Loubna Aggoun

Google Classroom

Presentation

Google has just released a new tool, Classroom, which aims at helping teachers organize their classes. The goal is to take advantages of technology in order to reduce the time spent on secondary tasks. Google Classroom is now part of the Google Apps for Education suite and create a new synergy between those tools. Specifically, Google Classroom enables the teacher to :

  • create and collect assignments
  • improve class communications
  • stay organized

This tool harnesses the power from other Google tools, such as Google Documents, Google Drive and Gmail. Basically, the teacher can now create new assignments for the class, easily send them to students, track which students have turned in their assignments, review and grade them.

Limits

This tool is best used for assignments that can fit within Google Documents functionalities. If the assignments only requires the writing of words, creating a spreadsheet or a keynote then Google is just fine. However it is hard to imagine how the teacher and students can only rely on this when it involves the writing of complex equations or the drawing of diagrams and illustrations.

The Strategy

Google found just the way to teach young people how to use Google tools. These tools will be part of their life and will likely become the apps that they will use later when they need an email address, a cloud solution, an application to create documents and sync them easily or edit them in the browser. That is rather intelligent.

Creating Wallpapermonthly.com

A few weeks ago, I was looking for a new desktop wallpaper but couldn't find a great source of wallpapers. Some websites offer giant selections from which I could choose but the quality wasn't that good. I decided to buy the domain http://wallpapermonthly.com at that moment with the hope of building and curating a website with a monthly selection that favors quality over quantity. I don't expect to select more than 5 items a months. This happened during the time I was supposed to revise for my exams so I couldn't act on it but I was still very excited.

After I took my exams, I allowed myself a lot of time to rest and one day — actually on my birth day — I thought it would be fun to build a website in a day. The general idea and the domain were already here, but I didn't know how the website would look like or work. Even if I only had a few hours, I didn't want to rush it and took some time to think about it and put my ideas on paper.

The Product

The idea is to provide a monthly selection of wallpapers. I don't want it to be complicated. Just display a few images in one post per month. I want it to be very simple, with no unnecessary information. It must be easy to navigate through the months with newer and older links. There also should be a simple archive page with only links to each month. I also don't want to have any problems with copyright information, so I will only host 800px large preview files and offer a download link to the author's page unless they ask me to host the hi-res wallpaper. People should also be able to submit their work or work that they find worthy of sharing with our readers.

Which CMS ?

It was out of question to build a static website of course. Wordpress is too heavy with and I wouldn't use half of its features. In the last year, I've become very familiar with Kirby CMS, a file-based CMS that requires no database. The good thing with Kirby is that it is so flexible that you can do almost everything with it.

Sketching it

That part wasn't that hard because it was clear in my head how the website would work. I only used my pen and paper, sketched something in 5 minutes and designed it directly in the browser.

I am aware that the interface design is far from perfect, I plan on improving it without affecting its simplicity.

Building it

Once again, everything was clear in my head so that wasn't very hard. I'm going to explain the general structure of the kirby-powered website.

Structure

In the content folder, I created 5 folders :

  • error : 404 "not found" page.
  • entries : front-page where the magic happens; all the subpages consist in monthly entries. Envision it as a blog with monthly blog posts.
  • archives : generated page with all the links to previous entries.
  • about : display the purpose of the website, a colophon.
  • contact : to submit an entry.

An entry

entry

The entries directory acts like a homepage. In this folder, there is a folder for each month named with this pattern : yyyymm - name (y: for year, m: for month) and that contains an entry.txt file redacted in markdown with a title and a date only. It also contains the previews for each wallpaper named with this pattern : nn - name.jpg (nn being the number that represents in which order I want to display the images). For each image, there is a text file named nn - name.jpg.txt with the metadata for each image : title, author, link.

The magic happens in the template

With kirby, you can create templates for specific pages. For this you just need to use the same name for the .txt page and the template file.

The entry template is easy to understand and to build. For each image contained in the entry folder, kirby should create a list element that contains the image followed by the title with the link to the wallpaper and the author's name. If there is an older or newer entry, a link to this/theses entry/entries should be created.

The entries template fetch the latest entry's information and displays a link to the previous entry.

screenshot-wallpapermonthly

Publishing

I don't even use an administration area, it all happens with a text editor and an FTP connection. For each month, I just have to create a new folder yyytmm - month year, with a text file entry.txt containing the name and date. I then download the wallpapers, resize them and rename them. For each wallpaper I create a .txt file with the same name containing the title, name and link to the wallpaper. I upload it. I'm done.

Pour finir

I encourage you to visit wallpapermonthly, submit your work or someone else's and give me feedback.

I judge a book by its cover

I judge a book by it's cover. I judge an app by its icon. Yes, I might be missing something really good and worth my time and money, but you also might miss many consumers like me who do the same. I know it's not fair because your product could be excellent if we look beyond the interface or app icon for instance. But the thing is I sometimes don't have the time to take into consideration all my options and compare all the similar products, so I select. Which ones do I take into consideration ? Those that catch my eye. Take the time to think about your packaging, user interface or icon. It'll be worth it. I might even notice your app, realize how great it is and end up buying it.

Welcome on the new and improved laggoun.com

Hi and welcome back on laggoun.com. As you probably noticed, the site was down for a few months because of the lack of a backup and a stupid mistake of mine. At least I learned from it. Every page is back online, including a more detailed about page.

The website is still powered by kirby CMS. That way, I get to host myself all my blog articles in the form of text files written in Markdown, without the need of a database. Since it is a very flexible CMS, I was able to easily build a blog and a portfolio (thank you Masonry). The website is entirely fluid in order to be able to read the content comfortably on mobile platforms.

I hope to be able to write a few articles in the near future. If you're interested, I suggest you to subscribe to the RSS feed.