Course construction ahead….

This fall, I’m teaching a writing intensive undergraduate class. In lieu of writing a term paper or literature review, our class is using blogs for weekly writing and revisions and project websites (for more writing and revisions). Most of the students have not blogged before and are excited to try it out. It’s been really exciting to see the blogs created, read what each person is writing about, and comment on their posts.

I’m basing my course design for the blog use on the work of Laura Gibbs – aka @OnlineCrsLady in many online spaces – who has been teaching this way for many years. If you aren’t familiar with her – take a few minutes to read through one of her sites: Online Course Wiki, Teaching with Canvas, or her posts in the Canvas community. She embodies the spirit of an open educator – shares what she has created, writes about her work, and invites others to use it. As someone who is new to the all-blogging mode of student work, I was grateful to find her!

Also in the spirit of an open educator, Laura has her course on the open web. One difference for my course though, is that the starting point is always our Canvas course. That’s where all of the directions, information, declarations, announcements, etc reside. The blog content flows back into our course via links, embedded posts, a running blog stream, and a variety of other ways. One of the weekly assignments is to comment on other students’ blog posts. Laura, with one of her former students Randy Hoyt, has figured out this neat and fun way to have a random blog post appear on a webpage. When the page is refreshed, a new post appears on the page. She discussed this approach in a webinar-style presentation in April 2017 (post + video link). I wanted to try my hand at setting up something similar for Canvas. The accompanying slide deck provided a good overview of the process. I thought a post of my own to fill in the gaps might be a helpful addition to her work, so here goes…

Step 0: Prep work

  • created Canvas content/pages
  • set up feed reader account with Inoreader, added blogs to it
  • created ‘Introduction’ tag
  • read through the process of creating randomizing content on the Rotate Content website

Step 1: Generate HTML table

I downloaded the Rotate Content randomizer template and updated my text/html editor of choice, Brackets.

Step 2: Enter content in table

As the posts started rolling in, I tagged them and added them to the template provided by Rotate Content. I did some tweaking to the template as I wanted it to be styled in a particular way. I have a very basic knowledge of html, and I found the Try-It editor and help articles by w3schools to be key in figuring out how the final product would look and how to make changes.

While I was waiting for the rest of the posts to be completed (so I could add them to the template), I spent some time doing pre-work for Step 5. In order to have randomized content work of  your own work successfully, it needs to be hosted somewhere. I saw that Laura’s was hosted at her own site, with ‘widgets’ as a subdomain. Since I also have my own domain, I knew I could set up something similar and followed suit.

Step 3: Convert table to script.

After all of the posts were completed, I added them to the table, saved it, and uploaded it to the Rotate Content site to be converted to javascript.

Step 4: Publish the javascript.

I uploaded the javascript files to my website via the File Manager in cPanel.

Step 5: Publish the HTML script page.

After trial and error, I made it to this point. Initially the content worked (sometimes), but other times did not display at all on the website. I finally figured out that I needed to create an .htaccess file to force my site to load over https. This is necessary as otherwise the (insecure) random content would not be able to be displayed within Canvas.

Step 6: Use iframe in Canvas.

I finally got it to work. Here’s the initial version:





hmm…I am not a fan of that extra white space. Plus, some post titles appear centered, while others skew to the left. Also: font mismatch. urgh. Tweaks to the style sheet were added to the list of changes. After some futzing with the style sheet, I am not able to figure out why the font and link colors don’t conform to it. That looks like it will take more digging and reading, which I need to put on the back burner for now.

Step 7: Rinse & repeat

Repeat process for all areas of the course in which I plan to have randomized content. As of now, it is four, but I still have about half of the course to build, so I will probably end up with at least double that number.

Annotation tools for online teaching and learning in higher education

This post is a short recap of collaborative annotation tools that I have found to be currently available (as of January 2018) and appear to be suitable for online teaching and learning in higher education. Over the past semesters, I have gradually been incorporating annotation tools in my online courses, starting with text and now branching out to video and audio. I found numerous options, but after reviewing them, many were either out of date and not able to be used, would not easily work for an online class as they required extensive scaffolding for use, or not technically feasible. I also did not want to use anything that would require students to install browser-specific extensions or download software and figure out how to use it, as providing that detailed nature of technical troubleshooting for questions tends to add a lot of complexity that can detract from the course’s learning goals.

Text annotation

    • create private groups for each semester/course
    • can annotate websites or PDF downloads
    • extensive support materials for both instructors and students
    • used this last semester and it worked well – plan to continue using it for current semester
  • Diigo
    • create private groups
    • in addition to text annotation, could also use the group for sharing resources
  • Annotation Studio
    • examples of class use for instructors
    • support for mobile learning is in the works!

Video annotation

  • VideoAnt
    • only works with YouTube videos
  • Reclipped
    • can use as a Chrome browser extension and via bookmarklet
    • supports YouTube, Vimeo, and TED – I use videos from all three platforms in my courses
    • looks to be mobile-friendly…will look into this more
  • Vialogues
    • create group to share annotations (not clear if this is a private group)
    • works with YouTube or Vimeo
    • integrates with Google Drive to timestamp and share notes – not sure if this means that all students in a course could take notes on one shared doc. No documentation available on site to check this out prior to signing up
    • can use videos from YouTube or Vimeo
  • Synote
    • looks like it can be used for video and audio annotation – I requested an account to further explore

Audio annotation

Finding suitable annotation tools for audio has been the most challenging component. I’m looking for a tool that will allow collaborative annotations on a number of podcast platforms (something similar to what the Reclipped tool for video offers, but for audio). I only found one that might work, but if that doesn’t pan out, I may ask students to take notes/summarize in a learning journal…still thinking about how this might work…

  • Soundcloud
    • create private groups
    • further explore: can users’ comments on public tracks be limited to the private group?
  • Annotation Studio is exploring “fine-grained annotation of images, video, and audio,” so that’s another option to keep in mind for the future

Testing color and grayscale image hover options

bakelite switches by garycycles

bakelite switches by garycycles CC-BY

Testing out the image hover options with this post, and wondering if it works strictly with images via the media library, or embedded photos as well.

I was visiting a few sites recently (Michelle Pacansky-Brock‘s in particular) and noticed the neat image hover options. I’m fond of black and white photos, but also like to have some color interspersed throughout my site.

After some online searching, I came across this helpful article that talked about how to use CSS styling, and combined with some plugin advice, I am ready to test it out…


Take 2…downloaded image to media library instead. And success! Now to figure out about that gray rectangular box across the top of the post…

Information flow: Ins and outs of Thing 4


Digital security is the topic of Thing 4 in the 23 Things course. Our activities included running through a scan of the permissions that the apps on our phones and/or devices use to see if any surprising info turned up. I went through a few of my phone’s apps and none of the settings stood out as unusual: I typically look at them prior to making the decision as to whether or not to use a particular service. Although it made me wonder what and why exactly each app needed access to particular components of the phone. I went through my Facebook settings and revoked privileges to a small handful of other platforms.

There was also a bonus activity that called for creating an about me page. Good timing as this is part of the digital presence revamp I’ve been meaning to get to for a while now. My own About page is very short, and doesn’t give much of a picture of what I do, etc. I bookmarked 99U’s post that discussed how to write an ‘About Me’ page. It has some exercises and examples for inspiration. Before I move on to the next Thing, I plan to update the page.

At first, I was a bit puzzled as to how the two activities linked together. It was not until I was ready to schedule this post and looked again at the fence image in the header that it started to sink in for me. Digital security and crafting the story about your online identity/es are about controlling access. Is it always appropriate to openly share all aspects of your life all the time? Probably not. Thinking back to the previous Thing, part of your digital footprint entails making intentional choices about how and why you are using particular services, including the types of information that you post.

Digital identity or digital presence?

Number 23 with colorful blocks

Source: 23Things course image

One of the big items I have had on my to-do list for too long has been to take a serious look at my digital spaces and outposts around the web. While I had great intentions of using the #indieweb POSSE method and related tools, in reality they are a bit tricky to use on a consistent basis for those of us who don’t have a deep and broad knowledge of the admin side of various systems.

Over the course of the next few months, from now until early December, I’ll be taking part in a UK-based course entitled 23 Things. The course is divided into small chunks that will introduce us participants to a range of digital tools for personal and professional development in various areas of our lives whether that’s as academics, researchers, students, etc.

I’m planning to use each of the Things to take a deeper look at my digital presence with the goal of gradually re-evaluating and redesigning it. I’m particularly inspired by Laura Gogia’s thoughtful work in this area: if you are not familiar with her, pop over to her blog and website and prepare to be amazed. I spent several enjoyable hours last Sunday reading about Connected Courses, Collaborative Curiosity, and the dissertation that resulted from those (and other) courses.



I’m in the process of setting up TAGS as a personal archive of my tweets. I currently send them out via either my personal website or a Known site, so I can keep track of them on the front end so to speak. However, it does not seem that either of those options provide a easy way to corral them from a data analysis perspective. Eventually, I’d like to see about merging my Twitter archive with the TAGS sheet to see about visualization options.

Syndicating this post to Twitter, and then hopefully it will appear on the newly-created archive…


@vconnecting and #dlrn15: session archives

Video tape archive storage

Because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (right?) when I came across AK’s recap of Virtually Connecting videos, that prompted me to follow suit. (Thanks for the idea, AK!)

Digital Learning Research Network: Oct 2015

Session: Indie EdTech: Impact, Relevance, and Growth of the Reclaim Movement with Jim Groom and Adam Croom

This time, I was a virtual participant. If you’d like to find out how to join in the conversation at upcoming conferences, check out the list of events via Virtually Connecting.

@vconnecting and #opened15: session archives

archive studies

Open Education Conference: Nov 2015

Participants: Jen Ross, Amy Collier, Viv Rolfe, Laura Gogia, Mandy Honeyman, and many others in the hangout (Popular session!)

This time, I was an onsite conference attendee (in the room, but slightly off camera). If you’d like to find out how to join in the conversation at upcoming conferences, check out the list of events via Virtually Connecting.

@vconnecting and #dlrn15: session archives, Round 2

Archive (album jacket)

Digital Learning Research Network: Oct 2015

Session: breakout discussion with Bonnie Stewart

This time, I was a virtual buddy. If you’d like to find out how to join in the conversation at upcoming conferences, check out the list of events via Virtually Connecting.

Webmaker training and #netneutrality

Next week kicks off the start of a new round of Mozilla Webmaker training. It’s set up as four one-week long modules in which participants will explore, build, facilitate, and connect with various aspects of the web. And, it will be fun! It’s all about making and remixing stuff in a low-stakes, low-key environment, with friendly and helpful people that can lend a hand if/when needed.

On a deeper level, this training is important as it prompts us to question why we value the web, and gives us the tools to do something with and about it. If we choose to do so. I’m looking forward to the first week’s discussions about the open web, connected learning, and ownership and authority. Learning more about how the web works is a component of digital literacy. Head over to the sign up page if you want to join in!

Thanks to Mariana Funes, I came across Vi Hart’s explanation of what Net Neutrality is all about and why it matters to each of us, whether we realize it or not. Best line from her video: “You’re paying your ISP to deliver the content you choose.” That sums up the crux of the debate for me. Her description of common carriers (around the 7-min mark) seems to resonate a bit with the idea of the internet as a utility.

She also has an extensive listing of resources, and contacts for FCC & legislative representatives. Harness the power of the web to ensure your opinion about how the internet is governed reaches your elected officials.