Blogging in Moodle

In many of my classes, I ask students to blog within Moodle. Blogs within Moodle are visible to the whole community. It is also possible, using an RSS feed, to broadcast your blog outside Moodle.

There are two parts to using blogs in Moodle: composing blogs and reading the entries of others.


Dangerous bug in Moodle

Just discovered a dangerous bug in the Moodle essay question template.

About the essay question edit screen

When you write an essay question in Moodle, there are a couple of different boxes on the form:

The question goes in the top. Then you have the “General response” (something the student usually can see when the results are released). Then the “Response Template,” which can be used for including text you want to appear in the answer box as soon as the question loads for the student (e.g. text like “Type your essay here”). And finally a grader box, where you can include tips for the grader (this shows up on the grading screen right above the student’s answer. Read the rest of this entry »


How to do a table of contents in text pattern

My teaching pages are served out using Textpattern, a relatively light CMS that uses textile wiki-like markup.

Because adding an excerpt by hand wrecks the syndication of this site through Wordpress to my other blog, I don’t usually add a text summary. Instead, I do something similar to the Wikipedia or Wordpress: I begin articles with an abstract like first paragraph, then include a table of contents, then have the rest of the body.

I used to make up these tables of content by hand, cursing all the time that Textile wasn’t XML. Then I discovered soo_toc, a Textpattern plugin that builds tables of contents dynamically. Joy!

Of course, now I need to remember to add the template that calls the TOC to each page (as I type this, I wonder if there might not be a simple variable I could develop that does this, but that’s for later). Read the rest of this entry »


Mounting University of Lethbridge “P” and “W” drives under Linux

Here’s how to find the “P” and “W” drives at the University of Lethbridge.

“P” drives

Your “P” drive is the windows share that represents your standard network desktop (i.e. the thing you see if you log into a classroom or other computer on campus).

Read the rest of this entry »

Mounting University of Lethbridge “P” and “W” drives under Linux

Here’s how to find the “P” and “W” drives at the University of Lethbridge.

“P” drives

Your “P” drive is the windows share that represents your standard network desktop (i.e. the thing you see if you log into a classroom or other computer on campus).

The address is ulhome.uleth.ca/$USER where $USER is your account username (the same as the lefthand side of your uleth email account, or, in my case, daniel.odonnell. Read the rest of this entry »


Blogs, Wikis, and LMSs. Some notes on my practice

Ryan Cordell and I had been exchanging tweets on the use of blogs, wikis, and the like in class. Since 140 characters is good for many things, but not this, I promised him I’d write up a quick description of the practice I’ve developed over the last few years.

The context for this is the Moodle Learning Management System (LMS), which I’ve been using in its 1.x and 2.x versions. There’s no reason why you couldn’t do this with loose wiki, blogging, and microblogging systems. But I’m still reluctant to require students to release their school work publicly.

Read the rest of this entry »


Should I keep this blog? Should I retweet yours? Scholarly responsibility and new publication models

I’ve been engaged with on-line scholarly publication for almost two decades. For a while in the middle of the first decade of this century in fact, my most popular and most often cited publication was a 1998 webpage describing my plans for an electronic edition of the Old English poem Caedmon’s Hymn  Read the rest of this entry »


Going LoC(o) with Zotero: Scratching the inner librarian

Photo of my home office in 2005 (used for my Pseudo Society talk at Kalamazoo, “Using Computers to Improve Efficiency in Research and Teaching”)

I have always been a very messy person, especially in my work area. Here for example, is a not unrepresentative photo of my home office in 2005 (since one normally doesn’t take pictures of messy rooms, this is the only one I have: I took it to use as a slide in my 2005 Pseudo Society talk at the Kalamazoo Congress on Medieval Studies, “Using computers to improve efficiency in research and teaching”).

Perhaps oddly, however, this same messiness has never extended to my bibliography. Ever since I began university as an undergraduate in 1985, I have kept very careful bibliographic records. Read the rest of this entry »


Sightlines: A visualisation of the Holocaust along two blocks in Hamburg

One of the striking things about the streetscape in Hamburg is the Stolpersteine. These are small brass memorials to Holocaust victims placed in the sidewalk outside the door of the house in which the victims lived. Here’s an example of one:

Stolperstein for Gertrud Johanna Alsberg (1895-1942) outside Schäferkampsallee 27, Hamburg, Germany

In Hamburg for the Digital Humanities conference, and staying at the NH Norge Hamburg, I was struck by the number of these stones that I pass. And perhaps more interestingly, how many were within view of each other. From Schäferkampsallee 28 (where Felix, Melanie, and Otto Spiro lived before they were deported in 1941) indeed, you can see every building that suffered a loss represented by the stones.

I once lived in a street where the immigration police raided an apartment next door to ours. Although I had not seen the raid (or known that the apartment was de facto dormitory for illegal immigrants), the raid impressed itself on my consciousness and that of our other neighbours. How much worse must it have been in the 1930s and 1940s in the Schäferkampsallee to see this number of people disappear in the course of approximately a decade.

Since I’m experimenting with use of KML–the markup language used to interface with Google Maps–I thought I would experiment  by visualising this idea of the sightline: what it was like to see your neighbours disappear over time.


View Sightlines: Holocaust and the Schäferkampsallee in a larger map

This is a preliminary attempt, using the Google UI and based solely on the information on the Stolpsteine. In future iterations, I hope to work directly with the underlying markup language, in order to add features like yearly snapshots, more detail about the victims, connections to political and historical events, and the state of the street (which appears to have been heavily bombed judging by the architecture) on a year-by-year basis.


How to fix the refresh time on the WordPress RSS widget

I use the RSS widget to follow other site I run and my Zotero bibliographic database. A major problem, however, is that it is extremely slow to update: it appears that the default update is once every 12 hours.

There is no option for speeding up this refresh rate in the widget GUI. There is a solution for this, though it is ugly and apparently not cross-theme: Read the rest of this entry »


Fixing a problem with broken stylesheets in OJS 2.3.6

In recent days, we have encountered a problem at Digital Studies/Le champ numérique that has resulted in problems with the display of a number of our articles.

The symptom is that the article breadcrumb and menu bar appear below rather than beside the right navigation bar, as illustrated below.

Screen shot showing layout problem in OJS

Screen shot showing layout problem. Article on left shows the broken style; article on the right has had the problem corrected.

After some investigation, we narrowed the problem down to an issue with how OJS handles HTML-encoded articles. Read the rest of this entry »


Chasing the (long) tail: Was the Readabilty subscription model really a failed experiment?

More on the changing business models (see my earlier entries, “Won’t get fooled again: Why is there no iTunes for scholarly publishing” and “Does Project Muse help of harm the scholarly community…“).

Readability is an app developer whose main product is software for improving the long-form online reading experience. I’ve not used it (yet), but it seems to involve a combination of applying an optimised style to existing content and suppressing the surrounding ads and navigation clutter (contrary to the comment feed on their blog, Readability doesn’t seem to extract and resell content without producer’s permission: it seems to be more like a specialised kind of browser plugin for viewing content you already have access to).

The original business model appears to have involved collecting subscription money ($5/month) from users who wanted a better reading experience and then distributing that money (minus a commission, I imagine) to the publishers who registered with them. There are aspects of this that you might quibble with–for example, had they thought they could communicate with the owners of every site their user base tried to read using their app? But on the whole it seems like an interesting and innovative idea: extracting some part of the capital required to produce content by selling a better experience in its consumption. And since I’d have thought they probably didn’t need to offer to share the money with the publishers (given that they were only reformatting the content), this is a business model that actually seems to have been constructive rather than purely exploitative.

And apparently one that doesn’t work. Read the rest of this entry »


Testing if a list is empty in textpattern

Let’s say you have a section on a webpage like the “current courses” section in the right menu bar my teaching webspace.

This draws its list from articles in the section “teaching” that have “current_interest” as a category.

The problem comes between semesters while I am preparing my syllabi. If no course has a category “current_interest” you end up with a header and no content.

What you need is something that checks whether there is content to display and then presents different material based on the outcome of that check. You might delete the section entirely, or, as I have done, display a placeholder message. Read the rest of this entry »


Installing Zotero in Ubuntu

See the excellent post here.

http://anterotesis.com/wordpress/2011/11/installing-zotero-standalone-on-ubuntu-11-10/

To install the .desktop, I used the application launcher under system>preferences>main menu.


How to draw a circle in GIMP. Seriously.

I use GIMP, the free graphics software package, all the time. But boy it can be awkward at times. Here’s how to draw a circle or elipse (like the one in the photo below):

Ellipse select tool > Start selecting > Hold down shift > Click on the circle to select it > Edit (Menu) > Stroke Selection – Voila!
Alternative method: Select a circle again > Fill it > Select (menu) > Shrink few pixels > Delete

CP photo of Bill C38 protest, modified to highlight protest sign.

Seriously?


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