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Authoring Connexions Modules Related to TIMEA

Module by: Lisa Spiro. E-mail the author

Summary: This module explains how to author Connexions modules that are related to the Travelers in the Middle East Archive (TIMEA). It covers adding metadata, making links, and creating exercises. It also provides style tips and explains how Connexions handles intellectual property. "Authoring TIMEA Modules" is part 3 of a 5-part course that helps instructors use TIMEA materials and trains authors to develop new modules and courses using Connexions.

Teachers, researchers, librarians can not only use resources in the Travelers in the Middle East Archive for classes and research projects, but also create their own educational modules in Connexions and contribute them to the Content Commons.

Just register with Connexions, learn how the system works, join the TIMEA community in Connexions, and get started writing. TIMEA has a growing collection of over 30 modules covering topics such as performing historical research and using Geographical Information System (GIS) resources, but there are many areas left to explore. For instance, you could use TIMEA’s museum catalogs to explore the history of Egyptian museums and Egyptology, or examine TIMEA’s travel guides in a module analyzing Western attitudes towards the Middle East in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Likewise, you could draw on TIMEA’s rich images of Egypt in a course on the history of photography, or explore the genre of travel literature through a module that references TIMEA’s many travel narratives.

All Connexions modules are encoded in CNXML, an XML-based markup language that allows information to be exchanged, presented on different platforms, and output in different ways (such as online and in a PDF). There are several ways for you to produce a Connexions module:

1) You can write your module using Microsoft Word, then import it into Connexions. Some tweaking will be necessary, but this is probably the easiest method for novice writers.

2) You can use Connexions’ edit-in-place and full-source editors, which allow you to write your module online. (If you have an unstable Internet connection, this can be risky, but the edit-in-place feature is useful for making quick edits.)

3) You can use an external XML editor such as XMLSpy or Oxygen, then import the XML file into Connexions. This method will expose you to all of the XML tags that structure the document, but it also allows more control.

If you want to create a TIMEA module but are confused by the technical details, please contact us at timea@rice.edu. We’ll do our best to help.

Creating TIMEA Modules and Courses

In order for your module or course to be considered a TIMEA resource, it should do the following:

  1. Address topics that relate in some way to TIMEA: For instance, your module could provide background to TIMEA materials on Egypt in the nineteenth century or examine how to conduct research in the humanities and social sciences. We hope that authors will use texts, images and maps from the TIMEA archive in their modules; see “Bringing TIMEA Content into Connexions” for instructions on how to do this.
  2. Include TIMEA Metadata: Include “TIMEA” and “Travelers in the Middle East Archive” as keywords in the metadata section of your module. You should also add keywords that describe the topics your module addresses, such as “Egyptian history” or “stereographs.” By providing metadata (or cataloging information), you make your module easier to discover and let readers quickly determine what the module addresses. You can use a controlled vocabulary such as Library of Congress authoritiesor your own terminology; if you do the latter, try to be consistent so that there is a not of proliferation of closely related terms.

Example 1

To add metadata,

  • Create a new module in a work area or edit an existing one
  • Click on the metadata tab in the edit module view
  • Fill in the fields, including title, description, and keywords.
  • Click “Save”
Figure 1: Adding Metadata in Connexions
Figure 1 (Graphic1.jpg)

3. Have the module reviewed by the TIMEA project. So that we can ensure that everything in TIMEA meets standards for scholarship, we review modules that appear under the TIMEA logo. However, you can contribute works to the general Connexions content commons without going through the review process. Please contact timea@rice.edu if you are interested in authoring a module for TIMEA and having it reviewed.

4. Provide Links to TIMEA: So that readers can easily navigate from your module to TIMEA, please provide links to the main TIMEA site (http://timea.rice.edu), the TIMEA search page (http://timea.rice.edu/search), and the specific TIMEA resource that you are referencing, whether it is a text, image, or map.

To add a link that will appear in the left sidebar of the module,

Example 2

  • Select the link tab from the module edit view.
  • Enter the title of the link in the "Link Name" field. Make links to Travelers in the Middle East Archive (http://timea.rice.edu),Search TIMEA (http://timea.rice.edu/search.html), and any TIMEA resources that are referenced in the module. You can also add links to other resources.
  • Enter the URL for the link (or the module number, if you’re linking to another Connexions module) in the “Link URL” field.
  • Use the pulldown menu to select the kind of link. All TIMEA links should be classified as “supplemental,” which means that they will be grouped together.
  • Use the pulldown menu to select the strength of the link, where 5 is the strongest. Travelers in the Middle East Archive should be given a strength of 5, while Search TIMEA should be given a strength of 4 and specific TIMEA resources should be given a strength of 3. This ensures that Travelers in the Middle East Archive will appear first.
Figure 2: Adding Links to the Sidebar
Figure 2 (Graphic2.jpg)

You can also add inline links within the text of your module. As you are editing your module, place the text or URL that you wish to turn into a link within the link element. For instance:

Example 3

<link src=”http://hdl.handle.net/1911/9166”>

Egypt through the stereoscope : a journey through the land of the Pharaohs

</link>

Alternatively, if you are using the Word Importer to create your module within Microsoft Word, you can make a hyperlink by highlighting the text that will be displayed, going to the Insert menu in the top toolbar and selecting “Hyperlink”, and entering the web address in the box provided. The link should be preserved once the Word document is converted to a Connexions module.

If you are linking to texts or images in TIMEA, use the URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) provided in the citation for the item. It will look something like this: http://hdl.handle.net/1911/9184 This link uses the handle system to ensure that if the web site changes the web address will still work and is therefore intended to be more permanent than a basic URL.

Creating Exercises

You can include exercises within your module, posing questions and displaying the solution only when the reader clicks the “view solution” link. Such exercises can act as a check on understanding and make the module more interactive. For example, in Catherine Schmidt-Jones’ module on Minor Keys and Scales, she discusses how minor scales work, then invites readers to write out their own.

Figure 3: Example of Connexions Exercise
Figure 3 (Graphic3.jpg)

Creating an exercise requires using CNXML (the Connexions mark-up language). In the example below, <exercise> is the top-level element; within it are the <problem> and the <solution>. The text for the <problem> and <solution> occurs within a <para>, or paragraph. Every tag must be nested properly, like a Russian doll.

Example 4

<exercise id='stereo1'>

<problem>

<para id='stereoq1'>

What are some other names for stereographs?

</para>

</problem>

<solution>

<para id='stereosol1'>

Other names for stereographs include “stereogram,” “stereoview,” and “stereo pairs.”

</para>

</solution>

</exercise>

CNXML includes structural tags (such as “example” and “section”), inline tags (such as “emphasis,” “link,” and “term”), and “special” tags (such as “definition” and “note”). You can also include figures and media (such as mp3 files) in your module. See the CNXML 0.5 Language Specification and The Basic CNXMLfor more information.

Style Tips

Here are some suggestions for creating Connexions modules:

  • Keep it concise. We encourage authors to adopt the Connexions philosophy and break up content into “chunks” of knowledge that can be reused in different contexts.
  • Make modules stand alone. Although you can organize modules into a course so that each one builds on what came before, keep in mind that readers will often access content at the module-level rather than the course level, so you can’t assume that they know what was discussed in previous modules. In addition, other Connexions users may wish to put your module into their own courses, so it should be able to stand alone.
  • Use concrete examples. Abstract concepts make more sense when they are supported by specific examples. We encourage you to draw examples from the wealth of materials available through TIMEA. See “Bringing TIMEA Content into Connexions” for instructions.
  • Write clearly, even conversationally. It should go without saying that writing should be clear, but keep in mind that Connexions attracts a diverse audience of students, scholars, and casual web surfers, many of whom adopt online reading practices (e.g. scanning the page). Some of the most effective Connexions modules are those that engage the reader in a sort of pedagogical dialogue, explaining points and raising questions. See, for example, the work of Connexions author extraordinaire Catherine Schmidt-Jones, such as “The Circle of Fifths” (which is one of Connexions’ most popular modules).
  • Make your title clear and descriptive. Since the title is the first thing that perspective readers see, it should give them a quick sense of what the module addresses. Don’t include numbers in titles (i.e. “Part III of My Great Module”), since others may reuse the module in their own courses, and since readers who aren’t aware of the other parts may be confused.

Intellectual Property

If you do decide to produce a TIMEA module, you should be aware that you are deeding it to the Content Commons under the Creative Commons Attribution License. This means that other people can put your module into their own courses, reuse it in other contexts, and even sell it, so long as they attribute you as the author. Through this open approach to intellectual property, Connexions hopes to encourage collaboration, foster education, and contribute to the growth of knowledge; we also hope that authors can build their reputations and enjoy the act of authorship. For more on the legal nitty-gritty, see Connexions’ IP (Legal) FAQ.

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A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

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Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

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