Responsive Part Two (Fine-Tuning)

After updating my blog and home page to be more responsive, I continued with a little fine-tuning. Here is a brief account of the additional changes I have made…

Blog

Blog Home 01.09.12

Typography

  • I have added a Google font called ‘Bitter‘;
  • I edited the sidebar CSS to make the font size and colour more consistent with the blog body.

Functionality

The majority of tweaks that I have made are focussed on improving the way the blog functions…

  • I have switched back to featuring whole posts on the front page of the blog rather than excerpts;
  • The about page has been updated to include an accurate list of my most popular posts;
  • To make it easier for visitors to find specific content, I have added category links at the top of the archive page;
  • All internal links now open in the same window; only external links open in a new window;
  • As well as videos and images, embedded Google Docs now resize automatically. I achieved this by editing the  FitVids.js script within my blog’s theme. While it doesn’t specify this on the FitVids.js github page, it will work with both ‘docs.google.com’ and ‘drive.google.com’ documents embedded using the iframe tag.

Home Page

Improved Home

My home page now features a mini-profile with links to specific content, rather than a series of buttons. I think that it is more personal and does a better job of providing an overview of who I am, what I do, and where I can be found online.

I have also employed the built in menu to display direct links to key aspects of my online footprint, including my Twitter and Google+ profiles.

These changes have also improved the way the home page displays across all devices.

Responsive

The mobile web is in the ascendency, with many UI and UX designers, iterating for mobile before desktop. With this in mind I have been wrestling with CSS and HTML5 to make my blog more responsive to different screen sizes. However, I kept encountering a range of problems, trying to turn a basic WP theme into something far more up-to-date.

Instead I have installed the Origin theme, which is already set up to be responsive. Tinkering around with both the CSS and HTML, I have managed to construct a design that I am happy with. I coded a menu at the top and took the opportunity to install a new contact page. I also removed some features that I felt were peripheral, adding to the minimalistic style I favour.

Blog 15.07.12

Sporting the same theme as my blog, my home page is also more minimal, creating a more consistent experience for people who stumble across via search or through links on Twitter and Google+.

Home Page 15.07.12

I am most pleased with the way my blog now renders on mobile devices. The menu drops below the header, while the text resizes naturally to fit. The sidebar becomes pinned to the bottom of the page below the posts, and the posts themselves maintain all of their formatting. Images and videos also adapt to suit whichever screen they are being viewed on. Moreover, the blog is HTML5 compliant ensuring that all content is viewable regardless of OS or browser.

Blog iPhone 1

Blog iPhone 2

Blog iPhone 3

Blog iPhone 5

Please let me know what you think, particularly if you are viewing this on your mobile device. I’m interested to learn from others’ experiences; aiming to make my blog as accessible and user friendly as possible.

Cultivating a brand (caring for your digital self)

Since part way through last year, I have been working on leveraging control over both my digital identity and digital self. This has included closing a number of accounts, redesigning my home page, this blog, and leaving Facebook again. It has entailed making some tough decisions about which social networks I will invest time into; which apps and services I am prepared to share my data with.

This process has, and continues to be motivated by two values:

First, it is important to own as much of your own data as possible. Too many of us invest time in various apps, networks and other online tools, without considering whether or not we will be able to get that data out, should we decide to stop using them.

Second, it is important to give mindful consideration to the information that you publish online, as this is how many people will form their opinion of you. For all intents and purposes, your digital self is like a brand. It needs to be cultivated and cared for. It is therefore, my intention to ensure that brand ‘James Michie’ is well cultivated.

Home Page

Blog

It was with these principals in mind that I decided to move my ‘other’ blog ‘Et cetera’ from Posterous and integrate it with my main blog.

Twitter’s recent acquisition of Posterous, provided the final push I needed to make this move… one that I had considered doing last year. Do I think that Twitter is going to shut down Posterous? I am not sure but the signs are not great. Recent trends on the web would also suggest that either the service will fall into neglect or eventually close.

In making the move, I decided that it was also an opportunity to do some cleaning up. Before importing the blog, I removed any content which I felt did not fit in effectively with my main blog; this included the remnants of a failed #365 project and a few other posts.

If you were a subscribed to Et cetera, then please consider subscribing to this blog either by RSS or Email.

Owning your data and caring for your digital self is very important. Putting in, what I believe to be a reasonable amount of effort, has allowed me to take (greater) ownership of my data, and to better establish the version of my digital self that I wish for people to engage with. I encourage you to do the same.

Looking Forward to Junior Year

Red Royal Typewriter

The second year of writing and maintaining this blog was both the most rewarding and at times the most difficult. Rewarding, in that I believe my writing improved, the blog saw more traffic and consequently more meaningful discussions were generated. It also provided a useful space for me to share my latest journey; working towards an MA in Education. But, there in lies the rub. My commitment to both my actual job and the aforementioned MA made it difficult to find time to write; and resulted in extended periods of inactivity here on the blog. About this, I am philosophical. It was my decision to take these breaks and I am pleased with the progress I have been making with my studies. Moreover, some time away from writing here, did me good. I returned with renewed energy and a plethora of material to write about and share.

12 posts of note

I am going to keep the rest of this post brief. Here are twelve posts from the last twelve months that I think are worth reading. They are a combination of the most widely read (according to Google Analytics) and those that I enjoyed writing the most.

…on writing and maintaining a blog

I wouldn’t say that I have not learned anything new about writing or maintaining a blog this past year. But as my energies have often been engaged with other endeavours I will point you instead to the post I wrote one year ago today. I believe that it remains sound advice for fellow and aspiring writers/bloggers:

And with that, I will close. To use an American analogy, having gotten past the sophomore slump, I am looking forward to life as a junior.

Image cc: 500CPM on Flickr

Absence, Priorities, Focus and Reflection

Some of you will have noticed that my presence online, both here and on Twitter, has been significantly sporadic since September last year. This extended absence (for want of a better word) has been a choice. One that was predicated by my need to prioritise specific jobs, projects and interests over others.

While I will not be naive and proclaim that I am back full time blogging and tweeting, it is my intention, over the next couple of months, for normal service to resume. In light of this I felt it pertinent to give an overview of how I have been spending my time and what you are likely to be reading about in future posts.

The main reason that I have not been blogging and tweeting regularly is that I have been putting a significant amount of my time, outside of the classroom, into the MA in Education that I am studying towards. I am currently editing my final Module Assignment on Independent Learning, and have begun in earnest the preparation for my dissertation.

The current modules I am working through will be familiar to any of you who have completed an MA in Education.

As I plan to write my dissertation publicly online, I have also opted to write the multiple assignments (related to each of the above modules) publicly as well. The documents at the moment are in very rough form with ideas, notes and links being gathered as I research and complete reading.

I am thoroughly enjoying my studies. I did believe that I was already a highly effective learner in terms of research, reflection and criticality however the academic process has opened up a number of new approaches to learning for both myself and by proxy for my students. The impact my studies have had on my students is something I definitely plan to write about in future posts.

Moreover, I am particularly excited about the prospects of completing my dissertation and the depth of academic study that it is going to involve. I have tentatively begun to work on drilling down my research question. Currently it is too broad but as some of you may be interested, here it is in its current form:

Are schools (as physical spaces) necessary to facilitate learning in the 21st century?

In addition to committing more time towards the MA, I also felt that I needed to focus on two specific areas of my teaching. I am both Leader for Media Studies and Key Stage 4 English. Balancing the two roles can be quite difficult. They both demand my time cut come with very different levels of pressure.

While our A2 Media Results were excellent again, they were not up to the standard that I have come to expect. Having completed closer analysis of the results I found that the exam module was the weakest area. I decided that I would take on the teaching of this year’s A2 group on my own, in order to re-develop both the content of the exam module and to re-evaluate the learning structure that we have had in place for A2 students for over five years now.

The most significant change has been the development of the new exam module. I decided to move away from ‘Media Regulation’ and tackle something a bit more theoretical in the shape of ‘Postmodern Media’. While it has been time consuming, it has been a throughly enjoyable process completing the necessary reading and research before piecing together a scheme of work and resources. You can get an insight into how this is going (as well as copies of various resources) at: Media @ CCC.

I also wanted to focus on the continued development of the new KS4 English curriculum. It has been a significant (and welcomed) change for the department. Not only due to new texts and the introduction of the much discussed ‘Spoken Language’ unit but also, due to some restructuring in terms of Controlled Assessment and the timing of exam modules. I now feel that we are coming out of the back of that process far wiser and ready to develop it further in the future.

Finally, I am an avid reader of Patrick Rhone’s writing:

As a Minimal Mac patron, I have been fortunate to get a direct insight into writing of his upcoming book: Enough. As part of the research process for the book, Patrick would spend time evaluating his use of various tools and services – sometimes by not using them at all. I wished to get some perspective not only on my blog but how I organised/used my online life and the impact it was having (positive and negative) on my day to day life. To do this it was helpful to stop/tinker with the various facets of my online self. I am still reflecting on this and drawing conclusions. Sufficed to say that this will be something I will be writing about in future posts. One thing I am certain of. Blogging (reflecting) as a process is very important to me and is something that I plan to continue to evaluate my use of in the immediate future.

The time away from blogging/tweeting has been useful and allowed me to re-align my time and energy with what I believe to be my priorities. With that I will close. If you questions about anything I have discussed above please don’t hesitate to comment below or get in touch via Twitter @jamesmichie.