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!

This Verizon Customer is Sticking With Her Droid (for now)

Before I launch in to explaining myself, a disclaimer;

I am not a wireless expert, a mobile phone operating system guru, nor a pundit on the topic of mobiles.  I have been buying Apple products for 15 years now and a fan of their design. I am just an everyday user of technology.

Okay, now to the explaining.

When the  iPhone first arrived years ago I had a severe case of gadget envy, even though I don’t fancy myself as a gadget geek.  Yet a prior, very negative experience with AT&T, kept me from taking the plunge . No amount of awesomeness was going to sway me to switch. And besides, Verizon (especially at the time of the iPhone launch) had a much superior network for my travel needs.  The pragmatist in me also knew that it was likely that Verizon and the other companies would launch products to compete with the iPhone,  as this is the cycle of innovation and tech.

Instead, I received a first generation iTouch which mostly addressed my  iPhone pangs. Because I spend most of my time in wireless environments, I could essentially use the iTouch as I would an iPhone (well except for the talking, but who really talks these days on their phones?).  I downloaded the common apps to try.  As an experiment, I even used my iTouch through most of the ISTE10 conference this past summer (with the exception of the keynotes where the wireless was laggy and bad).

While I embraced my iTouch, I also upgraded to a Motorola Droid as it was the most reasonable option for my needs. It had some similarity to the iPhone/iTouch. And, as the title of this post suggests I love it.  I love both really, but as a handheld computer/phone/multipurpose device I really appreciate the Droid OS design and ability to multitask. If there is anything that drives me a bit batty on the iPhones/iTouches, and iPads (our household has one of these too) is that they are at their best when you are single tasking.  I realized I expect my smart phone to do more than one thing at time and  do it well. All things I find with my Droid. And also, when you get down to it, most of the popular, common apps are the same across the platforms. I don’t really feel like I am using something that is soooo different.

Now Apple fans I know you may take me to task, and that’s fine. Please refer back up to my disclaimer.  This is just one consumer’ s point of view. But I do find this iPhone v. Droid business a bit apples to oranges some days.  The iPhone is the device + plus the OS. The Droid OS is available on a variety of devices (and providers); so as user you can choose a touch screen only experience (like iPhone) or select devices that utilizes the pullout keyboard (BTW -When I got the Motorola Droid I thought I would use the keyboard more. I barely touch it, probably because I am so used to using touch screen on my iTouch).  For a Droid customer you can choose the device that you are most comfortable using. So when I am talking about the iPhone I am really thinking software, I am not thinking about physical phone design itself.

So I wonder, after the iPhone/Verizon hype dies down a bit, how many Droid/Blackberry/Windows OS folks who switch to the iPhone ultimately end up going back to what they had? It’s just something to think about.  For me, I could use either, but after having my Droid I am not sure that I have a compelling reason to switch (yet).  The iPhone OS 4 is not that big of change from the previous version (or so I am told by experts and friends).  If that’s the case, I am going to continue enjoying what I have.

Of course I do realize there is a whole status thing of having an iPhone.  As an educator, I think of all the girls that came back after the Xmas/New Years break with their brand new Uggs. Ugg knock-offs might provide the same cozy warmth (function) and similar style, but they still are not an Ugg. I can see where there is parity in the mobile phone realm that we will sacrifice a bit of function for the perfect or envied form. And for many Verizon customers that alone is worth the plunge because we have been waiting so long to make it to the cool kids table (and there is nothing wrong with that).

As I approach middle age I am bit more of a pragmatist on things. And I don’t see the Droid OS as a knock-off either.  I think it is a solid piece of  software that I hope continues to innovate, especially as Verizon now offers pretty much every mainstream mobile OS to its customer base. The competition will be interesting and fierce (I hope).

But this brings me to me last thought. Wouldn’t it be swell to get the nice physical design of the iPhone that could run the mobile OS of your choice?  Hahahahaha, that’s a good laugh but I can dream can’t I?

Mashups & Media Literacy, Part I

In essence, I think the mashup is a compelling example of why media literacy should be an essential part of education (k-12 and higher education.) As educators create and share digital resources for use in the classroom, we have the opportunity to model best uses and create some effective mashups of our own. Also our students are creating more and more of their own digital content and a mashup can be an excellent project.

A couple of years ago I remember getting asked a lot about mashups. What were they? How do you make one?  Now, in 2011,  mashups are commonplace on the web. Yet this does not mean we (the everyday web surfer) is more cognizant of what mashups are all about.  So I decided to dust off one of my earlier attempts at explaining the basic mashup (see below) as I find it a relevant, evolving media form.

Mashup Image of women with blender
from librarian.net

Most of the time you might not even realize a website you are browsing might really be a  blend of  different apps and content being brought together for a seamless experience. This is could be considered a classic mashup. When you get down to it, isn’t your iGoogle page a type of mashup?

There are some amazing creations that come from mashups,  especially with music and video. This is where mashups can be controversial and the intellectual property and copyright is tricky to navigate. (For more on IP and copyright I recommend teachingcopyright.org) In essence, I think the mashup is a compelling example of why media literacy should be an essential part  of education (k-12 and higher education.) As educators create and share digital resources for use in the classroom, we have the opportunity to model best uses and create some effective mashups of our own. Also our students are creating more  and more of their own digital content and a  mashup can be an excellent project.

Below is the first part of a posting I wrote back in 2008 for my department’s blog on introducing the basic concept of the mashup to newbies.  Look for part II on creating mashups  tomorrow.

Understanding the Mashup -Part I

We’ve received a few inquires this fall about what mashups are and how they might be used in a course. The origin of the mashup is rooted in the music industry where people bring together instrumentation and vocal tracks from different songs to create a new song. Listen to an example of the classic Petula Clark song Downtown merged with the current Russian band t.A.T.u’s Not Gonna Get Us to form the new song Not Gonna Get Us Downtown.

The technical definition of a mashup refers to a website that brings together features, functions, and content of different websites into one tool or page. So essentially, a mashup is something that has been created from many other existing things to form a uniquely new thing, usually a piece of media or website.

Still scratching your head? That’s okay, so was I when I started reading more about mashups. The terminology and definition can seem more cumbersome than actually experiencing a mashup. Once you see one, you begin to realize that mashups are all around us. Here are some examples:
  • Flicker Sudoku – http://flickrsudoku.com/ The perfect site for sudoku fans and Flicker users alike, this site allows you to play sudoku with other members of the Flicker site, while pulling in content and sudoku boards from other sites. You experience the site as a normal, single webpage. In actuality it’s a site made of many sites and features.
  • Weather Bonk -http://www.weatherbonk.com/ Weather bonk is an interactive map pulling data from the National Weather Service, Google Maps, and other media sources. The site provides an interactive map of your region which gives you real-time weather, traffic, and sometime visual/image data. At same time, the site is very graphically busy and can be an example of the downside of the mashup.

Video Mashups
Video mashups are abundant. YouTube features many of them, and they are popular creations on comedy shows like the Daily Show. In an election year the variety and numbers of video mashups are vast. Below is a clip produced by an individual that was posted on YouTube. Notice the variety of images and clips ranging from Hillary Clinton speaking, a Nike ad runner, infused with George Orwell’s 1984:

Part II: How do I create a Mashup?
Basic mashups do not require expensive computer equipment or software. The most important resource in mashup creation is creativity and to keep in mind to start simple and build from there. In the next posting we will talk more about how to build a mashup using basic tools like PowerPoint.

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!

Privacy group files FTC complaint on Google Buzz – Boston.com

From the Boston Globe — As if we need more buzz on Buzz. Rumors were that a watchdog group was prepared to file an FTC complaint against Google’s new Buzz platform. Read more here from the Boston Globe;

Privacy group files FTC complaint on Google Buzz – Boston.com.

Google’s Social Envy Leads To The Worst Kind of Buzz

Google is getting too Microsoftish in its behavior and choices lately. I want to believe it is still an innovator; both hip and cool. But clearly Google has been suffering from social envy on a variety of fronts.

My previous two blog posts focused the power of social searching and the rise of Twitter as a specialized search tool (In Twitter Search I Trust).  I offered speculation on Google’s next move and commented on their envy of the social network.  So folks, I feel obligated to post a little something that acknowledges Google’s Buzz debacle. This is just my personal two cents of the past week that you can roll in to the millions of other Buzz reactions out there.  I’ve embedded links to resources on privacy settings and tips for your reference. Please comment, respond, etc.  I am sure the buzz on Buzz is far from over.

First: Don’t Ignore the Privacy Buzz
If you’ve ignored the Tweets and headlines about Google’s privacy gaffe with Buzz, please familiarize yourself with the basic issues. What happened this week with Buzz  impacts everyone, whether you use Gmail or not. For my educator friends, and really anyone working in a profession where privacy is critical, brush up on some of the Buzz issues.  Read up on the privacy concerns and changes to learn how to best manage your profile and identity. Most of the heat on Google has been focused on publicly viewable contact information. Users were unaware that their personal contact information, and the contact info of others in their address books, might be unintentionally exposed without setting up their Google profiles properly.

Lesson learned: Do not assume social networks should be based on a user’s email habits
Google initially set Buzz’s default to opt-in for all of its Gmail users.  Let that wash over you for a minute.  If you have a Gmail account, you were automatically up and running on Buzz when it was released this week (hence the privacy panic). Personally, I think this is a bold assumption that:

  1. I have room for more social networking
  2. The hub of activity should be within my personal email
  3. The  people I email the most are the same people I want to socialize with online.

I have many lovely email exchanges with my kids’ teachers, but this doesn’t mean we should become instant online pals. The same goes for my relationship with my own students. Aggregated data on my email habits usually does not reflect my true social network. In fact, the people I socially network with I tend not to email as much.  I mean, hasn’t Google heard that people really don’t use email as a social network tool, or at the very minimum email is an “old” technology? Of course they have and this has resulted in Buzz and Google’s acquisition of social search tool aardvark this past week.

So What’s Next?
Personally,  I am exhausted from all the buzzing about Buzz.  It is a stretch to find positive praise about the tool.  And Buzz users reactions range from lukewarm to outrage. Before Buzz, Google had clumsy attempts at social networking, including its acquisition of Orkut. If Buzz is an improvement on past efforts, and a true competitor to Facebook and Twitter, any shred of interesting potential with Buzz is overshadowed (justifiably) by Google’s amazingly poor judgement about privacy. It made me wonder just what does “social” mean to the folks that work at Google?  It also showed me that Google should stick to doing what it does best, and social just isn’t its expertise.

Since Tuesday, Google engineers are scrambling to put new privacy options in place (Read Google’s spin and updates on their blog).  And even though I found the fine print at the bottom my gmail to turn off buzz, that was not good enough as I had to hunt down my Google profile settings and manually manipulate the options located there to lock down my information. (See Lifehacker Blog for detailed tips).

I haven’t written Buzz off completely. I am waiting for Google to treat Buzz less like the global beta-release experiment that it is.  When I push aside all of the privacy press, and really look at Buzz the tool, I am underwhelmed.  The UI is less than fresh to me and is too linear. Frankly, when thinking about people new to social networking, I think Buzz is less than user friendly for them. I will wait on reporting more on this aspect once I take the full Buzz plunge, assuming this privacy buzz gets figured out.