Getting a RSS feed for a Delicious tag

I keep having to refer back to how I have done this in the past because it is not obvious within Delicious how to do this, unless you start to dig around the developers documentation. So, I am posting this here in case anyone else needs to get the RSS feed for a Delicious tag.

I’ll get to why you may want to do this in a minute, but first the meat of the post.

To pull an RSS feed for a tag, the url pattern is:<insert tag here>?count=10

So, for example, to pull an RSS feed of the last 10 resources tagged moodle, the url would look like:

That will pull an RSS feeds of the latest 10 resources tagged with the keyword “moodle”. If you want more or less resources, you simply change the number 10 to whatever number you want in your feed.

If you want to track a different tag, simply replace the word moodle with whatever tag you want to follow. So, if you want to track the last 20 resources tagged “pln”, for example, the feed would look like this:

Now, why would you want to do this? Well, one of the things I like to do is monitor Delicious for new items that are tagged by the community, but I don’t want to have to go to Delicious to see what is newly tagged for whatever topic I am tracking. What I like to do is pull an RSS feed into a site I already check everyday (actually multiple times a day) – my Netvibes page, which is my personal dashboard.

Here is what the Moodle example above looks like on my Netvibes Moodle tab:

The widget is in the top left corner of my Moodle tab, which is in context with all the other Moodle resources I am tracking on the web. Now whenever someone tags a resources with the keyword “moodle” in Delicious, it will appear in this widget, in context with all the other Moodle resources I am gathering.



Pedagogy drives technology drives pedagogy

We are in the process of switching to Moodle 2.1 from Moodle 1.9. We’ve been planning this switch for a year but, like many tech projects, it doesn’t matter how much planning and testing you do, the real test happens when users start rolling in.

We’re at that point right now. People are starting to use the system. The most painful point. The transition.

I won’t get into details about the inner workings of Moodle, but those who know the 2.x version compared to the 1.9 version know that there has been a major overhaul of how the file system works. Gone is the file storage  area – the place where people dumped all their course files. Instead we have a new file repository system.

From the reading I have done and the people I have talked to, this change has been one of the most contentious changes in Moodle, and we are struggling with how to support it as it means a big shift in how people organize their stuff. It forces people to make a conceptual shift in that their content is now somewhat disaggregated from their course. Dispersed, distributed and decentralized. Not contained within neat little folders. Not easily accessible in a single place. Living….somewhere?

It is forcing people to think about their content in a different way, and it is changing their workflow at the most basic level.

How do I organize my stuff?

How do I delete my stuff?

Where is my stuff? WHERE IS MY STUFF?

It makes sense to me why Moodle is moving to the new repository system, but I can see the technical reasons. That (usually) doesn’t fly with users, and the new system is stressing people out.

One thing I never considered until I read Mark Dreschler’s post, however, is that the pedagogical framework of social constructivism that underpins Moodle means having a powerful file management system could be a rather low priority for Moodle developers because social constructivism moves the focus of a learning experience away from content as the cornerstone and refocuses the experience on the construction of knowledge among participants.

I never really thought about this until Martin’s discussion with the group yesterday, but, and I’ll say it loud and clear now – Moodle is not meant to be a file repository. When I look back at Martin’s original pedagogical drivers of social constructionism then it makes perfect sense that storing files should be low on the list of priorities. Learning in a social constructionist world isn’t about downloading and reading files, its about collaboratively constructing them with others – a critical distinction.

Learning in a social constructionist world isn’t about downloading and reading files, its about collaboratively constructing them with others

In this specific case, the pedagogical model drives the technological development.

Now, that is all wonderful IF you use it in a homogenous environment where all users are on board and working from the same pedagogical model. Great. However, stray from that model and you find yourself working against the technology; fighting, wrestling and wringing it into submission to do what you want to do with it. Or, you are forced to alter your own pedagogical model to make it fit with the technology.

In this case, it’s hard to argue that the instructivist “here are my notes and PowerPoint slides” model is superior to the social constructivism Moodle model, but still; it’s a pedagogical choice being enforced on a user by technology. People don’t like that. They fight back and get defensive when a machine forces them to do something they don’t want to do. It’s technology driving pedagogy.

And this is the inherent problem (feature?) of ANY LMS. It is not neutral. It WILL impose its way on you.

In the case of Moodle, the pedagogy is explicit. Indeed, I think this is one of the reasons why Moodle is a popular choice – it is built around an explicit pedagogy, which appeals to many educators. The foundation is educational, not technological. But, just because it is explicit (and, let’s face it, a pretty good model) doesn’t mean the pain of fitting into that model is any less.

Right now, I am not sure how we are going to deal with the Moodle file issue. Secretly, deep down, part of me smiles just a little to think that the system is actually making it more difficult to stuff a course full of Word and PDF documents; that using the LMS as a content repository is just a little bit tougher to do. But that fades quickly when I realize that this is causing stress and friction for the people I support.

It is also difficult to use moments like this as leverage into a conversation about whether uploading a whack of files into an LMS is the best way to encourage learning when faculty have students breathing down their neck for the latest PowerPoint presentation. But we’ll try. And it won’t be the last time we make choices on how we do things in order to fit the pedagogy imposed on us by our technology.

As Neil Postman says in Technopoly: The surrender of culture to technology:

Every technology is both a burden and a blessing; not either-or, but this-and-that.

This is the moment I am living right now.


Embedable tweets

One of the new features Twitter rolled out as part of the recent redesign is the ability to embed tweets in other sites, much like a YouTube video.

In the past, if you wanted to embed a specific tweet in a site you had to use a third party plugin. For this WordPress blog, for example, I’ve been using the Twitter Blackbird Pie plugin to embed tweets like this:

[blackbirdpie url=”!/clintlalonde/status/147501892551983105″]

It has worked well, but reducing the number of plugins you need on a site is a good thing in terms of possible platform conflicts.

For Moodle, on the other hand, the ability to add Twitter content into Moodle has been a bit of a pain, even with the official Twitter widgets, which don’t give you the option of embedding a single tweet. Last weeks announcement should fix that and make embedding tweets into Moodle fairly straightforward (and as soon as I get the new Twitter interface on my own Twitter account I’ll give this a try & update this post).

If you have the new Twitter interface, you can try this tutorial and learn how to embed a tweet using the new embed feature.


Moodle 2.2 – now with more mobile goodness

Moodle 2.2 has been released, and along with some new features (like rubrics and some tools to make getting content and tools into Moodle from other systems easier) comes an improvement to the Moodle mobile app.

When I last looked at the Moodle mobile app a few months back, it was still pretty slim in terms of functionality, which was fine. It was a first generation mobile app so I didn’t expect killer functionality out of the box. And I deeply respected the fact that, out of all the functionality they could have delivered in that first crack, they decided that it was important to give students the ability to upload media captured on their mobile devices to their courses – a signal (to me at least) that they were looking at mobile devices through a disruptive lens.

Moodle 2.2 mobile app

The 2.2 release adds another piece to that mobile app, now giving learners the ability to download course content from the course to their mobile device. I have to say, not quite as pumped about this feature as I was about the upload feature in the first go round, but I get that for many students content is the key – it’s what they come for.

One thing is for certain with this new feature – we are going to have to be ever more vigilant on issues like optimized file size and correct web formats for content as we develop our courses. We do have a fairly stringent technical quality checks for our courses, but stuff does get through.

For example, today I had to deal with a course that wasn’t backing up and restoring properly. The culprit? 2 PowerPoint presentations; 1 was 54 meg the other a whooping 102 meg. Pity the poor student in that class who decided to download that content on their mobile device. That’s 20% of my monthly data right there in those 2 files.

Anyway, not Moodle’s problem. In fact, in this feature they have given me a tool and another reason to enforce standard file formats and optimized file sizes, so I am grateful for it, and for the continued development of the mobile application. And realistically, we won’t have to worry about this for at least a year or so as we are still in the process of migrating to 2.1 from 1.9 and have decided to continue on the 2.1 path and not go straight to 2.2 when we release next year.

You can read the official release notification in the Moodle forums.


5 Features of Moodle 2 – Infographic

CTET at Royal Roads is hosting an Open House on Wednesday, October 19th. As part of the Open House I’ll be talking to staff and faculty about our Moodle 2 migration project.

To help spur the conversations, I created a poster/infographic about 5 features of Moodle 2 that our faculty and program associates might find interesting (click image for a larger version). If you would find it useful, feel free to use it as per the CC license attached to the document.

5 Features of Moodle 2

We’re also going to be handing out copies of this wonderful Moodle Tool Guide for Teachers, created by Joyce Seitzinger (@catspyjamasnz on Twitter).


Official Moodle iPhone app released

Just saw a post in the Moodle forums that the first official Moodle mobile app was released earlier this month by Moodle HQ.

What I love about this app (and this is actually more what I love about the attitude of the development team creating this app) is that, of all the functionality they could have put into the first version of the app, what they decided to focus on was giving learners the ability to upload content captured from their mobile device to Moodle.

In other words, they have placed a high value on the ability of mobile devices as content creation devices.

From a pedagogical perspective, this is a much more interesting mobile application than one in which a leaner would be able to, say, access their grades. Not that seeing grades isn’t important (and they can still do that with this app as it provides access to a web version of your Moodle site for features not native to the app), but mobile apps can be so much more than simply provide quick access to information.

The decision of the development team to include an upload function so early into the app’s development says to me that these developers see that; that mobile learning is much more than letting learners access content. Right off the bat with the version 1 release, the Moodle mobile app puts a powerful pedagogical tool into the hands of educators, and gives the opportunity for learners to become mobile content creators.

The mobile apps will only work with Moodle 2.1+. For us at Royal Roads, this is one of the driving factors for us to upgrade to 2.1. However, using the mobile application is still a ways off as we are currently in the middle of a fairly lengthy migration project from 1.9 to 2.1, and are just about to begin involving other stakeholders outside of CTET and IT Services.  If you are from RRU and are reading this, we will be showing a really “alpha”, completely under heavy construction version of 2.1 at the CTET Open House on October 19th and gathering faculty & staff feedback.

As outlined in the Moodle mobile roadmap for some time now, Moodle has decided to create device specific applications, and the first app they have created is an iPhone app, available for download in the iTunes store. Android and iPad are up next.