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Posted by on Apr 11, 2013

Generating eBook(let)s, OER blogging, and new site design

Site Changes

I suppose I should have done this a few weeks ago to let everyone know that I was changing around my site, but it came as a surprise to me as well (the urgency in which it happened). I had bought some hosting space, installed a WordPress instance there, and was toying with it. I then, brazenly, pointed the DNS servers to these new spaces after I had downloaded the entire XML version of my blog (8 years and 3000+ posts worth). It then should have been as easy as uploading the new XML, but alas it wasn’t. WordPress.com (old blog) exported a 16MB XML that WordPress.org (new blog) wouldn’t accept as the file size was too big. So, a bunch of parsing later, I uploaded 8 different XML files to account for the entirety of the blog (-400 posts that I can’t seem to find).

In short, sorry for the inconvenience if you experienced any. Things are slowly coming together around here with the new design provided via a Lucid theme customized with my sister Jen Gallagher‘s design (logo and color scheme). Making my way through some CSS changes and SEO with my brother. A family affair around here. Slowly returning to normalcy minus a few hundred missing posts and a bunch of broken embeds. Nothing that can’t be fixed. I even ported the old email subscribers to this new space and hopefully they will be receiving this post by email. Onwards and upwards.

eBook Workflow

I am in the process of writing an ebook on mobile learning (not all of it, just specifically for generating learning activities in the field) and I wanted to toy around with ebook tools that seem to have some promise. I would be curious to hear from others on this. I used a handbook/handout I generated for an upcoming workshop I am conducting in Helsinki on mobile learning field activities. Much of this handbook was parsed together from previous blog posts along with some original writing for the occasion. The larger ebook I am writing will be a similar model, some blog posts and much new writing.

So I wanted a process that would allow me to compile blog posts easily. I turned to the Anthologize plugin. It allows you to draw blog posts from any number of sources, categories, tags, etc. and compile this into an ebook. I can easily see this becoming very useful for elearning courses or in any formalized course where blogging and reflection are part of the activity. It would be easy enough to compile an ebook from a course for publication at the end of the course. I am sure that would generate some extrinsic motivation for reflection. Why not produce academic journals from courses rather than departments or institutions? It can get that granular. Better yet, why not generate a textbook for the next iteration of the course explicitly using exemplary writing from the previous iteration of the course? That looks and feels like good use of OER to me.

Something to consider, you elearning programs of the world.

 Anthologize WordPress plugin

So I ran it through Anthologize, organized my sections (chapters), and dragged and dropped the pertinent posts to these sections. I then did some rudimentary editing (changes the posts only for the ebook, not for the actual blog), and generated a PDF version of the final ebook. You can export as PDF, ePub, RTF, and HTML depending on what you need. I generated an ePub as well. So, if your project is primarily text-based, then this is a nifty tool.

I wanted the final result to be a little splashier as I think the subject of mlearning and field activities, multimodality, and all that warrants a more visual approach. So I attempted to import the ePub into iBooks Author, which didn’t work as I should have known had I looked at iBooks Author more closely. There is a workaround of opening it in Pages and sort of converting it for use in iBooks Author but I just basically copied and pasted the thing into iBooks Author. From there, I compiled a short ebooklet for the workshop, added relevant images and sources. I didn’t bother too much with interactive media or anything, although that is very clearly supported. I then generated a PDF from that.

iBooks Author

I also wanted to use this opportunity to go through the process of preparing and uploading it to iTunes for distribution (or sale, depending on what you want to do). This proved nominally confusing, but not overwhelmingly so. You can generate a version from iBooks Author that feeds directly into the workflow for publication via iTunes (and via a secondary tool called iTunes Connect and then iTunes Producer). You are given options of whether or not you want to charge or publish for free and then asked to load your assets into the iTunes Producer-these are basically your eBook, a sample eBook (a few pages), a logo, and screenshots. Then you upload it, along with some supplied metadata, and away you go. It was fairly straightforward even though I have to go back and get the right dimensions on my screenshots before finishing the upload. Once it is there in iTunes, I will point people to it but I have provided it below as well. All in all, a fairly easy process for academics to walk through should they want to make some of their work into an eBook or an eTextbook.

If you prefer to download it, please feel free. I am still searching for a good PDF Viewer plugin and this one below certainly isn’t it.

OER Blogging

I was surprised to learn that my blog was mentioned as one to follow in a recent report analyzing trends in open educational resources (OER).  That list of bloggers if fairly select company so quite an honor. It makes me think I should write more overtly about OERs. I generally make it implicit (I think) that the kind of multimedia I like to work with in mlearning is open and recyclable. I try and tailor my Creative Commons licenses that way as well, but I rarely mention it directly. Either way, quite an honor.

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