Thursday, September 29, 2011

A Little Bit is Better Than Nada #edtech

I recently gave a presentation on storyboarding and suggested a number of online tools that could be used to easily create storyboards online.  One of them, Bitstrips, a site that is traditionally known for the ability to produce comic strips using a drag and drop interface.  Surprisingly, the educational version is the one that has a subscription cost (a disturbing trend that I will need to cover in a future post). However, the public version remains free and is full of characters, backgrounds and accessories to help you make the perfect cartoon or storyboard.  I'm shocked it's taken this long for Bitstrips to make an appearance at Zenodotus.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

When a Minus is a Plus #edtech

Tonight's utility is called Minus.  This site provides you with 10 free Gbs of storage space and works similarly to drop box.  There is a drag and drop interface, desktop utilities and even clients for your smart phone.  The plus of Minus?  For each friend who signs up on your recommendation, you get an extra Gb of space (as does your friend). Another plus? Minus is social and you can follow your friends uploads.  There's even a screenshot component.  Who couldn't use a little extra space?!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Lost in Translation #edtech

I have a number of presentations coming up and with less than 100 days left in this 365 challenge I've given myself - I'm starting to get nervous about coming up with and expanding on a post each day.  So I'm going to try and minimize my reviews and let you explore more on your own and make your own decisions.

That being said tonight's tool is Linguee a combination search engine and translation tool.  It will search texts in the web for sites written in German, French, Portuguese and Spanish for the terms you search in English or vice versa and then give you links to the results in each language.  Looks promising as an ESL tool.  What do you think?

Monday, September 26, 2011

Do You Hear What I Hear? #edtech

With Chirbit you can easily share all kinds of audio.  Whether you record audio right on Chirbit with a microphone or webcam or upload mp3, aiff, amr, 3ga, m4a or wav files you can easily share audio with Chirbit, You can also use your favorite smart phone to send audio to Chirbit.  When you record a file directly to the website you are limited to 5 minutes of recording.  If you upload the file, there is 120 Mb limit (which at 128 kbps equates to about 2 hours)!  You can also translate text to audio or change your favorite Youtube video directly to audio uising Chirbit.  I can see Chirbit being used for ESL, Podcasting, peer review and many many other applications!  Chirbit is audio made simple.  You can also download your audio as MP3, grab the embed code to put it on your site or share it on your favorite social network.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Something Old - Something New #edtech

A little known fact about this Geek is that I also enjoy making music.  In high school I dabbled with the synthesizer (let's face it the piano was just to low tech for me), I learned to play a few simple songs but could never figure out all the confusing chords and  timings.  Later in life I taught myself to play the guitar.  In fact, it's on the bucket list  to release a CD of irish folk music at some point.  But, I digress (what else is new).
So tonight, I'd like to share two sites with you.  Both will help you learn to play music (and in doing so I will also make up for the lack of post last Monday).

First up is Ultimate-Guitar.  Ultimate-Guitar is jammed packed full of user submitted tablatures and chords for just about every song on the known universe.  If you are unfamiliar with tab, it is a system that shows you where to place which fingers on the frets of a guitar in order to replicate your favorite songs without needing to learn all those pesky chords.  In addition to the lyrics and accompanying chords/tabs, there are often accompanying midi files and even some video lessons.  If the song is long enough to require you to scroll down to see the whole file, Ultimate-Guitar also offers an auto-scroll feature.  Often there are multiple versions of a song and they have been ranked by Ultimate-Guitar members according to accuracy.  Feel that key is too low? If you are on a chord file, you can even transpose the file up or down to meet your needs.

Second is a site that may just force me to pull out the old synth.  Online Pianist seems to be relatively new (within the past few years). But the have tutorials and sheet music for a number of genres ranked by difficulty.  What I like about the tutorials is that they are visual.  The placement of the fingers for the left and right hand are color coded and accompany a midi version of the song. You can also separate just the left and right hands with Online Pianist.  And here's the part I really like: Online Pianist allows you to slow the tempo to a crawl so you can learn those difficult finger placements.  Have a request for a song? You can submit one on their wall.
The only drawback I see with Online Pianist is they generate revenue with video ads that play automatically.  So be sure to close those before listening to the tutorials.

It's nice to be caught up again.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Little Monkey Business #edtech

As I continue to hone my social networking presentations for this year, I keep finding new applications to add to the mix.  Recently, I signed up for another social aggregation tool called Chi.mp.  With Chi.mp, you can build a network profile and attach a number of networking tools too it.  In the same realm as Hi.im and About.me people can peruse your profile and connect with you on the networks you've listed.  But what sets Chi.mp apart is that it's also an aggregation tool in the traditional sense in that you can combine all your feeds from those social networking tools.

Friday, September 23, 2011

What Do Thrill Rides Have to Do With Learning? #edtech

One of the most popular attractions in my area is Six Flags Great America.  I was fortunate enough to spend many a summer working and playing there.  One of the biggest attractions for many students in the Chicago land area is their annual physics trip to the park.  Collecting data under the guise of a fun filled day outside of school these students learn a great deal about the science of physics (admittedly not one of my favorite subjects).   Indeed, dropping from a few hundred feet in the air or looping through a hairpin turn is a great way to experience the laws of physics first hand.

But what if you live nowhere near a park (or are just to scared to take the plunge)?  That's where tonight's Friday Fun Night Utility comes in handy.  Amusement Park Physics from Learner.org is full of fun lessons and interactives that really challenge you to think about the laws of physics.  Whether you are interested in Newton's Laws of Motion or why you get motion sickness on your favorite rides, Amusement Park Physics has a lesson for you.  Plus, you even get to design your own coaster.  Now how fun is that?  Amusement Park Physics also has a resources page that will lead you to more information on the physics of amusement parks.  It's not a site you could spend hours on and the robotic voice can get a little annoying after about 15 minutes - but it is a fun way to look at real life application of physics

Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Dictionary Gets a Social Makeover #edtech

When you first visit Wordnik, you may think "This is a dictionary"?  There are words falling down the page that are color coded by how they have been recently influenced (e.g, added to a list, gained a new pronunciation, has a new comment, etc). But it's when you actually search for a word that you start to see the power of Wordnik.  Sure you get to read the definition; but, you can also see related words in the form of synonyms, hypernyms, hyponyms, contextual words, reverse dictionary and user generated tags.  The examples of word usage actually come from sites on the internet that are hyperlinked so you can view them in context.  With Wordnik you can create your own wordlists, leave comments and even favorite and tag.  Additionally, you can see pictures and hear pronunciations of the word.  You can also share the word on multiple social networks.  Wordnik is more a multimedia encyclopedia than your standard dictionary.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's in a Name.. #edtech

...when it's yours an awful lot, right? As you know, I am addicted to Web 2.0 and am constantly signing up for new and exciting tools.  What you may not know? I always use the same username.  This makes it easy for others to find me and also assists me in building a web presence.  Both are important to my online persona.  But what if you have a common last name (or even one that is less than unusual)?  You are bound to find someone has the same first initial and has already signed up for an account with it!  That's why I have appended numbers to my typical user credentials.  If I encounter someone with that username, I know they are trying to impersonate me.
So how can you be sure you've come up with a unique username to use across the web?  There's an excellent tool out there called Namechk. Simply type in your username and Namechk goes out and checks it's availability at over 150 different web 2.0 and social media sites.  If your name happens to be Mark Smith, I have bad news all but 10 sites have msmith accounts.  An added bonus of Namechk is that it exposes you to tools you may not have known about (some of which may be covered on this blog in the future).

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

No Email? No Problem! #edtech

Yes, I know I owe another double post - this project is becoming much more difficult as we enter the last 100 days.  What should be the home stretch may be the busiest time of year for me.  The double post will come later this week.
In the meantime, do you work for a school district that does not allow your students to have email?  Yet, you still want to have them sign up for Web 2.0 utilities you have found in this blog or on the web?  Why not give Dispostable a try?  You generate a random email account that requires no sign-up.  Keep that page open or write down the URL.  Use that address to sign up for the utility of your choice. Check your Dispostable inbox for registration details or activation codes.  That email will vanish in two days (or you have the option to clear it immediately).  No muss, no fuss - just an easy disposable "e-mail" account.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

You Caught Me #edtech

Some of my more astute readers caught some rather embarrassing misspellings in my post from Saturday night.  I'll admit feeling rushed and more than a bit tired, but, that's still no excuse for such sloppy writing.  On the other hand, I was not an English major and I always struggled with sentence diagrams in grade school.  So where is a geek like me supposed to turn in these situations?  Perhaps, Grammar Check?  With a simple copy and paste of your text  Grammar Check will run it through an analysis. So, what kind of job does Grammar Check do? See the text below for the original post before I ran it through Grammar Check.  No more late night mistakes for me!  It's always nice to have a second set of eyes (even if they are computer programs) looking over your work.  I'd be interested to hear from the English teachers on this one.  Does Grammar Check hit the mark? See if you can spot the mistakes.

Original Text
*****Some of my more astute readers caught some rather embarrassing misspellings in my post from Saturday night.  I'll admit I was rushed and more than a bit tired, but, that's still no excuse for such sloppy writing.  On the other hand, I was not an English major and I always struggled with sentence diagramming in grade school.  So where is a geek like me supposed to turn in these situations?  Perhaps, Grammar Check?  With a simple copy and paste of your text  Grammar Check will run it threw an analysis. So, what kind of a job does Grammar Check do? See the text below for the original post before I ran it through Grammar Check.  No more late night mistakes for me!  It's always nice to have a second set of eyes (eben if they are computer programs) looking over your work.  I'd be interested to hear from the English teachers on this one.  Does Grammar Check hit the mark.

Group Video Chat Made Simple #edtech

Have their ever been times when you want to converse with more than one person at once via video?  Yes, Skype now provides this feature as does the Google + Hangout feature.  But, these options often require software installation and accounts.  Koowy on the other hand allows you to plug in your webcam and start conversing.  You have the option of a private one on one chat or going public for up to 16 people!  Once you create a room within Koowy, you receive a link to share with your participants.  The one drawback I see is there is no way to record the conversation.  Koowy is a great option with very little overhead.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Out of Energy? #edtech

I know I am.  I wish someone would add a few more hours to the day, so I could catch up on sleep.  I'm a day behind again which means a double post tomorrow.  In the meantime, I highly encourage you and your students to check out Cevron's Energyville.  It's a Sim type game that allows your students learn about different ways to provide energy to a town with a growing energy footprint.  Energyville is not for younger students but I can imagine Energyville being intriguing for students old enough to understand the science of energy and the concept of green iving.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Amp Up the Power of Social Sharing #edtech

I've been exploring a new concept in social networking and bookmarking tonight.  It's called Amplify and it ties in with all your favorite social networking tools.  The idea is that you can clip portions of a website that you are reading and post it to multiple social networks at once.  So Amplify, also becomes an aggregation tool.  I must admit there are a lot of features of this utility I have yet to explore.  As with most social network tools, you can connect with your friends on Amplify.  So why not sign up for a free account and come help me explore it?

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Breaking All the Rules #edtech

Normally, if I find a site worth sharing that is in beta testing and I have to wait for an account, I won't review it until I have that account.  Additionally, if it is not a site with a free option for educators, I avoid it completely.  But, I'm so excited to share Piktochart with you tonight that I am breaking all the rules! We've all seen the amazing infographics that are out there right?  We'll unless you are a graphic designer would you feel comfortable building your own?  I know I wouldn't!  Well, I'm hoping Piktochart will be the answer to this dilemma.  With a drag and drop interface, 20 ways to visualize data (including an "intelligent Chart Wizard" to help determine what is possible based on your data) and even animate the infographic! I looked at the two levels of paid options and while Piktochart does not currently have the associated prices it looks like they have a pay per infographic option.  You get one free inforgraphic just for creating an account with Piktochart and that is certainly worth the price of admission. Hopefully, I get my account soon and this post will help convince the developers to come up with an educational option.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Cacoo #edtech

No, I didn't just sneeze. Cacoo is a very intriguing online diagram tool.  Great for making diagrams, storyboards, flowcharts and much more.  Cacoo is an easy to use application with a number of shapes and features.You can also create your diagrams collaboratively.  When your diagram is complete you can export the design as a PDF or image and of course share it online.  Cacoo is an extremely versatile diagram tool and worth further investigation.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

A Day We Shall Never Forget #edtech

I've tried to stay "off the grid" as much as possible this weekend. The anniversary of 9/11 is always a reminder for me of how important it is too spend some quality time with the family.  I was at work that morning in a suburb of Chicago scrambling to find televisions and rabbit ears (we didn't have cable in every room).  And even though we were 800 plus miles away, that morning forever changed my psyche.  Ever year on this day I watch the documentaries, but honestly, there is only so much footage you can really watch.  But what do you do when your children start asking questions?  How much do you tell them? What resources do you use?
The best I have found is Ten Years Later: A Lasting Impact on the World created by the Associated Press.  It is a powerhouse of information starting from 2001 and covering the full ten years since with videos, pictures, timelines, newstories and interactives.  Ten Years Later: A Lasting Impact on the World covers events from that day, the wars that erupted as a result, and how the sftermath changed the world forever. I must warn you some of the info is graphic and you need to decide what your children can handle.  With students coming back to school tomorrow with more questions than you will likely be able to handle, I felt I neeeded to share Ten Years Later: A Lasting Impact on the World with you.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

You Can Map It Out #edtech

I was one of those kids who had each state and capital memorized by 1st grade.  I loved geography.  But after watching "How the State Got Their Shapes" on the history channel it became quite evident that as a country we really don't know much about the fabric and landscape that makes it up.  So, may I suggest you explore the MapMaker application from http://www.nationalatlas.gov.  The site allows you to apply information from the  MapMaker database to a map of the US.  Everything from crime rates to invasive plant species can be layed out using MapMaker.  I often find when you apply such information it takes on greater meaning, So, MapMaker may just be able to help you remember where North Dakota is in comparison to Cleveland, OH.if you remember the overlay of data.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Learning About Civics Can Be Fun? #edtech

It can! Especially if you know about ICivics.  This site has sixteen amazing situational games from which to choose.  The site covers everything from immigration, to drafting a bill and getting it passed and even a game about constitutional law.  All the games at ICivics require a fairly strong vocabulary so this site is probably more geared towards your junior high and first year high school students.  But, what a great way to teach your students to be great citizens.  The games are intensive and take a minimum of 15 minutes to manuever your way through.  Now I realize that many of my readers are from outside the US, but this is a great site for you as well.  ICivics can really teach your students what being an American citizen is all about.  For my US readers, ICivics also has a teacher section which will help you align the games found on their site with your state standards.
*Disclaimer - with this weekend being the 10th anniversary of the atrocities of September 11th, 2001, I am going to try and gear my posts in a fairly patriotic direction, I hope you understand.  I live in one of the greatest countries in the world and am proud to be an American.  We will never forget!

If I build It...

Education and Technology is a very interesting amalgamation of many types of people who often get lost in the shuffle.  Students feel shunned because they are asked to turn off their electronic worlds when they enter the sacred halls of learning. Teachers often feel impeded because the Technology / Network teams have blocked useful resources.  Technology / Network teams have blocked these resources because of limited resources or by administrative decree (believe it or not most Network Administrators are not control freaks).  Administrators struggle with the two-headed monster of protecting students by adhering to COPPA, CIPA, HIPA and other standards while trying to encourage 21st century learning.  Add parents to that mix and you can easily see the lack of cohesion that exists in most educational institutions.

Yet, there is no forum for these individual units to come together and discuss the issues that each are facing.  And what ends up happening? Students find a way to access their forbidden electronics, teachers find ways to bypass filters, tech teams come up with more roadblocks to hamper their efforts and administrators are questioned as to why their schools aren't embracing 21st century standards?  Does any of this sound familiar?

Fortunately, I am in a very progressive district and rarely witness the above situation.  Yet, I continuously hear rumblings (and yes grumblings) about this from my PLN.  But, nobody seems to be willing to do anything about it?  And most of the time, it is due to lack of communication or understanding regarding the positions of all players involved.  So, I have a question / proposal.  If I were to create a forum (either online or in the form of an Ed Camp) for students, teachers, tech teams, administrators and yes even parents to come together and discuss the issues and challenges they face open and honestly, would you participate?  Please drop a comment and let me know what you think!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

I'll Take Care of It Tommorow, Promise #edtech

How many times have you uttered those words only to blank the next morning. Happened to me today. But no more thanks to an interesting concept called followup.cc. The concept is simple, once you sign up for an account, you can CC or BCC a code sensitive email address within the followup.cc domain. Then based on settings and the code selected followup.cc will e-mail you reminders to make sure you re-connect and followup. There are also Snooze reminders that allow you to archive email and not worry about forgetting to deal with them later. There is also a calander integration feature. I am a bit concerned about privacy using followup.cc. After all you are possibly copying sensitive information to an outside company. But with a little common sense I can see avoiding that pitfall. The free version seems a bit limiting with only 25 reminders per month. But that may just be sufficient for my needs. Inbox zero here I come.
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Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Sometimes Smaller is Better #edtech

If you host a site, blog or wiki (basically anything online) that has images, your page may tend to load slowly.  Why? Because you've probably embeded files directly from your cameras SD card.  Those files can be absolutely huge in size.
Enter JPEGmini.  Very simply you can upload any jpeg file and JPEGmini mini will reduce the file size without damaging resolution or reducing the files dimensions.  Sign up for a free account and you will be able to upload files to albums and download images or export directly to Flickr or Picasa.  You can also connect your Facebook and Google accounts.  The only caveat is JPEGmini only holds you images for a week.
Now when you upload your files to the web and embed them to your site, viewers won't have to wait so long for your files to load!

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Mad Lib Policy? #edtech

With all the debates swirling around the use of social media in education, I thought it might be time to share a site that makes creating a policy regarding social networking as easy as filling out a form.  Before I get started let me state I am not a lawyer nor do I play one on TV (always wanted to say that), so I can't promise that the policy you can create using Policy Tool will ever hold up in court.  Rather, it is an easy way to build a framework you can take to your board or law firm to show that you understand the importance of social networking while demonstrating that you have regard for some of the legal ramifications that come with it.
Basically, Policy Tool asks you 12 Simple questions ranging from the name of your company (or school / district) to whether avatars are allowed for profiles and if so if there are any guidelines for said avatars.  Once you have answered the 12 questions, you must agree to the Terms of Service Policy Tool lays forth and in a matter of moments you have created a general social media policy that you can use as a rough guideline for your students / staff or take to someone with much more legal expertise to expound upon.

Monday, September 5, 2011

Take a Picture It Will Last Longer #edtech

Labor Day weekend has been a blur and I know I still owe a double post, but tonight will have to be a "quick hit".  Pixtick is a simple but powerful screen capture / annotation tool.  Pixtick allows you to take a Screenshot (or upload an image from your computer or a URL).  Once you have the screenshot in your workspace you can highlight certain areas with shapes and text.  Let's say you're having a software issue and you need to send a screenshot to your tech team.  They can analyze what is happening and possibly even highlight areas of the screen and add text using Pixtick to let you know if there is anything you can do to expedite repair.  Or maybe your working collaboratively with someone and need them to mark up your preliminary design?  I can see Pixtick being a helpful tool in that capacity as well.
What makes Pixtick so powerful though is that once you have your finished product you can upload and share it on the web asa image or embed it into your blog or wiki by using the simple code they provide.
*Pixtick does have a tool you can use to actually capture a screenshot but Java was acting wonky for me tonight and I wasn't able to get it working

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Study With Cards #edtech

It seems the weeks are getting longer but days are getting shorter.  I;m going to owe another doublepost this week, but tonight will not be that night.  I want to quickly tell you about a great online study aid.  Remember back when you would use index cards to create flashcards? EasyNotecards helps you do that online!  Simply put: You create your own notecard sets, front and back using text and images. EasyNotecards allows you to associate your notecards with any book. This makes it easy for others to find and utilize.  Of course, if you want to keep your flashcards all to yourself you can by adding a password or simply protecting it entirely.  Once you create a set using EasyNotecards, you can randomize them and take them as a quiz. There is also code to embed the cards on a class wiki, blog or site.  Finally, if you think having hands on access to the cards is important, there is a feature that allows you to print them out and have something a bit more tangile.  Overall, EasyNotecards is a very nice study tool.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Time's Up #edtech

It really is.  I'm headed out with some golfing friends tonight to go see "Seven Days in Utopia" a kind of Karate Kid meets The Greatest Game Ever Played type of movie.  Been looking forward to this for a while.  Nothing like a ten o'clock golf movie with a early morning tee time the next day.  But, I digress.

The Fun Friday post tonight is maybe not so fun for those elementary students just learning the joys of math. Math was never my strong suit (as one would note if they watched me add up a scorecard this month - scores have been pretty painful of late).  But those dreaded timed tests that many elementary students face can become a breeze if you let your students explore Mathisfun's Math Trainer.  Essentially, the Math Trainer is a customized timed gauntlet of math questions focusing on the basics of addition, subtraction and multiplication (sorry folks, no division questions yet!)  It's a little tricky to find on the Mathisfun website so make sure you follow this link to the  Math Trainer.  It breaks your questions into tables and highlights areas you are having difficulty with during the session.  The Math Trainer is not intuitive for an old geek like me.  At first, I didn't do to well as I experimented because I didn't realize there was no need to hit enter after each equation.  But once your students get the hang of it I'm sure they'll be racing through the 12x tables in no time.  There is a ton of resources to explore on Mathisfun, including traditional worksheets, measuring exercises, puzzles, data sets and more.  Not the way I'd necessarily want to spend a Friday evening - but the math genius in your class might just have a ball!

Interview with a Geek? #edtech

Yes, I missed last night's post. Am I getting lazy? Not really. Am I just too busy? Heck yes! Beginning of the school year and the onset of conference season is going to make the last four months of this 365 project a real challenge. I have tried (with the exception of Fun Friday) not to put a theme on my posts. Simply because I like to keep my audience guessing as to what's coming next. However, to stay a bit more organized Zendotus.net is implementing "Think About It Thusday" Thursdays will be kind of like new music Tuesday from my disc jockey days (yes, my voice used to "grace" the airways) and will feature a web tool that is new to me but that I think has far reaching implications. Friday's I will continue to try and focus on applications for elementary students that are not only fun but educational. Also, I am always open to guest blog posts! If you have a site you think needs to be reviewed here and you have the chops to do it - shoot me an email and we'll work it out.

All that being said, let's talk a bit about interviews. They are a great way for students to practice communication and organization skills right? There are some great text based sites out there which will help you conduct interviews. Many of you are also using Skype for this purpose. But what about a site that does pure audio? I'm must confess I have a bit of trepidation about suggesting theinterviewr as an option since I have yet had a chance to test it.  However, I think it has potential, so I'll let you be the judge.  Basically, theinterviewr let's you schedule an interview and requires the phone number of the interviewer and interviewee during the process. When the scheduled time for the interview comes about, it appears that you log into theinterviewr and the utility then calls the interviewee using twilio.  You conduct your interview and theinterviewr records and stores the conversation for up to six months.  They are currently working on ways to share these interviews to your favorite sites and a transcription service.  It sounds like a great way to reach out and interview those who have yet to jump on Skype or some of the other services out there.

My concerns is two-fold and I invite theinterviewr developers to comment on this post for answers.  First, how secure are the phone numbers that are used during the interview process.  Are they sold to 3rd party telemarketers?  Second, are their privacy settings for these interviews.  Obviously, you would not want to conduct DOD level interviews using theinterviewr but at the same time you may want to preserve some anonymity depending on the participants and subject matter.

So, there you have it.  I'm on the fence (and a day late) with the first "Think About It Thusday", but felt theinterviewr was important enough to share.  What are your thought?!
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