Teacher’s tip #1: tag your bookmarks with a module code

If you want to share URLs with your students, tag your del.icio.us bookmarks with a module code. If you publish the link to the tag, your students will get up-to-date access to your links and it’s easy for you to add more. I find it much more more flexible and convenient than the External links feature in Blackboard! You can even create an RSS feed for your links!

Here’s one I made earlier: del.icio.us/cpjobling/eg-146.

A Day in the (2.0) life (Part 3)

In my previous article in this series, I described how I use the All Items mode in Google Reader to efficiently wade through a large number of articles from my subscribed-to RSS feeds. In this article I show you how I mark, bookmark and occasionally blog about interesting items that I find in my daily news. The underlying justification for this process is an attempt to supplement my memory with minimum effort! Enjoy, and don’t forget to leave a comment!

Remembering Interesting Things

It’s extraordinary how little we do remember. It’s almost as if Memory is not considered useful by nature. – Doris Lessing

The web2.0 method of coping with information overload is to use tagging and folksonomy to aid in the categorisation and recall of information. However, these methods are equally applicable to personal information management. I find that I have developed a three-stage approach to managing my RSS feeds. Firstly, I supplement my short-term memory by marking interesting items using a method that makes it nearly effortless to commit such items to memory. Secondly, I use my del.icio.us bookmarking site as a long-term memory where I can tag items that I want to be able to recall again. Finally, if the item is worthy of more reasoned commentary, I’ll blog about it. All forms of memory, because they rely on web2.0 technology, provide RSS feeds that make it easy to share my memories with you dear reader.

The rest of this article describes this process in more detail.

Short-term memory support

The easiest and quicker way to tag an article as worth remembering in Google Reader is simply to mark it with a star. Starred items provide a sort of short-term memory for me as it requires virtually no effort on my part, and can be done during the act of reading. The primary advantage of supplanting my short term memory with a Google Reader starred item is that of course, like women and elephants, Google never forgets! Thus I can easily go back to my starred items from the navigation panel and read them all again.

To star an item, you simply click in the star icon. Alternatively, if you prefer to avoid the mouse, typing s will toggle the star. And that’s it: remembered!

Memory recall: bookmarking and tagging

Long term memory requires a bit more effort. Although Google Reader has a built-in tagging facility, I haven’t used it because I prefer to use del.icio.us the social bookmarking site for this purpose. (I have the del.icio.us tagging extension installed and have replaced by browser’s bookmarks with the del.icio.us replacement. See a previous blog article for links.)


p>Typically, if I find an article that I think deserves tagging, I’ll open it in a new browser tab.
You do this in Reader by clicking on the article’s headline (which is a link to the real article’s permalink) or typing v for view.

To tag and bookmark this article for easier recall, I will often select a key sentence in the article then press the Tag button in my browser.

In the pop-up Add Bookmark window, the selected text will appear in the Notes field. I have edited it here to change it from first person to third person and add a little more information. I also add some tags. Then I save the bookmark.

The article itself may itself contain useful links, so I’ll often follow these and add additional bookmarks and tags.

To find an article later, you simply go to your bookmark collection and search for the tags. In Firefox, I can do this directly in the del.icio.us replacement for the built-in bookmarks.

A major benefit of del.icio.us tags is of course social bookmarking. Bookmarks are tagged by other people, and by following their tags you can find related articles. This works best from your del.icio.us homepage.

John Udell published a nice screen-cast on this some time ago. I looked up the link in my bookmarks collection which you can find on-line at del.icio.us/cpjobling.

Editorial in the Blog

Blogging is hard! Finding an article that is worth some serious comentary is relatively rare, and when you do find one, it’ll take some time to compose, proof read and publish. I find that starring items and bookmarking a subset of these is sufficient to commit most of what I read to memory. And I automatically get the equivalent to the link blogs that some people produce, by performing the actions that I’ve described in this article. Why I decide to write a blog article and the tools that I use to do so will have to wait for another article.

Sharing your memories

I think it’s worth concluding with a few thoughts about how I share the articles that I’ve marked interesting, bookmarked or tagged.

An advantage of Google Reader is that it provides an RSS feed for starred items and I use this to embed my starred items in the side panel of this blog (See What’s tickling my fancy on the right of this article). This is a really easy way to provide the equivalent of a Link Blog and share interesting things with my readers without any editorial.

An alternative way to mark items for sharing is to use the share icon which appears at the bottom of the article view. But I find this less convenient because you have to scroll to the end of the article to find it. The star is at both the top and bottom of each article, so there’s no need to scroll if you can make a decision on the first screenful of the article.

I guess that share is intended to be used for the public sharing of interesting articles, whereas the star is meant to be private. However, as you can easily make starred items publicly visible, I find this distinction bogus.

The del.icio.us bookmarking system provides many ways to share your bookmarks. You can publish the link to your public account, or just to some of your tags, or to everybody’s tags. And you can publish an RSS feed from all of these as well. You can also get del.icio.us to generate the HTML and JavaScript code that creates a dynamic tag cloud for your links. Here’s mine:http://del.icio.us/feeds/js/tags/cpjobling?icon;count=149;size=12-35;color=87ceeb-0000ff;title=my%20del.icio.us%20tags;name;showadd

A Day in the (2.0) life (Part 2)

This is Part 2 in a planned series of essays on living life online. Part 1 is here. The whole series is tagged mylifeonline for ease of access.

Reading the News

I read the news today, oh boy – John Lennon

In the previous article I showed you my Firefox start up page. In this article I’m going to drill down into my iGoogle portal concentrating on a typical news reading session. I will be showing you how I use my RSS feed aggregator to efficiently find out what’s new across a large number of subscribed-to blogs and other RSS feeds.

This picture shows my iGoogle news page in Firefox (click the image to enlarge to full size). I’ve highlighted the Google reader panel. You can see that today I have 72 new articles to read. I can read articles within the iGoogle window, but it’s usually more efficient to go to the Google reader web application which has more reading options. So I click on the Google Reader link to open the Google RSS Feed Reader.

The Google Reader web home page has three main areas. The main area(1) gives a selection of the unread items which is based on what Google Reader thinks are the topics that I’ll be most interested in. On the top left is a navigation panel (2) which gives me quick access to the home page, all news and items that I’ve chosen to mark as important (starred) or those which I’d like to share.

The third area (3) gives the traditional folder view of the RSS feeds that you’ll find in most RSS feed aggregators. Google Reader differs here in that folders represent tags and so you can conveniently place a single RSS feed in more than one folder. For example I have Alan Levine’s CogDogBlog categorized under people, education, teaching and web2.0 and I can access the feed from any of these top-level folders. Also, when I read it in web2.0, it becomes marked as read in all the other folders too.

How you use Google Reader to read your RSS feeds is a matter of taste. For example, you can read the news from the home page in which case, Google essentially decides which news items to show you. An alternative is to use the tagged folders to browse the news and home in on the topics of particular interest. For example, I often home into the daily Dilbert cartoon by going directly to the cartoons folder. However, for efficiency, I find it best to go directly to the All items link.

The All Items view gives a so called river of news view of all of my unread subscribed RSS feeds (here) arranged in chronological order (oldest first). In this view, you simply click on the first item and then use the space bar to move through item by item. As you do so, the items become marked as read. In this way you can efficiently catch up on a large number of RSS feeds without the need to use a mouse!

So far as I know, only Google Reader provides this time-saving feature, and hence it’s become my feed reader of choice.

This concludes Part 2! In the next article, I’ll show you how I try to be efficient in tagging items of interest.

Firefox addins

Richard McManus of the Read/WriteWeb blog has published an article on [Firefox browser add-ins](http://www.readwriteweb.com/archives/firefox_add-ons_all_you_need_to_know.php) which includes the top ten list, links to reviews of the “officially” recommended add-ins and some discussion of what will be coming in Firefox 3. Comments give lists and links to other add-ins.

My personal list of addons that I use every day:
– [ScribeFire](http://scribefire.com/) addin for blogging.
– The [del.icio.us](http://del.icio.us/help/firefox/extension) addin for tagging web pages.
– The [del.icio.us Bookmarks](https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/3615) replaces Firefox bookmarks with del.icio.us bookmarks.
– [Google notebook](http://www.google.com/googlenotebook/faq.html) addin.
– [Delegate To Todoist](http://amix.dk/blog/viewEntry/19142) – moves tasks from gmail to on-line to-do list.

Web development tools:
– [FireBug](http://www.getfirebug.com/) XHTML/CSS/Javascript/HTTP browser debugger.
– The [WebDeveloper](http://chrispederick.com/work/web-developer/) addin.
– [IEView](http://ieview.mozdev.org/) “View this page in IE”
– [ColorZilla](http://www.iosart.com/firefox/colorzilla/) – eye-drop tool to measure colours (returns CSS colour values)
– [MeasureIt](http://www.kevinfreitas.net/extensions/measureit/) – on-screen pixel ruler for measuring element sizes.
– [Validaty](http://gemal.dk/mozilla/validaty.html) – validates current web page
– [View Source](https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/394) with external editor.

Addins that are installed but net yet used in anger:
– [Clipmarks](http://clipmarks.com/)
– [Zotero](http://www.zotero.org/) – bibliographic data manager
– [Greasemonkey](http://greasemonkey.mozdev.org/) JavaScript engine for controlling the browser.

Powered by [ScribeFire](http://scribefire.com/).

A Day in the (2.0) life (Part 1)


Over the last year or so I have been dipping my toes more and more into the on-line world and experiencing first-hand the Web 2.0 phenomenon. I thought it was time I formally started to report my experiences and reflect on how I am using Web 2.0 technologies. So this is part 1 in a planned series of essays on living life online. Hopefully there’ll be something that others, particularly colleagues at Swansea University, will be able to pick up. I’ll tag these articles mylifeonline for ease of reference.

My Window on the world

He didn’t curl his lip because it had been curled when he came in.

– Raymond Chandler *The High Window.*

My browser of choice is Firefox which I launch at the start of my working day (I really need to add it to my Windows start up). On launch it comes up with several tabs already pre-loaded as shown in here (click on the image to see the screen shot at full resolution).

Left to right the tabs hold:

– My [TiddlyWiki](http://www.tiddlywiki.com/) which holds my notes, to do list etc. I’ll blog more about that another time.
– My [iGoogle](http://www.google.co.uk/ig) portal that provides quick access to my [Google Mail](http://mail.google.com/) mail and [Google Reader](http://www.google.co.uk/reader) which is my [RSS feed](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RSS) [aggregator](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aggregators) of choice (of which more later).
– [My Blog](http://crispyj2.blogspot.com/) (which you’re reading).
– My [Unofficial University Homepage ](http://eehope.swan.ac.uk/~eechris)(a [DokuWiki](http://www.splitbrain.org/projects/dokuwiki) wiki).
– The[LiterateProgramming.org](http://en.literateprograms.org/LiteratePrograms:Welcome) site (a [MediaWiki](http://www.mediawiki.org/wiki/MediaWiki)wiki) to which I contribute articles.
– and [Wikipedia](http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page).

[![](http://1.bp.blogspot.com/__bnNGgqRugY/RnGIclJzR-I/AAAAAAAAAhU/JRik9BOU_X8/s200/del.icio.us.png)%5D(http://1.bp.blogspot.com/__bnNGgqRugY/RnGIclJzR-I/AAAAAAAAAhU/JRik9BOU_X8/s1600-h/del.icio.us.png)You can also see that I have the Firefox[del.icio.us](http://del.icio.us/) [extension](http://del.icio.us/help/firefox/extension) installed. It’s an important part of my work flow which I’ll be describing in a later article. In the [next article](http://crispyj2.blogspot.com/2007/06/day-in-20-life-part-2.html), I’ll describe how I use my RSS feed reader.

Heroes: Sir Tim honoured (again)

Announced on the W3C news site yesterday (13th June) and just today spotted while trawling my RSS feeds, is the news that Sir Tim Berners-Lee (TBL) has been appointed as a member of the Order of Merit by H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth II.

Sir Tim, as you know, invented the World Wide Web, which made this blog possible, and so changed the world as we know it ;-). He’s definitely a hero of mine.

Congratulations to Tim!

(Photo credit: Le Fevre Communications, as published on the W3C web site).

e-learning? Isn’t it just learning?

I’ve been trying to attend the JISC innovating e-learning conference 2007
but what with final year assessment and external examination boards coming up, it’s been difficult to participate, even as a lurker!

However, one thing that occurs to me is that sticking the letter e in front of a real-world concept does not give it magical powers! So we have e-learning, e-portfolios, e-assessment, e-etc, but what are they really? Aren’t they just the real-world concepts supported by technology?

Universities are interesting places, the reality is that you get a PhD and a lectureship; they put you on an induction course for a week; and then throw you to the wolves and expect you to be an instant expert in pedagogy. Once you’re through the probation, you don’t even have to practice any form of CPD! Thus, bad habits are formed early and never really corrected. If they did that with primary and secondary teachers and let them out into the world without so much as a PGCE there’d be a national (nay international) outcry.

There are bodies whose role should be be change this. There’s the Higher Education Academy, which is supposed to be accrediting lecturer training, encouraging good standards of pedagogy and transfer of good practice, and to which lecturers are encouraged to join. (This was supposed to introduce the equivalent of the PGCE for new lecturers, but that seems to have gone away.) There are also quasi-educational bodies like JISC which promotes ICT in higher education and has lately been funding and promoting various e-learning activities (including the above mentioned conference).

These and other related bodies beaver away promoting best practice and funding trials but the fundamental problem is that, because the typical university lecturer is not properly trained (nor lets face it particularly encouraged to train) in the basic concepts of pedagogy, the best we can do with new technology is play with it and try interesting things out with our students with the hope that it’ll improve their grades (note I deliberately avoided the word learning here).

Colleagues at the JISC conference are worried about maintaining instituitional control of Web 2.0 technologies while our students are immersed in them,; worried about our students being so far ahead of their lecturers in tech. savvie that lecturers will fall behind; wondering how to get institutions can invest in the new technologies. Unfortunately, he reality is that fundamentally, most of us don’t know what Web 1.0 is; have difficulties with the concept of a learning portfolio, let alone an e-portfolio; wouldn’t recognize a social networking site if it poked us in the eye; and have difficulties enough with our first life!

Here’s my suggestion for institutional transform and lifelong learning. Make it a requirement that we (really) learn how to teach. Make us use VLEs, e-portfolios, blogs and wikis as students. Give us promotion only if we succeed. Make us lifelong learners of pedagogy and then we’ll be better placed to pass on our learned wisdom to our students.

Don’t just stick an e in front of the words, we don’t have the basic vocabulary!

New web 2.0 “to do list” application

Came across a recommendation of another Web-based To Do List application while going through my RSS feeds this morning. This application was recommended by Lachlan Hardy on Read/Write Web blog and so I signed up. One feature that immediately sets it apart is that it can link to gmail via a Firefox plug-in, so if you come across an email that needs action you can tag it inside gmail and it is added to your to do list. I plan to write a longer article about Web 2.0 Tools that I use in my daily life, so I’ll report back on my experiences when I have some!

Test of Oremi feed to Blog feature

I have subscribed to this Blog in Oremi (Swansea University’s implementation of Elgg) so this entry should appear both in my RSS aggregator (called Resources in Oremi) and also as a Blog entry inside my Oremi space. I have similarly added by del.icio.us bookmarks to the same feature, so if I bookmark this item, it should also appear as a Blog entry inside Oremi. I have been less than impressed by Oremi’s blogging and wiki features so far. If this works, it would be actually quite a useful feature!