Monday, December 31, 2007

Top Web Tools of 2007 - Number 1

PBwiki climbs to the top of the heap this year and is the odds-on favorite to be inducted into the hall of fame next year. One year ago I didn't even have a wiki in my list of Top 12 Tools. They seemed so 2005, so irrelevant in a sea of more flash and more cash. I've been a wiki user since I was first introduced to them, but they just didn't seem to be keeping pace with so many of the other tools that seemed to be the movers and shakers.

Rapid advancements in the functionality of the wiki has moved it back into the status of a must-have tool for me. A couple of years ago you needed to use the goofy wiki language coding to do basic formatting such as bold text, numbered lists, and other such trivial pursuits. Now PBwiki (and other wikis as well) have much more editing functionality with WYSIWIG editors and familiar formatting buttons that allow you to do so much more with any wiki page.

PBwiki was the first wiki I ever used and it is still my first choice in a wiki. The basic wiki service is still free, they are very educator-friendly, and the advancements that they have added to their wiki are totally useful and powerful.

Their tagline is that making a PBwiki is easier than making a peanut butter sandwich (yes, but what about the jelly?). They publish a blog called The Daily Peanut which is a great place to keep up with new developments. They offer premium wikis at a cost somewhat above zero, but the free wikis have been sufficient for all my purposes so far.

Wikis allow for multiple authors and therefore are great collaborative tools. Whether used for group projects, committee work, presentations materials, or simply as an archive of your deepest darkest thoughts; a wiki can be a great way of organizing and keeping things on the web. Any educator trying to maintain a work-related website would be well served to use a wiki rather than trying to manage multiple pages using standard html editor such as Dreamweaver or FrontPage, unless maybe you happen to be an expert in those platforms. Even then, if you want collaborators, a wiki is still the way to go.

The following embedded video is titled Getting Started and features Ramit Sethi of PBwiki:

There are other videos available at You Tube about PBwiki. You can also get good help in their FAQ section or their active Users Forums.

Some of the things they're currently working on include:

  • Easier picture / file insertion.
  • Better inline discussions
  • Spell checker
  • Wiki redirects
  • Single-signon from alternate services (Flickr, Facebook, etc)
  • Alternate file upload venues (FTP, SMB, email)
  • Whitelabel/subdomaining w/admin: *, *
I have created several different PBwikis over the past couple of years for various different purposes. Here are a few of the examples:

My latest creation is one that is not quite finished yet (you can make a case for them never quite being finished). It is a demonstration wiki that shows all (or most) of the possible plug-ins available when using a PBwiki. Some of the plug-ins that you'll see on this wiki include:

  • FrontPage: attaching a document (link to uploaded document), embedding a YouTube video, embedding a slideshow, embedding a live TV player (mine shows the Baseball Channel)
  • Productivity_Plug-ins: any Google Gadget (the Weather Channel is shown, but there are thousands to choose from), a discussion board, any RSS feed that you want to display, a calendar from 30Boxes, a live and active spreadsheet, and a stock chart.
  • PBwikiMagic_Plugins: an equation editor for mathematics, embedding any html code (the example shows an embedded slideshow from SlideShare), recent wiki changes, recent wiki visitors, a table of contents.
  • Chat_plugins: a live chat room (text) or a YackPack walkie-talkie button (live voice chat with anyone else viewing that page.
  • Photos_plugins: a BubbleShare embedded slideshow, an mp3 player from Odeo, another slideshow.

These are the types of things that have brought the wiki back into my web life and the main reason that it has risen to the top of the class for my 2007 list of web tools that are most useful to me.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Top Web Tools of 2007 - Number 2

Picnik quickly became my web-based photo editor of choice this year. I first tried it on February 1 and found it to be very useful and very user-friendly. In March they added more functionality and they have continued to do so since then.

Picnik would not be the best photo editor for some people, such as professional photographers and the handful of power Photoshop users that are out there. However, for the other 98% of the people out there who take digital photos it is an excellent option (among hundreds of photo editing options) for doing all of the basic things as well as some advanced editing techniques. To illustrate some of the different tools, I created the slideshow below in my free Picnik account using photos stored in my Flickr account. In each case you will see the original unedited photo and then one or more edited versions of that original.

As you can tell from the slideshow above, some of the basic functions available include crop, straighten, resize, rotate, color enhancement, red-eye removal, exposure and contrast control, and a fairly useful Auto-fix option. Some of the tools you'll find under the Create tab that are not available in all editing programs include effects such as sepia, black-and-white, soften, boost, vignette, matte, and doodle (write with mouse or PC pen). You can add text of different fonts, colors, and sizes. You can add many different pre-drawn shapes including text bubbles, thought bubbles, copyright symbols (including Creative Commons), and you can add frames or borders to your photos, wither single or double borders and of any color and width you choose, with or without rounded corners.

All of the items listed above can be done with a free account - in fact you can do these things without any account at all. Anyone can upload a photo and edit it and save it back to their computer. I found it to be a much better option to create my own account so that Picnik integrates better with my Flickr account. In addition to Flickr, Picnik integrates nicely with Photobucket, Picasa, Webshots, and Facebook, and probably more that I haven't even noticed yet.

Picnik also offers a premium service level for $24.95 per year. So far I have not felt the need to pay for the premium service since I can do pretty much everything I need to do with the basic tools. Even though I don't "need" the premium services, I am much more likely to pay the twenty-five bucks a year just because I love what they're doing over there and certainly don't want them to go away any time soon. So far the only premium account that I have paid for is for Flickr, and this will likely be the second one.

One of the things I liked best about Picnik when I first started with it was that it hooked up with my Flickr account and I could edit any of my stored photos and then replace the old one or keep the old one and save a new one as well. Managing my Flickr photos from inside Picnik worked very well for me. In early December, the relationship between the two services became more formal and more functional when Flick added editing services using the Picnik interface.

As a final testimonial, here is a basic photo ...

... and here it is again after it has been on a picnik.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Top Web Tools of 2007 - Number 3

Zoho Notebook makes the year-end list even though the Zoho suite is already in my hall of fame based on being my #1 tool of 2006 and also based on being a group of tools that I use on an almost daily basis. However, Notebook was not released last year at the time I published my list, and it's a good enough app to stand on it's own. Having said that, it is not a perfect app, still just a little bit buggy, but overall I find it to be a groundbreaking service that definitely pushes the envelope.

As the screenshot below shows (partially), you can combine various different kinds of content on a single webpage just by dragging and dropping separate windows for each bit of content. The example shown below is from my bio page, which doesn't yet include all of the different types of media available with Notebook. Click the second tab on the right sidebar to get past the cover page.

Here is the Zoho Blog post announcing Zoho Notebook back in January 2007, although it didn't go to public beta until May. Since that time they have added enhancements in June, July, August, September, November, and December. Those enhancements included the following, plus more:

  • Auto-save on a frequent basis
  • Saves every time you navigate from page to page
  • Undo/Redo
  • Reordering of pages
  • Support for Opera and Safari
  • Collaborative writers will see changes made by others almost immediately
  • Books and individual pages can be exported
  • More shapes in the drawing toolbar
  • Integration with most other Zoho apps
  • Skins have been added
  • Keyboard shortcuts have been added
  • Text objects can now be linked (URLs etc).
Here is a video by Zoho showing the early features of Zoho Notebook. Keep in mind that much more functionality has been included since the time of this video in early 2007. Here are all the posts about Notebook at the Zoho Blogs.

The next screenshot shows the various items that can be added to a Notebook page, in any combination that you choose, at any sizes that you choose, and with any placement that you choose. A notebook can have as many pages as you choose (unlimited? I'm not sure), and those pages can be single stand-alone items such as a webpage, word processing (Zoho Writer) page, spreadsheet (Zoho Sheet) page, or a mashup of any of the items shown on the left-side panel below. For audio and video you can either upload completed files, link to files stored elsewhere (YouTube, etc.), or record on the fly.

The final screenshot below shows one of the uses of Zoho Notebook that I think offers great utility. This is a Notebook page being delivered within our VLE (Desire2Learn) for displaying content as a sort of mashup that otherwise would take some pretty high level HTML coding skills. Basically, I think that the value of this service is limited only by your own imagination. No bull.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Top Web Tools of 2007 - Number 4

Toondoo allows users to create 1-panel, 2-panel, or 3-panel comic strips. Saying something with limited space and with humor is a creative skill that can be nurtured in all people, no matter what the discipline or program. You can also create ToonBooks, which is a flip book of as many panels as you choose. Here is a ToonBook telling you how to make a ToonBook.

I put together this little toonbook as a recap of my top web tools, numbers 6 through 12. It's embedded below and here it is at the Toondoo site.

barrydahlFrom my list of Top Web Tools of 2007 - numbers 6 through 12.

Using a cartoon building exercise is a good way to stretch students' creative muscles while giving them a project that they will enjoy and learn from. One suggestion is to assign a group project to 3-5 students. Have them create a storyboard together that depicts a cartoon on a particular topic that is germane to the course material being taught. Keep in mind that comic strips can be funny, but they don't have to be. Have them work together to create a storyboard that they all agree on as a way of making their point with the cartoon. Then have each of them create their own rendition of that storyboard using Toondoo. They will choose different backgrounds, different characters, etc., but they will be aiming toward the same basic idea for the cartoon.

My main complaint about the Toondoo site is that it is not safe for children. You will most likely see some unsavory language in some of the Doos as well as the comments, and possibly some images as well. Although college students can probably handle that, you have to question whether they should be put in that position in the first place. I wanted to use Toondoo with my Tech Club at the elementary school, but just couldn't do it due to the adult content. I used a different site that is very safe, but also only has a small amount of the functionality of Toondoo. That other site is makebeliefscomix.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Top Web Tools of 2007 - Number 5

imeem is now my (free) music provider of choice. I still like Pandora which was on my 2006 list, but imeem has gone a long way toward making it legal for me to listen to almost any full-length track that I want to, in the order that I want to, as often as I want to. You can create playlists using any music that you can find on the site, such as the one embedded below with a selection of holiday music. Here is the link to this playlist at imeem.

The fact that you can embed a playlist like that on any webpage also makes it extremely useful. I like the fact that I can put it on any blog I choose, but I can also put it on any other webpage where I have writing permissions, such as on a page inside a VLE (virtual learning environment such as D2L or Blackboard) for an online class.

Notice that not all the songs in that playlist are full-length. When I am logged in to my imeem account and using the playlist at their site, they are all full-length. By embedding the playlist, some songs are shortened to 30 seconds depending upon licensing agreements between imeem and the music company in question. Songs on imeem will be only a 30-second preview if the artist or record label has not signed an agreement with imeem giving approval for full-length streaming. Their interpretation of copyright fair use principles indicates that a 30-second preview is acceptable. When you search for a song on imeem you'll see right away whether it is a preview or full-length.

For songs that you already have on your computer, you can upload them to your imeem account and listen to them full-length, regardless of whether imeem otherwise has permission for that song.

Here's a quote from an article on TechCrunch near the end of October: "Ad-supported music just won another convert. Music-sharing social network imeem struck a deal with EMI Music so that starting today its members can legally stream songs from Radiohead, Coldplay, The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Interpol, Daft Punk, the Beastie Boys, and every other EMI artist. EMI joins Warner Music and Sony-BMG as the third major label to strike a deal with imeem. That only leaves Universal Music Group among the majors to sign a deal." That last big deal was inked with Universal in early December. Looking for a little imeem trivia? Check out Wikipedia to learn what the name imeem means, what their connection is to Led Zeppelin, and other such useless stuff.

You can use your imeem account to store and play audio and videos, and also to store and display photos. It can easily be used for podcasting, as explained here in their FAQ section. Although I haven't done it, it would be easy to embed the player inside your VLE, then each time a new podcast is uploaded it will appear in the player for students or other subscribers to listen to. For video files, imeem supports many different file types, but recommends .MPEG, .MOV, .FLV, and .AVI for optimum results. The suggested video size is 400x300, but other sizes will work as well. For music files, imeem supports mp3s only, with a recommended sampling rate of 44.1 kHz. At this time there are no maximum file size limitations for uploading video or other file types.

imeem certainly has it's critics since some people don't like anything that is ad-supported. But come on, they're doing all the heavy lifting by dealing directly with the a-hole record companies, they're helping make it legal to access your music from any Internet connection, and they're enabling you to legally share the music of other account holders. In my book, that's a pretty good deal. Did I mention that it's free?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Top Web Tools of 2007 - Number 6

was on my 2006 list at #10. At the time I wrote that I had been using it for 6 months and liked it. Now I can say that I've been using it as my browser start page for 18 months and I like it even more than before.

WikiHow has a short tutorial on using iGoogle.

NCAS has a nice series of screenshots
and explanations.

Here's a little screencast embedded below. This is a case of using Tool #7 (and CamStudio) to show Tool #6. You can click on the video below to play it on this page, or go to the page at where the video displays at a larger size and where you also have a full screen viewing option.

I'm going to also embed another video. From Google Channel Japan comes this video from their YouTube account.Yes, it is in Japanese, but think you'll be able to follow along anyway. It's fun and well done.

Other popular alternatives include Pageflakes and Netvibes. I've used them both, but like iGoogle better.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Top Web Tools of 2007 - Number 7 makes it on my list, even though I have more videos uploaded and have had more views and comments at YouTube than at Blip. So why Mainly because of the quality. YouTube has more videos, more users, and more buzz; but the quality of the viewing experience with Blip far surpasses that of YouTube. Check out this embedded video of an LSC advertisement that is stored at

Another reason that I like Blip is because you can more easily get different sizes of the embedded player, and you can link to the page itself at Blip where viewers have a full screen option - something you can't get at YouTube.

Their online support is good, their FAQ page is helpful, and they also have a useful step-by-step tutorial on their website. For example, here is the page for video production. Other pages (chapters) include Concept, Tools, Export, Distribute, Community, and Advertising.

For embedding videos in blogs, or inside your VLE (IMS/LMS/CMS), or on any other webpage, I recommend Blip over YouTube. If you want to get more eyes watching your video at the video hosting site, then YouTube is probably the way to go. I will continue to use YouTube as well, but Blip is where I can get better embedded video quality.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Top Web Tools of 2007 - Number 8

Twitter makes an appearance on my year-end list even though I am not (yet) a heavy user. I continue to be drawn to it as a potentially powerful communications tool, and also as a very interesting experiment in how people connect and communicate in ways that didn't exist until fairly recently.

Explaining Twitter to newbies is often an exercise in futility. Try calling it "microblogging" and see how far that gets you. To my mind (others will disagree, perhaps vociferously), Twitter is much like cell phone text messaging, but on the computer (or other connected device) rather than the phone (actually, you can also use a phone, except for T-Mobile customers) and one-to-many rather than one-to-one (or one-to-few). You are limited to 140 characters per message, so you learn to be brief and to the point.

You (or at least the experienced Twits) can tell that I am not a power user in a couple of ways: 1) I've only sent 53 messages (tweets) from my account so far which is a normal afternoon for many people, and 2) the lists of people following me (13) and that I am following (17) are quite short. So far this has been more of a way to keep up with what some others are doing since I am mainly following people I respect who work in educational technology and most of my Twitter screen time is spent reading the messages of others rather than writing my own. I have no doubt that my use of Twitter will increase as I continue to get more of my co-workers using it as well.

So, how is it being used? a) some people ask questions of their network seeking advice, resources, links, or ideas, b) some tell people what flavor of coffee they just ordered or some other complete waste of trivia such as that, c) some talk about what they're working on, such as what their latest blog post is about or what question they are researching, d) and some use it for very specialized purposes that are related to their jobs or personal lives. In one example that I found today (via Twitter no less) for younger kids, Mr. Mayo has them writing a story from around the globe, 140 characters at a a time. Here is the Google doc where their tweets are being pieced together into a story.

Twitter has also burst onto the political scene. John Edwards currently has 4,011 followers on Twitter. Probably not enough votes to win the nomination. Barack Obama has 5,945 followers (remember these numbers chance constantly, much like poll numbers do). Joe Biden has 106 followers, so maybe that's a message in and of itself that he should be hearing loud and clear. Hillary is apparently trying hard not to be a twit (no Twitter account) - maybe that is why she is falling in the polls.

Richard MacManus of the ReadWriteWeb has a good post detailing why they chose Twitter as their Best Web LittleCo (small company) of 2007.

Alan Lew has a very nice blog post with some ideas and links for using Twitter in higher ed, so I'll just defer to his expertise and call it a day. See, having a good network can really be a time saver.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Top Web Tools of 2007 - Number 9

SlideShare was my #11 tool on the 2006 list. It made the list again this year in spite of the fact that I find myself using PowerPoint (and PPT-like) slides less and less all the time. One reason that SlideShare again made the list this year is because of the improvements they made to it during the past year as well as the fact that I still have lots of old PPT slide shows sitting on my hard drive just begging to get out and greet the world. They do have a blog that occasionally has something interesting on it.

The most important enhancement during the past year is "Slidecasting." From their FAQ page:

"Slidecasting is a new multimedia format from SlideShare - you can play any slidedeck synchronized with an audio file. To create a slidecast, you need to upload slides to SlideShare. Your audio file, however, can be hosted anywhere on the web- any server, file storage, or podcasting service. You link the slides & audio together using our synchronization tool. Now every time you play the Slidecast, the audio is streamed from its location and plays with the slides. And yes, Slidecasting is completely free. For more FAQs on slidecasting, please see this page."

Here are some of the features:

  • You can upload four different file types: PowerPoint (ppt, pps), OpenOffice (odp), Keynote (Mac) and PDF format.
  • You and viewers can leave a comment on a particular slide, or about the slideshow in general.
  • You and viewers can link direclty to a particular slide, or to the slideshow in general.
  • You control how public or private your slideshow is.
  • Transcripts are automatically created from the text in your slides.
  • After you have uploaded a slideshow, you can either keep 'All Rights Reserved' or choose from one of the various Creative Commons licenses. To learn more about Creative Commons, go to their website.
  • you can subscribe to the RSS feed for a particular user's slideshows. or for all slideshows that have a certain tag, or in various other ways.
  • Your slideshows will be found by the search engines, with the following items being indexed: slide transcripts, slide title, description, and tags.
Here are some shortcomings:
  • They do not support embedded audio and video inside presentations.
  • You will find some viewers who want to leave inappropriate comments.
  • Once in a while, pages seem to load slowly - at least for me.
  • There is not much that you can do to change the size of the presentation to be viewed. This is fine for embedding in a blog post, but for other types of web pages, including the SlideShare site, it would be better if there was an option to view in a larger size.
Below I'll embed two different examples from SlideShare. The first is a standard SlideShare (no audio) called Death by PowerPoint (seemed fitting) by thecroaker (yes, you can embed or download the presentations of other people if they let you).

The second example is a SlideCast (with audio) that was prepared by SlideShare to show how Slidecasts work.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Top Web Tools of 2007 - Number 10 has an extremely easy-to-use interface and gives you many options for how a slideshow of digital photos will be displayed. You can change various different factors, including the overall theme, what the player looks like, whether or not there is music included, etc. etc.

Here a three examples using the same set of pictures from the war memorials in Washington D.C.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Top Web Tools of 2007 - Number 11

Barry D. Get yours at
The Flickr profile shown above is one of about 25 free tools and toys that are available at BigHugeLabs. One nice thing about this site is that you can synchronize with your Flickr account to use your stored photos very easily and to upload your new creations from BigHugeLabs to Flickr without needing to download to your computer first, although you can do that too, if you want to.

There is no doubt that I use this site more for fun than for serious business, but some of the tools can definitely be used for some more serious academic pursuits such as storytelling or other creative endeavors. I'll just show a few examples below and leave it at that.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Top Web Tools of 2007 - Number 12

Coming in at the bottom of the list for 2007, but still list-worthy is Zamzar. Here are just a few of the things you can do with this free service:

  • Download any flash-based video such as from YouTube, Google Video,, and many others. Here's how. Of course, you'll only do that when it is legal to do so.
  • Convert a Word .doc into html, pdf, or any of 5 other file types.
  • Convert a .pdf document into a Word (.doc), html, text (.txt), rtf, or several other formats.
  • Convert a .jpg into a .gif, .png, .bmp, tiff, etc. etc.
  • Convert .wma audio into mp3, ogg, .wav, or several others.
  • This list would go on forever if I tried to list all the possible conversions, but they've done it for you.
The free version is limited to 100 mb files sizes. There is a pay version if you need to convert really large files or if you want online file storage.

They have a blog that they post to once in a while. Overall, I find Zamzar to be incredibly useful. I've even used it a few times when I already had a program on my computer to convert a file (such as a .wav audio file into an .pm3) because it was just faster and easier than opening my own program and all that jazz.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Honorable Mention - Just off the 2007 List

These free web tools just missed making my Top 12 Tool list for 2007. I use all of them, but not enough (or not seriously enough) for them to work their way into the top 12.

Zentation: allows for a combination of video and PowerPoint, running side-by-side and synchronized by the creator. I think there are good applications for this, but using a boring talking head in the video screen is not my idea of a good application. However, watching a good presenter, such as Guy Kawasaki, can be effective because he has a great stage presence. Embedded below is an attempt I made several months ago to combine a screencast video of Club Penguin with my son as the tour director, combined with some PPT slides and web pages screenshots (link to Zentation site).

Splashcast: allows for a combination of various media in a single screen. Using Splashcast you can mix together any combination of video, music, photos, narration, text, RSS feeds, PowerPoint presentations and PDF documents. You can create a "channel" which will basically create a table of contents of all your presentations that can be easily embedded and played on any web site, blog, or social network page. The most recent Splashcast will be at the top of the list ready for play, but a viewer can easily begin playing one of the older episodes, if desired.

Scribd: is a document sharing site that allows comments, ratings, and the like. Upload a doument and you can then convert it to many different formats, including Word, PDF, plain text, HTML, JPEG, PowerPoint, Excel, Postscript, LIT, and even convert text into an mp3 for audio playback. They use a custom Flash document viewer that lets you display documents right in your Web browser. My use of this service seems to go in spurts. Maybe 2008 will be their year. Here is a link to the document of mine on Scribd that has been most viewed (almost 4000 views): New Editing Tools in Picnik Photo Editor

Protopage: I've used this as a presentation tool and liked it. Just haven't been able to spend enough quality time with this to put it on the list (yet).

Animoto: This site let's you mix together your photos and their music to create a free 30-second music video, or pay $3 for a longer one. Here is one of my free efforts.

Vyew: this is a free web conferencing tool that I have used a couple of times and it seemed to work well. I haven;t used it extensively enough to know for sure how well it scales as the number of participants increases.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Web Tools Hall of Fame

Of the 12 free web tools that were list on my 2006 year-end list, 6 of them are being moved into my hall of fame. They have earned these spots because they have continued to grow in usefulness for me and have all become a major part of how I work, how I play, and how I use technology. In other words, they don't need to be listed on a year-end list again, they've earned a permanent place.

These are the first six inductees into the hall of fame, listed along with their placement on the 2006 Top 12 Tools listing.

  1. Zoho Suite - (My #1 Tool in 2006)
  2. Flickr - (My #2 Tool in 2006)
  3. Skype - (My #3 Tool in 2006)
  4. Meebo - (my #4 Tool in 2006)
  5. - (My #5 Tool in 2006)
  6. Bloglines - (My #9 Tool in 2006)

Friday, December 07, 2007

Top Web Tools for 2007

2 Zero 0 7

This will be the second year where I name my Top Free Web Tools. Last year I named my My Top 12 Web Tools of 2006 with a series of posts at the end of the year. I was going to repeat that effort with 12 new tools for 2007 but for some reason that just didn't feel right because I still use so many of the tools from the previous list. It also didn't feel right to include most of the tools again on the list because many of my top tools are the usual suspects and would just be a repeat of the 2006 list.

Therefore, I've decided to move some of the tools from the 2006 list into Barry's Free Web Tool Hall of Fame (coming soon) and then add 10-12 new nominees for the Hall of Fame, with their potential induction to be determined at the end of 2008 after I have enough time to see whether they rise to the top or not.

To recap: Here are the Top 12 Web Tools for 2006:

  1. Zoho Suite - (my 2006 Zoho review)
  2. Flickr - (my 2006 Flickr review)
  3. Skype - (my 2006 Skype review)
  4. Meebo - (my 2006 Meebo review)
  5. - (my 2006 delicious review)
  6. Odeo - (my 2006 Odeo review)
  7. Audacity - (my 2006 Audacity review)
  8. Google Earth - (my 2006 Google Earth review)
  9. Bloglines - (my 2006 Bloglines review)
  10. Google IG - (my 2006 Google IG review)
  11. SlideShare - (my 2006 SlideShare review)
  12. Pandora - (my 2006 Pandora review)
Only some of the tools listed above will be in the new Hall of Fame. Others might be on the year-end list and still others will fall off the list altogether. Several new tools will make their debut.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Tech Club Hits the News

The elementary school Tech Club that I am volunteering for received a little local press a few days ago. The story ran in the Superior Daily Telegram after a reporter visited the school during our third after-school meeting of the club.

For this second club project, each person designed their own floorplan of a bedroom or even a whole house. I was planning to use Gliffy for this exercise, but their limit on the number of saved designs made that not a good choice for a group of 30 students. I really don't want to create an account for each kid, so we are using a single mother account whenever possible. That was possible using the free drawing tools at

Here is an example created by Josh. Others can be seen at the blog created for the club.

Click on the floorplan to view full size.

Top photo by Anna Kurth of Daily Telegram.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Amazing Quotes from EQ Article

The latest edition of Educause Quarterly (Volume 30, Number 4, 2007) just came out and has a few interesting articles. The one that particularly grabbed my attention was titled “Use and Users of Digital Resources” by Diane Harley. In the table of contents it says the following about the article: “A survey explored scholars’ attitudes about educational technology environments in the humanities.”

Harley and her research associates asked faculty why they do not use digital resources in their teaching. 75% of the 831 faculty respondents said basically that digital resources do not sync with the teaching approaches that they use. STOP THE PRESSES!! Apparently the faculty members who are using the same techniques as they did 20-30 years ago see the digital resources as THE problem, not their teaching techniques.

Reading some of the quotes from faculty in this article is a very fun way to spend ten minutes. For example:

  • “I think there is a real danger of students’ becoming too computer literate and “connected” in ways that undermine, or at least compete with, other crucial skills: argumentative writing, careful and critical reading of long texts, and oral argument.” –Political science instructor, UC (University of California)
  • “There is evidence that PowerPoint and those other displays with bells and whistles etc. rot the mind. My students need to learn how to THINK and READ BOOKS and, in the case of foreign languages, talk to real people. Their attention span is being annihilated enough with the huge number of “technical events” on television." –Foreign language and literature instructor, UC
  • “Frankly, I just don’t really want to use digital resources. What’s wrong with books anyway?” –History instructor, UC
When citing the barriers to their uses of digital resources, 44% said that “there are too many resources out there for me to take advantage of – I am overwhelmed.” I continue to be amused by this line of thought. Keep in mind that these are educated people!! Can you imagine them saying any of the following?
  • “I went to the restaurant last night. The menu was ten pages long. I was totally overwhelmed so I decided not to eat at all.”
  • “I'm in the market for a new car. Did you realize that today there are a whole bunch of choices for this? All I wanted was a black model-T, but now I have to consider all these other choices. I guess I’ll just take the bus.” (Yes, but which one?!)
  • “I walked into a bookstore the other day. OMG!! I had no idea that there were so many choices. Why don’t they just sell the one book that I really want/need to read?”
In closing, one more quote from the Educause article: “Listen up you bunch of yay-hoos! I’m an educator, dammit! The last thing I wanna do is try to keep pace with advances in technology and the way that people learn. I went to college 30 years ago and having some old man talk AT me for 50 minutes was the only way we knew how to learn. It worked for me and there’s no reason it won’t continue to work that way until the end of time, if not longer. About the time that crappy teaching techniques are no longer acceptable in higher education is the day that I turn in my resignation to the university.” (I admit that I totally made up this last “quote,” but it is exactly what I thought about as I was reading the entire article.)

NOTE: Educause Quarterly is a fine publication and I have no intention of demeaning the quality of the magazine. Diane Harley was simply reporting what she heard from the faculty responses to the survey. My rant here is in no way intended to reflect poorly on either the publisher or the author. In fact, I thank both of them for bringing this information to light about the Neo-luddites who continue to fight against uses of technology in education.