Monday, February 13, 2017

Notes. Blog RSS in Canvas.

In a previous post I wrote up some quick notes about a Diigo RSS feed in Canvas, and in this post I want to write up some notes about how to get a blog RSS feed to appear in Canvas, again using the Inoreader tool. The example I am using today is my new "Feedback Cats" project at my Growth Mindset blog; this Canvas page shows the most recent 5 blog posts with the cats: Blog RSS: Feedback Cats in Canvas (that's an open Canvas course, so just click and go!).


This is Inoreader's "magazine view" (you can also get a full-post view), and I've configured it to display the most recent five items (that's your choice). As you can see, Inoreader grabs a thumbnail, provides a link to the blog post and to the blog itself, along with a snippet from the text of the blog post. If you want to see more, you can click "Next Five" at the bottom of the frame.

To create this Canvas page like this for any blog feed, you follow the same instructions as for the Diigo RSS feed; the process for adding the blog RSS is the same as for Diigo RSS: Subscribe to the blog's RSS feed in an Inoreader folder; Export the folder as RSS/HTML, Configure the HTML Clip, Configure the iframe in Canvas. See that blog post for screenshots and additional details.

Notice that you could put multiple blogs into a folder, so you can use this same solution for a single blog, or for a blog network. For more about how I use Inoreader to manage my blog network, see: Building My Student Blog Network with Inoreader. I've been using Inoreader since 2014, and I have nothing but good things to say: an excellent product with excellent customer service and support.

Blog Site OR Post Feed. So, with any blog, you have two options: you can embed the blog itself in a Canvas page (step by step instructions), or you can display just the most recent post content via RSS, as here. That is the amazing things about blogs: they can function like a website, but they also have a live content stream which you can use separately from the website presentation. It all depends on your needs and goals!

Alternative Solutions:

I found these Community questions about RSS feeds in pages:

Can RSS feeds be on pages? How? Adam Williams replied here with a recommendation for a third party tool (FeedWind), which looks like it would also work. My guess, though, is that Inoreader is the more powerful and flexible option, and I would also guess that it is probably more reliable (running an RSS syndication service requires a lot of dedicated server resources).

Does anyone have a good tool for embedding rss feeds in a course? Here Stefanie Sanders replied with a referral to Feed the Me from the App Center. When I looked up Feed the Me in the App Center, the demo page was broken, and it sounds like it does not deliver thumbnails, only linked titles. Not having thumbnails would be a significant drawback, at least for me. See the Community question page there for details about how people are using the Feed the Me app.


Sunday, February 12, 2017

Notes. Diigo-in-Canvas

One of the challenges I set for myself in the CanvasLIVE brainstorming was to use this as a reason to clean up my Diigo as a sharing platform. Right now I use Diigo as a quick way to bookmark for my own future use, but I have not been doing a good job of annotating and organizing content to share. Diigo is a good platform for that, though, because it has RSS: and the combination of RSS and Inoreader is what lets you send Diigo content anywhere, including inside Canvas.

So, inspired by Janie's Feedback presentation, I am working on two related feedback projects: cleaning up and organizing the feedback articles I've bookmarked in Diigo, and also creating a new series of feedback cats. The Diigo process is what I want to document here.

First, take a look at the CanvasLIVE Playground page that I created to demonstrate how this works: Diigo RSS: Feedback Resources. You see there a live display of the feedback articles that I have tagged and annotated in Diigo. New articles show up automatically!


For each item, there is a title that is linked to the article online, plus a short annotation from me, along with an image pulled from the article. The default display is five items, and you can then click at the bottom to see the next five items, and so on. It's also possible click and see the same contents at Diigo.

Here's how it works:

BOOKMARK IN DIIGO

1. Use Diigo to create bookmarks. It's easy to create a Diigo account (they have some special services for educators too), and there are some browser plugins that allow you to save bookmarks easily as you are browsing. Think about how you like to search and organize the articles as you choose your tags.

2. Optional: add annotations. I usually bookmark lots of stuff, and when I get time I then go back through the bookmarks and add notes (Diigo lets you edit bookmarks later to add notes). When I annotate an article, I add the tag "annotated." That allows me to easily find the bookmarks that are annotated, and I can also search for "NOT annotated" in order to see which articles don't have annotations (yet).

3. Optional: grab images. In addition to annotations that you add to a bookmark, Diigo lets you grab an image to save along with the URL. That can be very helpful in providing a visual clue when scanning a long list of items.

DIIGO RSS IN INOREADER

To do this, you will need Inoreader, and you can use the free version of the services (although I highly recommend getting a paid version so that you can use Inoreader not just to gather RSS but also other social media content like Facebook, Twitter, etc.). Go to Inoreader.com for more information.

1. Find the Diigo RSS. The RSS button is at the bottom right of any Diigo search results! For this Canvas page, my Diigo search is #growthmindset #theme:feedback #annotated. You can also see the search results directly at Diigo.

2. Subscribe to the RSSfeed in Inoreader. Just copy-and-paste the feed address into the upper right-hand corner of your Inoreader. Make sure you add the feed to a folder; you can have just one feed in a folder, or you can add feeds later on. If you start out with the feed in a folder, you will be able to add the feeds later and have them automatically be part of any service you have configured for the folder.


3. Export the folder as RSS/HTML. Click on the folder, then click on Folder Settings at the top of the Inoreader screen, then Folder Information, and then click Export to turn it on. After you turn on the export, you will see the different Export options:


4. Configure the HTML Clip. Now that you have turned on the folder for export, click on the HTML Clip link and make your choices. For the Canvas page I made, I put in a title ("Growth Mindset Diigo"). It defaults to magazine view, and you can choose the number of items that display. 


5. Configure the iframe in Canvas. Copy the iframe code from Inoreader, and then adjust the width and height as needed. I set the width="750" and height="1400" but you can choose what best suits your needs (although you need at least 750 pixels width for the magazine view).
IMPORTANT: You will need to change http://www.inoreader.com to https://www.inoreader.com for this to work in Canvas!

Paste the HTML code into your Canvas page and you are good to go! Any new item that you add in Diigo meeting your search criteria will show up automatically in Canvas now.

It's the magic of RSS: some people may think RSS is dead, but as you can see, it is alive and well — and it's still my favorite web technology. :-)

Monday, February 6, 2017

Notes. Random/Daily Discussion Prompts

One thing I will want to show is how you can use dynamic content not just in Pages, but also in Discussions. So, for example, you can use a randomizer for a Discussion Board prompt, like in this example of a Random Growth Mindset Cat (and note also how you have to alert the student about reloading, opening the link in a new window to save it, including the link in the reply so others will know what the prompt was).

One issue that comes up is the height of the iframe (may require scrolling or may result in white space); no easy solution around that. Notice that I centered the iframe (so, paragraph centered, then iframe in paragraph).


You can also have a dynamic widget for daily discussion prompts where there would be a new discussion prompt each day. This would be useful for the kind of discussion where students have a rolling period of time where they can contribute, but the daily prompt would keep it fresh. Again, alert students to clicking on more info so they can share the link to their prompt in the reply.

Here's a screenshot with the script for daily cat:





Blog Announcements

I will do a demo on using a blog for homepage announcements, and one key thing to remember (which I always forget myself when setting up a new one) is that you MUST add the open-in-new-tab snippet to the template header. Otherwise, Canvas will reject any non-http links in the blog. I've got that secret code and other info in this blog post, which I will adapt for use as a tutorial here:
Blissfully Blogging Announcements in Canvas



CanvasLIVE Playground

Of course a new project requires a new blog, especially if I need to use the blog for Canvas course announcements. :-)