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WordPress in Education- Advanced

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So, you have a few weeks, months, or years of WordPress in education experience, and you’re interested in extending the application’s abilities, or are interested in offering students a chance at web development and design.

WordPress is infinitely extendable. As an open source application, web experts around the globe are constantly tweaking and upgrading its capabilities, and even generating and testing “plugins” that allow a WordPress admin to change the function of his or her blog.

Furthermore, WordPress themes, which “skin” the WordPress engine to allow for a more distinct or customized look, can be further customized or even made from scratch by crafty teachers and/or students. An incredible number of themes are available for free, and can be customized for personal use.

Let’s tackle the plugins first. The best place to find and browse them is at the WordPress plugins directory. Be sure to check the requirements of a particular plugin in which you may be interested, and see if there are any special instructions for installation in your blog. In most cases, you download the plugin, unzip it into the wp-content>plugins folder, and then activate the plugin in the dashboard of your blog. Should your blog behave erratically after activating a plugin, simply disable the plugin and search for another of similar function (plugins are rated on the WordPress site, generally avoid a plugin if has a low rating).

For a bit more help with plugins, see Install WordPress Plugins From Dashboard and Wordpress MU plugin list for school install.

What about themes? How can I give my blog a truly personal touch? As an example of how radically a theme can be customized, allow me to give an example..

A year or so ago, I was unfamiliar with WordPress theming, but was interested in helping Dickinson College’s House Divided Project to create and administer a blog with the correct historical “feel.” After becoming a bit downhearted about available themes, I decided to use some CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) and image editing experience to take an existing theme and make it into something more fitting.

I chose the basic layout of Wired Studio’s Corvette Theme. What do Corvettes have

to do with the House Divided Era in American History? Bubkus. But I liked the layout, and got down to seeing how WordPress read the CSS file that made the theme look like it did, and investigated the theme’s images folder.

After a great deal of hard work, I ended up with this.

Indistinguishable, right? That’s not my genius, it’s really the work of Wired Studios in creating an easily customizable theme. I gave them credit at the footer of the blog, and I would recommend leaving a theme’s original craftsperson in place on your customized blog, too (check the footer of this page!).

It is entirely possible to customize a them without any knowledge of CSS. All you need is image editing software like Photoshop, Fireworks, or even open source (free!) applications like Gimp.

If you download a them for use, it just gets unzipped into the wp-content>themes folder. You can then preview and/or choose the theme in your blog’s dashboard. If you look more closely at your theme’s file structure, you’ll find an images folder. If you use an image editor to change any file in this folder, and are sure to keep the image’s filename the same, it will instantly change the image on every page in your site.

Originally, this site’s theme looked like this. Apart from lots of CSS work, I changed

this site to it’s present look by editing and importing my own and other public domain images. For more information on plugins and themes, see WordPress Plugins and Using WordPress Themes.

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Mar 11th by admin

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