Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Backing up with Delicious

Although it's not content in exactly the same way as a wiki or blog, I have two Del.icio.us accounts with thousands of bookmarks in them, so I also back those up once a month. Again, I don't expect anything to have to Del.icio.us in the foreseeable future, but I've invested a lot of time and effort in collecting and tagging online resources, and it's worth a couple of minutes to me each month to back that up to my hard drive!

To do a backup in Delicious, log in to your account, and then go to Settings, and then choose Backup/Export. You will then be given the option to download an HTML file containing all your bookmarks - just click the Export button. The backup file will not reflect your username so if you are backing up multiple Delicious accounts (as I am), you will probably want to rename each backup file to reflect which Delicious account it contains!




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Backing up with Blogger.com and PBWiki.com

I was extremely pleased to see that Blogger.com is now offering a way to back-up the contents of your blog to your hard drive. Although I don't expect Blogger.com to be going away in the near future, it is very reassuring to me to be able to have a backup copy of my blogs, just in case. I develop a lot of content in my blogs (Blogger.com) and in my wikis (PBWiki.com), and now both services offer a backup option. I make a backup copy of my blogs and my wikis every month, just in case.

For Blogger.com, just go to Settings:

Then click on Export Blog:

It will save an XML file containing the contents of your blog to your hard drive. Notice that it does not specific which blog you have saved - so you will probably want to change the file name, replacing "blog" with the name of your blog (especially if you are backing up multiple blogs on your hard drive, as I do). Although the XML format is not something easy to edit, it is a good standard format that you could use to recreate the blog in case of emergency.

At PBWiki.com, go to Settings, and then look down in the Advanced Settings area; you will see Backup listed as an option there. Click on Backup, and you will then be given the option to download a zipped copy of your wiki's contents!


The PBWiki zip file reflects both the name of your wiki and the date of the backup, so you probably won't need to do any renaming of your files.

I try to back up my active blogs and wikis every month, and I just delete the older backup files. It's easy to do... and I think it's a good idea... just in case! :-)



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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Create an audio slideshow with iPhoto

Create a new folder in iPhoto to hold the images for the slideshow. Then use File-Import to import the files; you can highlight all the images in a folder and import them all at once. After the images have been imported into iPhoto, they are already selected as a group, so just click on one of the images in the group (you will see they are all bordered with blue), and drag it into the new folder you created, pulling all the images in the group with it.

Now you can arrange the images in the order that you want them for the slideshow by dragging and dropping them in the right location.

When you have them in the order you want, click the Slideshow icon at the bottom.

To add the audio, I click on the Music tab, and then browse through iTunes to find the audio file (if you need to add the file to iTunes, open iTunes, and click File - Add to Library to import an audio file into iTunes).

Then, I go to Settings, where I choose to have the slideshow not repeat, and I turn off all the effects. Then, I choose to fit the slideshow to the music. Then I click OK.

I then choose File-Export and export the slideshow as a .mov file, large format. This process may take a few minutes, depending on many images are involved, and how long the audio is.

I am then able to go to the Video section of my Ning, and upload the .mov file! Now it is available at the Ning, which also gives you an embed code so that you can display the video on any webpage you want.


Find more videos like this on Latin Via Fables: Aesopus

Audio Slideshow with Yahoo's JumpCut.com. If you don't have iPhoto, a GREAT alternative is Yahoo's web-based service, JumpCut.com. With JumpCut you can upload a folder of photos, upload audio, and create a video with the audio synched to the slides - you cannot download the resulting movie, but JumpCut gives you an "embed" code, just as Ning does, so that you can display your video on any webpage.



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Ning: Creating a Photo Album

If your Ning has an images area available, you can add "photo" to the end of your Ning address in order to access the photo area - http://XXX.ning.com/photo

To add an album, first you have to upload photos, then you can collect the photos into an album. It will be much easier if you use a naming convention for the images so that you can collect them easily for the album later. To add tags while you upload the images, use the Bulk Photo Uploader.

To add photos, click on the My Photos link, then click on Add Photos, and then click on Bulk Photo Uploader. This allows you to select all the images in a folder and upload them all at once, while adding a "tag" to each image for later sorting. (It takes a few minutes for the bulk uploader to get started, but it saves time in the end!)

After the bulk uploader loads, ou just highlight the photos you want and drag them into the upload area. Then click Next.


You can add titles to the images all at once here, prompted by the thumbnail, and you can also add tags. If you add a tag now to all the images, it will make it easier to create the Album afterwards. You can type in a tag to use for all the images; just make sure you click the "Apply this info to the photos below" button to make sure the tag is copied to all the images. When you are done giving titles and tags to the images, click Upload.


After the images have been uploaded, they will be part of your overall Photo collection. To create an Album of this specific set of images, click on My Albums. Then, click on the Add an Album link. You can Filter by the tag you created to get just those pictures in the left window, and then drag them in the order you want them in the album to the right window. You can drag an image up to be the Album cover, and also give the Album a name. When you are done, click Save.




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Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Book Exchange with Google Docs

One of the courses I teach has four required books, the same four books every semester. This semester, I am trying a new experiment: making a simple "Book Exchange" using Google Documents.

Here is how I did this:

1. Create page. Using Google Documents, I created a page where students can add their names to the list as sellers. Here's what it looks like:
2. Invite current students. Then, I clicked on "Share: With Others" and invited my CURRENT students to be "collaborators" in the document. To invite them, all I had to do was paste in the list of email addresses; you can paste in a list of addresses separated with commas. (I got the list of email addresses from Desire2Learn, our course management system.) This generates an email invitation that goes out to the email addresses that I listed, containing a clickable link that gives each person on the list access to the GoogleDoc page with the ability to edit it.


IMPORTANT: The students need a GoogleDocs account - either a Gmail account, or a GoogleDocs account linked to another email address - to edit the document. I checked "invitations may be used by anyone" so that it doesn't matter what email address the students use to log on to their GoogleDocs account. When they click on the link in the email, if they are not logged in to GoogleDocs already, they receive a prompt that tells them to log in, and allows them to create an account if they do not have one already. They can use any email address precisely because I checked the "invitations may be used by anyone" option.

3. Announce to future students. Then, I clicked on "Share: Publish as web page" so that I could publish this as a webpage that anyone can view online (you only need the invitation in order to edit the page, not to view it). This gave me a webpage address that I could send to the students in my FUTURE semester class, so that if they want to buy their books from someone who is currently enrolled, they can make arrangements to do that. So, using our course management system, I sent out an email to the FUTURE semester's students, giving them the address of the page where they could look to see which students are selling which books, prices, etc. (Anybody can view the document who knows the address; no GoogleDocs account is required to view a GoogleDocs page as a webpage after it's published - but I am publicizing that address only with students enrolled in the future semester.)


That's all! It took me just ten minutes to get it set up - and now the students can manage it for themselves (although just out of curiosity I'll be checking in to see how it is working - one student signed up to sell her books instantly). Since I promote the use of GoogleDocuments in my classes already, many of the students will be familiar with editing a GoogleDocument already from doing that as part of their class work.

Fingers crossed: I would really like a way for students who want to sell their books to be able to do so directly, without having to go through a middle-man, like the OU Bookstore, which is obviously going to take a chunk of the profit. There's also an online marketplace through our campus newspaper, but it's clunky to use at best - I've tried promoting its use in the past with little success. I'm hoping this GoogleDocs will be an easy solution so that students can hand on books from one semester to the next without having to go to a lot of trouble!

The students need to have their books in hand by around January 20, when classes start. After that date, I'll "unpublish" the page so that it doesn't remain online... but I'll have it read to go again at the end of the next semester (assuming this little experiment works). Fingers crossed!


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Friday, August 22, 2008

Internet Bumper Stickers: My 15 minutes of fame

As promised by Andy Warhol to all, my 15 minutes of fame has arrived! The chimp at Internet Bumper Stickers has chosen Technology Tips as the sticky site of the day! Ha ha.

It's because of the post I did a while back about how to use the RotateContent.com tool to create an image randomizer. I use random Internet Bumper Stickers to liven up my online classes!


(Random Internet bumper stickers)



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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Firefox: Clearing the Browser Cache

When you run into a problem with a website, the first thing to do is to try Reloading the page. If that doesn't work, sometimes just restarting your computer will do the trick. If you are still having trouble, it can sometimes help to clear your browser cache, removing any copies of the webpage that your browser has stored in your computer's memory for quick access.

Here is how to clear your browser cache in Firefox (you will find similar options for Internet Explorer, Safari, and any other web browser, although the specific instructions will vary - see the comments section for this post where you will find a link to an article about clearing the Firefox cache on a Windows computer):

Go to the Firefox menu, and choose Preferences.


From Preferences, choose the Privacy option.

In the Private Data section, click on the Settings button.


This will allow you to choose exactly what you want to clear. To clear the saved copies of webpages in the cache, just choose cache. You also have the option to remove information about cookies, browsing history, etc.


When you are done, click OK. This will return you to the main Privacy screen, so that you can click on the Clear Now button in the Private Data section.


You be prompted to confirm your choice - and that's it! You can close the Preferences window now and continue browsing; there is no need to restart your browser.




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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Ning: Your Ning Settings

This blog post has moved to the Online Course Lady wiki.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Firefox Add-On: Screengrab

In teaching my online courses, I find it very handy for my students to be able to take a screenshot and send it to me via email. If they run into technical problems, this can be really helpful - a picture's worth a thousand words, as the saying goes, so if they can show me what they are seeing on their computer screen, instead of trying to describe it in words, I can usually identify the problem much more quickly.

The difficulty I've run into in the past is that while some of my students are Mac users (so that they can easily do a screenshot), most of the students use Windows. In Windows XP, taking a screenshot was clunky and awkward at best; there's a "snipping tool" in Windows Vista, but since I am using a Mac, I've never actually used the snipping tool and cannot give my students any help in learning how to use it.

The solution: Screengrab, a Firefox add-on, that works perfectly well for both Windows AND Mac users (although, as I said, the Mac users have such an easy time of it to begin with, they don't really need an extra tool).

Here's how the Screengrab tool works:

After you install the Screengrab add-on, you will see a little Screengrab icon in your status bar at the bottom of the Firefox screen (if you do not see the Status bar, turn it on using the View menu in Firefox). Here is what the icon looks like:

Just click on the Screengrab icon, and choose Save - Complete Page. You will be prompted to give the file a name and to save it to a location on your computer. Save the file with the name screenshot.png (make sure you include the .png extension if your computer does not do that automatically for you).

There are additional options you can configure. Just go to the Firefox Tools menu, select Add-Ons, and configure your Screengrab preferences. For most purposes, however, you can just go with the default options - it's ready to go and conveniently waiting in your status bar whenever you need to use it.


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Saturday, August 9, 2008

Ning: RSS Feed Box

RSS is a way to get content from another blog or website to appear on your own webpage. In your Ning Profile page, you have an RSS box, where you can add an RSS feed. Here's how:

First, get the address of a feed that you want to include. Pretty much any blog has a feed, as do many online news sources and other content-intensive websites. (For example, I've created a list of some feeds related to my classes, and to the University of Oklahoma in general.)

Then, go to the RSS box in your My Page Profile and click on Edit:

You will then be given the option to supply a title for the box, together with the feed address. You need to decide if you just want the titles to appear (that's usually best) or if you want the entire content of the feed to be displayed. You also give to pick the number of items to display.

If you are displaying just the titles, you can choose a large number; if you are displaying the detailed content, you should choose a small number. When you are done, click on Save.

That's it! The content will refresh automatically - you don't have to do anything. If you want to change to a different feed, you can click on Edit to enter new information.

Want more than one feed? You can use YahooPipes to create a combined feed, and then enter the combined feed here in your Ning box.



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Javascript in a Mozilla Seamonkey Composer page

When you are creating a webpage using Mozilla Seamonkey Composer, you can insert javascripts into the page in order to create dynamic content. Here are some sources you might use for dynamic javascripts and other forms of embedded HTML:
For the example in this tutorial, I'll be using the javascript from a PollDaddy.com poll. To add the javascript to your page, follow these instructions:

Create a page and type some kind of text to accompany the script, along with an XXX that marks the spot where you want to place the script results on the page:


Next, click on the HTML Source button at the bottom of the page:


Now paste the javascript (it maybe a big chunk of stuff!) into the place where you had your XXX before - in place of the XXX, you should now see the javascript code:


Now, click on Normal down at the bottom of the page to go back to your normal editing view:


Don't worry if the screen looks really weird - sometimes javascript will show up a bit oddly in this view. Here's a typical example of what you might see:

To see if your script really is working, what you need to do is SAVE YOUR WORK, and then click on the Browser Preview:


This will allow you to see if the script really is working - and in this case it is! Here's what I see when I actually preview this page in a browser window:

Close down the browser window, and you can now make any final changes you want to your webpage, and then hit Publish. As always with Seamonkey Composer, MAKE SURE YOU CLOSE THE COMPOSER WINDOW after you have published the file. If you want to keep working on the page, that's fine - just make sure you CLOSE THE COMPOSER WINDOW after publishing, and then open the page again. This is very important: if you don't close the window after you publish, you will be editing the remote copy of the page, and your local changes will be lost. So, be careful: always close the window after you publish!


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Creating a Poll with PollDaddy.com

PollDaddy.com is a fantastic free service that allows you to create polls which you can link to directly or embed in your blog or in your webpages. Here are instructions on how to create a PollDaddy account and start making your own polls.

Create your free account. First, go to the PollDaddy.com website and click on the Signup tab:


There are a variety of types of accounts, but you want to click on the option for a Free Account (scroll down to the bottom of the free column to create your account):



Fill out the information requested (name, email address, and password).

Go to Account Home. After your account is created, click on the Home Tab to go to your PollDaddy account home page. To the right, in My Latest Polls, you should see a list of any polls you have created, along with a link to create a new poll:


Create a poll. When you create a poll, you will need to ask a question. Then, list the possible answers. Remember to use the RED MINUS SIGN on the right to remove any blank answer spaces that you don't want to use. On the left, you can find UP/DOWN ARROWS to rearrange your answers in the order you think is best.



Select a Poll Style. You can choose a style for your poll down below where you entered the question and answers. Use the arrows to page through the different style options.


Save and Continue. When you are done with the poll questions and answers and have selected a style, click the Save and Continue button in the bottom right-hand corner of the screen.

Publishing your poll. You will see several options for publishing your poll. By default, the javascript widget appears first. You can use javascript in most webpages and blogs. If you want to send someone a link to your poll via the email, you need to choose Direct Link Method from the right-hand column.



This will give you the webpage address for your poll:

You can also use the javascript option to include the poll inside a blog post or webpage! Here's a sample:

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Ning: Managing Your Blog

The contents of this post have moved to the Online Course Lady wiki.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

GoogleDocs: Spellcheck and Word Count

Google Documents is a great system for creating documents that you can access online from any computer. Fast, easy - and free!

To get started, you need a Google account (for example, a Gmail address). If you don't have a Google account, it just takes a few seconds to set one up. You can either get a Gmail address, or get a Google account based on any email address you want to use.

Create new document. When you log on to Google Documents, you will have the option of creating a new document (or spreadsheet, or presentation, etc.)


By default, your document is untitled. You can give it a title by clicking where it says Untitled and typing the title you want in the dialog box that opens up:


You can type as in a regular word processor. If you will be cutting-and-pasting what you type into a blog or other web-based program, don't do any formatting here. Just type your text.

Spellcheck. When you are ready to spellcheck, you will find the spellcheck icon is at the right-hand end of the toolbar, or you can choose Check Spelling from the Tools menu:


Any words that are not correct English spelling will be highlighted in yellow.

When you correct the spelling, the yellow highlight will disappear. To get hints about the spelling, LEFT mouse click on the highlighted word. You will see some possible corrections, and you will also have the option to add the word to the spellcheck dictionary.

When you are done making any correctins you want to make, just click the Spellcheck icon again to turn off any of the yellow highlighting that is still left on the page.

Word count. To do a word count, select Word Count from the Tools menu.

There will be a variety of statistics displayed, with simple word count being the first item:


To close the Word Count box, just click on the small X in the upper right-hand corner.

Save your work. Google Docs has an auto-save feature, but you can also choose to Save your work, or Save & Close, at any time, using the buttons in the upper right-hand corner of the page:


So, while you are typing, auto-save will be saving your work periodically, but you can use Save & Close to make sure you save the latest version of your document when you are done working. You can then access your document any time from any computer using a web browser, simply by logging in to Google Documents on that computer. Very handy for people on the go!




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