One of the things I miss the most about working in educational technology is the opportunity to experiment with new tools all the time. The flipside of that is, I was at a level that I didn’t interact directly with students or faculty members to see if a tool is appropriate to solve particular problems. As a student though, I have had the opposite problem. I do not have the time to noodle around and learn the intricacies of new tools to see how they can be leveraged. On the other hand, I have so many projects and problems in mind that I need to have something that just works.
Now that I’m in thesis research and writing period, this might be the opportunity where I can balance both interests. Earlier this week I had my initial meeting with the Bases Conversion and Development Authority regarding my thesis interest in their project, the Clark Green City (CGC). It felt great that now there is momentum in what I have been planning to do for the past few years. That meeting invariably produced notes that gave me a better idea of where the CGC is at and what questions I could be asking during my interviews. Putting my notes and thoughts down on Google Drive and/or my laptop would have been the easiest solution. Yet, I wanted to find someway to make it seems that as I go along, I am already building towards my thesis, even if only at a visual level. I also wanted to have a place where I can easily search my notes, extract specific pieces of information if needed.
I decided to go back and use Pressbooks. For one, it satisfied that visual desire to see something being built as I went along my project. It also touches upon experiments I did on a local server regarding building a manual for UBC’s course management system. It’s a tool that I’ve been wanting to find a personal use for, for a very long time. With this, I can keep the notes and works in progress status private for now since I’m still not sure what can be made public. Though, it gives me a very easy way to publish the thesis, once it’s done in a public, organized, and shareable way. With a couple of setting changes, this can be viewable on the web when it’s ready. Plus I just learned about the mPDF plugin that may or may not produce beautiful PDF exports of a book. Haven’t tried it yet but that would make life so much easier in the coming months. I’ve also downloaded the Pressbooks Textbook plugin specifically for its remix function. I already foresee a lot of remixing as I write and rewrite on the fly.
I almost gave up yesterday after trying in vain to make it work properly. Given that I haven’t installed a WordPress installation in a few years or even touched HTML, it was a difficult slog to get the memory jogging again. I initially used my web host’s installation script which was worked well enough. For some reason though, installing the Pressbook Plugin encountered problems through the dashboard. I had to resort to uploading it directly to the server folder. It looked like a simple enough process but with slow internet speeds, it was a more frustrating experience than it should be.
Nonetheless, I was able to finally get to the Pressbooks plugin to work. I was excited to get started writing my notes but the new book creation process encountered more issues. I was getting a “Server Not Found” error when I created new books. At first, I didn’t know what it was but after trying to find potential solutions, I suspected it was something to do with the URL path. For some reason, the new WP MU installation created new sites with a the URLs “http://NEW_SITE.MY_SITE.COM”. Pressbooks does not like this as far as I know. Again, I’m not a proficient coder but I can noodle my around things. In any case, I deleted everything and manually created a new instance of WP MU, making sure that the URL paths for new sites were “http://MY_SITE.COM/NEW_SITE”. It works fine now.
I’ve written my first set of notes. One thing I found really helpful is the functionality to drag and drop posts into different parts. It definitely makes rearranging easy. Haven’t seen how this affects the permalinks but will check that out once I have more posts/chapters to written. I feel like this process holds a lot of promise and hope to keep track of it as I go along.