While the McGrawCommons platform includes several platforms for different types of coursework, WordPress serves as the platform for the creation of course blogs. WordPress provides a stable, consistent, and easy-to-use platform for for collaborative writing and knowledge construction, publishing, and the development of multimedia narratives. We also use WordPress because it is one of the most well-supported and extensible platforms available. This extensibility means we have a huge range of options when it comes to adding functionality to the platform. There are plugins to WordPress that accomplish almost anything you can imagine, but McGrawCommons exists to provide a digital platform for coursework at Princeton University and for that purpose we are very selective about the extensions we add to the system. We look for plugins that not only encourage writing and collaborative work, but also those that encourage the creative use and analysis of different forms of media. With that in mind, the following is a list of features that have been added to WordPress within McGraw Commons platform that may encourage the creative use of media for teaching and learning.
By default, WordPress allows you to upload videos or to easily embed videos from YouTube, Vimeo, Hulu, and many other websites. Functionality has been added to allows for the embedding of video from Princeton’s own Kaltura media server and Video-On-Demand service.
Audio files can be uploaded directly into blog posts. Blogs can showcase student-produced podcasts or audio documentaries.
The video commenter plug-in, developed here at the McGraw center, allows users to post comments at specific times in a video. Whenever a student adds a comment to the page, the current position of the video playback is stored, allowing one resume playback from that point.
Create image galleries
Images added to a McGrawCommons blog can be organized and presented in a tiled image gallery or as an in-page slideshow.
Create zoomable images
Using a plugin developed at the McGraw Center for Teaching and Learning, large images can be presented in a ‘zoomable’ window allowing users to focus in on details in the image.
Text authored on McGrawCommons can also include footnotes. Footnotes can contain links, images, audio clips, and video.
Create an annotation network
Using our annotator plugin, students can annotate posts with other posts, creating a network of linked annotations. The annotations can then be exported as a spreadsheet or as a network graph for further analysis.
Associate geographical coordinates with blog posts and illustrate your blog with maps
The wpGeo plugin adds a Google Map to the editing interface for each post, allowing students to designate a geographical location with their writing. A map is then embedded in the post. Cumulative maps containing all locations or all locations associated with some category of posts can also be included on your site.
Add Dublin-core metadata
The Dublin Core Metadata extension adds common cataloging fields from the Dublin Core to the post editing interface.
Import citations from Zotero
With Zotpress, collections of bibliographic citations can be imported from your online Zotero library or from a group Zotero collection.
Juxtapose any two posts
A juxtaposition plugin, developed by the McGraw center, allows users to select posts for side-by-side display.
Use hypothes.is to collaboratively annotate blog pages.
Grade student posts
The grader plugin does something seemingly simple but quite valuable on a public blog. It allows instructors to comment upon and add grades to student posts and have those remarks only visible to the student and instructor.