education, technology, and everything else

Archive for the ‘IT stuff’ Category Introduces VideoPress for users

Posted by Miranda on May 20, 2009 Introduces VideoPress for users

Posted using ShareThis
On the way down to lunch I had a curbside discussion with one of the faculty on the subject of our video server, KUtube, and our new WordPressMU install, KUAPress and we were asking ourselves – why can’t one platform do everything?

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WordPress MU

Posted by Miranda on March 10, 2009

After attending a WordCamp back in February with a young colleague we both became pretty excited about the idea of setting up our own multi-user WordPress blog site here on campus. (same as Harvard uses, whoop-t-doo!) Or fo that matter.
As of a couple of days ago I finally have it working, although it wasn’t what you’d call exactly “plug and play”. For one thing we can’t spend any money on it and for another we weren’t setting it up on a UNIX box.

I used VMServer (free) to set up a 30 GB virtual server. Installed windows XP Pro SP3 and Symantec Antivirus corporate edition.
Installed Instant Rails to this virtual server. Installation is pretty simple just extract the zipped file to a directory at the root of your server. Start the Instant Rails manager. Mod rewrite was already enabled in Apache but we did have to change the directive and configure the VirtualHost section (Items 2 and 3 in the WordPress MU ReadMe file)
I set up a database using Configure > Database(viaPHPMyAdmin) in the Instant Rails Manager
I then extracted the WordPressMU files to a directory inside the www directory that Instant Rails had set up. I ran the install.php file as directed and all went well until I tried to log in as admin to my shiny new install.
I just kept getting redirected back to the login after entering the password. See:
Too frustrating!
Finally this post:
pointed me in the right direction. I added a line to my Apache configuration, put an entry in the hosts file of the virtual server – for windows XP that is c:\\windows\system32\drivers\etc\hosts and added two alias entries to my dns server, one for and the other for * (so that new blogs would work on a subdomain)
Then I edited wp-config.php to define the server:
and changed the path of the directory for content (also in wp-config) so that I could store the data on our SAN. Now we are cooking with gas and I hope that students and faculty will soon be using our install and setting up sites to their hearts content. I’d like to see digital portfolios where students could showcase their work for colleges, class sites, discussions using the CommentPress theme, autobiographical sites , newsletters…. How about it? Do you have any ideas how we could use this?


A big Thank You! to Will Norris

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Oh by the way..

Posted by Miranda on February 26, 2009

An email this morning asks if we, meaning the school, has the setup-up for a distance learning lab, a “virtual classroom”
This teacher wants to do some distance training, share computer screens, videos. Obviously she’ll want chat. Also mentions having the distance learners access some of the software installed to her desktop. Hmm.
Well Moodle will do for some of it. Probably won’t be as slick looking as this particular teacher likes. Will look into web conferencing tools.

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Posted by Miranda on February 24, 2009

Chris Dawson asks today:Will Gmail’s outage make me think twice about Edu Apps? and concludes that it won’t. But it does me. For one thing we don’t want to give up the control that our Exchange server gives us. For another well we still have a bandwidth problem.

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Posted by Miranda on April 12, 2007

I have been getting the final project together for the course I am taking at the Marlboro College Graduate Center: MAT604 Designing Educational Web-Based Materials II and one of the elements is a screencast.
I used Camtasia to make it and I have to say: I love this tool! I spent so long working with it last Sunday that I think I injured my eyes.
You can download a 30 day demo, which I did, but after seeing my screencast Monday my boss agrees with me that it’s a must-have. I had to cut out bits of the recorded narrative where I messed up and re-record those parts and by the time it was done things were a bit uneven so I exported the entire audio portion as an mp3, imported it into Audacity to work on it and then reimported.

I think it came out pretty well for a first effort. I rendered it as Flash but it’s still up around 19 MB – Dial-up users beware!
It’s a tutorial on the Microsoft System Configuration Utility – MSCONFIG
First I tried putting it on SplashCast but I didn’t like their player:

[splashcast FQMY2767CC]

I uploaded it to YouTube but the encoding process there seems to result in pretty poor quality, however the play begins before it’s fully downloaded, which is an advantage:

And really I like it best as Camtasia does it:
View embedded in HTML

Wink is a good free tool for this sort of thing but you don’t get the choice of file formats that you get with Camtasia and I didn’t see much of a way to edit the audio in my brief exploration with it.

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Break Time

Posted by Miranda on March 25, 2007

The kids at the school where I work have been on break for the last two weeks, they will return this coming Thursday. Now you might think that this makes for a nice quiet three weeks but in the IT department the opposite is true.

Quiet, yes, in the sense of not noisy but anything but quiet in the sense of there’s a lot to do before they get back and clutter up the place again.
For one, there’s been the DST thing, the new Daylight Savings Time. Ordinarily all updates to our Windows systems would be pushed out through our SUS server. They were not. SUS isn’t supported anymore and we are behind on updating to WSUS. I’ve wanted to go there for a while but it’s one of those things you never seem to get around to. Plus, that isn’t really my bailiwick, and I haven’t wanted to intrude on someone else’s territory. Guess I will though. Meanwhile, all the administration machines had to be updated manually.
Then we re-imaged all the lab machines. That went well except making the image was time-consuming. We are experimenting with using Acronis TruImage, I like it very well.

We had a wireless survey done of one of the dorms. That was very interesting. This dorm is one of the oldest and largest and has always been a problem child in terms of wireless coverage. The construction contains a lot of wire mesh. The software used, AirMagnet was very sophisticated and both my coworker and I lusted after it. We have been using a free tool, Netstumbler, really we need something better.
I haven’t seen the report yet but I think we will find that we need to move several access points at least. We’d like to replace the present APs, Proxim, with Cisco. We also found a Linksys wireless router in a faculty apartment which certainly was not helping matters. I removed it and wrote him a pretty snippy note.

And then of course there are all the niggling little things that have been on the to-do list forever and don’t get done when school is in session because there is never time or peace to think about them.

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Civilization and World History

Posted by Miranda on March 3, 2007

During the last two trimesters at Kimball Union Academy history teacher Lyn Lord has been using Firaxis Civilization III in her World History classes. When I first installed it in the lab I must admit that I could see the fun factor but not the educational one. However, over time I have changed my mind.
The students began by playing the game only during class periods. They quickly became fascinated and would come down after classes were out and play. It became common for me to leave for the day and still have several students in the lab, playing Civilization. At first in the early part of the term students were just.. well, playing, Then they became serious about it, or as serious as you can get I guess. They worked on their civilizations. They took notes (well, Lyn did require it).
Some technical glitches had to be discovered and worked out.
Here are some things we learned along the way:

The game has to have the CD in the computer to play. We had to have one CD for each machine in the lab. (and yes, I’m aware that hacks exist for that, we wanted to be legal though) The CD is particular to the install so that we had to label all the CDs and computers and make sure that when the student played, they had the particular disk for that computer.

Then, after installation we had trouble. Students couldn’t open a new game. Turned out that Civ III needs to change the resolution and we had the lab machines locked down with a Windows Server Group Policy that did not allow access to the Control Panel for students. Ditto with access to the C drive, which Firaxis needs to save the game.
I had to make a new Group Policy that allowed access to C and access to the Display module of Control Panels, then make sure that policy applied only to the group of students playing the game and only in the lab, nowhere else.

Civ III saves to C, it will not save to a network location. So if a computer dies, the saved games of the students using that computer are gone. I have to be honest here and say that I was the unwitting cause of tragedy at the end of the first term when I re-imaged the lab computers, not knowing that the civilizations were going to continue on through the next. I felt simply awful but luckily the students were not far along and forgave me after many abject apologies on my part. We had to teach the students to back up the saved games by going into Program Files\Firaxis\Saves and copying their saved game, then going to their network drive and pasting it in there. This actually helped in other ways as well as back-up. When the lab was busy after class time the student could go to any machine, go to his or her H drive and copy their saved game back down into the Saves directory of any computer and pick up where they left off.

Next week they will do presentations on their civilizations, what decisions they made along the way and why. I’ll be setting up a computer with Civ III on it in the classroom, together with a projector to facilitate that. I can’t wait to hear the presentations. In fact I’d like to film them and will, if my son will give me a quick video camera lesson.

I do know that even if they learned nothing at all from playing this game (which I think is unlikely) there are three classes of students who are a lot more enthusiastic about history than they were and the tech lab has been a really fun place to be this last trimester.

Next fall we hope to have copies of Civilization IV, which has a lot of refinements. I also want to set up the lab on a separate subnet or something to facilitate the students playing against each other. I think that would add a lot to the experience.

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Import/Export = more Options, more control

Posted by Miranda on February 25, 2007

I wanted to see how exporting posts from this blog to another blog would go so I exported to my test blog on my own server. The posts exported fine but not the pages or blogroll. I downloaded this theme, Blix and installed that.

But here’s the really interesting thing to me, and one that may well be interesting to teachers thinking about using a WordPress blog in a classroom setting.

If you login to a WordPress blog hosted here on the WordPress host, you only have the option to add users who already have a blog here. If you host it yourself (or get your school sysadmin to host it) you can just add as many users as you want and assign them roles: Author, Editor, Contributor and so forth.

So if you were a teacher who wanted a blog for a class, you’d have a lot more control over that aspect if you got the school to intall the blog on one of their servers.  I was thinking about this as last week the PhotoShop/Digital Photography teacher had asked me about a blog for his class, he wanted students to be able to upload pictures to a blog and then be able to comment on the pictures. I thought it was a really good idea.

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Installing WordPress

Posted by Miranda on February 3, 2007

Because I work in IT, am not an educator, my focus is necessarily going to be a little different. I need to learn how to install and configure these technologies, not just use them.To that end I downloaded and installed WordPress to a web server today and it was quite easy. I wanted to be able to get at the files that make up the blog, and now I can.
I only did a single version though, one blog. The next thing I need to do is an installation for multiple blogs.

I’ll try and get into tinkering with the coding later this weekend and let y’all know how it goes. First on the agenda though is making a skating area by my house for my Florida relatives who are arriving next weekend for winter sports. Thank goodness we got a nice fresh fluffy coat of snow last night! I’m hoping for more before they arrive.

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