The Disclaimer: ITTS does not currently endorse, sanction nor support the services or software applications (other than Blackboard and Word 2007) listed in this article. But, I have found most of them user friendly and effective. — Bill
Education + Smart Phone = eMobile
Sometimes you have to “step outside of the box,” in order to move ahead. For many of us, the online education “box” is the Blackboard LMS. The learning curve for using Blackboard is low, but let me proffer another online application that has a low learning curve and can be very useful in getting materials online and delivering them effectively especially in the mobile arena.
WordPress.com is Mobile Friendly
WordPress.com originally was a blogging service, but it is much more. The WordPress application can be used as a powerful CMS. But, here is where WordPress leaves Blackboard in the dust:
You can create postings:
- If you are using a smart phone that can take pictures and record audio, you can create a blog posting including text, audio and images, and send it from wherever you are.
- Use your office phone or cell phone to call WordPress.com, enter your assigned key code, and start recording your audio blog posting. When you hang up the phone, an mp3 file is generated and placed in the posting in a user friendly audio player.
Via MS Word 2007 blog publishing
- Use the image formatting features in Word to add attractive photo borders, dropshadows and image skewing (tilt) to your illustrations. Type your text and then publish.
- And, via the WordPress Dashboard Interface, an easy to use layout much like Word.
WordPress automatically creates an RSS feed for each of the “categories” you create. This means you can use a single site to speak to multiple audiences. E.g. Create a category for each course, and then use a category to organize your postings, publishing to that audience.
Your sites on WordPress.com are mobile device aware and when a smart device is detected, the content is delivered in a mobile friendly way. By mobile friendly, I mean that the site can be easily navigated from your phone, images & text are resized to fit the smaller screens, and when you resize the text the page is automatically reformatted. WordPress.com uses the WPTOUCH plugin to recognize mobile devices and render site pages accordingly.
Use QR codes to connect the physical world to the Internet world.
A QR code looks like a picture of a maze or maybe a crossword puzzle, but it is actually a form of barcode which can contain a large amount of data. With the proliferation of smart phones that have cameras and are Internet capable, QR images are the way to easily and quickly connect the physical world to the information on the Internet.
A QR image can contain a web page URL, email address, phone number, text, or a combination of all of these. An image could contain all of your contact info that could be easily shared without having to type it all in. An image could contain event info, such as date, time, location, phone number and a web page link that could be added to your calendar with a single click of a button.
You are viewing a web page on your PC or laptop, but would like to view it on your smart phone.
Mobile Barcoder is a free plugin for the Firefox browser. This addon automatically generates a QR image for any web page URL that you are on, or for any link on that page. This makes it easy to pull up the page on your mobile device.
3 QR Code Scenarios + 1:
- You are at the grocery store and see a soup can that has a QR code. You pull out your phone and scan in the image. You click on the link and find yourself on a recipe page that has this soup as one of its ingredients. The images on the page make the food look good. You see all of the other ingredients listed, and it only takes 20 minutes to prepare. Like a Zombie, you “buy the can of soup.” But, later that night, you are a well fed Zombie.
- You get a mailer from a political candidate. Included in one corner of the flyer is an QR image. You scan the image and see that it includes a link to his/her web site, an email address and phone number.
- You are at the Laundromat doing your weekly duty. All you have with you, besides your box of detergent and a pocket full of quarters, is your textbook and cell phone. But, you notice a QR code inside the cover of the book. You scan it and pull up a web page that includes resource links from the book, listed by chapter and page, including audio and video clips. Study now, play later.
- You have created an event poster, for a band, a play, a car wash or yard sale, etc. You add a QR image to it with the event title, date, time, location, phone number and email address. Tack these posters up. You’ll have people, all over town, whipping out their phones to scan and add this event to their calendars.
Free QR Code Generator at Zebra Crossing.
Barcode Reader is a free app for Android devices that works very well.
Text to Speech
Text to Speech “in near human quality” is now possible. If you already have typed text and want an audio version, without having to sit down at a microphone and personally record it, then you should find a “text to speech” application or service. E.g. Maybe you want an audio version of a long policy document to place on your web site, or you think that an audio version of a typed document would help your visitors understand its meaning better, then text to speech.
All a visitor has to do is click on the play button to hear the audio version of your typed text. Very convenient when viewed from a mobile device.
For those of you that want more control for Text to Speech Conversion , you might want to try NaturalReader. This software runs locally and the audio files (WAV, MP3) that are created are saved locally. You can also split long files up into shorter clips, by length of time.
NOTE: This posting was created in MS Word 2007 and published directly from there. The image formatting and text box were created with Word functions.
Why the Disclaimer? It is not my intent to, nor should I, place work or expectations upon other ITTS staff or the Department, for supporting, troubleshooting or maintaining the various “cutting edge” applications, or Web 2.0 services with which I am “playing.” That is not to say that they shouldn’t be played with. Some will be very useful, and some may prove useful for only a short time.
Let’s just imagine that we are all in the same Nursery or Day Care. My mother dropped me off earlier, so I got to play with some of the toys before you arrived. When you get here, I offer you a ball, and a stick and tell you, “These can be fun.”
Now, don’t prove me wrong by poking yourself in the eye with the stick, or knocking something over with the ball.