Following those comments

Since the demise of CoComment and co.mments, it’s been as difficult as it used to be to follow comments on blogs.

Fact is, if people don’t put a subscribe or email followup button on their blog, it’s impossible.

The only solution I’ve found, especially for the POT Cert Class where we have many blogs and lots of commenting, is to make a Google Reader feed bundle out of the comment feeds.

Each WordPress and Blogger blog has a separate feed for all the comments. You can find them by adding “/comments/feed” to a WordPress.org or Edublog URL, or “/?feed=comments-rss2″ to a WordPress.com URL, or “/feeds/comments/default/” to a Blogger URL.

It wasn’t all fun and glory. Typepad, unfortunately, only has comment feeds for individual posts, not for the whole blog. Also, these feeds pull in all comments from the blog, not just the ones related to the “potcert” tag (anyone know how to change that?)

I added each participants’ feed into Google Reader and made a bundle, available here.

Although I appreciate Google’s ability to do this, I don’t like reading anything as a bundle or in their Reader. I much prefer Netvibes. So I took the RSS feed from the bundle, and put it into Netvibes:

Not ideal, but at least I can see what’s up on the blogs!

Pinterest for lecture? Not so much.

I do lecture in class. (Read on when you’re done moaning. I’m not addicted to lecturing. I can stop any time I want…)

Although I have used slides many times, I do not appreciate the linearity of a slideshow. In addition to reminding me of film strips from the 1960s, slideshows force a particular order. Either that or you have to find the slide. If I’m talking about slide 2, and a student asks a question about something that will come up on slide 13, I want to bring up slide 13. Now. Not after paging through 11 slides or zooming out or changing to creator mode to find the damn thing.

Over the years, I’ve tried a few things other than slideshows. Prezi is OK, but it takes a while to create, and I can’t use a path or it messes up the whole idea. So I have to zoom out in between slides to see where I am. I like cooliris, but it requires a process where you either run it locally with local slides (that I have to carry on a thumb drive or load into a location accessible from my classroom computer) or be able to code it into your site, which is a bitch.

Last night I was playing with Pinterest as a possible way to store artworks or have students post primary sources (I am always seeking a step away from the LMS). This morning I decided to try it with my Roman Empire lecture.

The first issue was that it puts your images in by reverse order, so I had to load them all, then open a new Pinterest board, then repin them all to get the right order. No big deal, although it does imply a necessary order. But that’s OK – it’s still not a list – I can see about a dozen items without scrolling. Unfortunately, some of them came in duplicated. And when I brought up an image during my lecture, two things happened.

The first was that it didn’t fill the screen (unlike Prezi or cooliris, which open images to full screen automatically).

The second was when I was done with the slide, I had to click to get back to the board – I couldn’t just close it.

The image quality was not as good as it should have been, even when I linked to larger res images, but it was OK.

So today’s experiment was pretty much a fail. But the historian who follows me in the same classroom, Josh Lieser, pointed out that the students must like it that I do all these experiments. I hope so.

Workaround for some LMS insanity

It has been a horrible first two days of the semester. Last Thursday (!) our college connected the already poorly-designed enrollment system automatically into Moodle.

Everything has gone wrong. The courses couldn’t open till Thursday afternoon, so no trouble-shooting was really possible. The log-in links on every page linked to the old wrong log-in page, so students thought they were locked out. Then we discovered Moodle won’t log itself out so students can’t log in from another location without getting an IP warning. And now many students cannot get in at all because they are automatically being added to a Suspended Student role (for dropped students), so Moodle thinks they have two roles and will only let them in as Guest, and not them post or work on anything.

Class started yesterday, and one of the worst things that can happen in an online class is happening: the system is screwing up so badly that students are getting lost and frustrated. Several have dropped.

Desperate to help students not get horribly behind, I remembered that only the interactive stuff (quizzes and forums) have to be done inside Moodle. All my lectures, readings and presentations are linked out of the system, because I know better than to enter much into a system that might go down. The information pages for my classes are on the open web anyway. So I added links to the readings to these pages, but did it in a visual way that might help them once they can get into Moodle. Click on the image to see one live:

Workflow:

  • Go to Moodle site, change to student view, and take screenshot of first three weeks’ work.
  • Open in image program and change to Grayscale 256. Save.
  •  Change back to Color and put blue boxes around areas I can link out to, with big note at the top in the same color.
  • Save and add to page in Dreamweaver, then make Image Map hotspots for all linked areas and link out to those pages.
  • Post and email all students.

I really hope it helps.

Remaking a slideshow

For my US history class, I want a slideshow, with music and narration, of art during the 1920s, a subject textbooks cover very poorly. I’m into modernism anyway (see my new photos) and I want students to see the historical connections.

So waaaaay back in 2002, I created a slideshow to be embedded (hand-coded html, you know) into my lecture on the 1920s.


[ Javascript required to view QuickTime movie, please turn it on and refresh this page ]


I didn’t have a microphone headset in 2002, so I recorded it in the bathroom and it sounds like it. I added the music using SoundStudio, the only audio program I had and which I had paid for. Then I saved it all as a Quicktime movie, having to record several versions until I got the file size down (2.7 MB) that it could play on students’ computers. I had to use QuickTime Pro to get it right. That also cost money.

When I watch it now, it seems so old-fashioned technologically, so I remade it using PowerPoint (I could have used Libre Office) uploaded into Slideshare, with voice rerecorded into Audacity with a track for the music, then exported as mp3 and uploaded into Slideshare to make a slidecast.

So much better, I think.

I have other older things like this that are harder to duplicate; for example, I have another I made in 2005 using LiveSlideShow, which has better focus capabilities and now costs $69 (it was less then). I did upload it to Vimeo for easier embedding, which lost a smidge of quality.


 

If it’s important for my pedagogy to do a presentation, I make one. And if it’s worth making, I should remake it as the technology gets better. Remaking this one would be tougher, but some really are worth the update.

Moving from Posterous to self-hosted WordPress

Posterous  has refused to convert my video for the last time. It was bad enough that they started “Spaces” (adding extra clicks and not working in Firefox anymore), then they got bought by Twitter. But the whole point of my ds106 blog is posting my own audio and video creations, so this is the last straw.

I read at Lifehacker that the self-hosted WordPress plugin Posterous Importer didn’t work , but they’ve fixed it and it does, very well.

So to do this, I created a database on my hosted server and installed (another) WP blog from WordPress.org. Then I followed the 5 minute install instructions. Then I made a mistake.

At this point, what I needed to do was create a plain text file called php.ini that had the settings I want so I can upload big media:

[PHP]
 max_execution_time = 300
 max_input_time = 600
 memory_limit = 60M
 upload_max_filesize = 200M
 post_max_size = 32M

Then I needed to upload this into the wp-admin folder before I imported my Posterous.

Next step was to get the plugin Posterous Importer and activate it, then give it the information to download my blog. It worked very well  (except that it linked back to Posterous for the files that were too big because I didn’t do the php.ini file first!).

Because I’m using Quicktime files, I also needed to get the QuickTime Embed plugin  and use its shortcode to create a player for the files I uploaded, so I did have to clean up a few posts, but overall this is going great.

Making a FAQ

Our assignment for this week at Pedagogy First! is to make a short FAQ. Mine is huge.

But the question that’s come up a couple of times now, at least for those who aren’t experienced at HTML, is how to get that cool effect where a student clicks on a linked Q at the top, and the cursor bounces to the corresponding A at the bottom. This is called an internal link or an anchored link.

Here’s how to create those links in a FAQ using OpenOffice. This can then be copied and pasted into a blog post or Dreamweaver.