Archive for the 'web dev' Category

An App Store for Web-Based Instruction

Tuesday, May 27th, 2014

LTI Connections from LMS to other nodes
Do what you do best, and link to the rest. A lesson of the web learnt quickly by those who’s success depends on being creative online.

The latest released version of Sakai, version 2.9.3, improves on the existing features that allows for the connection of Sakai courses to external tools. The forthcoming version of Sakai, Sakai 10, takes this provision even further.

The biggest improvement is institutionalizing the configuration process to allow approved external tools to appear as peers to Sakai’s own tools when instructors choose what they would like to add to their course site, especially in Sakai 10.

The Sakai tool and the specification that supports the connection is the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) specification.

Presently, in the Brock University context, instructors need to know that the Brock University service, web-based tool or Publisher they are interested in integrating into their course: exists, supports LTI specification and that Isaak/Sakai can be connected through LTI. The instructor then must contact administrators to have the connection added to his/her course. The connection is only made once the proposed integration has met Brock University’s technical and privacy standards. This new model of pre-approved tools and their listing alongside other Sakai tools now only requires the instructors interest – prompted from any source, including students previous experience.

This ability to add tools alongside Sakai’s current listing of possible tools also provides an opportunity for university services to tightly integrate with courses in addition to making instructors aware that they exist.

The following posting discusses (in too much depth at times) the current status, the Sakai tool and LTI specification, examples of tools that could be integrated and a framework for the selection of tools to be added to this “App Store for Instructors”.

Chair of Sakai Accessibility Working Group

Monday, July 29th, 2013

Sakai Accessibility Working Group

I recently accepted the lead of the Sakai Accessibility Working Group.  It’s an honour and a challenge and I’m going to make the most of it.

At Brock University we use Isaak as our learning management system, which is based on the Sakai CLE.  In Ontario Canada we’re operating under the increasingly more stringent Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) which wisely cites the various levels of the WCAG 2 as its own standards.  Because of this and because its the responsible and technologically ideal way to proceed: web accessibility is important to me.

I’m a big believer that there’s a lot that can be done to improve web accessibility if more people just had a little more knowledge about the issue and the solutions and were able to apply that knowledge at the correct time.

To that end I’m coordinating conference calls about Sakai accessibility every other Thursday at 2:00 eastern (all are welcome – Add the next meeting directly to your calendar.).  What we do as an accessibility working group is review general issues and trends in the Sakai CLE (sometimes there’s an OAS), set goals, offer advice, and slog through the JIRA tickets (bugs in the bug tracker) and offer to add a solution, advice or other wisdom as needed.  We’re also trying to spread critical web accessibility information in the Sakai community and beyond.

Projects in the Sakai community include ongoing information sharing and canvasing (even, blogging) about the need to get more people involved, and reaching out to other upstream projects, like CKEditor and JQuery UI to both pass feedback to them and to apply their latest and greatest solutions to Sakai.

I don’t claim to be an accessibility expert, but I do understand the standards and I’ve been writing HTML so long I the two platforms I originally had to test on were a 486 Compaq and an Amiga A2000HD. More importantly, I care.

Structured Schedule and Course Calendar Data for Brock University

Monday, August 20th, 2012

As my last post about a Brock University Important Dates iCal Feed indicated, I often find myself needing Brock University information in a structured, digital format. As I’m not one to improve public information and make it private, here’s the how I made this information more fun to play with.

As we in the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation (formerly CTLET) at Brock University to update places like Contact North’s studyonline.ca and other reporting work, we often need this type of information, and to make it easier for a number of purpose to make use of the information as a web services.

To that end I created cpi.brocku.ca/services

cpi.brocku.ca/services is a collection of RESTful APIs that return Brock University course calendar information in a number of formats: xml, html, csv and txt. The request URLs are created in a way that respects microformats.org’s guidelines for URLs.

Along with a the course calendar information is a handy “function” I created called brock_year. brock_year returns the current course calendar year by default, or the year that corresponds with a queried UNIX time value. This is useful because the course calendar issuing year does not always match the Gregorian calendar year. For example, duration 3 of Brock University calendar year 2012 occurs in January of Gregorian year 2013! I’ve cut and pasted the PHP for that code a few times for me and others, now it’s a web services for all.

Things will be updated as time permits and need arises. Also I should note that the Brock University Registrar’s information is considered definitive, and is the most accurate and well maintained source for this information www.brocku.ca/registrar/guides-and-timetable .

Hope this helps someone, or inspires someone else to expose data in a number of structured formats.

Lunch Blog

Wednesday, May 30th, 2012

I’ve started a new lunch blog! I encourage you to check it out at mattclare.ca/lunch-blog/

The site is obviously more of a joke at the expense of my daily lunch at Brock University of two penut butter and jam sandwiches that I slather in double fruit jam and chunky penut butter before I leave for work each morning.

The blog was built using Bootstrap, from the developers at Twitter. Bootstrap was created to help people build web responsive web sites easier, better, and faster. You can read more at twitter.github.com/bootstrap/

The blog itself simply uses a Bootstrap example, two pictures I took with my phone yesterday, a little CSS to apply the pictures to the backgrounds of the right divs, and some PHP to dynamically create “dated” posts. The PHP is key to the ability to review older posts and the short reviews of each lunch. The source is posted here mattclare.ca/lunch-blog/index.phps .

All and all, a positive experience and I look forward to bootstrapping more sites.

2012 Formula One Season: Fantasy Racing

Thursday, March 15th, 2012

This weekend is the first race of the 2012 Formula 1 season. I’m excited and I hope you are too.

One part of the season that always gets me excited is entering my team, ZERO Racing, in Mitch & Brooke’s Fantasy Racing competition. I’m encouraging you to as well.

All you have to do is pick a team name and then a driver from all of six groups provided. The only prize is respect, and you should probably check back once and while to see how you’re doing, but if you let me know your team I’ll be sure to give you credit for besting mine.

Something else to look forward to is the new look I donated in the form of pictures and CSS to Mitch & Brooke’s Fantasy Racing. I hope to see it applied soon — once the guys are done starting the season etc. Here’s a preview: