Technology at Geneseo Community School District 228
The iBooks Author applicaton saves and exports its finished products as an .iBooks file. By default Apache and IIS do not allow the MIME type .ibooks or really any really any form of ebook besides .pdf by default. The ibook format is a slight variation of .epub format but with some custom DRM restrictions and Apple platform lock-in measures. To allow WordPress sites to add both .epub and .ibooks formats directly to a webpage you must set the mime type in either the Apache configuration or by using a WordPress plugin.
Using the PJW Mime Config plugin for Wordpess is a very easy way to quickly add new mime file types.
You can download the Plugin Here pjw-mime-config.1.00
Or you can simply login to the admin portion of WordPress, click on Plugins, click on Add new and search for PJW Mime Config.
After installing the Plugin simply make sure it is ativated then click on Settings | and choose Mime types.
Now simply add the correct file extension for the file types you want to be able to upload and host.
For example ibooks you could use:
File Extension: .ibooksMIME type: video/ibooks
For epub you could use:
File Extension: .ibooks
Mime type: video/epub
Example for ibooks
Thats it, after you hit add mime type you can now upload files with this extension and not get a security warning.
If you are interested in MIME (Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions) types take a quick look here.
WPTouch is a great wordpress plugin to add instant mobile phone / touch formatting to any wordpress based site. The latest free version of the plugin is 1.9.6 is outstanding and only missing a few options that allow for greater customization. One option is the ability to remove the mobile site on | off toggle attached to the footer section of each mobile formatted page. If you are a big fan of the plugin and do not like editing code simply purchase the the Pro plugin which provides this option under settings, the pro version can be purchased from http://www.bravenewcode.com/product/wptouch-pro/. If you are happy with the free version and are a bit more tech savy you can edit the footer.php file that is located within the plugins directory.
In most cases this will be site installation/plugins/wptouch/themes/default/footer.php
If you edit this file you will see a section that looks like this:
To remove the section with the Mobile Site on | off toggle simply delete this highlighted section. Be aware that if you update this plugin it is quite likely that this file will also be updated and this seciton of code will be returned.
The free version of this plugin can be found here. http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wptouch/
I have also attached a custom modified version of the plugin which has the mobile toggle switch removed already. WPTouch No Mobile On | Off Toggle.
Here are some handy capture Video and Audio tools that allow you to save and embed content from the web. Additionally I have placed some other handy add-on’s and tools that make for a better web surfing experience.
Goals of this Post:
1. Learn how and why to manipulate and save video from the Web.
2. Learn how and why to convert video from various video codecs for playback on mobile devices.
3. Learn how to extract audio tracks from Video files on youtube.
4. Learn how to add plugins to Firefox that allow customizations and more features.
5. Learn how to embed video as a link on a WordPress Page.
6. Learn how to embed Video directly and have it play natively in a WordPress based page.
Get Latest Version of Firefox and Other Useful Apps
To Start lets pick the browser that allows the most customizations – Mozilla Firefox. (Chrome or Chromium would be a close second).
HandBrake - best Overall Video to iOS Converter for Mac (Great Converter for other things as well)
VLC (VideoLAN) – Best Overall Video Player for all Computers Period.
Here is a quick Podcast tutorial on how to install
(Click Here to Download or Watch Below)
With the latest version of Firefox installed now lets add a couple of basic plugins that will make overall surfing the web better/ faster.
This is a great plugin as it simply is designed to try and remove/block advertisements from as many websites as possible. In terms of both network flow and user enjoyment advertisements waste both bandwidth and time. With more and more people connecting to the web it has evolved since the early 90′s and now is heavily inundated with adds and at times can resemble TV. Not a perfect plugin but overall helps things run smoother and web pages are slightly less annoying with ads.
This is my favorite video download plugin. What it does is extract the source file from as many video based sites as possible allowing you to save the video file locally. Site works well on youtube and many other popular video hosting sites. Look youtube is great, easy to use, easy to upload but in the last year or two has taken a couple steps closer to TVness. Notice the number of advertisements in the form of 30 second commercials and banners across the bottom, yes believe it or not there was a time when youtube did not have ads. Now with the help of Adblock Plus and Video Download helper you can quickly download a video and save it, allowing you to play it back to your class or embed in your own website advertisment free .
Using Download Video Helper
Here is a screenshot of me using Video Download Helper to download a YouTube Video. Notice where I have put a little red circle, if you see the little triangle next to the floating balls symbol this is where you can save the video. When the three colored balls are lit up and rotating this means that video download helper has found video it can extract. If the three balls are grey and not moving, Video Download helper is unable to access the video source.
In the example below notice there are lots of different options to choose from. You will see 240p flp, 360 flp, something.3gp, etc. The rule of thumb here is always get the MP4 Version if it is available. Apple and Apple Products (iPad, iPhone) like MP4. You can see in my screenshot I have selected the MP4 option and can now DOWNLOAD and save where I want.
Okay so lets say that you have done this but none of the optoins let you save the file as MP4. You are not out of luck here you just now need to do an extra step and convert the video to MP4. You will want to convert the Video to MP4 if you want visitors to be able to view your video on an iPad, iPhone, iPod, etc. If your audience is using a full computer this is uncessary.
Converting Video to MP4
Okay again let me cover the why this is something you may want to do. MP4 is a video container and codec that Apple uses and this format can be played on iPad, iPhones, iPods, Computers you name it. The FLV format is flashed based and can only be played by devices that have flash installed – there is no flash on ios devices.
Video download has a built in converter but I have found that it does not really work that well with FFMpeg installed. So instead to convert I recommend using Handbrake.
With VLC and Handbrake installed – Handbrake can convert videos into formats that are easily playable on the ipad. For example I will download a FLV video off of youtube and then convert with Handbrake to MP4 (iPhone Optimized). Here is a quick podcast on doing a conversion with Handbrake.
Converting YouTube to MP3 Audio Files
Often users find it useful to create a quick audio file from a youtube video. This process is quite easy thanks to a useful site called youtube-mp3.org . Process is easy to do you simply copy and paste a youtube URL into the youtube-mp3.org box and hit convert.
Embedding into WordPress using the Embed-Width Plugin
If you would like to make it so someone visiting your website can view the video natively on iPads, iPhones, iPods, Android Based, PC or Mac directly on your website itself you can using a plugin called Embed Width. There are actually a few plugins and methods in which you can do this but this one seems to work well and have tested it out on iOS and Android devices.
Here is a screenshot viewing this site from an iPhone notice the videos can be easily played and viewed.
To do this takes a bit more effort so I have placed this final podcast at the bottom of the post. So lets say you have a video you have saved from the internet and converted to mp4 and now want to embed to play natively in the web browser. Watch the Podcast Below to show how I embed a video using the Embed-Width plugin.
Other Ways to Embed – HTML 5 Method & Podcast Producer
If you utilize the Untangle Filter distribution and run into problems connecting to a self hosted WordPress site via the IOS App WordPress such as Invalid Data then here is the fix. The problem is caused by the Intrusion Prevention Module. If you open this modules settings and locate Rule 3827 usually found on page 96,97,98 or 99, you need to simply uncheck the block option.
Error may look something like this, can appear when you are syncing content or when you are trying to setup the app initially.
That is it, I have found some users turn off the entire intrusion prevention module to get the app to work but overall just disabling the one rule is preferable as the module itself provides excellent protection for you network.
WordPress is an excellent open source web publishing platform. One question I have been asked is why not simply sign up for a free wordpress website at wordpress.com rather then use a self hosted one. The main reasons: cost and features. WordPress.com will provide a free website (like other web publishing services) but restricts many of the features unless you purchase a pro account. The pro upgrade allows you to embed video, have more storage space, better network bandwidth, access and install more plugins, tweak PHP, remove advertisements and more. The catch here is a Pro account on WordPress.com is 99$ a year per site, so lets say at around 60 sites we are looking at around a 6,000$ yearly fee to maintain this number of websites.
On the self-hosted side: We purchased a PC server five years ago for under 3,000$. This server hosts over 60 sites, has not restrictions on the number of sites can install, no upload limits, no cloud storage restrictions, users have full access to install any and all themes, plugins, modifications, can embed video etc. Sites can be brought online or taken offline easily and no worries about registration, transferring account ownership or anything. Additionally the majority of teachers actually make use of their site on-site and off-site, when having an entire class visit a teachers website during the school day inside of the LAN , loading time is minimized and little WAN bandwidth is used. This keeps network traffic moving quickly and efficiently if you have a few classes of 25 visiting a teachers website via a WI-FI connection on an Ipad during the school day. You end up with quicker load times for students and teachers have extremely faster document, video and photo upload times.
If you were a private professional blogger/writer having a PRO account may make sense, one would have to spend little setup time to get full access to a great website publishing platform. In situations where you will be hosting multiple websites – utilizing your own web-server just makes sense, self hosted is Faster & Cheaper.
WordPress.com Pro Accounts (http://en.wordpress.com/products/) Click on Images and can see price per blog to increase storage space, add video features, removes ads, etc.
Or simply download WordPress for Free and remove storage space barriers and all restrictions.
Although there exists a variety of browser video download extensions I find that simply using Keepvid.com is the easiest method of saving a youtube video to your local machine. To use Keepvid.com all one needs to do is copy and past the youtube video URL into Keepvid’s url bar and then choose the format for downloading. I recommend using the MP4 extension whenever possible as this format is compatible with most iPods, iPhones and iPads.
Here is a quick less than 5 minute Podcast on Using Keepvid.com and uploading content to a WordPress based Site.
Your Browser does not Support the Video Tag (Upgrade).
The other day I wanted to add the option email a copy of this article to all of my posts on this website. After stumbling around in the plugins search category I found the WordPress plugin called AddToAny: Share/Bookmark/Email . This plugin creates a nice little tool bar at the end of each posts that looks like this.
This little bar may look familiar as many websites utilize this plugin as it is available for almost all major web publishing engines.
They have plugins available for the following:
Overall this plugin gets a A+ rating in my book – no need to reinvent the wheel – want to add the easy web sharing to your wordpress based site this is the way to go.
On the district website http://www.dist228.org and the high school website http://www.dist228.org/index.php?page=hs/index.html – There are sections of the page where I have replaced the text with self updating information based on RSS 2.0 Feeds. The concept is simply so that the data in the fields will auto update when the user posts to their own website making it easier to get info on the main page quickly. In the case of the High School page I have modified this approach slightly and made it so a RSS feed of three combined ICS (Created on ICAl) calendars appears for the current day. Since Parsing three large ICS files is time consuming I have this Calendar RSS feed cached locally on the hour (will probably change to a 1 day interval). The effect is nice and in the long run time saving – allowing users who maintain the calendars or administrators who make messages to simply continue in their usual fashion and have the data auto update.
In the screenshot below I circled the two regions that are actually just displayed RSS feeds. With the Today’s Events Calendar I am using the same concept but decided to use an iFrame and make the php script a separate file – no real reason for this and may change it back to a call from within the existing php file.
Many of the Staff at Geneseo CUSD 228 have locally hosted websites that use the WordPress engine – one nice feature of using wordpress is that the site is already structured around an RSS 2.0 feed. Using a php RSS parsing script makes it easy to capture this information – the effect kind of a self-updating widget.
No need to reinvent the wheel on using PHP to capture or display RSS. Looking around on the web I cam across the RSSLIB – which contains a series of php scripts that handle most of the functions you can think of. For the most part I just cut code out of these files RSSCache.php and RSSlib.php to embed the functionality on the website.
Embedding the Today’s events calendar was a little more complicated since the files are actually all ICS Calendar files created in iCal. Here I have the calendars published to a local webdav server and then I have setup a PHP calendar site that parses and views these files. To view the ICS calendars on the web I used the http://phpicalendar.net/ beta build as a template and modified it for our purposes. Phpicalendar is able to remotely view a webdav hosted ICS file and further parse the data and construct a RSS feed from this data. This is excellent since using phpicalendar’s RSS Viewer and combining them with our 3 main HS calendars works perfectly except for time. Since these calendars are large it takes the PHP engine awhile to process – here is where I rely on the RSSLIB’s RSS cache script. RSScache simply creates a php dummy file of the most recent combined RSS feed and then holds it for an hour (will change to 12 hour or day soon). This speeds up the page loading time tremendously.
Here is a snippet of code used to view cached version of RSS feed.
(Update: I actually changed the “G” with a “d” so that it looks at the day instead of the hour when deciding to update cache this change adjusts the cache file every 24 hours instead of every 60 minutes)
Thanks to all that visited my site and quickly took the quick survey. The process worked well and I have refined the plugin to where it is ready for general use. On my next entry I think I will post a podcast and the plugin itself so others can use.
In a nutshell the Survey and Quiz Plugin does just this. After installing the plugin you see a new option in the admin panel of wordpress called Quizzes/Surveys
If you click on the Button you bring up an easy to use screen where you can Create a New Quiz or New Survey or see results from ones already posted.
Pretty straightforward and easy. Clicking on the Quick Tech survey – you can then view results. Attached below is a screenshot of results from the Total Results page. (The pie charts are queried from the api charts from google – check out here if you are interested – neat http://code.google.com/apis/chart/ )
The Plugin is about 98% complete. I will follow-up this post with some information on how it works but in a nutshell it allows you to easily create a quiz or survey, and then easily take these using a web-browser. This would work perfectly on an iPod or iPad, laptop, desktop, you name it and my idea is that it could easily be used to get instant feedback from students or be used as part of assessment teaching method. No need for specialized clickers, expensive hardware, licensed software, – same functionality but easier, direct and more accessible to students – and easier to use for teachers.
I find that many of the clickers on the market are a little pricey and their functionality is not really that advanced. For similar pricing a school could purchase an iPod or Android Tablet – get the same results and be left with better hardware that could also be used for much more than one activity (apps, web browsing, research, etc – plus assessment tool =ipod). Additionally if a mobile lab, or lab is available it is a good way to make use of existing equipment rather than purchase a set of clickers when you have a full lab of computers at your disposal. Example the Haipad (iPad knockoff) at 140$ a piece can be used install apps (Market Place Store), runs full web-browser (with flash), basically a full computer at 130$ per unit – perhaps for the overall functionality and ease of use this may be a viable option.
I don’t see anything necessarily wrong with the idea of assessment clickers in general but I do think with rapidly evolving technology they may not make the best sense as an investment moving forward. If for the same price you get more functionality, are not bound by restrictive software licensing, and can use a simple web browser to create and receive instant assessment – this may be a worthwhile idea.
Again a focus here is on ease of use | simplicity: simple plugin, create assessment, create post or page. With plenty of other online services offering the same functionality this plugin strives to be as easy as possible extending the functionality of existing websites and perhaps making them more beneficial as a teaching tool.
Please take a minute and quickly answer my mini survey. I am working on modifying a custom plugin that adds the ability to create surveys, quizzes, etc directly into teacher websites – perhaps as an alternative to using Senteo Clickers for student assessment. Thanks for answering and testing the plugin .
[wpsqt_survey name="Quick Tech Survey"]
Click Next when Finished