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!

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

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.

Use Revisit to Visualize Twitter Conversations & Backchannels

I seem to be on a data visualization kick this week. Yesterday I highlighted the coolness of Many Eyes for text analysis. On the same day one of my favorite tweeps, @ToughLoveforX, shared Revisit, a project by Moritz Stefaner who is a freelance “information visualizer.” As soon as I clicked on Revisit, I was smitten from both my visual data geek tendencies and as an educator.

Stefaner’s Revisit allows you to “see” the connections happening across various Twitter streams and hashtags.  As a professional development provider and educator, Twitter is one of those tools that can take a while for someone to get the gist of (See earlier post on DABEL model for Social Media PD). One of the common complaints I hear from my students and colleagues is that Twitter is so hard to follow. Often I will introduce TweetDeck or Twitterfall (etc), as helpful tools to follow the progression of conversations. Some of my students and workshop attendees will then “get it” a bit more, but there is always a group of visual learners that are really trying to conceptualize the relationships of the tweets; particularly retweets and how people are truly connected. This is where Revisit is particularly powerful.

I did a sample infographic of the #edchat hashtag from 8/7/2010 at 11:30am EST. Click here to interact with this example (give it about 3 seconds to load). Also note, to the right of the Revisit screen, you can also type in your own search terms.

Stefaner comments this as a great way to create a Twitter wall for conferences, offices, and I would propose classrooms as well. Imagine visualizing your backchannel conversations in this way and seeing the connections come to life, as well as visualizing the major influencers  and branches in the dialogue.

Individuals and organizations can download the source code for their own stand alone implementations. Stefaner does note that due to current API limitations the only the tweets from the last 8 days are captured and retweets via the Twitter website are not captured. However, as an immediate infographic and quick analysis tool, it’s very effective. I invite you all to Revisit, and see your Twitter experiences in a new way.

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!

Try the DABEL Model When Offering PD on Social Media

Social Media can be a fun topic to teach educators and colleagues about.  It  is often an overwhelming concept for new users of social media tools to grasp. I think I described this on #edchat the other day as “Social Media is like breathing water to new people.” I’d like to revise that comment to that it probably feels more like a being a fish trying to swim without fins!

I recently gave a lecture/workshop to 32 Ph.D candidates at Lesley University. They were taking a special topics course in new media in scholarship, and I was asked to help them think about using tools like Twitter,  Mendeley,  and social bookmarking sites to assist with their scholarly networking. While at least 3/4 of the class were active Facebookers, people were a bit miffed, and some a tad petrified, about using Twitter.  To get us going, I used my DABEL model which stands for: Deepen Apply Brainstorm Engage and Learn.  In the context of social media and research, I presented the following goals for the afternoon:

  • Deepen our knowledge and understanding of social media
  • Apply social media ideas and concepts to the practice of research and inquiry
  • Brainstorm opportunities for using social media and other digital media tools to strengthen research goals and projects
  • Engage in inquisitive “play” with featured tools (Twitter, Wallwisher, MindMeister, Wordle)
  • Learn new pathways for collaboration and analysis

I find a lot of adult learners are so worried about “screwing up” the computer or looking dumb they are unable to hear about the purpose and potential of technology. Intrinsically, many adults assume they must master a tool before they can use it, as this is how many of us were taught in school (back in ye old dark ages). Setting the tone with DABEL is a great way to  give permission for inquiry, exploration, and play. This also provides a balance on applying known theory and practice, to new media and tools.

After giving the class a couple of videos that presented some thought-provoking stats and commentary, the conversation immediately started rocking. One of the faculty in the room said it felt like driving down the autobahn in a convertible. (I believe this was a compliment.)

I scaffolded our exploration with “easy” tools that I had set up for them in their Blackboard course site. One was a link to wallwiser, where they could post their research questions and topics. This was easy, fun and slightly addictive to a few students. By the time we arrived at Twitter the skepticism was there, but there was openness to consider and try it since they had successfully dabbled in a few previous tools and we engaged in dialogue and brainstorming on how to use them professionally and for school.

Below is the full presentation. I haven’t seen DABEL used before, so  I am claiming it as my own little acronym. Contact me if you’ve seen it. And if you want to use it, great; let me know how it worked and it’s extra nice if you cite this post as your source!

Link to Google Presentation with embedded videos.

Social Scholarship Slide Photo
Image of slide show