put me up in an excellent resort in Putrajaya, Selangor state, and they flew me to KL business class which is a first for me personally.

I had no idea I was flying via business class. I was emailed the eTicket. I checked in at the economy counters. Boarded via the economy gate. No-one said anything. I discovered my good fortune when I was directed to my seat. Rather luxurious. I am not used to this. Well, I made the most of it. The seat next to me was empty as well. Bonus.

Since I started my long service leave from school, and let a few people know of that fact, things have started to fall in my lap. Good things. Hard work and passion has its rewards.

*I know the term “Web 2.0″ is a little cliche, dated and so on but it will serve the purpose in this case as it provides a common frame of reference for all involved in this project.

Comic Life ~ more than just comics
November 5th, 2009
Changing The Past

Comic Life is and incredible piece of software.

Every now and then a software application crosses one’s path and it immediately grabs your attention. Back in 1992 I was introduced to HyperCard by Dr John Hedberg. That application changed my career and my life. Thanks John!

Several years back I was attending an Apple Technology Day for teachers and right at the end of the day we were given a quick look at Comic Life. I was immediately captivated.

Plant Cell Diagram

Naturally Comic Life allows you to create comics. All sorts of comics. Basic, 1940s, strips, manga and loads more. Yet, it is capable of much more than that. You can skip the templates and simply allow the creative thoughts to generate and drag the various elements such as panels, word balloons, images and titles wherever you wish. If you explore the details panel for each element you can modify the style of each element to your heart’s content.


Recently I conducted some workshops over 6 days for a number of teachers from a variety of schools devoted to children and young adults with special needs. Part of the programme incorporated a Comic Life workshop. They all loved it. We all had a ball. We also covered digital photography, connecting, web presence and other connected stuff. There were teachers from Pathlight, Metta and the Cannossian schools in Singapore. Teachers also travelled down from the Korean International School in Seoul to attend the workshops in Singapore. I shall post some images from the workshops and examples shortly. In the meantime you might like to check out this pdf. Some of my efforts are displayed in this post.

Bayeux Tapestry
Solar System
November 1st, 2009

Have been reconnecting with people during the last few weeks. Good people. Some of the reconnections have been face to face and others via my personal learning network. It has been an enriching experience.

Some of you may have observed that I have been hovering within Twitter a little more lately. Thanks for the replies and retweets.

Will gradually increase the blogging frequency and consolidate some of the spokes of my social media cycle. During the coming months.

I am just beginning to rebuild my web site. I will make the shift from the old to the new during the next two weeks or so. Part of the process.

My mojo took flight this year. It had been bitten by a black dog. That dog has now bolted after a swift kick and the mojo is settling in, still a little uneasy. Keeps looking out the gate for that damn black dog.

This was out of the blue and something of a surprise. It has been a fight. I lost some of the battles but in the long run I know I will win the campaign. Maybe I did not actually lose the battles, I simply think I did. It was just a part of me that lost the battles. The experience has certainly sorted out the chaff from the grain.

It has been good just lately. I have met members of my personal learning network in person. From Clay Burell, Siva, Kevin Lim & Kenneth Pinto in Singapore through to Steve Madsen. Judy O’Connell and Dean Groom in Sydney. Amazing, simply amazing. This aspect of the personal learning network we should not take for granted.

I am so fortunate and dare I say it, blessed, to meet so many good and supportive people. You all know who you are. Here, away and at school too. Selfless, giving, forgiving, sharing, undestanding and real. Thank you.

The photograph was taken in Xi Meng Ting in Taipei. I was shopping with my lovely wife Shao Ping. When you exit the station this is the first thing you see. People. Real people. Good people. Lots if people. All sorts of people. Thank goodness for people. Thank goodness for you.

PS. Techie stuff : Sent via email from my trusty little iPhone and routed with the help of Posterous to my blog, Twitter, Flickr and Facebook. Not bad, eh?

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