Monday, 27 July 2015

Feedwind – create a scrolling RSS feed widget from multiple content sources

The tool of the week is Feedwind which is a free RSS widget that adds dynamic content from multiple RSS feeds from various sources utilising filters to focus on your preferred topics or keywords.
An RSS feed allows you to receive updates from various sources that is directly delivered to you without having to visit those websites.
In this blog I will show you how you can add an RSS feed in your Moodle module, meaning that you can have dynamic content that is changing on a regular basis in your module. Please remember that the frequency of the RSS feeds depend on how regular the source is updated, so choose a website that is active!

Create your widget

1. Obtain RSS feed or URL address
Copy the RSS feed link or the URL address of the website that you wish to create a RSS feed from. For example on the BBC new website you will find the RSS feed link on the right hand side of the page:

Clicking the RSS News Feed will take you to the RSS feed page from where you can copy the link from the URL address bar:

2. Add the feed
Navigate to and paste the copied link into the Feed URL field and then click the Add Feed button:

In the above example I used the generic SOAS website and Feedwind was clever enough to pick up the news feed from the webpage

3. General settings
Feedwind has whole host customisable options for your widget from specifying the widget size, font settings, if want a scroll bar or auto scroll, adding image thumbnails and more:

4. Feed Title
This setting allows you to manually enter a title for your feed to replace the one that is created automatically as well as setting an image and background colour:

5. Preview
As you amend the settings Feedwind creates an almost instant preview of how the widget will look:

6. Copy widget code
Copy the HTML code for you widget (situated under the widget preview):

Add widget to Moodle

1. Navigate to your Moodle course and switch to editing mode.

2. Select HTML from the dropdown menu in Add a Block:

3. You will notice a New HTML Block has appeared on your course. Click on the actions icon and select Configure (New HTML Block) Block:

4. Enter a title for the HTML block and then click on the edit HTML source icon < >.

5. Paste the copied HTML code from Feedwind in the pop up HTML source editor box and then click the Update button:

6. Click the Save changes button to finish. You will now see the widget populated with content from your selected website:

Final thoughts
For those of you who are regular readers of this blog will remember I wrote a blog post back in April for another RSS feed creator called Page2RSS which offered a simple solution to create RSS feeds for webpages however it lacked in offering RSS subscriptions. I feel Windfeed takes that extra step to offer something that is more dynamic, eye catching and customisable.
If you are not already using RSS feeds in your courses or website why not give Windfeed a try to see how your Moodle pages could be freshened up?

Twitter: @SOASBLETech

Monday, 13 July 2015

Zotero - software that helps you save, manage, and cite research sources

Zotero is free a Firefox add-on as well as a standalone desktop tool that collects, manages, and cites research sources. 
With Zotero you can attach PDFs, notes and images to your citations, take snapshots of web pages, organise them into collections for different projects, and create bibliographies. In addition you it updates itself automatically periodically to work with new online sources and new bibliographic styles.
The tool automatically senses content in your web browser, facilitating a one click process to add items to your personal library. 

1. Installing Zotero
Navigate to and from the homepage click on the Download Now button (situated top right).
From the download screen you are offered two options – 
- Zotero for Firefox (an add-in to Firefox). Once installed you will see in the top right corner of your Firefox window the Zotero buttonClick it to view or hide your library of saved citations. Please note that Zotero continues to run when Firefox is open, whether or not you are viewing your library. 

- Zotero Standalone (an Zotero icon will appear on your desktop)

2. Adding references to Zotero
References can be added to Zotero either manually, by unique record identifier or directly from online sources.
You can manually add items by click on the green plus icon and then selecting the type of reference that you require. 

From the pop window enter the information in the available metadata fields for your chosen item as necessary.

3. Adding items by identifier
Many documents online have a unique identifier, such as an ISBN for books, a DOI number for journal articles or a PMID number for articles published on PubMed. If you know one of these numbers you can ask Zotero to look for the reference online and import the citation.
Click on the add item(s) by Identifier icon, type in the unique number and press enter.

If Zotero finds the reference it will import all the information directly to your library, like so:

4. Adding items from online searches
Zotero can import from web pages, online library catalogues and databases. As you search, a ‘Save to Zotero’ icon appears in the far right of the address bar. Click on the icon to import the reference to Zotero.

 The blue icon represents a book reference

 The white paper icon indicates you are viewing a journal article

 The yellow folder allows you to save multiple references from same page, click on the icon and select references from the pop-up window.
5. Archiving a web page to Zotero
Although Zotero cannot automatically capture citation information from regular web pages, but you can still add them to your Zotero library.

When viewing the web page you wish to archive click on the Create new item from current page icon in Zotero:

As well as creating a record for the page in your library with basic information about the page and the date of access, Zotero also adds a copy of the page as a snapshot in a sub-document. 
To view a copy of the page click on the expand icon to see a copy of the page, which includes the page's text and images. This is particularly useful if the page is removed later, or if you are offline, you will still be able to view your copy.

6. Adding files
Files can be added to your Zotero library as either copies or links. To add a file click on the paperclip button at the top of the centre column, and choose either Attached Stored Copy of File… or Attach Link to File… 

These options can also be found when you right-click an item and under the Add Attachment menu:

7. Taking notes
With Zotero you store notes in your library, which are synced along with item metadata, searchable, and support HTML formatting. 

To add a note right-click an item and select Add Note, or add it in the right column under the Notes tab. 

The Firefox add-in allows you to create notes directly from the webpage you are viewing in Firefox. To do this, first highlight the text you want to copy into a note, right-click and select Zotero in the pop-up menu, then select Create Zotero Item and Note from Selection. This will create a new Web Page item in your library for the visited webpage, with a note containing the selected text.

Final thoughts
Zotero offers a easy way to collect research papers from the internet, attach PDFs, find relevant articles in your library, and sync it across PCs. Utilising the Microsoft Word/LibreOffice plugin, Zotero takes the stress out of citations and bibliography by doing all the manual work for you. This is a free tool that students must try out!

More information about Zotero -
Online tutorials
Useful guide by Jason Puckett (Georgia State University)

Twitter: @SOASBLETech