Posted in Web 2.0 Tools

Bill’s 2010 Web 2.0 Year in Review

NOTE: F = Has a free component; $ = Pay for additional features, storage space, or bandwidth.

One paragraph to rule them all:

[ If I were to try to condense what I learned in 2010 regarding technology in education, I would meld the following concepts, ideas and technologies:  I would use a free WordPress.com site as the framework for communication.  I would learn how to use a smart device or phone to publish multimedia content to my WordPress site, while using a photo sharing site such as Flickr and video sharing site, YouTube, for video and photo illustrations.  I would use the phone to upload audio for podcasts either by directly calling a special WordPress number, or sending the mp3 file via email.  RSS feeds are automatically created for all WordPress posting categories, so I would share content updates via RSS.  A WordPress.com site can detect and deliver content in a mobile friendly way.  I would incorporate QR codes into my web pages, and printed materials to make porting from the physical & Internet worlds into my mobile world easier.  And, just for fun, I would use a Prezi presentation to organize, deliver & review my thoughts. ]

In early December of 2009, FSU sent quite a number of faculty & staff to the Annual SACS Conference which was held in Atlanta, Georgia.  I do not go to many conferences, and even fewer since the Budget Crisis.  However, this event was seminal in “jump starting” my interest and research in Web 2.0 tools.  The two sessions I remember included “Flip Video” and the “Mobile Initiative” at Abilene Christian University.

There are different versions of the “Flip” HD video camera.  They make it easy for an amateur to record high quality HD video and then post it to the Web.  The session leader provided several examples of videos that had been posted to YouTube, one of which was this inspiring rendition of “Midnight Train to Georgia.”

The Mobile Learning Initiative at Abilene Christian University was inspiring also.  They were in the early stages of cycling their student classes through, providing an iPhone or iPod Touch, to all Freshmen and providing the same to faculty that would be creating and delivering mobile content. 

Here Comes Everybody by Clay Shirky – “Group action just got easier.”

Prezi

Here is a Prezi presentation about “Using QR Codes”.

Prezi is an alternative to PowerPoint presentations.  It has a simple, but new interface for adding content and developing a presentation flow.  I imagine working on a giant blank dinner napkin where you can add text, images, embed videos, or draw lines.  Any of these items you can easily move, rotate or resize prezilogo-large_biggerwith their “zebra” menu.  *Once you see the simplicity of the zebra menu, I think you will wonder why more programs don’t use this concept in manipulating items.

I mentioned that you can resize items (e.g. photos, video, text), and you can also group them by using visible or invisible frames.  But, these two options (resize & group)  provide a conceptualization opportunity.   Say, one set of items is a subset of another item or comanualbubblemenuncept.  You can use the zoom (resize) function to make that subset visually smaller.  When you move from the subset to the more encompassing item or concept, the audience is visually taken there by the subset of items being made smaller in a “visual zoom”.

The “bubble” menu is the other creation interface which is different from any other program I have used.  The bubble menu appears in the upper left of the Prezi window and provides different functions for creating and viewing your Prezi presentation.  It is from the bubble menu that you can create the “path” for your Prezi.  The path is linear.  You move from one item or group of items to another.

You could create a 10 minute Prezi that moves along a path progressing in the development of a concept or idea.  A student might add outline points, while placing text, image or video to more fully explain these points.  *But, you can also import a multi-page PDF document into Prezi.  You could group these pages and provide a visual tag such as, “For Further Explanation, Stop and Read.”  These pages could be outside the presentation path, meaning that Prezi would just pass them by during the regular presentation.  If the viewer needed further explanation, they could stop the presentation and zoom in on these pages, reading a part or all, and then continuing with the automated presentation. 

Cool Teachers Podcast

Barbara Schroeder and Chris Haskell are the “Cool Teachers” in the School of Education at Boise State University.  Each week (well, many weeks) they preview and discuss various Cool Teacher Podcasthardware, software and other topics regarding integrating technology into education.

I came across their podcasts and enjoyed their style.  I often take notes on items they mention and then google and try out some of these things.

Flickr

Flickr is a photo (and short video) storage and sharing site.  Flickr offers a free account which allows you to store about 200 images online.  For $25 a year, Flickr gives you almost unlimited image storage.  You can create “sets” of images to help organize your photos.  *Picasa is a competing images storage/sharing site which gives several GB of free file storage. 

I have done quite a bit of historical research where I am using a microfilm reader to view old newspapers.  Sometimes, I use my digital camera to take photos of the pages, rather than print them out on paper.  Since a digital image is a digital image, I have uploaded these newspaper images to my Flickr site.

Tortoise water sculptures at Biltmore

I use a Canon PowerShot SD1100 IS camera to take photos.  I have not added a larger memory card to it, but know from past experience that adding a 5 to 10 second video of an object that I might want to write about later gives a greater sense of the object.  (e.g. A still of a water sculpture is interesting, but a short video of the water flowing from the sculpture deepens the item.)  *Having those items on Flickr or some other web accessible site makes it easy to write about and then illustrate the subject.  Biltmore tortoise on my Flickr site.

Jing

Jing is from TechSmith, the makers of Camtasia.  Jing makes it easy to create narrated screen captures.  You can show someone how to use an application by using the application yourself, and having Jing record your screen movements while you provide an audio narration.

YouTube

I had used YouTube prior to 2010, but here are a couple of notes.  You can easily create Closed Captioning for your YouTube videos.  You can also create video and publish directly to YouTube via the YouTube interface.

32” TV Monitor

A couple of years ago, I was asked in a staff meeting what item I would like for the next year.  I said that I would like a 32″ TV to use as a PC monitor.  I was laughed at, but they said, write a justification and you may get it.  *I just didn’t have the energy to come up with reasons why a 32″ TV monitor would be justified.

I did however buy two 32″ TVs and started using one at home, just as a TV.  The other one sat in it’s large box for quite some time, “collecting dust.”

In one of their podcasts in 2010, Chris mentioned that he had hooked up a large TV monitor in his office, using it for both a PC monitor and as a TV for viewing videos.  I wrote to him and told him how they still laughed at me for suggesting this.  Chris encouraged me to keep asking and that it was completely justifiable for its various uses.

This was the impetus for me to finally drag the 32″ TV out of it’s box and take it to my office and hook it up as one of my PC monitors.  *I’ve had the large monitor in my office for many months now, and people still pop in and say, “That’s a really large monitor.”

If I were still teaching faculty how to use various PC technologies, using the large monitor would be great, as they could watch “over my shoulder” as I explained or illustrated some function.

I have quite a number of photos on Flickr, and the large monitor is good for viewing them also.  HD videos, from YouTube, or other sources show well on the 32″ TV.  *We really are melding the various digital technologies into a central unit.

HTC Hero (Android)

Blackboard gave me the opportunity to “play with” an Android phone for a little over four months, as part of their Mobile Learn App Initiative for Blackboard.  I had a “ball” using this phone, and mostly “not for Blackboard”.

The apps included a Sprint Navigation GPS, which I used voraciously in my trips about North Carolina.  I even purchased a windshield mounting unit for my truck so that the map would display in a “heads up” position.  I came to enjoy ignoring the female voice as I would pass a turning point, and she would say, “Turn right in a quarter mile at…” to try and get me back on the original path.

The phone had a built-in camera, which didn’t take pictures of a high enough resolution or clarity, to satisfy me.  But, after I downloaded the “USTREAM Producer” app for Android, I had a lot of fun “broadcasting live” from various venues.  Of course, I was broadcasting to no one, but the possibility was fun.  *I would ride down I95 expounding upon some topic and the video would show the I95 scenery passing by in the background.  *The USTREAM videos could be saved to the USTREAM site, but also “pushed up to” YouTube.  Once the video was on YouTube, it was easy to embed the video in a WordPress

Streaming video from home to iPad at Smithfield Library, and recording live video on my HTC Hero (Android) phone using USTREAM.

posting, or in a Prezi presentation.

I eventually purchased an app, for $10, called HIFICORDER, which allowed me to create high quality mp3 audio files of varying lengths using the phone.   I then had the option to send them via email to a WordPress posting.  Later, WordPress also offered a “post via phone call” option which allowed me to call a special number and enter a unique key code and just start talking.  When I hung up the phone, an mp3 audio file was created and a simple Javascript audio player was embedded in my latest WordPress posting.  This made audio podcasting a breeze.

WordPress.com uses WPTOUCH to make their sites mobile device aware.  Without you having to do anything from the “backend,” a viewer hitting your site with a mobile device is presented site content in a “dummed down” version, which is more mobile device friendly.  

Leading into my next topic, imagine adding a QR code to a textbook which would connect to online resources (e.g. audio, video, updated content, etc.).  I found a free “Barcode Scanner” app that worked very well.  I could scan the QR image and then go to the related online content.

QR Codes

I’m not sure of when the “tipping point” will occur in America, regarding the wide-spread use of QR codes, but their potential for linking “the real world” to the Internet is impressive.  A QR code or image is a form of two-dimensional bar code.  It looks much like a black and white maze, or perhaps a crossword puzzle.  It is easy to generate these codes, for free, via online services.  Google Charts includes a powerful QR code generator as does Zebra Crossing.

What can you do with a QR code?  Well, you can communicate single items such as a phone number, email address or a web page URL.  But, you can also combine these into a set of information such as the data for “Contact Info” or a “Calendar Event.”  One image can include the name, phone number, office location, email address, URL, etc. which can be scanned and entered into an address book with one click.

A QR code can be pasted to a physical object making it easy for someone with a smart device to scan the image and link to more info, regarding that object, on the Internet.  e.g. Inventory, scavenger hunt, event poster, political mailer, real estate advertising, etc.  QR codes can also be included in web pages.  A person viewing the page on a laptop or PC can scan the code info into their smart device quickly.

The easiest means of creating QR codes for any web page URL or for any link on a web page would be to have this capability built into the web browser.  There is currently, a plugin for Firefox called “Mobile Barcoder” which adds this functionality to the browser.  Install the plugin and then point at the plugin icon and a QR code for the page URL will appear in a popup window.  Or, right-click on any link on the page and there is an option for viewing a QR code for that link.  *Unfortunately, Microsoft has created their own proprietary form of QR code, so they are dragging their feet to incorporate QR code recognition into their IE browser.

NOTE:  Using QR Codes to Disseminate Info

USTREAM

USTREAM is an online service, with a PC and Android app, that makes it possible, and easy to broadcast live video (then save the recordings, and push up to YouTube if desired) from your PC or smartphone.   *I had fun “broadcasting to no one” as I drove down I95 expounding on various topics. 

WordPress

I had started using WordPress.com in 2009 to publish my “Cape Fear River Steamers” research.  I had actual content that I wanted to make available, so it made the learning process easier (more purposeful) as I thought of different ways to enhance the content availability.  *In 2010, I used the NaturalReader (text2speech) software to create mp3 audio versions of many of the site postings.  I realized, as I listened to the speaker reading aloud the newspaper accounts, that this was almost like bringing the event to the listener as if it were radio.  After all, a well scripted radio show is just a step away from someone reading aloud a well-written article.

I found an online service called ODIOGO, which when set up, will automatically create an audio version, in mp3 format, of your latest blog posting and add a simple mp3 player at the top of the posting for you.

I think of a WordPress site as the foundation for communication.  It provides the framework to easily create and communicate to one or more people.  I can create a posting in MS Word and publish it directly to one or more WordPress sites.  I can also create an audio podcast by just using the phone and calling a special WordPress number.

By being able to create a posting via email, I was able to create from my smartphone a multimedia (audio, video, pictures & text) item from anywhere that I had cell phone access.  *I guess if I didn’t have access, I could still create the posting, and wait until I had “bars” to upload it.

WordPress.com uses the WPTOUCH theme to detect and serve your site content in a “mobile friendly” format.  Dummed down just enough to make it load quickly on your smart device, and make site navigation from the smaller screens easier.

Going eMobile

Okay, reading that emobile technology in education was on the short-term list (within 2 years) from the Horizon 2010 Report, and having that begin to sink in are two different things.  *It took even longer regarding “Open Source Content” as the second short-term technology.

Blackboard gave me an HTC Hero (Android OS) to play with.  Although they were looking for me to realize how wonderful their Mobile Learning App was (and it is okay), what this actually did for me, was give me a “hands on” device for trying out all sorts of emobile apps, etc.

*I am writing this segment in early 2011, but I have begun to be aware that neither students nor faculty are necessarily going to embrace emobile learning, and this for various reasons.  Mobile devices are becoming cheaper, but “unlimited data plans” may go up as users begin to take up large gulps of bandwidth while “playing games” and “browsing”.  *”Hey, do you want us to use them or not?”

Having a web browser ubiquitously handy is a great educational tool, whether someone is professionally guiding my education and use of the mobile device, or not.  *A 6″ Kindle Reader has a built-in web browser.  No, it doesn’t show photos in color (only 16 shades of gray), nor play Flash or videos, but having cheap access to Internet text & photo content is a game changer.  *A Kindle can audibly read to you.  It can play uploaded mp3 files.  It is my guess that it will also start to push through audio books, and play mp3s from web links (I am checking to see if the audio links are already possible.).

Using QR Codes and your mobile browser to study “between the cracks” will become more natural.  “Between the cracks” are those short time segments, and odd locations, where previously we were unable to study, but with a mobile device can devote what was “wasted time” into “study time.”

Open Source Textbooks

This was the second “short-term” technology mentioned in the 2010 Horizon Report.  As the effects of a bad economy begin to present themselves (with mass layoffs in 2011), OSTs will become a viable means of providing quality textbook content to students at a greatly reduced (or free) fee.  Textbook publishers won’t like it, but the tools (WordPress, Kindle, etc.) to easily publish and deliver OSTs are here and free.

VoiceThread

I had looked at VoiceThread earlier in the year, but don’t recall why I did not think more highly of it at the time.  It may have been the suggested pricing structure.

Chris Haskell (CoolTeacher) mentioned VT in a December podcast as one of his top 3 tools.  I took another look at it and he’s right.  Easy to use and highly effective.  *I do see that Duke University had a couple of years pilot project and determined that VT was only being used by a small segment of their faculty/students (languages, I think), but Penn State has a vibrant new VT Project.

GoAnimate!

This is an online service that makes it easy to create intricate cartoon animations.  You can create comic balloon dialogue or record audio for your characters. *I wouldn’t use this for everything, but it is an “eye catching” alternative media for delivering your message.

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