Installing WordPress in a Second Semester Class

Differences between operative systems is a major challenge when you teach WordPress. Experiences from a real life classroom session in a second semester multimedia designer class.

Yesterday I introduced WP to a second semester class. So these notes are based on my own reflections after the session.

First a strategic overview:

The class used XAMPP as a local development environment during their first semester. 32 students were present. 22 had a Windows PC.  10 students or so used a Mac. That is: as far as I remember.

I had a PC, but decided to demonstrate the installation on a system with Windows 10.

In XAMPP a database was created. We used PhpMyAdmin. All created a database named wordpress with utf8. So far so good.

Then the class downloaded the latest version of WordPress, from WordPress.org > latest. That was the easy part. No problems whatsoever here. They unzipped the files to ../htdocs/wordpress/..

In theory they had to edit these lines in wp-config.php:

/** MySQL database username */
define('DB_USER', 'root');

/** MySQL database password */
define('DB_PASSWORD', ' ');

/** MySQL hostname */
define('DB_HOST', 'localhost');

/** Database Charset to use in creating database tables. */
define('DB_CHARSET', 'utf8');

Here the differences between the operative systems proved a major challenge.

  • Most students had WP up and running with no problems.
  • Around five Windows users had problems with XAMPP. The cure was: reinstall.
Mac challenges

So far so good. But the Macs was the real problem. They had to use a password. But: what is the password?

A workaround was used: give a password to root. That was a bad idea. Don’t do it at home, please. XAMPP worked all right, but now the users could not enter PhpMyAdmin from the administration panel!

A better workaround was this: create a new user for the database wordpress and grant all privileges to that user.

Didactic challenge

As a teacher it’s allways a challenge, when 1/3 of a class has to do one type of work – while 2/3 of the class is waiting. To this add some 5-6 students, where XAMPP crashed half a year ago or so. While these studens were fighting with XAMPP-related challenges the ones with WordPress up and running grew impatient.

That’s natural I guess.

Introducing WordPress features

Most of the systems were up and running around 10:30. However a few still had problems, so they were advised follow introductions to posts, pages, menus, themes etc. from 10:30 – 11:30.

During that session, they also tried to personalize the theme with costumize.

Themes and child themes

After lunch I gave an introduction to themes. First I introduced the “sandwich” concept of:

I had developed a minimum viable skeleton theme with as little markup as I felt possible. So I demonstrated:

During this part of the class I downloaded the zip from git and instlled the petj-mvp theme on the fly from a downloaded zip.

I hope that this demo gave an idea of the inner workings of a theme. But skeleton themes are ugly. The last part was an introduction to Twenty Seventeen.

We made a child theme. As far as I could see most of the students had no problems making a child theme of Twenty Seventeen. I demonstrated how to change the footer.php in the child theme:

  • Copy footer.php to the child theme folder.
  • Add a h1 tag (or similar) and add a message.
The last session

So most of the class had WordPress up and running. But still 4-5 students had problems. I decided to focus on these students, and let the rest of the class prepare for the next day .. that is somewhere else.

I had to go through the computers, and look at strange XAMPP problems. Some installations refused to work even though everything seemed fine.

As a workaround these students installed WordPress via Bitnami. This installation works like a charm. But I knew that the files are saved in another location.

C:\xampp\apps\wordpress\htdocs

On a Mac the files are in a similar folder, but of course in:

/Applications/XAMPP/apps/wordpress/htdocs/

Again the Mac users had to unlock the folders in order to upload images etc.

14:20 Leaving the classroom

The last student had his WordPress up and running @14:20. So much for the famous “Five minutes install”. WordPress is not the problem here. It’s XAMPP and the differences between the operative systems. Here’s a huge stumbling block for WordPress teachers.

As a teacher I need a local development platform, where WordPress just works out of the box on any platform – be it Mac, Windows or Linux.

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