Fab Find: Reviving this blog with help from Scoop.it

A spring filled with an extra serving of doc coursework (it seemed like a good idea at the time)  and a busier than usual  family spring sports calendar has resulted in a few unanticipated outcomes;  more take out for dinner,  an increased reliance on Amazon Prime for mundane shopping needs and a very sad looking blog.

Yet  thanks to Scoop.it, I now can easily, and  efficiently, share my “Fab Finds” via Twitter, WordPress,  Facebook etc. all while being a curator for my own personal content collections.   I come across many Fab Finds each week, but the publishing of these have suffered.  I’ve been wanting an easier way to quickly share and item without compromising quality within the post.  Scoop.it makes it easy for anyone to publish a link to multiple social media sites while organizing them nicely for continued reference and sharing.

I know Scoop.it isn’t the first site out there to claim such wonderful powers, however Scoop.it is the first site for me that adds some zip into my daily work of mining the interwebs on a variety of Ed Tech, eLearning, k12 and higher education related content.

When you create collections Scoop.it attempts to find additional sites  based on the tags you have assigned to your topics. This is a well-intended feature but not its strength. The power is in the Scoop.it bookmarklet that you place on your browser bar so you can scoop as you go. If you are looking for a curating resource that has a powerful and  accurate,social search,  I recommend Storify. 

Scoop.it is in beta, but I did receive my invite in less than 12 hours upon requesting one.  Check it out today!

5 Presentation Tools for the Online & Face-to-Face Classroom

From EdTech Diva on Flickr

Here are five sites that each offer a specific purpose and tool set for your face-to-face or online presentation needs. From the most basic (showing an image), to the more sophisticated (multimedia mashups), all of these sites can be used by students and instructors to effectively convey content and foster engagement.

Keeping It Basic

Drop Mocks works with your Google account and is perhaps the simplest tool I’ve seen yet. All you do is just drag your  image file on to the web browser screen and…. viola!  Your presentation is born. If you don’t think anything is that easy, just watch this demo. Each Drop Mock generates a URL for easy sharing.  I appreciate the simplicity and recommend Drop Mocks when you need to create an image-based slide show on the fly. Also, this is a fairly easy tool for young children to use too.

At this time, Drop Mocks only works in the latest versions of Google Chrome or Firefox 4. Also, you can only use common image file formats such as jpg, png, gif, and tiff.  Each drop mock generates a URL for easy sharing, but no embed codes at this time. Despite this, it’s still pretty easy and slick.

Moving Beyond Slides

Prezi was the belle of the ball in 2010 and it seems everyone is still buzzing about this alternative presentation tool. This Prezi ,created by Adam Somlai-Fischer, is both a great prezi example that explains how Prezi’s are different than traditional slideshows. Overall, Prezi allows you to break a way from bulleted text and sequential viewing of your slides. You can still use images (and bulleted text) and you can even embed video.  If you work best brainstorming and organizing with mind maps, then Prezi may feel very fluid and natural to you.

Check out this Learning to Play Math Prezi to get a feel of the potential of Prezi.

Media Mashups Made Easy

I did a review of VuVox last week (full review here). In summary,  VuVox lets you do a lot, without needing a lot of high-tech know-how. Students and teachers can generate impressive multimedia collages and panoramas of their work.  VuVox can easily import RSS feeds, and your photo collections from Flickr, Picasa, and Smug Mug.  Add soundtracks and annotate your creations with comments and links to other websites. I find at its core, you can do a lot with VuVox , whether its making a static presentation, or creating interactive content. View an example from the NIHF STEM School in Akron, Ohio or one about Second Life.

Amplify Your Existing Slides

myBrainShark is the individual, free version, of the Brainshark product suite. Brainshark allows you to upload PowerPoints, MS Word documents, and pictures that you can then narrate and share with friend, co-workers, students, etc (you get the point). The site also provides a podcast and video recording option too.  And….drum roll please, you can add your Prezi into Brainshark too. Brainshark is a  great option if you are looking to personalize and add audio to your work, but do not require responses or audio feedback from your viewers. This is an excellent tool for students to generate presentations in as well. Presenters can even record audio by calling in on their phones. The downside: to use the free version you must leave your content  viewable to the public.

Engage and Interact

I describe VoiceThread as an “audio/visual discussion board.” I often turn to Voicethreads when needing to facilitate discussion about a topic. This is a favorite site for educators desiring a way to create more engagement, interaction, and feedback on academic work. This is also an excellent tool for students to present their own content and solicit feedback.

Unlike the previous examples, Voicethread really is a service that you load your pre-designed content into (usually developed in PowerPoint, but PDFs, image files, documents, and movie files). So while you are not authoring content from scratch in Voicethread, you are using Voicethread to enhance the learning experience by engaging viewers in direct conversation and interaction throughout the piece. Because of its audio and video features, many people forget that Voicethread is a not live broadcasting tool. Comments are recorded and listened to at the viewers convenience. Voicethreads can be made public or private, making this a great choice in the education community.  Some excellent examples include of Voicethread include:

Digital Writing Workshop

Picture Writing (K-3 example)

Voicethread on Integration of Voicethread in Online Learning

Voicethread Integrating SmartBoard Images

There are many, many, more presentations tools to consider. While this posting was more focused on visual and interactive options, other educator favorites include Google Presentation (part of Google docs) and Slideshare for posting Powerpoints for viewing.  In the next year expect to see some new releases  that blend social media features into the presentation experience. I am particularly looking forward to testing Storify.

Fab Find: VuVox Multimedia Collage Tool

VuVox’s tagline is media creation, made easy, and they are absolutely right!  I started fiddling with VuVox a couple of years ago, impressed with its ability to create simple, streaming photo collages that had a very polished look and feel. So when Lesley University faculty member Louise Pascale asked my ideas about creating a presentation featuring her photographs from her  trip to Afghanastan, I knew VuVox was the best tool for the job. Louise had three primary needs for this project; that she could easily show the final product online and face-to-face, creation of it would be an easy and intuitive process, and the finished product would look professional and polished without requiring the services of a designer.

Louise refers to her finished VuVox as her backdrop for face-to-face talks. As she speaks, VuVox scrolls behind her, providing power visuals as she shares the story of her visit and project. The combination of Louise’s talk, with the panoramic VuVox canvas, creates a memorable and striking talk.

VuVox allows you to embed media such as audio files, video, and links (see demo below). And while there are plenty of software options that have the same features, VuVox’s strength is in the polished quality and its panoramic style that makes it a distinctive choice for your work.  You can annotate and add text to your presentations as well as pull in RSS feeds if you are using the VuVox Express option. You can also pull in your photo collections from Flickr, Picasa, and SmugMug.  VuVox has expanded its offerings to include a variety of templates, creative layouts and designs for you to present your work. I find this to be an excellent option for students who are looking for ways to create multimedia presentations or even portfolios of their work. They have also launched VuVox Studio for more sophisticated multimedia editing and creations.

Once you create your first VuVox you can embed your presentation in any website or view directly from the VuVox site. The one downer about VuVox is that you must be online to use and access it. I hope that in the coming months the developers add an option to download content for offline viewing and work. (If they do I suspect this will be for a fee, now VuVox is free). VuVox has added more sophistication and options and has deepened their support documentation and tutorials. I find their documentation to be pretty solid and easy to understand which makes VuVox use and development a breeze for the average user of technology and photo sharing websites.

Be sure to check out VuVox and consider using it for your next multimedia presentation.

VuVox Examples;


 

Washington DC Prepares for Obama

PHOTOGRAPHS BY RICK ROCAMORA

Washington D.C. prepares for the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States of America Barack Hussein Obama. Millions are expected on the day of the inauguration, but as the city gets ready, visitors are already experiencing the euphoria of Obama’s election.

see more of my photos

Washington DC Prepares for Obama

Use Many Eyes for Text and Data Visualization

I am attending the Personalized Learning Symposium (#perLearn on Twitter) in Boston, MA this week. Today’s first group breakout session asked us to describe the qualities and characteristics that make a personalized learning environment.  At the completion of the conversation, one thing remained clear -we have a lot of ideas but no clear consensus. The lexicon for personalized learning is still developing.

I asked Molly McCloskey, Manager of Whole Child Programs at ASCD, and convener in the Bartlett Room breakout session, to email me the collected table notes to see if I could create visualizations from our words. My goal is straightforward:  can we see immediate  patterns and connections from our combined words?  I usually use Wordle for some instant feedback. The result was okay, but didn’t make this diffuse topic any clearer.  So I turned to IBM’s Many Eyes site which allows multiple visualization types (including Wordle).  Here are the results:

Classic Wordle:
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The next three are a series of branching diagrams showing the connection of one word, to many thoughts & phrases. As you view these diagrams click on some of the words and see what happens.

Branching Diagrams: Students
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Branching Diagrams: Learning
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Branching Diagram: Teachers
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The Classic Tag Cloud
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Many Eyes is also capable of creating data driven visuals using specific word counts to create a variety of relationship diagrams.  I pulled the master word count list out of Worlde to generate an example of one of these options. For this to truly work, I need to go in a clean up all the “is, a, the, of , ands”…well you get the point.

Bubble Plot Example:
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For me the clear winner was the branching diagrams for this exercise. What is really great is that you can type different words into the textbox to see if they can be mapped.  Many Eyes is a free service and works simply by cutting and pasting your text into a basic text box. From there you can create interesting visuals for your data analysis. Do I dare say its a tad bit personalized?  Enjoy!

It’s #ISTE10 OMG!

After 24 hours of ISTE10  it was hard to tell which hurt more: my feet or my brain. So much to see and learn (an understatement of gross proportion). I’ve dusted off ye olde blog to brain dump a few things observed and learned. Below is the list of topics covered in this post for easy peasy reading and skimming:

  • EduBlogger
  • The Power of People: Twitter Thoughts
  • Apple+iPad= UnSponsorship Award
  • Go look at these guys: It’s Learning, Shmoop, Adaptive Curriculum, Tech4Learning and BrainPop (of course!).

First off– pretty much all of EduBloggerCon (#ebc10) was quality and one of the best experiences so far at ISTE. A big thanks to Steve Hargadon & colleagues for their organization of this. The icing on the cake is that it was free –no extra pre-registration to participate! The Tech Smackdown after lunch highlighted some quality up and coming tools and I was thrilled to see the collaborative writing tool Storybird included. My students and I have dabbled with this site and I think there is a lot of potential for this site. I’ll post  my thoughts separately on the whole “Are Wikis Dying” conversation I participated in. Short answer: No/Yes/Maybe.

People Power: Twitter

TwitterIf there was an award for the 10,000 pound gorilla in the room it is  Twitter. Most sessions so far have had very active backchannels, which provides a mix of amusement, enables connections between attendees, provides avenues for rich resource sharing and also a chance for those of us locked out of the full sessions due to fire code (or virtually attending),  to follow along . Most importantly, since there is so much good stuff going on, you can benefit from fuller conference coverage, especially through the use of the new tool paper.li  and the #ISTE10 “newspaper” powered by Tweets. But the real story isn’t about Twitter; it’s about how people are working together, in generally helpful and useful ways, through the backchannel. I don’t know if I would go as far as to say the #iste10 hashtag is trasformative but I do think it’s been an essential positive part of my experience.

The pervasiveness of Twitter makes me wonder if ISTE will give us a field on our name badges next year to prominently display our Twitter Ids? I can only speak for myself, but I  will recognize a Twitter name before the  real name of a person. Hmmm, what does this mean???

Apple is here –right?
If you were to award UnSponsorship from a company that would go to Apple.  Apple’s full force presence in the exhibits is conspicuously absent this year. But, from the looks of things, does it matter? I’ve seen lots and lots and lots and lots (did I say lots?) of iPads this week in use by attendees. These are followed by iBooks, iTouches and iPhones.The iPad is being handed out as prize candy by vendors everywhere.  There are little sessions popping up through the unplugged portion of the conference about the iPad. The EduBlogger conference also featured a session on the iPad.  Apple has the best kind of visibility with everyone using their stuff this week.

Products, Tools, and “Good Stuff”
So this is just it’s own separate post for later. Some highlights:

If you are shopping for interesting ways to host/facilitate your courses walk right past Blackboard and Moodle and head straight to It’s Learning and Edmodo.   Heck, even if you are not shopping or the lead decision maker in your school/district, just go look at what’s possible to be inspired! Both vendors are in the way back of the exhibits and around the corner from each other.  I have to say It’s Learning is elegant and just makes sense. One nice feature allows video capture and audio comments right into the course site without extra authoring software. It just makes sense and takes the techie out of the learning. Edmodo is known best for its Facebook like look, feel, and features which gives it some nice familiarity for students.

I’ve been a long time fan of Tech4Learning, BrainPop, and Adaptive Curriculum. Shmoop is new on the scene and is worth a look too. Go say hi to these student-centered folks.

In Summary:
There is soooo much more to say –like the great sessions and conversations I’ve had, which are the most important parts of this conference and really require my brain to do a bit better at synthesizing for a posting. Globalization and our social responsibility is a recurrent theme and I just can not cover that well in 5 minutes or less of typing!

So what have you seen? What are your thoughts on Twitter? Vendors? Ideas that you find worth sharing ( riff on #TEDxDenverED).  The floor is yours.

Fab Find: Stixy For Flexible Online Creation Collaboration and Sharing

Stixy: For Flexible Online Creation Collaboration and Sharing.

If you are big fan of collaboration or need to figure out a way to do more dynamic sharing of content online, then you will want to take a peak at Stixy. Described by one colleague as “Google Docs meets Voicethread, meets a wiki,” Stixy offers a unique collaboration platform for a variety of content and media file types.

I am both a heavy user of Google Docs and Voicethread in my professional work and teaching.  Stixy seems to have the potential to fill a niche gap between the two –allowing document sharing, editing, commenting and collaboration. It allows different file types for posting and provides different options to mark up the screen and provide feedback to the author/presenter.

With versatility comes a loss of simplicity that is Google docs and Voicethread. Stixy’s user interface could be a bit more streamlined, and clearer to the “everyday” internet user.  However, after playing around for a short while, you will soon get the hang of the site.

Stixy is currently free and in beta. As with many new Web 2.0 sites, it’s hard to tell how long the beta will last, however it is still worth exploring and trying out.

I am curious if anyone out there is using Stixy with students yet? Something for business?  I am playing with different ideas on how to use it in my next online course this summer and this seems to be a nice tool  for students to collaborate and share their research projects through.  When I figure  out exactly how I will be introducing Stixy to students, I’ll post more details. Until then, enjoy!