Microblogging and Learning

I love blogs.  They are a great way to keep on top of news and events that are happening in the lives of members of my professional network.  Unfortunately, some of my friends are prolific writers, and keeping up with all of their blog postings can take more time than I have (no offense to anyone).  Microblogging allows me to stay up to speed by receiving shorter professional or personal updates from my network in real-time.  There are 3 tools that I have found to be particularly useful for microblogging:

Twitter
This is the most popular microblogging tool with many apps for accessing twitter feeds on iPhones and other mobile devices.  Twitter posts are limited to 140 characters.  For a excellent directory of learning leaders who use twitter, check out http://www.c4lpt.co.uk/socialmedia/edutwitter.html

Edmodo
This is a twitter-like tool, but it is optimized for use in educational settings and includes other features like upcoming events and activities.  Go to www.edmodo.com for more info.

Yammer
This is a corporate version of EdModo.  It links microbloggers from the same company or organization and focuses on posting about job-related topics.  Go to www.yammer.com for more info.

For a quick video on how microblogging works, visit http://www.innovativelearning.com/instructional_technology/microblogging.html

Collaborative Writing Online

If you’re haven’t had a chance to use online writing tools, consider this your invitation to do so.  Google Docs (docs.google.com) is the most popular online writing tool, but Adobe Buzzword is also very good (www.acrobat.com).  These tools function like a normal word processor, but you access it through the web broswer instead of installing on your computer.  This gives you two major advantages:

1.) Your documents are accessible from any computer with an internet connection.  Earlier this month my hard drive crashed and I lost everything I had been working on.  Since I now use Google Docs for all of my writing projects, I simply borrowed my wife’s computer and continued working as if nothing had happened.

2.) You never have to send documents as attachments again.  If you want someone to read or contribute to your documents you can just add them as readers or collaborators.  This means you never run into version problems from multiple people working on the same document (which is especially nice if you are working collaboratively on the same part of a document).

If you’re already familiar with Google Docs, here are a couple of things you might not know:

  • Documents can be accessed and edited even when you don’t have an internet connection (such as on a plane).
  • Every revision of your document is automatically saved – if you deleted something you liked from a couple of weeks ago, you can still retrieve it.

Happy writing!

My favorite free software apps…

Some of the best software that I use on a regular basis are free open source or web 2.0 aps. In addition to being free, they rival and even surpass the 800 pound gorillas of the commercial software world. If you haven’t tried these out, you really need to take a couple of minutes to follow the links…

Web Editing
Kompozer – A great open source tool for web design that supports templates (compare with Adobe Dreamweaver).

Word Processing
Google Docs – An online word processor with collaborative writing features – I’m writing a book right now using only Google Docs (compare with Microsoft Word)

Financial Planning
Mint – An easy way to track personal finances and budgets with some great visualizations and notification options (compare with Intuit Quicken).

Web Browsing
Firefox – ok, this one isn’t new to anyone – but if I’m making a list of my favorite free software I have to include Firefox (compare with Microsoft Internet Explorer).

Media Conversion
You Convert It – A great web-based media conversion tool – even converts videos without installing anything on your computer (compare with Sorenson Squeeze and a whole bunch of other file conversion aps).

Audio Editing
Audacity – The easiest tool for doing audio recording and editing (compare with Sound Studio).

Page Layout
Scribus – A powerful, open source, page layout tool (compare with Adobe InDesign)

Power of Simulations – JetBlue Landing

Today I had the opportunity to hear “the rest of [a] story” which reaffirmed my belief in the power of gaming and simulations for learning. Several months ago we all watched an amazingly perfect landing of a JetBlue flight landing in LAX with broken front landing gear. In fact the landing was smoother than many that I have seen with working front landing gear. When the pilot was questioned as to how he pulled off such a perfect landing he simply responded, “well, I’d done it 8 times before (and only crashed twice)”. The pilot was referring to the simulations he had performed previously to make the task so automatic that when the real event occurred he knew exactly how to land a plane, even under very strenuous circumstances.

As teachers it’s important to think about finding ways to allow our students to fail (in a safe environment) so that they will have the necessary experience when perfect performance is required. For more information, check out gaming and simulations

UltraMoblie PCs changing the way we learn

UMPCThere is no doubt that laptops computers have changed the way we think about learning.

Power of Simulations – JetBlue Landing

Today I had the opportunity to hear “the rest of [a] story” which reaffirmed my belief in the power of gaming and simulations for learning. Several months ago we all watched an amazingly perfect landing of a JetBlue flight landing in LAX with broken front landing gear. In fact the landing was smoother than many that I have seen with working front landing gear. When the pilot was questioned as to how he pulled off such a perfect landing he simply responded, “well, I’d done it 8 times before (and only crashed twice)”. The pilot was referring to the simulations he had performed previously to make the task so automatic that when the real event occurred he knew exactly how to land a plane, even under very strenuous circumstances.

For more information, visit our page on gaming and simulations

Gaming in Education

I have recently become very interested in the idea of gaming in education.

Windows on Mac

Well, I have officially created a dual-boot Mac! My MacBook Pro now runs both Windows XP and Mac OS X. I used software from onmac.net to do this, but Apple now provides an official release called Boot Camp. The best part about it was that we tested the fastest PC we could find at my office against the Mac and the Mac was significantly faster. I wonder what this will mean for the future of Apple?

Technology in the Classroom

Interactive technology allows teachers to extend the reach of the classroom as well as allowing students in remote areas to participate in the learning environment. However, critics say that by interacting through technology, instead of face to face, an important part of the educational experience is lost. An interview with Pat Kertzer, teacher at the Florida Virtual School, provides another side to the argument. Kertzer says that teachers can actually have a “more personal relationship” with the students through virtual interaction than in the classroom. Through online and phone contact you can identify student’s weaknesses “much more quickly than in the regular classroom,” says Kertzer, “because I’m able to deal with them only when I’m working with them.” For other examples of effective technology integration, take a look at Highschool.com,
a documentary from Edutopia.org.

Educating with $100 laptops

Earlier this year we heard about AMD’s announcement of the Personal Internet Communicator aimed to provide technology access in developing countries.
Now, MIT is discussing the possibility of providing laptops for $100 to improve educational opportunities in developing countries.

Check out the story: Christian Science Monitor