A repost from the ocTEL course blog outlining the way we setup the BadgeOS plugin for WordPress to issue badges as part of the course. This post follows on from an earlier post, 'ocTEL and the Open Badges Assertion', which highlights some progress towards directly issuing Open Badges using BadgeOS ... more to follow on this development.

Moira Maley recently wrote to us asking for some details on how the ocTEL course is configured to issue badges. As others might benefit from this and with Moira's permission here are her questions and my responses. ...continue reading

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This was a post I prepared for another site. It got lost in the pending queue so is out of date (you can still register for ocTEL until the end of June), but I thought worth capturing this post here for future reference.

Last year ALT ran an 11 week long open course in technology enhanced learning (ocTEL). ocTEL is back! And you can still register for this year’s iteration of the course which starts on 28th April 2014 and runs for 7 weeks. The ‘course’ introduces various aspects of TEL from pedagogy, resource discovery to evaluation and management. Participating in an ocTEL feedback session at altc2013 it was interesting to reflect on the mindset people bring to these types of 'courses'. The word 'course' itself also reinforces the idea that if you don't finish then you have somehow failed. At altc2013 Stephen Downes was kind enough to drop in to the ALT-C Live studio and talk about MOOCs with Seb Schmoller. As part of this Stephen explained that the conception of ‘a course’ can be misleading. Stephen has subsequently written up more about what he means in this post. Changing people's perception can be challenging and you can read more about how ocTEL is ‘the open course you cannot fail’ in a post by ALT’s Chief Executive Maren Deepwell.

Our approach to ocTEL is not just changing in approach and content and behind the scenes the platform we use is also evolving to include more social features, integration of accreditation options using digital badges and enhanced course activity aggregation.

The development arch

ocTEL was a successful exploration in the Association hosting this type of event and an opportunity to explore ways for supporting distributed communities. Some of these experiments have already been built upon. For example, the ‘course reader’ which aggregates, displays and redistributes community activity was subsequently also used as part of the altc2013 conference platform. This cycle of development continues with the conference platform being used to improve the course platform. The main change has been the inclusion of a social network site plugin BuddyPress.

BuddyPress has been  used within an educational context for a number of years meaning there is already a rich vein of reported uses and supplementary plugins. One of these is BadgeOS which integrates with BuddyPress to provide the functionality for various forms of accreditation and recognition using digital badges. As well as accrediting activities set by the tutor, BadgeOS also has the option we are keen to explore where participants can nominate or award badges to each other. Another feature of BuddyPress we think might be useful for the course is the  ability for tutors and students to create their own groups. Whilst group forming can be very challenging within open courses particularly given the distributed,  chaotic nature and reduced situational awareness, we are interested to see how these work as it may help us find a solution for supporting ALT’s other communities.

The last area of innovation continues the work funded through the MOOC Research Initiative (MRI) which explored the effectiveness of the course reader to attribute a person’s contributions made in multiple networks. Whilst collecting data from 3rd party sites is possible across a range of platforms the identity of who made the post can be less clear cut. Sometimes this is deliberate the person choosing  to write under a nom de plume, but this can also be a result of restrictions on usernames placed by the site. In ocTEL our interest in this area is not to lift the veil on those who prefer to be anonymous, but instead  correctly attribute contributions to the original author. One of the reason for doing this is if using course activity to accredit someone’s learning, evidence of this activity may existing across different channels.

As part of the MRI grant we analysed data from the first iteration of ocTEL which showed given the data sources we targeted an authorship reconciliation of around 50%. As part of the research we identified areas where we could easily improve the procedure used to match authors to an existing course database. Consequently we’ll be incorporating these in the next version of ocTEL.

All these developments are going to be made available under an open source license so why not register for the course and experience the new ocTEL. Also, similar to last year, we’ll be taking the opportunity to develop the platform during the course. One of the developments at towards the top of the list is creating more data export options. These will include on the personal level ‘midata’ export as well as general data feeds.

The ALT Scotland SIG has a lovely day lined up to discuss 'openness' in various aspects of education. It's particularly nice to see people for the Scottish Government and education coming together and hopefully there will be a useful exchange of information and ideas. The event is free to attend but numbers are limited so don't delay to avoid disappointment. We'll hopefully be streaming the event to the ALT YouTube channel so hopefully there will be an opportunity to engage remotely.

Register now!

[on a personal note really looking forward to finally being able to meet Jonathan Worth in person #bigfan].

Open Scotland is a free one day event that provides an opportunity for ALT Scotland SIG members and the wider community to come together and share ideas and experiences of adopting and promoting open educational practices across all sectors of Scottish education.  The event will highlight examples of open education innovation across the Scottish education sector, including adoption of open badges and open assessment and accreditation practices; development of open educational resources and courses and open frameworks for technology enhanced learning.  In addition to showcasing homegrown initiatives, the event will also look further afield to inspiring and innovative projects and developments across the UK. This event will also explore some of the drivers and barriers to embedding open education policy and practice within Scottish education, and will provide an opportunity to discuss the draft Scottish Open Education Declaration prepared by Open Scotland*.

The event has been made possible with support from ALT, SQA, Jisc RSC Scotland and hosting from the School of Informatics at the University of Edinburgh.

Event hashtags: #altc #openscot

*Open Education, Open Scotland builds on the Open Scotland Summit and is facilitated by ALT, Cetis, Jisc RSC Scotland and the SQA.

Register now!

Draft Programme

09:30-10:30 Registration (Tea/Coffee)
10:30-10:45 Welcome from ALT Scotland SIG – Linda Creanor, Glasgow Caledonian University and Joe Wilson, SQA
10:45-11:00 Update from ALT – Maren Deepwell, ALT
11:00-11:30 Scottish Government perspectives – Colin Cook, Deputy Director of Digital Strategy, Scottish Government
11:30:12:00 SFC Update – David Beards, Scottish Funding Council
OU Scotland’s Open Education Project – Ronald McIntyre, OU Scotland
12:00-12:30 Open Badges, Open Borders – Suzanne Scott, Borders College
12:30-13:30 Lunch
13:30-14:00 Open Courses – Jonathan Worth, Coventry University
14:00-14:30 Open Institutions – Natalie Lafferty, University of Dundee
14:30-15:00 GLOW – Ian Stewart, John Johnstone (tbc)
15:00-15:15 Coffee break
15:15-15:30 Scottish Open Education Declaration – Lorna M. Campbell, Cetis
15:30-16:00 Plenary discussion
16:00 Close
3 Jun 2014 10:30 AM   to   4:15 PM
The Forum
School of Informatics
University of Edinburgh
EdinburghEH8 9LE
United Kingdom
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No where in the raging discussion around MOOCs is there anyone talking about sharing the infrastructural/architectural work they’ve done freely with others – Jim Groom in Integrating FeedWordPress with BuddyPress

I wouldn’t say it was a raging discussion, more of a good old fashioned edtech geekout with myself, Alan Levine, Tom Woodward, and latterly joined by Boone (not forgetting a mysterious silhouetted champion of open access ;), talking about the use of WordPress as a connectivist aggregation tool. The chat came about as I’m at the start of the next run of ocTEL, which has given me reams to write about but no time, and Alan and Tom are plotting their next course. We got together via a hangout, the recording is here and embedded below, to swap notes on WordPress as a tool to support open courses. We didn’t give much notice but it was nice to see people like Greg Mcverry were watching along and, underlining the fact that open=opportunity, one of the BuddyPress lead developers, WrodPress guru’s and around cool guy Boone Gorges dropped in for some very useful input and advice.  We chatted for over an hour which leaves the 6-7minute long video sweet spot in the dust, but Martin Lugton has kindly watched the video and pulled out some screen notes.

We might try again next Friday for another get together so watch your scope around 4pm GMT Friday to see if we pull something together. Leave a comment if there is anything you’d like us to talk about or would like a ping.

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import.io is a nice service I’ve been dipping into for a while. It’s one of a number of services that provides structured web data scraping. One of the nice features of import.io is it:

transform any website into a table of data or an API in minutes without even writing any code

You load a webpage with their web browser app and start highlighting the parts of the page you’d like to extract. Int3rhacktives has a nice How to scrape data without coding? A step by step tutorial on import.io if you want to find out more.

Once you have the data you want extracted import.io continue to try and keep the bar low allowing easy data download in various formats including .csv. and if you want to use live data there are example itegrations for Excel, Google Sheet and other programming languages.

Looking more closely at the Google Sheet integration import.io document a method that uses their REST API’s HTML table output which is then wrapped in a Google Sheet importHTML formula e.g.

=ImportHtml("https://query.import.io/store/connector/48fd118b-7572-44a6-816c-8f02d088fb6a/_query?_user=5895d593-9461-4b8b-8452-95bb82458bd2&_apikey=YOUR_API_KEY&format=HTML&input/webpage/url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.scoop.it%2Ft%2Fgas", "table", 1)

import.io easy as 1, 2

I’m a big fan of Google Sheet ‘import’ and have some tutorials on these. The ‘import’ formula are useful for quick results but not appropriate if you need to do additional manipulation or integration into other automated workflows. import.io do have a number of client libraries and code examples you can look at to address this but the one I thought was missing was one for Google Apps Script. One of the great strengths of Apps Script is it’s easy to create time-based routines to pull and push data around as and when needed. So based on import.io’s php example here’s what it would look like in Google Apps Script.

You can read the Google Apps Script Documentation to find out more about what you can do with the result.  Something the guys at import.io might want to think about is creating a Google Apps Script Library. Similar to their other client libraries it will again lower the bar for developers. As a starter I’ve implemented the query method here which means anyone creating a Apps Script project and including a library using the Project Key: M2ZyMvVZdgKdy3SaLP8gq3X797_hv7HHb could just use:

function getImportioExample(){
  // Query for tile Integrate Page Example
  var result = importio.query("caff10dc-3bf8-402e-b1b8-c799a77c3e8c", {"searchterm": "avengers 2",}, userGuid, apiKey, false);
  Logger.log(result);
}

with the benefit of also getting a code autocomplete:

autocomplete

If you've already got Google Apps Script/import.io integrations I'd love to hear about them. Hopefully I'll follow-up this post with an example automation to illustrate what is possible.

 

Back in the good old days when I was a member of the Glasgow based supergroup with my then colleagues Lorna Campbell and Sheila MacNeill we were approached to write a chapter for the soon to be published ‘Reusing Open Resources’.  We were tasked with writing something on ‘Analytics for Education’. Prior to print our chapter along with four others have been published in the Journal of Interactive Media in Education (JiME) under a CC-BY license. You can read the full Analytics in Education chapter here and copied below is the section I had most input on was ‘future developments’.

Given ‘prediction is very hard, especially about the future’ its interesting to look back at what we wrote in the summer 2013. Something we should have perhaps expanded upon was data privacy concerns particularly in light of the news that news that  non-profit inBloom is shutting down. I often find myself with conflicted interests between data collection as part of my personal quantified self and data collection for quantifying others. TAGS is a prime example of where I initially wanted to collect data to understand the shape of the communities I was in, but now is used by myself and others to extract data from communities we have no investment in.

And right now I'm developing the next iteration of ocTEL which thanks to funding  from the MOOC Research Initiative has helped find areas where we can improve data collection, in particular, resolving identities across networks. Achieving this personally feels like progress but I’m sure many others will disagree.

Are we bound by a data dogma? ...continue reading

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repeating seriesSometimes it’s useful to generate a column of data based on a series repeating x number of times e.g. a series 1,2,3 repeated 3 times would give 1, 1, 1, 2, 2, 2, 3, 3, 3 (see column A in here for example). In my particular scenario I want to repeat week numbers for a series from 0-6. There are a number of ways you can do this like indexing row numbers but here’s a little formula I quickly threw together for Google Sheets:

=TRANSPOSE(SPLIT(JOIN(",", ARRAYFORMULA(REPT(SPLIT(D2,",")&","D3))), ","))

where

  • D2 is a comma separated series e.g. Week 0,Week 1, Week …
  • D3 is the number of times to repeat

How does it work?

Like a lot of spreadsheet formula is starts in the middle with SPLIT(D2,",") which turns our series of values into an array. If you use this in a single cell in a Google Sheet the values Week 0, Week 1 will be split out across the columns.

Next we want to repeat Week 0 and so on x number of times. This is done with the a combination of REPT, which repeats a given string x times. If we use this by itself it will only apply to the first column of data from the SPLIT so we wrap it in an ARRAYFORMULA like so ARRAYFORMULA(REPT(SPLIT(D2,",")&",",D3))),",")). This repeats the series value the number of times specified in D3. Something to note is the &"," in the REPT. This adds a comma at the end of each repeated value.

ARRAYFORMULA Enables the display of values returned from an array formula into multiple rows and/or columns and the use of non-array functions with arrays.

This now gives us our columns with the repeating text but across several columns e.g. “Week 0,Week 0,Week 0”,  “Week 1,Week 1,We..” etc To get a single value in each column we use a trick of using a JOIN to turn our array of columns into a single cell value separated with a comma. We then use the SPLIT formula again to turn this single cell into multiple cells.

The final part is to use TRANSPOSE to convert our columns of data into rows. Here is the finished version of the Google Sheet with the stages broken down.

Can you think of a better way to do this?

Not sure if this is a documented feature but you can search within Google+ Communities by adding s/yoursearchterm to the community home address (operators like AND/OR also appear to work).

Emma Duke-Williams commented:

I have some students using a private community for group work, and they have to provide a list of posts for assessment.

The only way we'd found to search just that community was to scroll down the page to the start of the community -then use the browser's search feature, but that only found the posts they'd started, not the discussions. I have just tested this with my most prolific student & seem to have found both his posts & his comments.

I tried the ‘s’ switch in the url after seeing a Googler share this link which lists all the ‘Apps Script’ communities  https://plus.google.com/u/0/s/”Apps Script”/communities so it looks like it can be used elsewhere in the url.

I notice however that using this didn’t always return the expect result, which is worth bearing in mind.

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Do more with DocsGoogle recently announced (11th March 2014) the release of add-ons for Google Docs and new Sheets. This opens the opportunity for third-party developers, big and small, to create custom functionality within these products. This isn’t entirely new as for many years developers have been able to use Google Apps Script, which is also at the heart of add-ons, to create and distribute custom Google Apps enhancements. What add-ons do create is an a streamlined user experience fronted with a Chrome Web Store like interface. This post provides some notes for Google Apps admins about Google Docs add-ons.  You can see more of this in action in this video.

Add-ons store

Default on

The announcement from Google marked the immediate availability of add-ons for Google users as well as Google Apps accounts on rapid release (more on Google Apps release process). For Google Apps accounts on ‘scheduled release’ add-ons will appear “on Tuesdays only, at least one week after the feature was released to the Rapid Release track” giving time for admins to make local arrangements such as training and support. When Google activated add-ons the default was to have them enabled.

To disable Google Docs add-ons:

  1. Sign in to the Google Admin console.
  2. Click Google Apps > Drive > General.
  3. Deselect the Allow users to install Google Docs add-ons check box.
  4. Click Save changes.

The support for add-ons in Google Docs notes:

After you enable or disable Google Docs add-ons, it may take up to an hour before the change takes effect in previously opened documents, and the change won't be seen until the documents are refreshed or reopened

The support also notes:

The Admin console setting for add-ons controls both Docs and the new version of Sheets; there are not separate settings for each document type. (Add-ons are not available for other document types.)

Tip: If you are having trouble with an add-on in your document, you can force it to load without any add-ons by adding ?addon_free_mode=true

Google new Sheets are rolling out as the default

It’s worth noting that add-ons are only available for new Sheets. To support add-ons on the 21st March 2014 Google announced new Sheets are now the default, stating:

Over the next couple of weeks, rapid release domain users will automatically be upgraded to the new Sheets. Spreadsheets created after the upgrade will use the new version. Users may opt-out of this experience through the settings menu in Sheets.

The new Sheets will be available to Schedule release domains in the next four to six weeks.

Some Google Apps users have been already using new Sheets in their domain by creating a new Sheet with their Gmail account and sharing it with their Google Apps account, then using this as a template for all their spreadsheets. Users on domains on scheduled release will not see the add-ons menu even with a new Sheet. This will change as add-ons are rolled out and admins don’t enable add-ons to:

If you disable Docs add-ons in your organization, users will still see the add-ons menu in their documents and can browse the store, but they can't install any add-ons from the store.

Add-ons whitelist and authorization

A concern I’ve seen raised is the control domain admins have in approving add-ons for use. Currently the switch provided by Google is all on or all off. The current safeguard against malicious add-ons is that these need approval from Google before publication. Already some of Google’s partners have released services for providing per add-on control and it’ll be interesting to see if Google bake this feature in.

Something else for Google Apps admins consider is support informing users about add-on authorization. One of the features of add-ons is the source code is not visible to the end-user. Where as on Google Apps Scripts installed from the Script Gallery or copied elsewhere the code could be viewed before run. Admittedly the majority of script end users wouldn’t be able to understand the code but there is a degree of transparency. This shifts focus on the authorization process which warns users about what the script can do. Historically given the range of service interaction available in Apps Script these messages have been very broad. For example running the following code in the script editor which only gets a document on your Google Drive:

function myFunction() {
  var test = DriveApp.getFileById("FILE_ID");
}

results in:

Add-on authorisation

Click on the more information button ‘i’ reveals:

More information

Upload, download, update and delete files in your Google Drive Create, access, update and delete native Google documents in your Google Drive Manage files and documents in your Google Drive (e.g. search, organise and modify permissions and other metadata, such as title)

This problem isn’t unique and anyone installing apps on your phone will be presented with similar daunting messages. For me this partly comes down to digital literacy, educating users about how identify malicious programs by, such as, checking ratings/reviews and exploring the publisher websites, which are a requirement for add-on publication. For example, the Remove Blank Rows add-on support site highlights the authorisation requests used. Ultimately though better permissions scoping in add-ons would be useful.

If you are interested in developing your own add-ons Google have this introductory post with more information. You can also get support from Stackoverflow  or this dedicated ‘developing add-ons’ Google+ Community.

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GDE Apps ScriptSo as well becoming ALT’s Chief Innovation, Technology and Community Officer I've recently been recognised as a Google Developers Experts (GDE).

Google Developers Experts (GDEs) are experts in one or more Google developer technologies. The GDE program recognizes the exemplary work done by these rock stars for the Google Developers worldwide by inviting them to be part of the growing GDE community. GDEs are gurus, mentors and friends; they are developers just like you. Visit the member directory to find an expert in the products you care about. Google Developers Experts speak in local and global events, have a strong online presence and an excellent technical background in their field. These independent developers bring their real-world experience and knowledge working with Google technologies to developer communities worldwide.

It was a pleasant surprise to be approached by Google to become a GDE and throughout the interview process I highlighted that I didn't consider myself to be a ‘developer’. If I was to give myself a label it would be ‘hacker’ … in the non-pejorative sense:

A hacker is someone who loves to program or who enjoys playful cleverness, or a combination of the two.[3] The act of engaging in activities (such as programming or other media[4]) in a spirit of playfulness and exploration is termed hacking. However the defining characteristic of a hacker is not the activities performed themselves (e.g. programming), but the manner in which it is done: Hacking entails some form of excellence, for example exploring the limits of what is possible,[5] thereby doing something exciting and meaningful.[4] Activities of playful cleverness can be said to have "hack value" and are termed hacks[5] – from Wikipedia

The product I've mostly be ‘hacking’ with is Google Apps Script and having picked up this early after launch in 2010 it's been useful to develop my own skills as the product develops as well. Its interesting times for Apps Script and it's noticeable in my circles that latest developments like add-ons has ignited the interest in using this tool to personalise the way teachers educate. Even more inspiring is it's not just the teachers as Scripts are for Kids, too!

So there you go those 100 posts, over 450 scoops, numerous presentations and other community activity have finally paid off. And guess what I'm really looking forward to the next 100 hacks, scoops and presentations...

Finally, remember I'm available for a speaking engagement near you… ;)