eMargin on Tour (Part 2)

Recently, we’ve given further presentations on different aspects of eMargin, as we continue to develop the tool for new audiences.

On November 23, we were invited to present eMargin at a workshop on Corpora at the University of Nottingham. This workshop was part of the AHRC-funded Hidden Collections series, designed to introduce doctoral researchers to methods and approaches in the broad field of archives, collections and datasets.

A few weeks later, on December 6, we presented eMargin at Lancaster University in the UCREL Corpus Research Seminar series. Researchers at Lancaster have been using eMargin in their ESRC-funded Metaphor in End of Life Care (MELC) project. The XML-export option in our tool has proved particularly useful in this project and we’re excited to be working with Lancaster in developing eMargin for their particular task.

You can find previous eMargin presentations on Slideshare.

XML Export

eMargin can be used to code elements of texts in a precise manner, especially by using tags to categorise annotations. You may then wish to use those codings in other tools. To facilitate this we have added a XML export feature to eMargin.

In the Admin section of each Text you’ll now find an Export Text option. You can choose which annotation features you would like to export (the text, comments, tags, permalinks or everything). The XML will then be generated. The format is a small twist on TEI, in the namespace http://emargin.bcu.ac.uk/tei.

Deleting Texts and Groups

A regularly requested feature for eMargin is the ability to delete a text or group. We’ve now updated the tool to enable this. Go to the ‘Text Admin’ page of a text you own and you’ll see a ‘Delete Text’ link in the left-hand menu. You’ll be asked if you’re sure before anything happens. Please be careful as you will also delete all annotations, comments, tags and colour information associated with the text.

Refinements to Groups and Touch-screen Highlighting

In eMargin groups are used to control who can access a text. Users may be members of multiple groups and may wish to limit the annotations displayed in a text to just one of them. Now, you can do just that:

The above section can be found in the sidebar when viewing a text. Click the ‘Switch’ button to open up a list of your groups to choose from, or choose ‘Any Group’. The displayed highlights will then be limited to that group. Also, when filtering the annotations by colour, tag or other search options, only those from within the group will be displayed.

This group setting is also set when a user accesses a group page. This is useful when you have separate groups of students, who will see only their own group’s annotations when they subsequently access a text.

We’ve also made some improvements to highlighting on touch-screen devices. Users may drag over the text with their finger tip to highlight words and phrases, just as they would with a mouse. Similarly you can drag open annotations around using their title bars. To scroll the page just touch in the white space elsewhere. Many touch-screen devices will be recognised automatically, but you can also change between selection methods using the Preferences button in the sidebar:

Recent changes

Just a quick update to tell you about the recent changes we’ve made to eMargin.

 Firstly, we’ve added a ‘Show only my annotations’ button so you can quickly hide everything other than the annotations or comments that you have written.

 Secondly, in the texts and on pages where your texts are listed, you’ll see a little notification circle telling you if there have been any updates to the text since you last viewed it.

We’re always taking suggestions for new features and if you’d like to add yours then either use our feedback form or comment on this post.

eMargin on Tour

This week we’ve presented eMargin at two Higher Education Academy (HEA) events, as we continue our dissemination programme and attract new users across disciplines. The first event was the 8th Annual HEA Conference at the University of Manchester, from July 3-4. You can download a PDF version of our eMargin poster from the conference below.

eMargin Poster

The second event was an HEA workshop hosted by the University of Leicester on July 5. This workshop reported on the findings of the #tagginganna project carried out by the Leicester team, which examined the social annotation of texts online to support seminar discussions at university.

We had already worked with Leicester on a pilot project, testing an early version of eMargin in English seminars there. Feedback from Leicester students was of great benefit to us in designing the full version of eMargin and in securing JISC funding, so we were very pleased to be invited back to talk about the latest developments in our project and to hear more about their work. Our presentation from the workshop is available on SlideShare. You can also read more about the event on the Leicester Peer – 2.0 – Peer Learning Enhancement blog.

Both events were invaluable in helping us to consider different perspectives on e-learning in general and on social annotation in particular, and on the features which may be useful in other disciplines. Expect further developments to eMargin in the coming months!

Recent Presentations

In recent weeks we’ve attended the BAAL Discotech and ICAME 33 conferences to give presentations about eMargin. Given that our previously available presentations are a bit out of date, I’ve put together the essential elements of the presentations we gave at those two events.

We we’re very encouraged by the reception of eMargin at both events and will keep developing the tool for use by linguistic researchers (well, that’s what we are after all) as well students and teachers in many other text-based disciplines.

No Longer an Ugly Duckling

You may have noticed that the interface to eMargin has changed recently. We thought it about time we replaced the functional style of the initial version with something cleaner and generally prettier. We believe these changes will have a positive effect on the usability of eMargin too. Navigation should be simpler and annotations should be easier to read. Of course, we welcome your thoughts on our changes so please let us know what you think.

The recent changes are not solely cosmetic though, with additions to the back-end designed to enable some features which we’ll be launching soon. These include integration with VLEs, more detailed histories, named layers of annotation and other text analysis tools. Watch this space…

Coming Soon: Integration with VLEs

We’ve just secured further funding from JISC under the Embedding Benefits scheme which will allow us to develop eMargin further over the next year. In this next phase, we’ll be focussing on closer integration with Virtual Learning Environments (VLEs) such as Moodle and Blackboard Learn. This will allow users to access eMargin directly from the VLE without having to log-in separately, and will also make it much easier for teachers to manage class groups.

This integration will be achieved through use of the Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) specification published by the IMS Global Learning Consortium and supported by all major VLE providers. As part of our work, we’ll be developing a new Java LTI class library which will be reusable by other software developers, allowing their tools to benefit from closer integration with VLEs too.

More details coming soon!

Text Upload

We’ve recently added some features to the eMargin text uploading system. When you go to the Upload Text page you’ll be given the option of:

  • Uploading a file from your computer. Just choose the file in the Open File window and upload.
  • Fetching a text from a web page. Enter the URL of the page and eMargin will fetch it and convert it ready for annotation.
  • Copying and Pasting into a text area, just like before.

Your upload will be presented to you before saving in case any alterations are necessary, or you want to add any additional information.

This is made possible by the absolutely marvellous Apache Tika project. It means you can upload just about any file that contains text (e.g. Microsoft Office files, OpenOffice files, PDF, RTF and HTML) and it will be converted to text for eMargin to store and enable annotation. Extra information such as the title and author of the text will also be extracted when possible.

We hope these options will make it even easier to get started. Feel free to give us your feedback about this and any other eMargin features.