As best I can find from old posts, I started messing around with making a WordPress theme to provide a functionality of the ds106 Assignment Bank in July of 2013. So while lumped in as a SPLOT, it was actually pre-SPLOT.

Like anyone cares.

But it’s really one of my favorites to use in projects with the biggest example being the UDG Agora Challenge Bank. It’s a bit more complex to set up, but I have been amazed with for example, the use of it at UBC Open Learning Challenges.

One place that has taken a liking to the bank is Middlebury College, so when a DM came from Amy Collier asking a question how to tweak something, I as eager to make changes. I may be spoiling a debut, but see what her team has started with the Teaching & Learning Knowledge Base:

As usual, when others use one of my themes, they help highlight use cases and situations I had not anticipated. Amy’s timing was good, as I had a few windows of attention before the OE Global 2020 conference last week consumed me.

The first one was a bit easier. Amy asked about the wording below a “Thing”. The generic name (internally called a “Thing”) for what in the original was an “Assignment” but can be recast in the theme options as a “Challenge” or “Make”. For her new site, it does not really work as the “thing” is a “Teaching Idea”. It is awkward to say “Complete this Teaching Idea”:

Screen shot with heading "Complete This Teaching Idea" amd instructions 
"After you complete this teaching idea please share a link to it and a description so it can be added to the responses below."

Since everything submitted is called a “response” it was easy to update the template for this section with a verb of “respond” in place of “complete”:

Respond to This

After you respond to this please share a link to it and a description so it can be added to the ones listed below.

Now it reads a little bit better:

The revised version now reads "Respond to This Teaching Idea-- 
After you respond to this teaching Idea please share a link to it and a description so it can be added to the ones listed below. "

I was able to send Amy a link to a revised version of a single template in the theme that she could download and replace on her site (the change is around line 167).

Ah, but then another request:

May I request help with one additional Assignment Bank change? Currently, when someone tries to submit a Teaching Idea, there is a required field for them to add a URL for the idea. While sometimes useful, there may not always be an associated URL for the teaching idea. Is there any way to change that required field to optional within the code? If so, how might I do that?

This was the part of the submission form Amy was asking about:

Form field asking for web address for an example of a teaching idea

You see. this had some of my own bias built in. It happens. I always felt for ds106 or anything where you are putting up something you are asking others to do (be it an assignment, a creative activity), I believe you should do one yourself (or find one) as an example. That’s the way to not only provide an example, but really testing out your instructions.

But that’s my own preference. And maybe that does not need to be required for a teaching idea.

This one took a little more than a single template change (it was three). The fix I took was to allow entry of “n/a” in the field where it asked for a web address:

The same form field as above, but instructions now include "Enter 'n/a' if there is no example."

This means that error checking on this field tests if the entry is a valid URL or the string “n/a”. And when it’s time to display an example, it skips this spot of there is no example.

It’s hardly ground-breaking code work here, but I am happy when I can make some small adjustments to my themes that not only make it better for one site, but in the end, others.

There are about 23 examples of this theme in action— by no means massive, but at least it seem useful for maybe 20 other people.

And all it points back to the legacy of the original DS106 Assignment Bank the idea that was launched in a Skype call in December 2010 and put into play shortly after so cleverly by Martha Burtis in the first open DS106 (there’s a spiraling post on this tale). This is still running and working now 10 years later. Checking the stats baked into the front page, in this bank

“As of Nov 24, 2020 this collection includes 993 ds106 assignments and 17175 examples created from them.”

http://assignments.ds106.us/

I remain inspired by this basic concept I returned after a long while to add one more assignment. Because I can. Because you can.

And this is the reason why I wanted to try back in 2013 to make a generalized version of this site as a theme that others could use. And here in 2020? The concept seems as viable as ever.

The Bank is solid. But it can use a few bricks patched up every now and then.


Feature Image:

Bank On It
Bank On It flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.

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