Monday, February 28, 2011

Forget the Moto try Kizoa

Since Animoto first came to the forefront as the application of choice to create online slideshows backed by music quickly and easily, I was not impressed.  Yes, you read that right.  While everyone was all excited and happy about how easy the process was.  It always bothered me, Animoto is great for creating a quick slideshow of photos, but there is no creativity in the process.  Typically, you have no control over the final product (at least in the free version).  Of course, if you pony up and pay the $50-250 a year you get a bit more control.  However, even then it is not a digital storytelling tool.  I agree with most of the sentiment in this fantastic post by Jon Orech. 

And then today it really came to light when this Tweet from when of my favorite people in my PLN Taml17 came across my TweetDeck:
"Does anyone know if there is a way to completely reverse the order of images in an @Animoto vid?"

For me, it's the Ning thing all over again.  Animoto does not give you control unless you pay for it and therefore the content is trapped in it's final state. For Jon it's all about the lack of Digital Storytelling (but I think even tonight's utility will impress Jon, because I think it can also fill the DS role.)

All that being said - I'm never one to not offer an alternative.  Hence, tonight's utility is: Kizoa.  It works a lot like Animoto - you upload your photos from your desktop (or even via a webcam) and then drag them to a timeline (add transitions if you like) and even add a soundtrack; either from their large selection or upload your own.  When your show is done, you have a multitude of ways to share the file, including embed code (see my trip through Diagon Alley at Islands of Adventure in Orlando).

The nice thing about Kizoa is if I want to make changes to the slideshow I can at any time.  You are in control of YOUR content. I can even select if I want others to be able to share my show. They also give you up to a 1 Gb of space for all your photos and movie files. What will you create with Kizoa?

*Of course they also have a premium version you can pay for which will give you even more bells and whistles including unlimited storage.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Time for some Goalst!

With the ICE conference quickly fading into the rear view mirror.  It's time for me to start reorganizing and prioritizing my life (at least for the next few months). So, I have prioritized some of my Goals with the online application: Goalst.  Basically, Goalst is an online to do list grounded within deadlines you set for yourself.  I've messed around with a number of online to do lists. In fact, I've created lists reminding me to check my lists if you can believe that!  But this one is different.  It adds accountability, by making the goals public and sharing with the world the deadline date.  While it's not collaborative, it does make you aware that the world could be watching. Here's my list for the next 123 days!  Once I check something off, it gets added to the completed section. Looks like I have a lot to do in the next few months.
I can see this being used in an educational setting as well for those collaborative group projects. While you can't complete others tasks, if everyone follows each (one of the features of Goalst) other within the group they'll be able to make sure things are getting done.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Interviewing With Twitter

One of the applications that seemed to really impress people during my session Twitter: Taking It to the Tweet at ICE this year was an application called Tweeterview. What amazed me was not only the fact that people tweeted about it from the session, but the number of times that it was retweeted by folks not even at the conference!  I saw at least a half dozen retweets.  This third party application works in conjunction with Twitter and allows you to conduct interviews using your Twitter account.  It really is a powerful tool.  Basically you sign up for a free Tweeterview account and then invite anyone with a Twitter account to be interviewed.  Once the interview is scheduled the interview itself happens with tweeterview and each question and answer are sent across the public timeline.  The interview that is stored at Tweeterview is smart enough to atttach answers that go beyond the 140 character limit, making the interview read cohesively.  I hope this post has made some sense - I'm writing it in a room where an XBox Kinect party is currently happening, but didn't want to take a chance on missing another post.  Go check out Tweeterview and let me know what you think!

This just in - Tweeterview now allows for private off the record interviews! Yeah! Educators  and their students who don't want  interviews going out to the public timeline can now wall the garden and protect the updates! Way to go Tweeterview!

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Little Birdy Told Me

A few posts ago I told you about an amazing project where students were reading stories online.  I've also told you about Storybird and Storyjumper where students can make their own books online.  Well, tonight I want to tell you about a hybrid utility I just discovered LittleBirdTales.  I met a number of fantastic elementary teachers at the ICE conference this year and this post is specifically for them.  I sat through a session about creating videos with Windows Movie Maker for Kindergarten classes. (mostly because it was just before my session), but the LittleBirdTales blows that idea away?  Why?  Because it's in "the cloud" (on the Internet) for one.  But it also allows students to upload images they have either photographed or drawn and upload them to the Internet and then NARRATE them!  Yes you read that correctly.  Your students can upload their own work and narrate them all within the application LittleBirdTales.  Talk about differentiated learning.  It pulls your auditory and visual learners directly into these projects.  Of course you can help them with the process as well - check out this wonderful example from Mrs. Snethen's Class.  LittleBirdTales goes beyond podcasting or vodcasting and adds to the creative process.  I hope this service continues to remain free because it adds a new medium to digital storytelling!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Better late than never

I got home from the ICE conference and literally collapsed. Forgive me, 5 hours sleep in 2 day quickly reminded me I wasn't in college anymore and haven't been in some time. But I digress. I'm going to throw today's utility out there. It's more of a website that is used as a web 2.0 utility. I learned about it during Jon Orech session. I'll make sure you have access to his info in a future post. The site he referred to was And what he showed was the ability to search their database for already existing rubrics. So, now I have 3 posts to flush out this weekend. Thanks for bearing with me this week.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wix your way to web pages.#edtech

A very busy day at ICE. So, this will be another quick post that I will flush out later. If you're looking for a cleaner way to create Glogs, try the alternative Wix let's you build flash based web pages that look a lot like a Glog, but the end result ends up looking a lot more professional. I promise tomorrow I will expand on Yesterday and Today's posts. Phew, made it with 7 minutes to spare.

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In the stress of prepping for the conference. I forgot hit Publish last night. In the interest of time, Here's what should have been yesterday's utility. is a great utility that converts text to speechn I'll try to make that link live later today and expand a little I'd there's time. But at least I got it published before most of you woke up. Does that mean it's still technically yesterday?

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Monday, February 21, 2011

Chatango - A Backchanel Alternative!

This should be a cause for celebration - It's my 100th blog post here at - granted over half of those have been in the last month.  But I must state an unequivocal Yippe! OK, with that out of the way let's talk about today's utility: Chantango!  Although, it should be called lifesaver!  I was all set to use CoverItLive for my backchannel at ICE this week.

The Backstory (no pun intended)
Unfortunately, I had relied on the kindness of strangers and believed that CoverItLive could be used effectively as a backchannel.  Well, I'm not seeing it.  It's better for live blogging - Which I may mess around with during my sessions at ICE, but certainly not while I'm presenting.  So, no problem, I'd just use the old reliable stand by Chatzy.  But they have changed their structure to only allow 10 people in the room in the FREE version.  And as much as I love my session attendees, I was not about to pay $9.95 for the trial 14 day version (hey folks at Chatzy - A Trial should be free). Yesh!
So, I started scrambling and asked my PLN for help on Twitter.  Thanks to @Taml17 who immediately responded with TodaysMeet another great alternative - Unfortunately, I wanted to embed the backchannel into a weebly site and weebly wasn't going to play nice with TodaysMeet. See folks even geeks can struggle with integrating technology.

The Story
What is a backchannel but a chat room masked under a fancy title.  I began searching for a free embeddable chatroom that would accommodate more than 10 or 30 people and discovered Chatango.  Never having used it I set up a chat room (took about 3 minutes) and grabbed the embed code for the Weebly page.  Then sent out another call for help to get some assistance on testing it.  To my rescue came the PLN.  I recognized one person who came in almost immediately @MichelleRussell. Thank You! I think this is going to work great!

What's nice about Chatango, is that you can embed the code into other Blogs, Wikis and Websites.  You can also assign moderators and let people post anonymously.  There are a number of ways to customize the layout.  Additionally, they have the ability to use provate one-to-one messaging and a number of other features I will need to explore later.

If you want to see Chatango being used effectively please attend  "Tools Not Toys: A New Look at the Digital Playground" in the Coral Room at 10:45 Wednesday during Session 2 of ICE.  Hope to see you there!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Writer's Block Got You Down?

My mind is starting to get so focused on my sessions for next week that the unthinkable has happened.  Only 2 months into this 365 project - I have stumbled upon writer's block.  There are literally hundreds of apps running through my head, but I'm having a hard time finding an application I want to suggest tonight. So what does any good web 2.0 head do to overcome writer's block?  Look for an app to help with it of course!  Sure enough after about a half hour of searching I came across Skribit.  If you look off to the right of the text you are reading you may notice a new feature of  It's the suggestion box!  And that marvelous little addition is provided by some code Skribit provides blog authors to ask their reader's for suggestions.  What a novell idea?! So, if you have an app that you think absolutely must be added to this project, please feel free to click the suggestion box and tell me about it.  I'll look into it and if I think it's worthy of review will add it to the lineup.  But be forewarned, if I don't see an educational application for it - I may just be contacting you to write a guest post explaining yourself! :-)
Well, I fullfilled my duty for tonight.  I absolutely love Ed Tech conference season, but must admit I'll be glad when ICE is done and it becomes one less thing on my overflowing plate.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What's Tonight's Topic?

Tonight's post would not have been possible without Shannon Miller's (@shannonmmiller) tweet this morning.  That's how I discovered Topicmarks.  I haven't had a lot of time to examine the application, but from what I can see it looks extremely promising.  You can upload a file, paste text into a box to upload or point Topicmarks at a URL.  Then in justr a few minutes you have a synopsis of all the information in the document, pasted document or web site.  It's a great way to get a Cliff Notes type version of longer documents.  It breaks the information down in a number of ways including a Bullet like overview of the information, a more detailed summary, a tagcloud made from the data, an index of those words and where they can be found among the various segmented chucnks of information and finally a Properties tab breaking down the key information about the data (how many words, sentences, etc...)  There's a lot more to the utility than this but hopefully I've intrigued you enough to look at Topicmarks.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Tracking Tweets

I'm coping out tonight.  It's late, I'm sick and I'm still prepping for ICE.  So I'm going to write about a tool that you'll here me mention in "Twitter: Taking It To The Tweet" but don't actually demonstrate.  Ever wonder what people are talking about in your neighborhood?  You can find out with NearbyTweets.  Whether you have a Twitter account or not you can watch Twitter streams coming from any geographic location in the world.  Additionally you can break down that feed even further with keywords.  It's a great way to get first hand accounts of what's happening from the sources of world events. That's all I've got for tonight.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Whose Reading My Blog? How Do I Find Out?

If you were in my session "Untangling the Web" at FETC this year, you heard me talk about the online search engine/demographic builder Quantcast.  This application allows you to get an at a glance look at whose visiting certain websites.  In my example I use the Chicago Sun Times which usually gets between 1.5 and 3 million visitors a month and go on to show the impressive part of Quantcast which is that they are able to build out demographics about the readership by analyzing the browsing history of visitors to the site (How is far too detailed for this post; but you can read about it here).  Well, when I searched my own blog, I was discovering that it was unable to even estimate my blogs demographics because I didn't get enough hits without registering and adding their code to my site.  After signing up, adding the code and waiting about a week.  I am now returning results.  And while they are not as impressive as the suntimes, I will now be able to quantify and analyze my readership and start tweaking my blog to meet it's target audience.  Wether you want to see if a site is worth looking at for research or just want to know who your own readership is Quantcast is a very powerful tool.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Gather Around for Today's Post

As I continue to tweak my "Tools Not Toys" session for ICE, I'm realizing that some of the utilities I had planned to share don't quite fit the categories I had them in.  One of the possible subjects that will arise during the session is about Social Aggregation.  I hate to say this but I'm afraid that RSS (Real Simple Syndication) is reaching the end of it's life cycle.  Social Aggregation is stepping up to take it's place.  One site that intrigues me in this respect is Gather.  And while I had to pull it from my ICE presentation it warrants a quick look here.  According to their About Page "Gather is the place where millions and millions of people come for fresh perspective on what's happening now. Gather members can share their own views and join in conversation with others who share their interests."  And from what I can see that's exactly what the site does.  It allows authors and bloggers to write about various subject matter that is then added to a categorized database of topics.  When you find an author that interests you, you can follow them as you would on any social networking site.  Then, when they create new content, you are informed of it much the same way you would be on Facebook or Twitter.  The difference is instead of reading a quick post you can read their full article.  It's an interesting idea that I will need to explore more when I have some time.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Let Your Twitter Voice Be Heard

I'm presenting on Twitter next week at ICE and as I started going through my standard presentations (which has been updated a bit over the last year to reflect the "New Twitter" and has some additional 3rd party apps) I realized that one of the applictaions I like to show has been taken off line and merged into another application - typical.  But fortunately, there are a ton of alternatoves out there.  So, goodbye and hello It works almost the same way as my old standby.  Basically, you can upload or record audio using flash (sorry IPAD users) using your Twitter account.  Once the audio is recorded you have 100 characters to Tweet about it and then a link is added to your update taking your followers back to the audio file.  Great way to share a new song you've written as a musician or create a podcast without having to worry about a host.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Social Citation

How often do you provide accurate citations to your blog or presentations? I didn't think so.  I'm hoping you give proper citations in research papers.  A utility that can help you with the process is CiteULike.  What I like about the site is that you can search their database to build a citation library.  Much like you can do with social bookmarking.  Additionally, like social bookmarking others can see your selection.  This way you are able to make contacts who are interested in similar research.  You can also create groups, so if your students are working on a project collaboratively, the can post all of their information to the group.  There is also a browser button which can help you properly cite information out of articles and papers from a large list of supported cites from across the web.  So, if you're all about the research - check out CiteULike

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Video Knowledge Can Be Powerful

You've heard of Youtube and may even know of their edu section.  You've likely heard of TED which is full of some of the greatest talks of all times.  But have you heard of lectr? I didn't think so.This site is filled with lectures from professors and teachers at some of the best Universities and Schools in the world.  Whether your looking for information on history, physics, anatomy or any other educational subject, you're likely to find something of interest.  Right now they only have about 300 videos, but they seem to be growing and encourage you to upload your own.  Now, the special part? It was created and is curated by Eugene O'Donald an 18 year old student currently passing his Abitur (general qualification for university entrance) equivalent with a High school degree.  Now that's a passion for learning.  Help him out and upload your lectures and "become a online teacher to help your students, friends and people across the globe."

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Make Music Online

I know I've reviewed a similar site and hope this actually isn't a repeat.  But I was absolutely blown away today by information I found at JamStudio today. This has always been one of my favorite applications because it allows you to use different instraments to make awesome music online as long as you know how chords go together (and even if you don't).  They recently began charging to download your final product as an .mp3, which was a major disappointment.  However, here's the news that blew my mind.  If you scroll down, you can click on the link "in the classroom" and find out all about how to apply for a grant that will give you free access to their premium services.  Now, I can whole heartedly recommend you check out JamStudio

Friday, February 11, 2011

A New King of Semantic Search?

There's a new search engine out there that looks like it could quickly become the king of semantic search. Kngine is definitely a Web 3.0 search engine.  While the power of this search engine lies in it's many tweaks (too numerous to list her), the layout of the initial results is what is extremely intriguing.  It works a lot like Wolfram Alpha in the way it lays out the initial results. While they don't explain where they get the info that goes into the results, it's a great starting point for searches.  They also have"tabs" with related topics to help you compare results.  Of course, they also show your typical search results sending you to various websites.  The interesting thing is how reliable the results seem to be.  Check out Kngine and leave a comment telling me what you think.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Splitting Headache that Needs a Magnet

I feel like I'm cheating a bit tonight because I've only spent a few minutes reviewing the utility I'm about to share tonight, but I'm fighting a blinding migraine so forgive me. Tonight I want to tell you about Headmagnet.  Basically, it's a study assist program that allows you to build your own quizzes and flashcards online.  There are also a number of publicly available pre-constructed Study Lists.  It's worth a look and I apologize that it's not a more in-depth review.  I'm going to duck under the sheets and try to obliterate this migraine now.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Unshorten That TinyUrl

It's happened to you before.  Someone you follow on Twitter "posts" a link to a website and in order to meet that 140 character limit, they shortened the address with tinyurl, or a myriad of other utilities.  And then when you click said link it takes you to a questionable website because their account was hacked.  Or even worse your school has blocked access to the shortened address.  Ever wonder what's really behind that short url?  Well, now you can find out with a utility called Unshorten.  Simply paste in the "short" url in question and in a few seconds after hitting the unshorten button, you will see the link in all it's glory.  Now you can determine if you are still interested in that link and determine if you want to visit the site.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Edit Video in the Cloud

I was working on a screencast tutorial today and was using Jaycut to complete the production.  Often I suggest that you not try to edit screencasts.  However, in my office there is a lot of ambient noise coming from other cubicles.  So, I created the sceencast and uploaded the video to Jaycut and added the voice over later in a much quieter environment.  Of course this program is not just for editing screencasts, you can also edit videos you upload or even create the video live with a webcam.  It works a lot like Windows Movie Maker but in the cloud so you always have access to your files.  Try it out and let me know what you think.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Who Owns That Website

If you missed my session at #FETC, you missed me talking about my favorite whois lookup tool online.  A Whois lookup allows you to get a great deal of information about who maintains a website.  Including date created, date last updated and when the site expires.  Additionally you can typically find the registrant's name organization, address, phone number and a whole lot of other valuable information.  It helps you really determine what kind of information is on a site simply by looking at who owns it.  While there are a number of different whois lookup utilities online, I prefer to use the one provided by  Internic since they were the original governing body over domain name registration.  So they are today's utility.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Visualize This

Occasionally, I am going to do this during the project and introduce you to a database full of amazing tools.  Tonight I want to share VisualComplexity with you.  Basically it is a search engine that can help you find additional tools to assis you with visualizatons.  We all know visual learners who can benefit from seeing the relationships between subjects or distances between cities.  Some of the sites (which are neatly categorized via tag) within VisualComplexity are simply ways of showing very specific information that you have no way of changing.  However, others allow you to manipulate the data.  It's worth looking at and there are almost 750 sites listed within it's database for tools you can use.  OK, so I somewhat cheated today....but it is Superbowl Sunday after all.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Weebles Wobble Websites

Boy howdy, did I ever make a difficult 365 project.  Not because it's difficult to come up with 365 great utilities, but more due to the fact that it's hard to find the time to make sure I post.  Today I'm going to share a resource with you that I've been using (albiet sparingly) since 2009.  It's called Weebly.  Leslie Fisher mentioned it at #FETC during some of her sessions.  And if Leslie thinks it's a good product - it validates it's worth to me!  Weebly is somewhat of a blog and webpage hybrid.  Using a drag and drop interface it's extremely easy to get started.  I use Weebly for my log blogging at conferences to take notes.  If your interested in an example, check out This is where I take notes on various sessions I have attended over the years.  It works ok for live blogging (just make sure you're manually and continously updating the page).   Weebly is simply a drop dead easy way to create an online web presence.  No way you can "fall down" with this one!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Oops, I Did It Again

#FAIL #2
You'll need to cut me some slack this week.  I'm so busy learning, I just haven't had the proper time to put into this project.  Yesterday, I had the absolute most amazing conversation with Meg Ormiston (look at me name dropping, tsk, tsk).  It wasn't just two ed tech geeks sharing tools but a real conversation about the real life triumphs and challenges we face everyday. But I digress and that's probably not what you are here.  You want that utility right?  We'll if you were at FETC this year you heard presenters and Twitter users alike say Twitter is the perfect way to build your PLN.  But if you listened carefully you also heard - but my school blocks Twitter! First of all ARRRGH! (wow, it's early in the morning) And second of all, look for alternatives.  A number of filters will automatically block all social networking sites.  But did you know most of them allow exceptions? This is why you need to make friends with your network team! They can open up Twitter from that all in-composing list.  This is known as whitelisting (throw that at them - they like geek speak)!
If they can't here's today's Twitter alternative -
Is it as powerful or dynamic as Twitter? Absolutely not! Is it free like Twitter? Yes and No. I hear you asking why? What's the point? First, It can be hosted behind your firewall (there's another of those geek speak vocabulary words). This makes it a walled garden micro-community that only those you want to have access get. THIS IS NOT THE POINT OF TWITTER! But it gets your schools feet wet.  It eases fear and eventually may lead to an unblocking of what you really want Twitter.
Second, it looks like it takes some work to get installed on an intranet.  It probably is easier just to whitelist Twitter, and sometimes your network team will fold to your original request simply to save time.  Don't ever come to the table empty handed.  When you provide alternatives to the network team, you may just may get what you originally asked for.  Isn't politics fun?

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tweedledee, Tweedledum and Twiddla?

Going to keep yet another post short but sweet (I hope) . I enjoy attending Elluminate sessions. However, I know I will never host my own namely due to price.  So, tonight I want to share a free alternative with you that I am considering using for my session at ICE in February.  It's called Twiddla.  I have yet to use this tool for a collaborative development project but am hoping it will come in handy for my session "Tools Not Toys".  According to Twiddla: "We like to think Twiddla doesn't need a whole lot of introduction and walkthrough. We could put together a screencast, or you could make your own. Just jump into a new meeting and click around - "self-explanatory" is our middle name. Twiddla Self-Explanatory Awesome."  I am hoping someone out there has used this tool effectively and can share in the comments section their experience.  It looks like it provide many similar features to Elluminate (although not quite as many bells and whistles) and if you go to there page you may notice they have a 30 day trial and after that the request that you switch to a paid model starting at $14 a month.  But if you scroll all the way to the bottom you'll notice that if your an educator you can get a Pro version for free.  I think it's worth a shot, but would like to hear from you!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Backchanneling Grows Up

OK, tonight I'm going to cheat and I promise I won't do this often.  But, it's been a long day at FETC and I need some sleep before my presentation in the morning.  During today's "shootout" Leslie Fisher introduced the audience to very nice backchanneling tool.  I don't know how I've missed it in my cloud journeys but it's apparently been around for awhile:  Seems like a very impressive tool (although I haven't had much time to research it - so I won't attempt to even describe it).  Check it out and let me know what you think! And there is my cheat for the day.
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