Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Social Bookmarking and Networking in Plain English

A couple brief videos from CommonCraft.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

An Educational Tour of Second Life

Second Life and other virtual worlds or MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games) have been getting a lot of interest from academics. If you're considering using Second Life or want to learn more, here's a great slideshow - An Educational Tour Of Second Life - from Slideshare.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Bob Dylan on Facebook - Sort Of

You may be among the many who don't get Facebook, Twitter or other social networking sites, but big media is starting to get it. Sony/BMG - Bob Dylan's record company - has had Techlightenment create a really neat Facebook application that lets you mash-up a classic Dylan video with your own content. It's really a brilliant use of Facebook and its network of users. Any video created ends with a reference to Dylan's new greatest hits album - due out October 1st. And by following Dylan's (really Sony/BMG's) profile, you are allowing them to follow you, so they (Sony/BMG) can reach out to any potential record buyers. Here's a little video mash-up I created!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

These Kids are Wired Differently

I have to admit, before I read Karl Kapp's Gadgets, Games and Gizmos for Learning: Tools and Techniques for Transferring Know-How from Boomers to Gamers I was on the fence when it came to gaming in the classroom. At 41, I'm at an age where I'm sort caught in the middle. I'm not an old school academic - "This is the way I learned, and this is how these kids will learn!" - but I see the value of how I was taught and have a tough time letting go of that paradigm. At the same time, I teach technology, I teach with technology, I love new technology and I'm always looking for ways to get my students engaged. It's a real delicate balance, but to some degree it goes back to the idea of control and a willingness to give up some control in the classroom.

Reading Karl's book and at the same time considering my own 13-year old daughter really crystallized it for me. Watching my daughter, play games on her PlayStation 2 (she has a Wii now) I was amazed at her persistence and determination. For example, in a snowboarding game, she would start down the mountain, fall, get up, fall again - only to reset the game and start all over. The cycle continued, until she mastered the game and "unlocked" even more difficult courses - and with the same focus took on those challenges. Big deal you say, but compare that experience to that of sitting down with her to help her with a page or two of math homework. After a couple problems, she's bored, doesn't get it and just wants to get it over with - in spite of the fact that she's a good math student and has a real aptitude for math. That along with my own classroom was the epiphany for me! There has to be some way we can capture that same excitement and engagement in the classroom.

In the book, Karl does a great job of countering the prevailing arguments that gaming is frivolous, has little academic merit,and if done well, is too costly. In fact, Karl details a number
of simple games that can be used to teach declarative (facts, jargon and acronyms) and conceptual knowledge. Also, Karl's not advocating that we do away with traditional classroom instruction, but instead that we realize that these kids are wired differently and that we need to start integrating new techniques and tools into the classroom - to better engage them.

There are some really great examples of simple and inexpensive (often free) activities that can bring gaming into the classroom and better engage your students. One that's been around forever, but remains effective is the Jeopardy by Powerpoint. If you click on the image to the left, you can download a PPT document that you can use as a template to build your own - discipline specific - Jeopardy games. Edit the file to create your own categories, answers and questions - it's really simple.

Another great tool is Hot Potatoes - a free (under certain conditions) download for Windows, Mac and even Linux. With Hot Potatoes you can create interactive multiple-choice, short-answer, jumbled-sentence, crossword, matching/ordering and gap-fill exercises. There are plenty of others, but this is a snapshot of the type of tools available.

On the high end, are some emerging web-based tools that include:
  • FlowPlay is a virtual world community - in beta - where users play browser-based casual games as their own created anime-like avatar.
  • Story Blender - an online collaborative video production site - from the founder of Cyworld - where users "blend" together media to create rich, interactive stories.
  • Katura, a collaborative video site where friends can create, edit and share video content.
  • Metaplace - a revolutionary virtual world platform that provides an open, easy-to-use interface allowing users to create virtual worlds that can run anywhere and enable users to play games, socialize, create content and conduct commerce. These virtual worlds can be embedded in a blog, Facebook or MySpace and even allow users to link virtual worlds.
  • Animoto an online application that lets users create free 30-second music videos by uploading photos selecting and music - very simple. [courtesy of Patricia Donaghy]
  • BeFunky provides users with tools for uploading a photo and creating an avatar, cartoon, digital painting or comic of themselves for their blogs, websites, and social networks.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Making the Case for Collaboration

With the addition of presentations to Google Docs, comes this brief video describing the benefits of online collaboration. You'll recognize the style of the video from our friends at CommonCraft - very clever!

Google Adds Presentations to Google Docs

The Official Google Blog just announced the long-awaited addition of presentations to Google Docs and Spreadsheets. From the announcement:
Starting today, presentations -- whether imported from existing files or created using the new slide editor -- are listed alongside documents and spreadsheets in the Google Docs document list. They can be edited, shared, and published using the familiar Google Docs interface, with several collaborators working on a slide deck simultaneously, in real time. When it's time to present, participants can simply click a link to follow along as the presenter takes the audience through the slideshow. Participants are connected through Google Talk and can chat about the presentation as they're watching.
More details to come later!

Friday, September 14, 2007

Mass Collaboration - Wikinomics

At the recent Enterprise 2.0 conference, Donald Tapscott gave a presentation on Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything - the book he co-authored with Anthony D. Williams. The focus of the book is leveraging web 2.0 tools to jump start and drive mass collaboration, especially in the enterprise. In addition to detailing what a number of companies have done to foster collaboration, Tapscott and Williams provide strategies and tools to enable organizations to better collaborate both internally and externally. One of the really great things about the conference is that organizers put into action the openness and sharing advocated in the book. To that end, presenter video, audio and powerpoint are freely available at the conference website. Two months ago, I posted Tapscott's June 20th presentation on the presentation sharing site Slideshare. It's been viewed 584 times, downloaded 107 times, and embedded into 5 websites or blogs. Additionally, it has been added to three Slideshare groups - Web 2.0, Crowdsourcing and The Social Media Club. Here is a link to the powerpoint with transcript, video of the presentation and finally the embedded slideshow below.

And finally, you can listen to a podcast Gordon Snyder and I did on Enterprise 2.0 by clicking here.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

What Blogs to Read?

When I present at conferences, I always get asked what blogs I read to get and keep up with this endless stream of information that's out there. Unfortunately, that's a difficult question to answer, because the list of blogs I read is pretty fluid. Fortunately, North x East has published a list of their picks for the 50 Most Influential Bloggers. I won't reprint the list, but I encourage you to explore it and give some of these bloggers a read. Although not a definitive list, there are a number of the 50 bloggers that I already read. One that I hadn't seen before is - #49 - Mary Hodder's Napsterization blog[fixed broken link], which NxE describes as:
a blog that discusses the transformation of old media into digital media
and Mary Hodder as:
one of the leading-edge bloggers writing with and experimenting with new web technology and the role of digital media in the world
Interestingly, a number of the blogs focus on SEO or Search Engine Optimization - which sounds somewhat esoteric, but for businesses is really about the bottom line. The goal of SEO is to get your webpage or your company's webpage at the top of the list of search results from Google, Yahoo and other search engines. Not surprising that most people click the first link they see.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New York Times Gets Social

If you or your students are using Facebook, you might want to try out the just launched New York Times News Quiz Facebook app from The New York Times. This add-in to Facebook quizzes students each weekday morning with five-questions covering recent news events. Students can take the quiz alone or challenge other Facebook-friends to see who knows more. After taking the quiz, you're given results, percentile rankings and most importantly, links to today's top NYTimes stories - to help you prepare for tomorrow's quiz. I think this is a great way to get kids interested in news and current events, and the competition with their friends makes it potentially even more engaging.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Simpsonize Me

In an earlier blog, I talked about some simple ways to connect with your class and to get them engaged. Here's another great classroom icebreaker - - which allows you to upload a head shot and convert a photograph into a Simpson's character. Great way to entertain - there's that dirty word again - your students and connect with your class. Here are simpsonized version of me and some of my co-workers.

Monday, September 10, 2007

vTap - Video on Your Mobile Phone

VTap just launched a new service that allows you to watch videos on your mobile phone. It works with the iPhone, Windows Mobile phones, and any number of phones that run Java. Here are some pictures of VTap on the iPhone - the pictures don't really do the service justice. The quality of the video is great - even over the slower edge connection.


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