Thursday, March 31, 2011

A New Way to Read Blogger Blogs! #edtech

Sometimes a new feature of a hugely popular utility can become a tool in and of itself. A new way of looking at things.  One of the things I am very interested in is how information is perceived.  There are now a number of sites out there who will create heatmaps for your websites showing how your page is being read.  Of course these are paid services (e.g., CrazyEgg) - so I have never had my blog or other web ventures analyzed.  There are also ways to visualize information as we have seen in a number of applications highlighted during this 365 project.  And I am all about visual learning!  Now there is a new way to read any Blog on Blogger (provided the author has not disabled them) When I logged on tonight to write my blog post, Google flashed a message about a new feature called "Dynamic Views".  And while I hadn't planned on it being tonight's utility, somehow it just worked out that way.  In order to read a blog with a "Dynamic View", simply type in the url and append the following text to see the different views:




  • Flipcard: available at [blogURL]/view/flipcard


  • Mosaic: available at [blogURL]/view/mosaic


  • Sidebar: available at [blogURL]/view/sidebar


  • Snapshot: available at [blogURL]/view/snapshot


  • Timeslide: available at [blogURL]/view/timeslide



  • This is fantastic for students who get easily distracted by all the bells and whistles of your typical blog on Blogger.

    Wednesday, March 30, 2011

    A Melody is Worth a Thousand Words - or More #edtech


    In honor of American Idol, tonight I thought I would turn our attention to music.  Yes, my dirty secret is out - I have been a fan of the show since Season 1.  Partially, because I dabble in music a wee bit myself.  Some years ago, I picked up a guitar and taught myself how to play Irish folk music.  As a "musician", I have been on both sides of the copyright fence.  Now, I was never good enough to make any money off of my hobby, but I used to post my music to MP3.com back when it was a site for artists and long before Creative Commons.  I was thrilled when people would download my music and happy to let them use it in anyway they wished.  However, if my livelihood was based on my music - let me be frank - I would be absolutely furious if my craft was being stolen.  Yes, I said stolen!  The whole Napster debate is over since they went to their new model - but file sharing continues to be a major issue.  This is in part do to the fair use freedoms that educators sometimes tend to take too far.
    Well, thank goodness for Creative Commons and sites like Jamendo!  This site shares thousands of songs and make them "available under one of the six Creative Commons licenses.  They authorize free download and enable the artists to promote their music while protecting their rights."   You can create and embed playlists (as you will notice I have done below), download the files locally for use in presentations and if you want to use the files outside of the Creative Commons license structure you can (ahem) purchase and license the file in a number of different ways.  Either way, you can sign up for a free account.  If you just want to use the Creative Commons license a basic Jamendo will work well for you.  If you are a musician who wants to share your work and maybe make a buck or if you need a Pro account (also free) - the same goes if you want to license the music.
    Two issues I have with thesite.  First, it's a little difficult to figure out how to sign up for a free vs pro account.  Second, the advanced search engine to locate music leave a little to be desired.  Otherwise, encore Jamendo!

      
    Royalty-free music for professional licensing

    Tuesday, March 29, 2011

    Pull Your PDFs Together #edtech

    I need to thank @eplybon for her earlier post on Twitter today.  Because she shared what would become tonight's quick post.  Earlier this month I shared a tool that allowed you to "edit" PDFs that you didn't own without the need for a full version of Acrobat.  Well what if you wanted to pull multiple PDFs together into one file.  It's easy enough if you own the full version of Acrobat to merge files, but there are a number of online utilities that can help you do this as well.  One of them is PDFMerge which allows you to select multiple files from your desktop and merge them together as one cohesive unit.  Great for collaborative work.  *Bonus:If you look at the top of the site you will see some of their other resources that include the ability to: "split PDF files go to http://www.splitpdfonline.com. To unlock restricted PDF files go to http://www.pdfunlock.com. To add password protection to a PDF, go to http://www.pdfprotect.net. All online and for free!"

    Monday, March 28, 2011

    Do You Know Where Your Content Is? #edtech

    If it's one thing that drives me crazy, it's people who will lift your work without giving you credit.  I do what I do because I am passionate about it.  I spend hours of my own time putting together this blog, working on projects like the soon to be revitalized Webtopia.tv and working diligently to put together engaging sessions for various conferences each year.  But in this day and age of copy, paste and aggregation tools it is becoming increasingly common to find work posted across the web without the original authors knowledge.  Now I'm all about Creative Commons and "giving" away a lot of great information - but it's rather infuriating when someone intentionally or unintentionally absconds with your work without proper acknowledgement. 
    Recently, while browsing some writing tools, I came across a utility called Copyscape.  Simply type in your website address and Copyscape will scour the web looking for your content and is even smart enough to find it if someone has taken some of your work and intermingled it with their own.  They have paid services as well, if you think your information is valuable enough to have CopySentry continuously scan the internet for your work.  I was surprised to find some of my blog posts that had been aggregated onto another site with no mention that I was the author.  I have also run this test against some of the websites found in "The Braintrust" blog roll and found some of their work on pages not owned by them as well.  I bet Steve Dembo of Teach42.com would be suprised to see his work posted on a Greek Website: http://parentsfight.betterschool.net/?p=78764. Give it a shot with your own site and see what results you come up with at Copyscape.   And again, if you want to "borrow" a post at Zenodotus.net feel free - just be sure to let your audience know where it came from.  Wow, guess I got up on my soapbox just a bit during tonight's post, huh?

    Sunday, March 27, 2011

    GE Brings Good Things to Life with Visualizing #edtech

    Today's post is going to be another one of those "resource" websites.  It's not necessarily a specific tool, instead it is a site with access to a number of tools. The site? Visualizing.org.  In the interest of full disclosure, I have discovered that they are operated by "General Electric".  Yes, you read that right GE.  They, like many others, have discovered that  "data visualization helps us approach, interpret, and extract knowledge from information" and have partnered with a number of academic institutions and knowledge based conglomerates including Parsons, the University of Virginia and TEDMED among others to bring data to life visually in the areas of Health, Energy and the Environment.  But they also have a nice search engine with a number of filters that quickly reveals the data is not limited to these categories.
    They also encourage users to upload visualizations they have done.  Wouldn't Tim Berners-Lee be proud?  Like this example from Kovas Boguta on how "Twitter User Influence" during the recent events in Egypt (you really need to click the link to get the full representation).  I think you'll agree that words can't do justice to this visual representation.


    All works must be shared under a  Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike License. And they are currently working on tools for schools that will help "you share teaching material with other teachers".  I am hoping that these tools will include ways to create visualizations from Data.  At the moment, they only allows for uploading of completed visualizations.  You really have to dig hard to find the tools used to create these representations.  Perhaps someone could create a visual just for those tools?  Until then, enjoy Visualizing! I know I can get lost there for hours!

    Saturday, March 26, 2011

    Take a Bite of the Web

    Some time back I wrote a post about a utility the allows you to highlight content on web pages.  As I am sure will happen frequently throughout this 365 project, I'd like to offer an alternative.  Citebite allows you to quote text from a webpage simply by copying and pasting and once you have given it the url, Citebite will create a link to the page that will open directly to the quoted and highlighted text.  Not sure how this could be used creatively.  Maybe in collaborative research?  But I do have a feeling it could be a valuable resource.

    Friday, March 25, 2011

    On the Tip of My Tongue #edtech

    On my lunch break today, I discovered a project within the ciar.ag blog called Tip of My Tongue.  I can't tell you how many times in the past year I could have used this application.

    Basically, it allows you to "Find that word that you've been thinking about all day but just can't seem to remember" wYou can search by partial word (input what the word begins with, ends with or contains), use letters to unscramble words (what a great help for the Sunday morning Jumble), include letters that the word must/must not have, find words by meaning and even by length and sounds like.

    This tool would be great for helping with story prompts to get students writing or for overcoming writers block.  I will definitely be adding Tip of My Tongue to my ed tech toolbelt.  How about you?

    Thursday, March 24, 2011

    Calculate Success #edtech

    I was reading an article in a village brochure recently asking that if you had gently used calculators to please donate them to the local high school.  The explanation for this request was that calculators are expensive and easily lost by students.  I couldn't agree more, I remember loosing more calculators in high school than I care to remember.  But really?  In the 21st century do we really still need scientific pocket calculators? A quick Google search for "Online scientific calculators" returned an astonishing 1.5 million results! After perusing a few, I really liked what I found at EnCalc.  Now, I'll preface this by saying math was never my strong suit in school.  It's just not the way my mind works.  But this tool, really looks like it has some promise.  It has a number of features that I like.  You have the option to toggle the calculators keyboard on and off (thus you actually need to know the functions).  It allows you to bookmark your results (talk about a memory function)! Next you can even embed your results into a blog or wiki (see the area of a circle embeded below).  It will also graph "all common mathematical functions".   This calculator might not serve all the functions of a $100 plus TI Graphing calculator - but there are other options and even cell phone apps that do the many of the same things for the cost of a little investigating.  I'm sure there are mathematical purists out there who will strongly disagree with me and I welcome your comments on this post.


    Wednesday, March 23, 2011

    Organize and Publicize Your Social Network #edtech

    Earlier today, one of my favorite ed tech specialists Steve Dembo (@teach42), posted a link to his new Scoop.it page (which in and of itself is amazing - and we'll have to look at Scoop.it in a future post).  But for now, I want to talk about one of the sites mentioned on that page: Memolane.  I am working on a workshop for next year's conference season about developing a Personal/Professional learning network and have been looking for a way to pull together all of the feeds from my multiple networks.  Memolane may be exactly the tool for which I've been searching.  It allows you to add your Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picassa, Last.fm, FourSquare, Instagram (jealous since I don't have an IOS device), TripIt, YouTube, MySapce (yuck), Vimeo and RSS feeds all in one location in a neatly categorized timeline.  The best part of this site is that it doesn't just start your timeline the day you sign up.  Oh no, it goes ALL the way back to when you first started using each of these services!  What an amazing way to categorize your social history.  It looks a little something like this:

    Now, if that's all this site did, it would be worth it's weight in gold.  But wait - there's more (I think).  Apparently you can build your own story - picking and choosing the pieces of your timeline and placing them in one grouping known as a story.  It also appears that you can work collaboratively with your friends to pull pieces of their timelines into the story.  I haven't quite figured out how to do that yet since I don't have any friends (come find me so we can explore together, I'm JGubbins207, as always).

    There are some drawbacks that I see and I hope a Memolane developer reads this post and takes some of my constructive criticisms to heart because I really love the possibilities here.  First, the 12 platforms that you can add are fantastic; but, I want the ability to add my own and not just through RSS - similar to what about.me allows you to do by linking o your different social tools.  Second, I'd like to be able to listen to the Last.fm songs that have been favorited through Last.fm (currently it's Amazon or Spotify - Amazon doesn't seem to work real well and I don't have Spotify installed).  Finally, the search engine to locate friends is fairly week.  I'd like to see the ability to have an advanced search directory where users can tag themselves to make them easier to find.

    Other than those few minor issues, I am excited by the prospects that Memolane has to offer! Hope you friend me there soon so we can start building our stories together!

    Tuesday, March 22, 2011

    You've Been Framed

    Less than a decade ago if you wanted to post information to the web, you needed to know HTML code.  While this is no longer the case a lot of the Web 2.0 applications that you use every day create that code for you in the background using WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editors.  If you ever look at the source of a webpage you'll be greeted by all that beautiful code (yes, I am a geek).  It can still be helpful to know about HTML or at least some of the primary codes that are out there.  For example, if you want to embed another web page within your blog, you will likely use the IFRAME tag.  But again, you don't have to know exactly how this works.  You can simply use the IFRAME code generator tool from HTML Basix. To do so, simply copy the URL address of the page you want to embed and fill out the rest of the form.  When you click the generate button, you will be presented with the code you need and can simply copy and paste it into your blog or wiki (just make sure you are in the HTML editor).  That's it.  Simple right?n  I can't tell you how often I use this tool and hope you find it useful as well.

    Monday, March 21, 2011

    A Birthday Worth Metioning

    Today believe it our not is Twitter's 5th birthday. So as a form of celebration, I thought I'd share a very interesting way to visualize what Twitter is all about and that's connections! Mentionmap allows you to put in any Twitter user ID and it will build out a connection map of other Twitter users that this person is most closely realted too and the things mention most.  I'll let you explore this application on your own since it is visual and hard to explain without trying it for yourself!  Happy Birthday Twitter and thanks for all you have done for moving us forward in the 21st century! It's a Twitterverse - we just live in it

    Sunday, March 20, 2011

    Sometimes the Solution is Right in Front of You #edtech

    I realize that over the past 3 months I have been sharing a different Web 2.0 utility every day - that is the point of a 365 project after all right? But sometimes we can get so caught up in looking for these tools that we neglect to see what is right before us.  I had a TON of stuff to get done this weekend and a lot of it required me to get my home studio/office back in order.  It was about a year over due for a good cleaning.  Of course as I started to uncover some long forgotten equipment I had to stop and play around with it. One such item was an old laptop with a Myah OS distribution installed on it.  I started wondering what I could put on it and have running in the background (ala Chris Pirillo - one of my Geek heroes) of some live broadcasts I plan on running later this year. I considered running a binary clock (the ultimate badge of Geekdom) but then decided maybe a flickr slideshow would be more appropriate on different keywords.  OK, so the Web 2.0 brain immediately kicked in and I started looking for an application to do this with.  And there are some great ones out there including Flickr Slideshow and Slide Flickr that allow you to create some "flashier shows by tags, username, sets, etc. And I guess those would be the top two utilities I would recommend for that purpose.  However, after taking a few steps back, I started thinking why do I need another utility when Flickr has it's own Slideshow tool that will do the trick.  So, that's the plan, if I decide to run a Flickr slideshow in the background of live broadcasts, it will be with the tool straight from the source.  Sometimes the best solution is right in front of you.

    Saturday, March 19, 2011

    Any Language as a Second Language! #edtech

    Wow, I haven't been able to stop exploring tonight's utility:  DotSub I speak one language fluently and that is English.  I am married to a Greek and took Spanish in high school, but that is the extent of my second language knowledge. I often thought if I was able to watch videos in another language with English translations it may be easier to learn that language.  Finding DVDs in another language with English subtitles can be a challenge, particularly since most of them are formatted in a different region code.  Enter DotSub.  This utility probably does a lot more than I am about to tell you.  But, what I have fallen in love with so far is that they have a large database of videos in different languages (which you can search with their powerful search tool) you can then click the translate button and it breaks the video into segments that with the corresponding subtitles in that language.  So, what's the big deal?  Well, you can then click the Click to Translate link and if you know the language type the translation for almost any language out there.  Or, if you don't, copy the words into Google Translate and simply paste them into the box.  In just a few minutes, you can watch a video in a foreign language with English subtitles.  There's a lot more to explore at DotSub and I may need to post a follow up another day.  You can also upload your own videos and add subtitles in any language as well. Until then Έχετε μια μεγάλη βραδιά

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Become a Curator of Information

    I have not had a lot of time to explore tonight's utility but I think Museum Box has a great deal of potential.  Think about this.  What if you could combine and leverage the power of Glogster and Prezi? Interested? I thought so!  Well that's exactly what Museum Box appears to do.  Now, in order to utilize this utility, you need to register your school in order to save your projects (hence why I haven't had enough time to explore the site properly).  Basically, you can add "text, images, video and sound to the side of the cubes".  It appears that you can build up to eight cubes per project.  That's plenty of "slides" to create a pretty impressive presentation.  The only thing I'm not sure about is if you can embed the final product.  The have a fairly impressive Teacher Resource section. I'll leave you with a fantastic example about Neil Armstrong and let you decide on Museum Box's potential for yourself. I've used Iframe code to perform the embed of the project. Click on the image of the astronaut to launch the cube.


    Thursday, March 17, 2011

    Top of the Characters to Ya!

    Continuing with last evening's post, I also plan to keep this one short and sweet.  Yesterday, we talked about a tool called Word Count Tool.There are times when you are asked to keep your verbage under a certain word count.  But there are also times when you need to track your characters - including spaces - as well (e.g., microblogs like Twitter or filling out online forms).  Enter Word Counter Tool.  This site will count your words, characters (including spaces), can convert the case of your text to upper/lower case and even check your typing speed with the optional stopwatch. Did I mention it tracks your words and characters in real time? It does!!  I told you short and sweet right? 135 words and 774 characters in just under 5 minutes! Happy St. Patrick's day!

    Wednesday, March 16, 2011

    170 Words or less?

    Tonight's post is going to be a relatively quick hit.  In fact, I'm going to try and keep the post under 170 words.  How do I know? Because, I'm actually writing the post within the utility Word Count Tool. This tool does exactly what it says and counts the words of your text.  You can either type directly into the utility or simply copy and pate the text from your document.  This is great to help you edit yourself if you tend to be long in the tooth when you write (something I personally need to work on). I am grateful to Shannon Miller (@shannonmmiller) posted this resource on Twitter this morning.  It was a great reminder that words do count! As we are often reminded of when we have to limit them to 140 characters or less on Twitter or when filling out forms and applications on line. Tomorrow's post will carry this a step further.  But for now, I'm out of words. Total word count? 169! Phew, just made it!

    Tuesday, March 15, 2011

    Working With PDFs

    Yesterday, I told you about Scribd that allows up to upload and share any type of file as a PDF.  But what can you do with a PDF?  Traditionally a PDF is locked down so that you can't edit it unless you are the owner of the file and have the full version of Acrobat, right?  Well, with PDFEscape both of those requirements go away. Without even signing up for a free account, you can upload PDFs or simply point to them on the internet and have some "editing" ability online.  You can add text, images, form fields.  If you need to change some areas of the PDF, you can "remove areas with the whiteout feature.  You can also add links.  Additionally, there are annotation features like sticky notes and highlighters. When you're done, you save the file as a PDF.  Uses for PDFEscape?  Well, let's say you find a Creative Commons licensed storyboard that you would like to use for your podcasts, screencast or livestream project but don't have a full version of acrobat.  Sure you could print it out and handwrite everything.  But, we are in the 21st century.  PDFEscape can help you use that file without having to install any software. Yes, there are other sites out there that can do something similar, I just happen to like the ease of use on this particular tool.

    Monday, March 14, 2011

    Thinking about Going Paperless? #edtech

    If you're thinking about taking your classroom paperless, a great place to start is with Scribd the "world’s largest social reading and publishing company".  Coverting your electronic documents to files that can be shared online is always your first step to a paperless environment.  On the surface, this site allows you to upload any file (.pdf, .ppt, .txt, etc...) and even link to and convert your Google Docs. It then takes this file and converts it into a searchable PDF that either you, your colleagues or even your students can locate online, read or download.  But the fun doesn't stop there!  You can tag your files to make them easily discoverable.  I am often surprised that within minutes of uploading a file to Scribd their are already hundreds of reads.  People are constantly looking for valuable information on this site.  Other important things to know? You can create collections of documents, rss feeds for tags (so anytime a new file is uploaded in that category you are notified), embed your file anywhere that type of code is accepted, Readcast files (share them across social networks) and even sell - yes sell, your work online.  Lot's of things to explore!

    Sunday, March 13, 2011

    The Periodic Table of Videos #edtech

    I bet you remember learning the periodic table by listening to Tom Lehrer's "Periodic Table of the Elements Song".  I mean who could forget the catchy tune that reminded you of "There's antimony, arsenic, aluminum, selenium. And hydrogen and oxygen and nitrogen and rhenium..."  And while this song was cute and helped you remember the names of the various elements, did you really learn anything about them?  Well, there are a number  of applications out there that takes this much further.  Today I want to tell you about a periodic table mashup from the University of Nottingham called The Periodic Table of Videos .  This site provides an interactive Periodic Table.  When you click on an element it opens a YouTube video presented by "Martyn Poliakoff, CBE, is a research professor at the University of Nottingham and a pioneer in the field of green chemistry." Each video provides essential information about each element and really allows you to learn something.  This is great for the visual learner.  While Professor Poliakff is no Bill Nye the Science Guy, his presence in the videos is engaging and as is the way he presents the information.  I'm sure there are some features I'm missing, but I want you to be able to investigate the tools I share with you on your own, so that you can determine how they will work best for you.. This is a great tool for science teachers - make sure you share it with one you know!

    Saturday, March 12, 2011

    Disaster Information Mashup #edtech

    A site that I have been impressed with for some time is actually a mashup called RSOE EDIS.  It is an alert map that combines RSS, Email, Google Earth and CAP Services to provide information about disasters (both man made and natural).  Everything from earthquakes, to hazardous waste spills to epidemic outbreaks of the flu are charted on the map. When you click on one of the icons, you get a brief summary of the event.  If you click on the more details you are brought to a much more detailed page providing a summary and plenty data about the event as well as the location where it occurred.   Japan at the moment is a hotspot of activity. There are a number of alerts regarding the earthquake and all it's aftershocks.  There are also alerts for nuclear plants that caught fire following the earthquake, for aftershocks that have been occurring since the event and even an explosion at an oil refinery is documented here.  When available there are also photos and videos associated with the events.  
    RSOE EDIS is a valuable mashup that can keep you up to date on climatological events, natural disasters and manmade calamities and is a good example of how data can be made visual.

    Friday, March 11, 2011

    We Interrupt This Regularly Scheduled Blog

    In light of this mornings tragedy in Japan, I would like to skip this evenings utility.  There have been plenty of posts where I have talked about multiple utilities, so I feel justified and still on target to share 365 utilities with you by the end of the year.
    Instead, I would like to introduce you to the concept of Crowdsourcing.  If you are not familiar with the term, this is when people who do not know each other add data collaboratively to a project.  Typically, it is a database of information.
    Google has recently released a people finder application.  This first came to light during the Christchurch tragedy last month and has again been implemented by Google for the Japan earthquake.  If you are looking for or have information about individuals affected by the tragedy you can find and share information via the Google Crisis Response Page.  This page is somewhat of a global wiki where people can share information and add it to a growing database. There are a number of links on this page that can help people trying to get in touch with there loved ones.
    I will return to the regular format of this blog tomorrow night and talk a bit more about crowdsourcing. Until then, my thoughts and prayers go out to those affected by the worst quake in Japan's recorded history.

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Fighting with Flickr? #edtech

    Have you ever had difficulty sorting through the vast amount of images on Flickr? Well next time let Compfight come to the rescue.  This site takes some of the confusion out of which images are available under a Creative Commons license or under a commercial license.  The first page you see will simple let you search the Flickr database by keyword.  Once the results are returned you can filter the information by limiting your results to tags only or all text. Additionally, you can select whether you want images with any license, Creative Commons or Commercial.  Of course it's always a good idea to click the image which will take you to the original image on Flickr where you can scroll down and check the license information in the right rail by clicking on the license link.  Because you can also find some questionable images on Flickr, there is also a way to toggle safe and unsafe images.  Of course you can do all this by using the advanced search options of Flickr as well, but sometimes using Compfight just makes the process more seamless.

    Wednesday, March 9, 2011

    Manage Your Flock #edtech

    I am in the process of tweaking my Twitter presentation to focus on it being used as a component of your PLN (Personal Learning Network) rather than as a classroom tool.   I still think Twitter can be a highly effective tool in the classroom but it is more likely to be the cornerstone of your PLN.  Twitter isn't just about having your voice heard or listening to others, it's about surrounding yourself with knowledge.  To make this happen you need to effectively manage who you follow.  Fortunately, FriendorFollow can help you with this process. 

    Once logged in with your Twitter account, you have three tabs that you can use to analyze who you are following (but do not follow you), Fans (who follow you but you don't follow them), and your Friends (the people you are most interconnected with).  Each section allows you to sort the users by various categories (e.g., Username, Followers and Last Tweet).

    This can help you determine if the people you follow are really adding value to your network.  Obviously, you shouldn't expect someone with a gazillion followers to follow you back - but they probably add value to your network.  However, if you started following someone a few years ago and they haven't tweeted since - do you really need to keep them in your network?  These are choices you need to make. You can follow as many people as you want but if there not adding value, why should you?

    Next is the Fans tab - These are people who follow you but that you don't follow back.  I try to pay particular attention to these individuals.  Twitter has a way of suddenly unfollowing someone who is invaluable to your PLN.  This happened to me with @Stevekatz and @JOrech recently. By the way, if you don't already follow these two, you should.  Now if there are a bunch of people in this category who aren't regular Twitter users or are not members of the edtech community I often won't follow them back.  For example, my posting about Web 2.0 utilities may be of interest to a carpenter, but the information that the carpenter posts may not be of any value to me and I don't need to clutter my timeline with posts from that person.  This brings us to ratios.  I try to keep my followers to following ratio at about 50%.  I try to follow at least half the people that follow me.  That half needs to meet one of two qualifications.  They need to either be someone who is in a field or interest that matters to me and/or actively tweet about those things.  I may follow someone who tweets only once a year if that update contained valuable information.  If it was about their recipe for Chicken Gumbo, the can stay in that fan category.

    And finally the Friends tab.  These are the people who you should feel most connected to.  The heart of your PLN and active members of the Twitterverse.  If you want to sort them by the different categories you certainly can just to analyze the data.  But these are the people that matter most to your growth and learning - because they are the one's you collaborate and connect with daily.

    Another feature I should mention of FriendorFollow is you can export your lists as CSV files if you every find the need.

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011

    A Skype Alternative That May Be Even More Powerful? #edtech

    With the news breaking yesterday that Skype will be adding advertising to support their free version on the Windows platform (see this article from Information Week), I found it very timely that earlier today I was introduced to FlashMeeting.  I have yet to hold a meeting within this application but have seen some amazing things happening with it.  Basically, you are able to host a meeting with multiple attendees, all able to share their webcams and join in the conversation.  There is also a chat component.  What makes this application so powerful?  You can record the entire conversation!  It also has a whiteboard.  While it certainly isn't an alternative to Eluminate (yet), it is a definite alternative to Skype (if you don't like the new ad driven platform).  From what I can tell you sign up for a free account at FlashMeeting.This account will let you participate in meetings.  But to actually create a meeting you need to contact the site administrator and ask for a booker account.  I am anxiously awaiting a response, so I can share how easy or diffiicult the setup process is.  There is some great potential here.  I may even try to revive a "Digital Decompression" project I had attempted to get going some time ago using FlashMeeting.  In the meantime, take a look at this fantastic example from the Education 2020 wiki.

    Monday, March 7, 2011

    Twitter, Not the Only Microblog?

    Believe it or not Twitter is not the only microblog platform out there. It just happens to be the most popular.  There are also sites like Tumblr and Plurk.  While I really have never understood the attraction of Plurk (maybe someone can post a comment changing my mind on the application), I have used Tumblr.  This site allows you to not only post Text, Photos, Quotes, Links, Chat, Audio and Video without having to leave the application.  It also makes it easy to find other Tumblr users by keyword (similar to Twitter's hashtags).  You can post via the various applications, call in your post via an 866 number and embed your Tumblr stream to your blog.  So if you're looking for a viable alternative to Twitter (maybe it's blocked in your school) - Tumblr just may be the way to go.

    Sunday, March 6, 2011

    Side Tangent on the #IPAD2 #Edtech

    Now that my utility post is out of the way for the day.  I need to go on a bit of a rant.

    I will admit, I am confused by the IPAD phenomenon.
    I was excited when Apple first announced the revolutionary magical device as if it were the latest version of the Nimbus 2000 (sorry since my trip to Orlando - I've been a bit obsessed with Harry Potter).  I was disappointed in the price point. Really Mr. Jobs? For the price of the low end model, I could buy 2 decent netbooks and they could actually be used as computers!  Yes, I realize the Apple purists out there will tell me that the IPAD is not designed to be a laptop or even a netbook.  Rather, it is more in the family of a Mobile Internet Device (MID). Well have you done a search online for Mobile Internet Device lately?  There are hundreds of them! And most will open up just about any webpage out there and at least half have cameras (Front and Rear).
    Do I think the concept of a tablet that runs apps is revolutionary?  Absolutely!  Is it the next best thing since sliced bread? I think not.  Why do you think the second induction of the IPAD came so quickly after the first?  It's simple, the Motorola Xoom and the Samsung Galaxy have hit the market and BOTH have better cameras than the IPAD.  So, Apple is still behind and will likely never get Flash!  And let's be honest, how many pages do you open that you don't get the full power from on your IPADs?  I now that this blog alone does not reach  it's full potential on an IPAD.
    Will I be in line next Friday at an Apple Store to pick up the new model? Probably.  Why after the ti raid I just went on? Well, it's simple, educators are treating this MID like it is the greatest thing ever and I provide technological professional development to educators.  If you attended a conference this year, you saw the vast numbers - I just wish people would realize that they have become the audience from the 1984 Macintosh commercial, drones to the Steve Jobs magic spell (pleas if you are an Apple purist do not be offended we "PCs" take the same ribbing from you).  Will I also be buying a cheaper Android based tablet? Most definitely!
    Because, I don't think it's the OS that is the "revolution", rather the platform. Mobility is where we are at right now and within a few years I feel this debate will be ancient history as walls begin to break down and students are no longer asked to shutdown when entering the hallowed halls of education.  Rather students will be encouraged to BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) and if your blood pressure is already up reading this post - I hope you are sitting down.  Those devices are going to be Cell Phones.  My Evo has the same processing power as the IPAD, Xoom or Galaxy Tab.  When I first got it, I did not touch a computer for 3 months outside of work. The drawback is screensize and  that is going to be changing soon as well when docks with larger screens begin to become more prevalent.
    Until then I hope we can all agree to disagree on which OS is the "King" of the MIDs.

    Are Webquests Dead?

    I made an offhanded remark some years ago during a professional development session I was giving that Webquests were so Web 1.0.  It's been a statement that I have actually regretted making ever since.  It keeps resonating in my head.  Namely, because my work has typically been in a high school setting.  And quite honestly, if your students don't know how to effectively traverse the web and analyze good information by the time they are out of Junior High - they're in trouble.  But, I still feel webquests add value to younger students who are just learning about cyberspace. With guidance to various websites and effective questioning, these students can start to sense what good information reads like.  But I never liked the whole idea of a paper worksheet to make this happen - hence the Web 1.0 reference.
    As I was pondering this dilemma, I discovered a suite of tools from 4teachers. I'm sure I will be revisiting some of those tools in the future.  But for today, I want to focus on TrackStar.  This site asks you to fill out a very basic form to create an online webquest.  Creating the quest is than as easy as giving each page in the quest a title, providing the link to the page and then asking the question you want the students to respond to based on the information provided within the page.
    What I like about TrackStar is that it keeps the students grounded within the pages you want them to see.  Everything happens within a frame on the Trackstar page.  So, the students aren't off on their own finding information you might not want them finding.  Additionally, you can lock down the quest with a password.
    Take a look at the Webquest I created in a matter of a few minutes on the History of Chicago. (The password is 12345).  Obviously, this is not a complete webquest and not the best example - but I wanted to give you an idea of how webquests could still be used effectively in an elementary school setting.

    Saturday, March 5, 2011

    Finding Academic Journals Online

    During my session called Untangling the Web at FETC this year I mentioned a site that allows you to find Academic journal articles online and it's today's utility.  The Education Resources Information Center (ERIC) database provides " a comprehensive, easy-to-use, searchable, Internet-based bibliographic and full-text database of education research and information that also meets the requirements of the Education Sciences Reform Act of 2002" but perhaps the most powerful part of the database is the Advanced Search option known as "Show Full Text Availability".  When you check this box and conduct your search you instantly have access to the files found during your search in PDF format.  No need to have it sent to the local library - you can check those sources that you read about on Wikipedia right on ERIC.

    Friday, March 4, 2011

    Skip to My Map

    With Spring Break just around the corner for most teachers and students we all know that another series of "What I did on Spring Break" reports are not far behind.  With that in mind i wanted to share a rather interesting collaborative project I discovered just a few hours ago called Mindskip. Sometimes it's not just about the utility it's about how it is applied.   This site allows people from around the world to add their stories to a Google map.  According to the About Us page at Mindskip, they are about "exploring the world through shared stories, pictures, videos and sound recordings about all the places in our lives."  


    Basically, this site let's you easily add stories and pictures to a Google Map.  But what makes it somewhat unique is that they allow teachers to sign up for an account and create class projects.  This is where my idea for Spring Break comes in.  Why not create a project where you have your students mark and cite information about where the visited during their time away from school?  They can add text, pictures and presumably audio to their own adventure and also comment and reflect on each others posts.

    I was intrigued by some of the "placemarks" that were added in the middle of the ocean where no land exists and was impressed by what appeared to be an assignment a teacher had given where the students had to create their own island and give a brief description.

    My favorite was a post about the fictitious Hope-a-topia which said: "My island is in the Pacific Ocean west of South America. One of our fine features is that there are five islands in total. Sandy's Island-which is in the shape of a dog head-is named after my beloved dog and only has a population of about 1000. Creasent Island is named after the shape of it and only has about 950 people. Starfish Isle is named after the plentiful amount of ocean life and beaches located on it. No one lives on this island to keep its natural beauty alive, but you may spend the day there."   Sounds like Utopia to me!  Maybe I'll go there for Spring Break.


    So you see your students don't even have to go anywhere to report on their journeys.  Creativity is what happens when you think outside the box and using a tool project like Mapskip can certainly help you do that.

    Thursday, March 3, 2011

    BeFunky on the Web!

    Sometimes you images need a little something extra to make them pop. But we aren't all experts with Photoshop are we? We'll here comes BeFunky to the rescue.  They have a number of filters that you can apply to photos you either find on the web or upload yourself.  Most of the effects include a few basic sliders to adapt the image to suit your needs.  Originally, I used BeFunky years ago to manipulate various avatars I used across the Web.  But they have really improved their product and like most sites have additional features you can get by paying for the premium version.  However, the base level of BeFunky should be more than enough for you basic projects.  You can add text bubbles, frames and all the glitzy glam that you want.  The real power though is the effects that you can apply that enhance your photos the way you can with Photoshop. Mind you it doesn't give you all the editing power of Photoshop.  There are no layers, no brush effects no ability to erase.  Just a nice way to enhance your photos.  I was able to convert the photo of the Chicago skyline taken from Flickr below and turn it into a watercolor in about 30 seconds.  This can help pictures fit a theme in just a matter of moments.  It is a fun application, but I think it serves some value as a tool - Let me know what you think.




    Creative Commons License

    This work originally released by Sweet One and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic License. The "remastered" image was converted using befunky.com and is released under the same license.

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    Now That's a Spicy Mindmap #edtech

    Today's post is a result of following Dean Phillips (@caddiscaster) on Twitter.  He has been a valuable resource because he is either in attendance at or virtually following  #ncce2011 (Northwest Council for Computer Education - 2011) in Portland.  He began sharing a number of amazing applications this morning. One of them was called SpicyNodes. My jaw almost hit the ground when I opened the site. I am a big believer in mindmap tools as a way to brainstorm.  It's one reason why I like Pearltrees as a social bookmarking tool - it reminds me a lot of a mindmap.  Now, I have explored a number of mindmap tools. mind42.com, bubbl.us and mindmeister.com to name a few.  And I'm sure I'll review all of these at some point during this 365 project of mine.  But Spicynodes has blown me away, before I have even created my first mind map using it!  Why?  Because it has the look and feel of the popular presentation tool Prezi.  OK, so it's shiny (one of the reasons I'm not impressed with Prezi)! But sometimes that can make a tool powerful because it makes the process engaging. Sometimes learning can be fun.  I know I have enjoyed looking at some of the examples that are already in their gallery.  It allows you to add images and links (perhaps even soundfiles?) to the nodes of your mindmap and I see potential for creating timelines, flowcharts visualizing information and contextualizing the learning process  They see the potential too. Check out their section just for teachers: http://www.spicynodes.org/what_are_they-teaching_guide.html.

    Better yet look at the example below on Student Learning Styles:

    Tuesday, March 1, 2011

    How Do All These Utilities Compete #edtech

    A number of posts ago, I told you about Similar Sites which allows you to find alternatives to your favorite sites.  I referred to the demise of free Nings as an example of why such a site is important.  I've also told you about Quantcast.  This site allows you to see who is viewing a particular site through analytics that not only display the number of visitors a site has but who those visitors are through impressive demographics.  But what about when you find a number of alternatives and just aren't sure which one has the most value.  Well, Compete can help you with this.  With the free version you can compare up to three websites without even needing to have an account. Simply type the websites into the search boxes and you'll end up with a comparison about how popular these sites are as well as details about their growth.  Let's use social bookmarking as an example.  With the future of Delicious in question, let's use social bookmarking as an example tonight.  Let's compare three popular alternatives: Pearltrees (which I have posted about before), Diigo and Clipmarks (the other two will be future posts for sure). So when plugged into Compete what do we find out?



    Well for one, I seem to have a bit of the Web 2.0 prophet in me. Clipmarks is actually more popular than Diigo even though Clipmarks has not been talked about much in EdTech circles.   But Pearltrees in recent months has really started taking off and is getting more visitors than the others - looks like my predictions are coming true. As you can see it's a great way to include analytics when discussing different web 2.0 utilities because you can embed the data into slides and blog posts.

    Compete also has a number of other tools that you can tap into (some of them are only available in the paid version).  But I'll let you explore these on your own and let you add your comments about this fantastic site.
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