Time to wake the blog back up

Time to spend less time on Facebook and more time blogging again, I think.

The traditional thing to do when waking up a blog again is to change the site pic and colour scheme. I may just do that before too long.

I was gently reminded of the existence of this blog when I had a meeting with someone from Yale’s Instructional Technology Group a few days ago, to explore options for collaborative online work for field methods in the spring. We spent some time looking into WordPress and whether it would fulfill our needs. For class collaboration specifically, we need (at absolute minimum):

  • A way of sharing audio (and video) files within the group;
  • Some way to archive audio files, downsample, etc
  • A way of sharing metadata and associated linked information about those files;
  • A way of sharing transcript files, work notes, etc. (I don’t make my students time-align all their transcripts because it’s too much work within a class structure, but I do make them tidy up their in-class notes, with time annotations, and share them with the rest of the class).
  • A structured basic database or spreadsheet format for a class “dictionary”;
  • A way to coauthor final products, such as a sketch grammar, but with some ability for me to be able to trace who is writing and editing what.
  • All this (or most of this) needs to be done by the students, so it needs to be fairly non-techy.
  • It should also ideally be available to our language consultant.
  • Some control over content release.
  • It has to be exportable and archivable, especially since the language we’ll be working on doesn’t have a lot of documentation (more on that in a future post)
  • It needs to fit into a  reasonable workflow, not govern the workflow itself.
  • For dictionary-type work, bulk import and editing needs to be possible.

Turns out that the standalone WordPress + plugins can do just about all this. There’s a decent media gallery; it can’t deal with the multi gig of raw audio that we’ll be creating, but we can link to files off-line (such as on my file server), and I have scripts for down-sampling and converting to mp3. Custom post types allow us to create a dictionary (and xml import/export allows for bulk editing). There’s decent metadata control, it’s fairly simple to use, there’s content control, and the authoring management is also ok (so students can leave comments on each other’s work, or they can collectively author pages).

There’s not much to show at the site yet and it’s currently restricted to within Yale, but once the class gets going we’ll open up some of it to make it a bit more viewable, and I’ll comment here from time to time about how it’s working.

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