Monday, January 31, 2011

Sing Your Search

I usually pride myself on sharing Tools NOT Toys, as you'll discover if you attend one of my ICE sessions next month with a similar name.  But tonight, I'm just amazed by what seems like a great utility: Midomi I'm going to need some music teachers to explore it and help me decide. Unfortunately, I'm having trouble signing up for an account (it could be my hotels wifi) - so it's hard to give a real first hand account.  But from what I understand Midomi utilizes some of the power of SoundHound to explore music.  Without even having an account you can start singing your favorite tune and Midomi will find either the original or members versions of that song.  You're using your voice to search!  And I can't stop doing it.  I'm amazed and hypnotized by it's power and possibilities.  Anyone with a Midomi account want to expound upon this post?

Greetings from 30,000 feet

OK, count it as a #fail if you must, I missed yesterday's post.  I was too busy readying myself for FETC this week in beautiful Orlando.  But, I promise I will double post today to make up for it.

I never thought I would be blogging from 30,000 ft but here I am cramped in like a sardine barely able to type, but still able to blog thanks to GoGo Inflight Internet.  Unlike every other tool I plan on sharing during this project GoGo is far from free or even cheap.  $9.95 for a 2 and a half hour flight.  But just think how far we've come in a few short years.  We are able to access information  practically anywhere, when just a few years back we were asked to turn off all electronic devices in flight. By the Way GoGo also allows for access to the internet on your smart device (IOS or Android), but I believe that is a separate charge. I've been answering helpdesk tickets and emails already this morning and it's made the first hour of the trip fly by.  The connection seems stable and reliable.  In fact they have a little widget that shares status information and fun facts with you.  I thought it was interesting enough to share:
Unfortunately, I didn't grab the snapshot claiming that the record for a continuous wifi connection was something like 237 miles during which the user transferred 3.7 Mb of data and to be honest I'm not sure if that is impressive or not.   Oh well, hopefully we don't meet any of those Whopper Swans.

From what I've learned about GoGo, it works based on a series of towers owned by AirCell.  I know they work in conjunction with American Airlines, but also offer wifi service to other companies.  Be sure to check your flight next time you book to make sure they can get you connected at 30,000 feet.  Well, time to catch my inflight movie on Netflix! I'll let you know how that goes.  Now where's my stewardess with that $20 bag of popcorn?!

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Spreading Jelly Across the Web

Every been away from your desktop, where you have Jing installed and need to create a quick screencast?  Well, there are a number of alternatives to the TechSmith software.  One happens to be known as ScreenJelly.  It's a screencapture software in the cloud.  No download required.  You don't even need to register (if you don't want) because you can log in with your Facebook or Twitter account if you wish.  They give you 3 minutes of record time and the process works a lot like Jing.  When your screencast is complete you can send it out to the world via Twitter, Facebook, EMail or simply select share to be provided the link.  Additionally, you don't have to worry about where that file is because it is securely stored at ScreenJelly.  You can also mark your screencast as private if you like, but what fun is that?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Friday Night Quick Post

It's Friday night and it's been a long week, so I'm making this an extremely quick post.   The other day a question was asked about a safe search engine for elementary education.  My answer was Quinturakids.  It's the junior version of Quintura.  I've put it through the paces and have been unable to come up with any questionable results.  What I like about this site is taht you can conduct your basic search; but, you can also start with one of five categories: Hostory, Music, Animal, "Computers, Games and Online", and "Sport and Recreation".  Each category has a tag cloud associated with it.  What's great is that the student can click on a word in the tag cloud and it enhances their search.  That tag cloud changes with each new word and of course the search results become more specific.  It's a great way for students to start to understand the concepts behind effective reseach and get a feel for what good information looks like online.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Yesterday I Told My Story - Today Tell Yours

Wow! I cannot believe what I stumbled upon today.  If you are an elementary teacher pay attention to today's post.  You probably have heard of Storybird, but I bet you aren't familiar with StoryJumper. I know I wasn't until tonight!  This Web 2.0 utility like Storybird allows you to write a book online. Unlike Storybird, StoryJumper it does not provide the gorgeous artwork to inspire you.  Instead the provide you with an extremly large collection of clipart that enhances the creative process.  Additionally, and this is the part that I think is a marked improvement - You can upload your own images to StoryJumper!!  Imagine taking a picture of your classroom as a backdrop for your characters in your story!  StoryJumper is free to use, however, like Storybird you can opt to choose a hardcopy edition.  Finally (and remember I just discovered this site tonight - so there may be a lot more you can do), there is an educational version! Woot! And it provides a walled garden for your students work which "is designed to...
  • give teachers an interface to manage and review students' work.
  • enable kids to share stories between the classroom and home.
  • maintain strict privacy controls over student information.
  • enable educational discounts when ordering books."
Amazing!  I can't wait to explore Storyjumper more and discover how much it has to offer!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A brief message About.Me

OK, I admit it I've been watching American Idol since Season 1.  And I was a big Kelly Clarkson fan...of couse they've long since jumped the shark...but enough about Idol.  What about today's utility.  Well, by now you know that I am also an extreme Web 2.0 head.  I'm always signing up for something to review.  But how do you find me and connect in Cyberspace.  Sure you could do a Google search for the ID I use most frequently: JGubbins207 and that would turn up some great results - but not necessarily the sites that I use most frequently. Well, about.me is about to change all that. This website very simply allows you to build a web presence profile based on the most popular social networking sites (i.e., Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Linked.in just to name a few).  You can also add links to other sites that are not in their database and add a very basic blurb about yourself.  I'm in the process of working on mine now and you can find out more about.me at about.me/jgubbins207

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

News You Can Use #edtech

This is going to be a fairly quick post.  Today a new mashup was flying through my PLN on Twitter.  Everyone was all excited about NewsPaperMap and while it is cool, I'm not overly impressed.  Namely because I've been using one of the tools in the mashup for some time.  It's known as PressDisplay.  What is great about PressDisplay is that it gives you access to over 1700 newspapers from 92 countries in 48 languages that are fully searchable without even needing to sign up for an account.  The great thing is that you not only have access to the most recent newspapers but also to more archival issues.  They seem to use an ITunes type system where you can buy an entire back issue of a paper from their database for as little as $0.99.  I like that NewPaperMap has made this application "pretty" but a lot of the power behind it comes from PressDisplay.

Monday, January 24, 2011

A Video is Worth a Thousand Words

Today's utility isn't so much about a tool as it is the application, as we see with Smories. Lisa Swerling & Ralph Lazar explain: "Our kids have always loved reading to each other and are transfixed when other children read them stories. They are also obsessed with the internet and will make their way to youtube any time they get their hands on a computer." So they decided to create Smories - an website allowing children to record themselves reading stories and publish online for other children to view.  Using Flowplayer (which is technicaly not a web 2.0 utility since you have to download it to create embedable content) they transform submissions into online visual stories with accompanying subtitles so children can not only listen to the stories but can read along as well! Brilliant!  They also were providing cash rewards to the best stories submitted monthly (sometimes as much as $1500 - not that any of us are in this for the money).  Not sure who the generous benefactor of these prizes was but I'm sure it encouraged a lot of students to submit their videos.  Unfortunately, Smories has closed any new submissions at this time, but it's still a site worthy of mention and viewing.  I have to thank Patrick Black for sharing this via Twitter and writing about it on his blog.  Just goes to show what thinking outside the box using the web can do!
One suggestion for the author's of this site.  If you were to use Viddler for the video submsiions the listening audience could add feedback to the videos providing kudos to the readers for their fantastic work.  There, I squeezed in an actual Web 2.0 utility. Phew...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Convert and Compare Documents Online Quick and Easy

I was going to share a site that I had discovered some years ago that allowed you to compare to verions of a file and make notations.  It was called Textflow.  Unfortunately, they appear to have come out of beta testing and while the API appears to still be available if you have the technical skills, they no longer have a free version of th utility online.  This left me scrambling to find something similar and in my research I stumbled upon CometDocs.  This online utility claims that you can compare to files online, unfortunately I haven't figured out quite how that feature works.  But what is great about CometDocs is the ability to convert PDF files to Documents, HTML, Text, JPGS, GIFS and a host of other file types.  You can also work in reverse, converting of any of these types to PDFs - not as impressive as a number of a tools will do this).  Simply upload you PDF and seleect the convert option. You will be asked for your e-mail address so they can send you the final result.  However, if you sign up for a free account, you can download your files directly fronm the file manager.  The concversion when done this way is quick, accurate and efficient.  How many times have you wished you could pull information from a PDF file directly into an editable DOC or HTML file?  Now you can with CometDocs!

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Semantic Visual Searching

One of my favorite topics these days is the idea of Web 3.0.  Yes, I know that we just got used to the second version of the web, but if you were lucky enough to have a discussion with Tim Berners-Lee he would be  sure to tell you that he's been working for years to have organizations post their data to the web for the world to tap.  And thus, the web is now full of non-linear data and we need a way to make interrelationships between this information possible. Part of this revolution will be the "semantic web" and with it will come a new way to search.  One search engine that has come along in the last few years that a lot of people claim is a semantic search engine is Spezify  While it's not quite there in terms of true natural language searching (it still seems more keyword focused), it does a wonderful job of pulling information from various sources on the web.  It's database appears to be constantly growing and currently includes Twitter, Facebook, Questia, Soundcloud, YouTube, Flickr and a host of other sites.  The results appear as visual snapshots (which will expand to the full version when clicked on) or with a "widget" allowing you to play media - all without leaving the confines of your search.  But what I didn't realize it could do (until today) is allow you to embed your results to your blog, wiki or webpage.  So, below you will find an example of a Spezify search for Abraham Lincoln Civil War.  The results can be rather sporadic until you become more granular with your keywords and fall apart more if you try to use "natural language" in your search.  So as a semantic search engine, Spezify is not quite there yet for me.  But for it's visual returns, I think it deserves a nod as one of the top search engines available today.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Blast Mail with Twitter

I really pushed it to the edge on the 21st day of this project.  I've spent the last few hours struggling with what to share today.  I always say when in doubt, go to what you know.  And for me that's Twitter.  You'll probably see a number of 3rd party twitter applications throughout this 365 project.  Today I want to tell you about Grouptweet. This utility allows you to perform what they call 'narrowcasting".  Instead of being public, Grouptweet encourages you to create a unique Twitter account and have your constituency follow that account.  Then whenever you send an update from that account, Grouptweet automagically sends it as a direct message to all of those individuals.  And if they have configured Twitter properly, they will receive the message as an e-mail. Great for booster clubs, PTOs and even emergency closing information.  Hopefully, tomorrow will not be such a struggle to come up with an app.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Phone in Your Podcast

At the Illinois Education Technology Conference, this year i presented on various types of "casting" media (podcasting, screencasting and streamcasting).  One of the tools I discovered this year that was included in the podcasting session was Ipadio.  This may be one of the top utilities I discovered in 2010.  Once again, I am only going to give you a brief description and let you investigate the site on your own.  I could probably write an entire series on this application.  In a nutshell, IPadio allows you to dial a toll free number from your cell phone or landline phone and record up to 60 minutes of audio - for free.  Yes, I said free (you only pay for the minutes on your cell phone or land line).  Of course if you are a corporate user , they do have a fee based subscription service.  But for the rest of us - free! Once you hang up, an mp3 file is automatically created and stored on your Ipadio homepage.  Additionally, they have partnered with Spinvox and will automatically covert your speech to text, again for free!  The ideas for this application are endless.  Additionally, they have Apps for the IPhone and Android platforms to enhance this utility even further.  Don't let this utility pass you by, you know you've got something to say, so start phlogging tonight!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

QR Codes Take Root

It seems like in the last year a realitively new phenomenon has been taking over our various media.  They are known as QR (Quick Response) codes and have been prevelant in Asia for some time.  From what I understand they have been using them on billboards and other media for some time.  But now it seems that everytime you turn around in the US you're looking at another black and white blob.  I've seen them in on billboards, in newspapers and magazines and all over the internet in various forms.  If your not familiar with what these codes are, I'll give you a brief description. Basically a code is designed to be photographed using an application on just about any smart phone these days (search your libraries for one that works for you) that will then transport you to a page online.  It may be a video, a profile, a presentation (whihc is what I use them for) or just more static information than can be handled in one place (such as a business card).  It really is nothing more than a quick way to get at valuable information.  The one below will take you directly to the English Wikipedia Mobile main page.

Why this post today and where's the utility? Well, someone I follow on Twitter (more specifically ) asked of her PLN: "how do you make those codes that a cellphone can scan? they're usually in a square shape w/black & white in the middle?"  Well, since I've been using them at the start of every presentation I give as a way for the audience to easily grab a link back to the presentation itself, I quickly responded with my favorite QR Code generator: Kaywa  this site will let you input a URL, text, a phone number or even an SMS and generate one of those black and white codes for you.  You can then download it and add it to printed documents, business cards, presentations or even web your blog or wiki.  I've even seen them being used as Avatars on twitter and other social networking platforms that will take you to that persons home page. Ingenious!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Improve Your Images in an Instant

Have you ever taken a picture in a hurry to capture a moment, only to find out it's color isn't quite right or out of focus? Of course you have. And even in the modern age when every camera seems to have an LCD screen to preview your images we can still find imperfections once offloaded.  Well as long as they are in JPEG format, you no longer need to be a Photoshop expert to "fix" your image.  Instead, you can now use Improve Your Images. Simply upload your JPEG or provide the link to it's online location and you are provided with a view of the image you uploaded and a corrected version to download.  Below is an example of one of my favorite photos taken from the Parthenon in Athens, Greece during the 2004 Olympics.  It's hard to tell from the small images, but the before was a bit out of focus and dull (perhaps due to the smog that day).  In less than 30 seconds with Improve Your Images I ended up with a much cleaner brighter image.  Plus, as a bonus I think it may have actually made me look a little thinner! See for yourself:
Before

After


Monday, January 17, 2011

When Utilities Repeat Themselves

Last year, many educators found themselves frustrated by the demise of free Nings.  We also saw Wordle go offline for a brief time.  Recently, I discovered Xtranormal, no longer had a free component.  Often when these kinds of things happen we go into panic mode.  What are we going to do without our favorite application.  Well, we can either pony up and pay for it or we can find a free alternative.  And that's what today's utility is all about. When the Ning crisis hit, I simply did a Google Search with the related modifier and that's how I found out about Socialgo, Grou.ps, Grouply and a host of other alternatives that I was able to blog and tweet about.  But that's not really a utility is it? In the meantime, I have discovered SimilarSites.  This is a very basic utility and I won't even pretend to know how it works. Basically, you simply type in a URL and SimilarSites  will come up with a number of alternatives that offer similar features to the site you plugged in.  This has been a life saver since more and more utilities are either selling out or going to a "pay for play" model.  If it's one thing I've learned in the last 13 years.  There is always more than one way to achieve your goals on the interwebs.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Make a Splash

As I said in yesterday's post, I'm going to try and shorten up these reviews.  Today's utility is Splashup.  This is an online editing application is perfect when you need something between the bare bones of Paint and the full force of Photoshop.  The beauty of this is is that it's all hosted in the cloud.  You can import photos from your desktop, webcam or even your favorite photo sharing site.  With Splashup, you can select areas of the picture to to change, use filters and even add layers.  But what I think makes this application unique from other online editing programs, is the fat that you can save them directly to including Splashup itself, Facebook, Flickr, Picasa, SmugMug, or Photobucket.  Splashup is great for that "on-the-fly" touch-up work.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

A Pearl of Wisdom

I almost blew it 15 days in and almost forgot to write a post tonight. I'm going to try and start writing less about each application I share and let you explore them and form your own opinions.  I never expected this project would be as big a challenge as it has been.
That being said I wanted to talk about a social bookmarking tool I've been using for some time.  You see delicious is reportedly on Yahoo's sunset list and may be on it's way out.  I must admit I saw this coming when you suddenly needed a Yahoo account to get a new delicious account.  So I started looking for alternatives.  Sure there's Digg, but I've never been a huge fan of this application. So, I landed at a site called Pearltrees.
What I like about Pearltrees, is that it is extremely visual.  You can create and link categories (or pearls) together and also create spokes as subcategories of each pearl. It looks something like this:
This application can do for way more than I can cover in one post.  So sign up for an account and start your tree.  But I do have two functions of Pearltrees with which I am most impressed.  First, when you open a link, it opens within Pearltrees, so you are never far from your related links.  Second, is how easy it is to search the trees of others and import them into your own.  Even though my tree is not extremely large yet, I have received numerous emails stating that people are adding my pearls to their trees.  Never got that with Delicious.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Highlight(er) of the week

It's been a long week, but I still wanted to make sure I got a post in for day 14 of this 365 project.  So today's will be about a simple yet effective utility, known as Awesome Highlighter   Back in college or when studying for network certification exams I often had difficulty focusing if I didn't find the information engaging.  My solution? Highlight practically every inch of the book or article.  Somehow, it connected me to the information.  Of course it made selling textbooks back at the end of the year, since they looked a rainbow.

Well, in the digital age, I still deal with similar issues.  If there are certain parts of a blog post or technical whitepaper that I want to remember I turn to Awesome Highlighter.  This simple tool allows you to enter a URL and then click highlight it.  This will take you to a modified version of the website and turn your mouse cursor into a highlighter.  When you select text it is now highlighted in the color of your choice.  Currently yellow, blue, green and purple are available.  You can also add sticky notes to the page.  When finished, you can click on done and are provided with an alternate URL that you can share of your markup.

Simple right? But powerful!  Now, if your sending your students on a webquest you can easily point them to the material you want them to read.  Or, if you want different teams to evaluate different information on a single page you can assign each team a color and show them what you want them to focus on.  See how quickly what looks like a to can become a tool.

Additionally, if you don't wish to go to Awesome Highlighter each time you want to mark up a page and are a firefox user they have a plug-in available.  Well, that's it for tonight.  Stay tuned because I'm hoping to have a nice surprise later this week that will help keep all these tools organized for ease of use.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

A New VYou

This is going to happen occasionally during this 365 project, I am about to share an untested app with you that i am extremely excited about but have yet had a chance to harness it's power.  I'm not sure how long VYou has been around but it seems like there is a ton of buzz with this new social app.  Earlier today this tweet from  was re-tweeted by @ShellTerrell.  Always interested in what people think are the best web tools, I clicked on the link.  There was Nik responding via video to questions he had been asked throughout the day.Almost in a timeline fashion.  It seemed that he was able to create a video response and then these videos would play in sequence answering all the questions.  I immediately signed up for an account to explore at a later time.  Way to busy this week to be looking at any new tools.  Well, when you sign up for VYou you are asked to select 3 categories in which you consider yourself an expert.  In my case it was Science & Technology, Internet / Blogging and Golf  These are all things I feel comfortable discussing and feel I could answer questions about (currently, I think the categories are fairly limiting - but they are new and still in Beta testing)  That was it, I haven't create any videos (your supposed to do this so when your page is idle something shows.  Right now mine is static.  Yet I have already been asked my opinions by other members of VYou: "What are your thoughts on the 'No Child Left Behind' act and is it benefitting the school systems where it's been implied?" and "Still a fan of Tiger Woods, even after all the drama?" You'll have to stay tuned for my video replies on my VYou page.
Sometimes a new tool is all about potential, and boy, do I see educational potential with VYou! What a great way to hold a review or tutoring session for your students.  They simply type their question and you can respond via video (and I bet even screencast).  Maybe your students are studying historical figures? Maybe each student is assigned one character to personify in the video and answer questions from his/her classmates.  These are just a few thoughts rolling around in my head.  What are yours?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Trending the World

Tonight I want to share one of my favorite third party Twitter Mashup Apps that you don't even need a Twitter account to utilize.  It's called Trendsmap.  Simply put, you type a keyword into the trendsmap and it searches the public timeline and places the result on a Google map in the form of a single word tagcloud.  The larger the word the more frequently it's being talked about in that area of the world.  Once you choose a location to click on, you will be shown updates coming from that specific city.  Also if there are hyperlinks to news articles or videos they will be highlighted in the timeline as well.  So while Trendsmap seems simple from the outset, you can see how you can get first hand accounts of world events in real time using trendsmap
I have heard rumor that they are looking for funding and am hoping that they don't sell out to some larger conglomerate that will water down this amazing tool.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Is Time on Your Side?

One of the great ways to learn about a historical event is to trace it's history on a timeline.  There are a number of different timelines creators available on the web.  My personal favorite at the moment is Dipity.  In addition to allowing you to add a title date and description, Dipity allows you to upload images (or link to them via a url), links, locations and videos. Once you've put your timeline together, you can view it as a timeline, flipbook, list or even on a Google map if you have tagged locations.  Once your timeline is complete, you can share it via Twitter, Facebook, Digg, myspace and Stumbleupon.  You can also grab some embed code that will allow you to place your timeline anywhere you can embed code.  Finally you get feedback on your information via comments.  Today's description is short namely due to the snowstorm that left me with a 3 hour commute home.  Until tomorrow...

Monday, January 10, 2011

Share That Sound

OK, this one's for the music teacher's out there.  While investigating another web 2.0 utility UJam - which I'll cover at a later date I'm sure (I haven't had enough time to fully investigate it) - I stumbled upon SoundCloud  At it's surface SoundCloud seems like just another toy.  Until you start to think outside the box.

Certainly the most obvious benefit of this utility is that your students can upload or record their work directly to the web for others to listen to and enjoy.  It also visualizes the sound as a "pretty waveform". But, there are four things that I really like about SoundCloud.

First, you can embed your files on other websites (blogs, facebook, wikis, etc) and your followers can download those files directly making it easy to "share and promote your sounds to anyone, anywhere"

Second, SoundCloud has a wonderful feature that allows anyone to add a comment to your file at anyplace in your file (something I've always thought Voicethread was missing). So you can get real-time peer and teacher evaluation on your work globally.

Third, they provide creative commons licensing. If you look at the advanced search settings, you can search for Creative Commons works that you can build upon or use in presentations.  Of course you can also release your own work under these licenses as well.

Finally, there are literally hundreds of apps that work in conjunction with Soundcloud. Which is why I don't understand how this site eluded me for so long.

So, I encourage you to explore Soundcloud on your own and discover all the amazing ways it can be utilized in an educational setting.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Save the World, One Website at a Time

I'll admit it.  There are times when I just can't read an entire article on the web.  I need to physically hold paper in my hands.  Usually, when I have to read more than 10 pages of information, I will print the document. Unfortunately, I usually end up with 20-30 pages because of poor formatting and web ads.   That was before i discovered Print What You Like

Print What You Like allows you to isolate sections of web pages and only print that area. Sure you could highlight an area of a webpage and click print selection, but because this doesn't change the formatting of a page you can often end up with many more pages than for which you bargained.  With Print What You Like you simply put in a URL and it opens the page with a sidebar that allows you to change the font and size of the text and includes toggle radio buttons to turn off backgrounds, images and margins.  As you move your mouse around the webpage it will display red boxes around different segments of the page.  If you click the text you will see a hover bar allowing you to isolate, remove, widen,  resize, save a clip (allowing you to combine parts of different websites in one printing - requires a free account) and select more.  Using these various tools you can isolate different parts of a site and only "Print What You Like"

Saturday, January 8, 2011

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words - Especially when it free to use

When I started this project, I had no idea how difficult it would be to find 365 tools to blog about over the course of the year!  Fear not, I haven't given up yet. But it really has me analyzing how i use the web.  Plus, I'm wondering how I'm going to categorize these posts.  I have an idea I'm working on, but until then stay tuned to Zenodotus for the daily post.

Today I want to tell you about MorgueFile.  Sounds scary doesn't it?  But it's one of my favorite places to find images I can freely use in presentations and publications without even having to worry about attributions.  I'm all for creative commons, but it can be extremely difficult in certain environments to apply adequate attribution.  Morguefile alleviates  that concern.  Just be sure you use photos from MorgueFile (I believe they are sponsored or are a subsidiary of Dreamstime which provides royalty free stock images as part of a subscription fee)

Morguefile is an active community of photographers who post their images to the web for you to use freely.  As long as you use the sites robust search engine and the result has this icon:


You should feel free to use these images according to their "free use" license.

What I like most about MorgueFile, is the ability to really drill down on my search results using their filters.  Let's say I wanted a picture of a schoolhouse.  But, not just any schoolhouse.  I need one that will fit the theme of my wiki, which ha a light blue background an my host won't allow me to post files larger than 3 Mb.  Well, MorgueFile's robust system of filters will let me get that granular and I'm able to come up with just the image I want:

MorgueFile also let's the photographers create their own online portfolio's, so if you have a budding artist in your class they would be able to share their work with the world.  Once you register for a free account you can add your favorite images to a lightbox so you'll have easy access to them.  They have a "Classroom" with some interesting articles in it about photography in general and also a very active discussion forum.  Morguefile is definately worth adding to your toolbox.


Friday, January 7, 2011

Photo Resizing Made Simple

It's Friday night, so, I'm going to keep this post short and fairly simple.  I often find a need to change the size of an image for a new profile or to fit the confines of a website.  Sure, I could open a utility like photoshop or even Word Document but it's many more steps than required by a program like Rsizr  Basically this flash based utility allows you to import a photo (from your desktop or from the web) and perform a crop, resize or something they call retargeting.  I've never been able to figure out exactly how that part works, but it has something to do with what they call "Seamcarving".
Once you've cropped or resized your image it's very simple to save it a a jpg or png file.  That's all I have for tonioght.  It's been a long week.  I had been planning on sharing a site to help you organize the utilitie I'll be sharing throughout this project, but that will have to wait for another day.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Make a Wish or Make it Stix?

I know I'm going to take some heat for tonight's suggested app.  Namely because I know how popular Wallwisher has become as a form of collaborative corkboard.  But, I'm not a big fan.  Mostly because before I was first introduced to Wallwisher, I had already started using Stixy.com.

Stixy is very similar to Wallwisher in that you have a board to post notes too.  But Stixy takes that a bit further by allowing you to add to-do's, documents and photos.   I hear some of you already saying what about videos and audio.  Well instead of simply having a link to the file on the web you can upload videos and audio directly to your stixyboard (up to 50 Mb/file).  You can also add color coded post it notes with links to websites just like Wallwisher.

But where Stixy really shines for me is in it's calendar functionality.  You can create to-do lists as Stixy Notes or simply view them in a left column list.  Provide yourself deadlines and even send email reminders that events are coming due.  So, if I'm working on a presentation or a project, I can schedule all the parts of the process while having the files and links I need to complete said process right there at my fingertips?

Oh and did I mention you can share your Stixyboard collaboratively?  Anyone you invite to collaborate has the same rights you do.  So now you have file native sharing capability as well, without having to worry about chasing down links or email attachments.  For me, it's just better than Wallwisher.  So really you got two apps for the price of one reading today!  Feel free to leave a comment after you've checked out both and let me know which you prefer.

Antivirus 8 - and no this is not a post about a new utility

Usually I try to come up with a catchy title for my posts, but, it's bad enough one of my users "caught" the Antivirus 8 malware bug a few days ago. And normally, my technical posts go to another of my blogs. Antivirus 8 is in the same family of malware as those other programs that claim you have a virus and if you just "click here" they'll be happy to remove it for you. Unfortunately, when you click there (as this user did) you actually install the malware which basically cripples your machine with pop-ups.



When I started troubleshooting the issue, I figured "no big deal". I'd just throw Malwarebytes at it and it would wipe the incidious software from the PC. Wrong! And when ComboFix didn't do the trick either I began to worry.

Fortunately, there is a utiliity available for free download via softpedia called the Antivirus 8 Removal Tool 1.0 It really does a great job. I was a little worried since I typically do my utility downloading from Download.com But since I was desperate I downloaded it. I wish I had taken a snapshot of what was happening on the screen, but basically it wipes any folders containing the malicious code and cleans the registry for you.

Once it had finished and the PC rebooted, I was extremely glad not to see Associated Files and Registry Entries that a post on bleepingcomputer.com suggests you look for, namely:

Associated Antivirus8 Files:

c:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\AV8\

c:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\AV8\Antivirus8.lnk

c:\Documents and Settings\All Users\Start Menu\AV8\Uninstall.lnk

C:\Program Files\AV8\

C:\Program Files\AV8\av8.exe

%UserProfile%\Desktop\Antivirus8.lnk

File Location Notes:

%UserProfile% refers to the current user's profile folder. By default, this is C:\Documents and Settings\ for Windows 2000/XP, C:\Users\ for Windows Vista/7, and c:\winnt\profiles\ for Windows NT.



Associated Antivirus8 Windows Registry Information:

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\A88246

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\WinFD

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\explorer.exe

HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Run "AV8"

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Internet Settings\5.0\User Agent\Post Platform "WinNT-A8I 23.09.2010"

HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Microsoft\Windows NT\CurrentVersion\Image File Execution Options\explorer.exe "Debugger" = "C:\Program Files\AV8\av8.exe -d"

While the post at bleeping computer suggests MalwareBytes as the removal tool, following their instructions did not work for me. Maybe Antivirus 8 had nestled in a bit too tight. At any rate I still ran an updated MalwareBytes and Combofix just to be sure no other nasties were on the PC, before returning it to the user this morning.

Hope this helps, if you get stuck trying to remove Antivirus 8.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Save Bandwidth, Chop Youtube

If you are among the lucky users who has access to YouTube in your school (I can't believe I just said that - but that's a discussion for another post), then you know that there are a multitude of educational videos available at the site. Whether it's a clip from DiscoveryNetworks, Tedtalksdirector or MIT, there is a plethora of videos you can share with your students to motivate and engage them.  But unless you have a dedicated T1 in each classroom you have probably dealt with the dreaded load time, lags and dropped connections. Sure you can cue up the video and let it buffer, but who has time for that before every class?  Luckily, there's a tool out there that can help you with all of these issues.  It's called TubeChop and you don't even need an account to use it.

All you have to do is paste the link to the Youtube video.  In this example, we'll use an MIT video on Single Variable Calculus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rAo0cN-b2w That video is a little over 32 minutes long (much more than I could personally handle), but the part we are interested in is only 30 seconds long about 13 minutes into the video.  Once you paste the link into tubechop and click search it will import the video from Youtube.  You'll see a button titled "chopit".  Once you click the button, you'll be presented with a fairly simple editor.  You can either use the start and end segments to manually enter the appropriate times or you can use the sliders.  When you click chop it again, a page like this one will open.  You'll have a number of sharing options (eg., Twitter, Facebook, etc) as well as a link to the file and embed code to add to your favorite blog or wiki.  There's also an option for comments that you could easily use for class discussions and a link to the original video.

That's it.  Now you can pull up the 30 second clip - no fuss, no muss, no lag!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

A Qwiki Mashup

Ever seen Wall*E and wished you had access to a search engine similar to the video wall that B. McCrea the Captain of the Axiom?  I know, I have, and finally there is one available in Alpha testing.  It's called Quiki.com and you can still get an invitation to the fun if you hurry!  Basically, Quiki is a mashup of Wikipedia, Google, Fotopedia and Youtube.  Hopefully they will continue to add applications to the mashup. When you conduct a search it basically builds a factual story about the topic of your choosing by pulling the first paragraph of a Wikipedia article and a voice begins reading while Quiki pulls and displays relevant photos and videos from Fotopedia and Youtube.  Sounds like a toy right? Well it is until you begin to think about the educational applications that abound here.

Let's use the Great Wall of China as a sample search.  Here's a preview of the results: http://www.qwiki.com/q/#Great_Wall_of_China

This is an excellent search engine for younger students who are just learning to read.  A first grader who knows how to spell Great, Wall and China could now have easy access to the wealth of information provided in the mashup.  Additionally, because the computerized voice reads the text as it scrolls across the page, that same elementary school student can now follow along and get assistance in learning how to read.  Or maybe you have an ESL student who is struggling with vocabulary. They also can benefit from the same functionality.  Additionally, the student who is a visual or auditory learner can now easily access information.  There are a myriad of other ways that Quiki can be used in an educational setting, but perhaps it's best you sign up for an Alpha account and explore this new search engine on your own!

Once you have, feel free to comment on how you could see Quiki being used as an effective classroom tool.

Monday, January 3, 2011

What Ever Happened to Wikis? Oh, and the Third Utility for the Year!

As I have ben preparing for an exciting two hour presentation at ICE 2011 entitled "Tools Not Toys: A New Look at the Digital Playground", I have been amazed by how difficult it was to find fantastic examples of educational wikis in a classroom environment.  I literally spent five hours looking for what I thought were great sites that I could share during the presentation and was able to find three, yes, I said three!  What were the road blocks I ran into?  Certainly, there are hundreds of great wikis which actually accomplish the goal of an end product that was built collaboratively.  However, what I found out was that wikis in the classroom achieving these goals hadn't been touched in well over a year.  Additionally, I found that wikis claiming to be collaborative efforts were only being added too by one person - the teacher.  Have we lost site of the purpose of wikis or just given up on the idea?  What I did find was that wikis were full of Glogs and snipits of information that teachers were sharing with students and parents.  While that's wonderful, a blog or standard website could accomplish the same goal.  Fortunately, educators, technologists and library resource specialists are still using wikis collaboratively to build some fantastic repositories of information.
So my question is: Are wikis being replaced?  Or have we given up on the collaborative nature of the web by our students?  I'm hoping that if wikis are becoming extinct it is not out of fear of online collaboration and instead educators and districts are starting to delve into what once was the dangerous waters of social networking.  This would certainly be the natural progression of the web.  Most of the "walled gardens" that are available today (Nings, Grou.ps, Grouply, Google Sites, etc...) include a some form of wiki - maybe that's why I wasn't able to find any - because they are hiden from the world.  If this is the case, we are loosing out on the global collaboration that we have all been talking about for the last five years.  I guess what I am trying to say is although I have never been a huge fan of Wiki's, they still have their place in today's classroom.  That's my ramble for the day...I'd be interested in your opinions.

Now what your probably really here for today, the third of 365 installments of the Web 2.0 utility of the day: thumbalizr As the name implies this website allows you to create thumbnails.  What is unique about this utility is that it does not create a smaller image of a picture; instead, it allows you to generate a thumbnail of a webpage!  All you have to do is go to the website and type in a web address.  You'll need to decide if you want to create a thumbnail of the home page of the site or a specific page.  Once you click the "thumb it" button, it will take about a minute for it to generate your image. You can then select from 6 different sizes of .png files you can download.  The base service is free.  The do have subscription levels available if you need more options.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Day 2 of the Web 2.0 Project

See I told you, I'd never be able to handle 365 photos in a year. Heck, I almost missed this post! Today I want to tell you about a terrific thought mapping tool: Mind42. You are probably quite familiar with the idea of outlining your thoughts on paper as a "map" and may have even used some desktop applications to assist you. What makes mind42.com unique is that you can choose to make your maps collaborative, inviting others to work with you during your thought process. Other great features include the ability to attach files and images to nodes, as well as notes and hyperlinks. These features give true power to Mind42.com . You can also publish your map to the web allowing others to view your work. You may also choose to export your map as a PDF or a jpeg (other options are available), which could than be easily included in a research paper. I have often used Mind42 to organize my thoughts for a prevention and then am left with a nice list of links I can share with attendees. It's also a great way to get over writer's block when blogging. Anything that requires thought processing Mind42 can assist you with. So next time you need to organize your thoughts give Mind42.com a try.
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Saturday, January 1, 2011

2011 A New Year and a New 365 Project

Last year I missed the boat on the 365 photo challenge. I must confess, I almost missed it again! I'm also not much of a photographer, so the thought of posting a new picture every day seemed more than daunting. However, I'm still going to try and give it a shot - maybe I'll focus on sunsets...but I digress.
If you know me, you know I'm all about finding the latest Web 2.0 utilities that can be used effectively in an educational environment. So, I thought why not blog about a new Web 2.0 utility every day. That I know I can handle and plus it adds some to value to cyberspace. Not saying pictures aren't nice and all, but of you can learn about a new tool every day. That's 365 you can add to your arsenal by year's end!
So without further adou, let's begin this journey with my favorite web 2.0 utility from last year http://paper.li If your a Twitter user you've probably seen someone announcing the latest edition of their online newspaper. These are created automatically every day using paper.li. Mine happens to be The EdTech Early Edition and the application builds it automatically every day. All you have to do is sign up using you Twitter account and provide either a userID, hashtag (mine is #edtech) or list. Paper.li will then scour the public timeline for the information you provided searching for links included in those posts. As simple as that! Paper.li then categorized those links into a nicely organized newspaper for your daily reading pleasure. Oh, and those announcements about the new addition being available, that can be configured to be automatic as well. Paper.li is by far the best Twitter aggrigator on the market today. So what are you waiting for head on over to paper.li and check it out!
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