Gotta Be An Easier Way

Using technology to make your life easier!

Archive for July, 2009

Streaming Video Made Easy

Here is a great list of online streaming video applications from Robin Good’s blog.

I highly recommend that you go give the whole article a good read as there is a wealth of great information on streaming video in the article.

How can Streaming video be used in Education? Most of my ideas are for a distance education course but could easily be applied to a Face to Face course.

  • The virtues of streaming video in a distance education course can bridge the gap of Face 2 Face education and Distance Education catering to more learning styles.
  • It can be recorded and played later so Distance students still get the benefit of a lecture format at a time that suits them.
  • Students that miss class can watch it at a later time to help them catch up.
  • Because there is a commenting feature you can have shy students ask questions during class that can be answered at a more convenient time in the lecture.
  • Students can stream presentations and if paired up with other web 2.0 tools like 280 slides could make for very dynamic presentations.
  • By early 2010 you will be able to use these tools with mobile devices, think of the appications of streaming live events like the Obama inauguration from hundreds of devices compiling different perspectives and opinions. Think of the papers that could be written from this kind of information.
  • Use it like a video blog to give extra information to students at different points of the week, send out vital information for an exam or research paper that is broadcast only once (this could be tips on places to do research, a clue to an answer on an exam, a student life lesson, a simple reminder, tips and tricks, proper APA formatting, or really get into it and create a mysterious persona for yourself and slip them vital course information as if they are in mission impossible and getting controband information). This works in several ways it reminds the students of the assignment, keeps them thinking about it, makes them feel like they are getting insider information, gets them actively involved, and keeps things fresh. You could make it a requirement to follow them or just a resource for great tips.

What would/have you done with video streaming in your course?

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  • Filed under: Video Streaming
  • RSS: How to get Started

    So I have talked about a variety of different services that hopefully cater to different types of people and how you like to learn and discover. In this final article I would like to take it one step further and walk you through how to set up an RSS feed. I mentioned it in my first article how important that I feel RSS feeds are for everyone to save time, continue learning and stay current but I just need to make it known how misunderstood I think they are. They are not suppose to help you read 1000 articles a day, they are meant to help you quickly filter out even 1 article out of a thousand that you find interesting. I go through 300-500 articles a day and only read about 10-20 each of which I find very valuable for myself and others.

    So without further ado here is a great tutorial on how to set up with a Google account and using Google Reader in less than 5 min.

    Remember to check out parts one and two in this series for important information about RSS feeds.

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  • Another take on Dropbox: Syncing Apps

    Dropbox is a great service that syncs files very easily across multiple computers via a folder that sits on all those computers. I wrote about this great service that allows for easy file collaboration and automated backups a few months back. You can read more about it here.

    I just wanted to pass on a great little trick that can help you sync applications across multiple computer by simply having your authoring file in the Dropbox folder. I have several applications on my work computer and on my home computer and I find it frustrating to always using my USB key to transfer similar files back and forth. For instance I have a recipe application called Organized Gourmet (great app by the way) and it helps you schedule meals, my home computer is the primary place where my wife and I plan our meals but when I am at work some days I would like to plan some meals to save us both time but the problem is my work computer only has a fraction of the recipes on it. Once I started using dropbox as the place to put the authoring file it automatically updates both applications with the same database of recipes and both are exactly the same within seconds. This concept is repeated for many more applications.

    Of course there are many tools that do this but nearly all come with a fee but Dropbox is free (2 GB). This is just another useful way that you can use free web 2.0 applications to make you life a bit easier.

    For more on this topic check out this article.

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  • Save the Ink, Save the World

    Ever get to a web page and you want to print it out but when you try it prints out an exact replica right down to the background used. You really only wanted the content and not all the images, banners and footers.

    Print friendly is a fabulous free service that saves ink and paper by letting you take any web page and removing only the things that you want to remove from a web page. The resulting printer friendly page can either be emailed, saved as a PDF, Tweet it, or of course printed. It can take a 16 page printed website and turn it into a 4 page printed website or even less. It puts you in control of a printed page.

    The whole service is incredibly easy. Just go to the website and drag the bookmarklet onto your bookmark bar (FireFox, Chrome or Safari). Go to a website you want to “print” and click the bookmarklet and you are presented with a popup window that lets you customize the page the way you want. Alternatively just paste the url that you want to print into PrintFriendly website. Now don’t think you have to spend several minutes doing this, the service essentially does it all for you, gives you all the content with pictures included then all you need to do is click on the paragraphs or images that you don’t want and your done. All of this can be done in under a minute.

    Test it out right here with this button.

    How can this be used for education?

    • First off it could save a ton of paper and ink if you print out content regularly for yourself or students.
    • Instead of sending a link via email take an extra 15 seconds to send only the important information on a page so that the recipient doesn’t have to dig to find out what you are referencing.
    • Save a page with selected information to a PDF for reference later on so you don’t have to dig through a lengthy article later on.

    In what ways do you think it would benefit education or yourself?

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  • RSS: What are the Options (Part 2)

    Toluu & Social Median

    Here are two more RSS’esque readers for you to ponder both of which are truly web 2.0 power tools because they harness the power of the crowd. Toluu likes to learn from you while Social Median has a fresh take on how you select articles.


    Toluu via kwout

    Ok so I cheated a little bit, Toluu isn’t a stand alone RSS feed reader, it actually plugs into your existing feed reader and opens a host of social aspects to your reader. You essentially are sharing what you read with others and they share with you what they are reading. It is a great way to discover new articles that are filtered to be something that you are interested in and approved by people who have similar interests as you.

    Toluu does require that you be able to download your OPML file (a file that has all your existing feeds in a list) from your existing feed reader and upload it to Toluu. This is not difficult and there is plenty of documentation on how to do this for almost every feed reader. A good feature if you are just starting or have already imported your feed list and just need to add another feed to both is a bookmarklet (a bookmark button that you easily drag into you easily drag onto the bookmark bar of your browser) that lets you add feeds easily to both your existing RSS reader and Toluu simultaneously.

    All of this is great if you have contacts but how do you get contacts? Toluu has a great feature called “matches” that

    In short Toluu’s strength lies in it’s ability to harness the power of your contacts to help you filter what you read as well as help you discover important information that you may not have found otherwise.

    + Very social, allowing filtering and discovery from your circle of contacts
    + Not really all that much to do just upload your OPML file and your already going
    + It learns as you and your contacts filter, the more activity you have the more it learns what you like and dislike
    + Doesn’t try to replace your current RSS reader, just enhance it

    – You already need an RSS feed for it to work
    – Not a traditional layout for RSS feeds so it takes time to get used to

    For more information on Toluu check out this article.

    Social Median

    Unlike many RSS feeds Social Median only gives you articles from your areas of interest that other people have recommend and not from a specific website, its all filtered and voted on so you get only the best articles. Instead of having an application or a website that you go to to get your articles they are sent via email at specified times of your choosing. This makes reading articles less linear and more explorative and social. Is one better than the other? Really its apples and oranges and dependent on your preferences and if you are me you will use both styles.

    Social Median really focuses on the social aspect of RSS feed reading and that is a tricky endeavor because when it is socially based it relies on the crowd to help the cream of articles rise to the top. If the crowd doesn’t exist the tool is essentially useless and fortunately there is a real good growth trend for social median.

    + Great way to discover articles outside of your regular RSS jaunts
    + RSS coming to you via your email
    + Great filtering based on what others are reading and enjoying
    + Easy way to discover new social connections based on similarities with what you look for in articles

    = You will most definitely miss some good articles but also gain ones that you may never have discovered

    + Strength of filtering is based on the crowd

    – Not as thorough as a regular RSS feed

    Stay tuned for my finally of RSS readers where I show you how to set one up.

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  • Filed under: RSS Readers
  • RSS: What are the options? (Part 1)

    There are many RSS readers out there and although I gave a few options in a previous tutorial I didn’t delve very deeply into those options. So in this three part series I will delve a bit deeper into the options and how exactly to set up an RSS feed.

    Sage for Firefox: Sage is an extension for the Firefox browser that aims to make RSS feeds easy to integrate into your daily regiment at any time.

    +Integrates directly into Firefox
    +Integrates into Firefox’s bookmarking system
    +Visually customizable through Cascading Style Sheets
    +Feed Discovery
    +clean and uncluttered

    = bare bones

    -You need access to your browser to read your RSS feeds
    -You need to use Firefox to access your RSS feeds
    -Not as many social networking features

    Google Reader: As mentioned in a previous article Google reader comes with a Gmail account and all the other great Google products. It may not be the best RSS reader but it fits seamlessly into the Google suite, improves all the time and is the reader that I use the most.

    +Automatically created with your free Google account
    +Integrated into the Google suite
    +A good selection of social features
    +User interface has a great cognitive structure that “chunks” the information well
    +Always getting better
    +Drag and drop functionality and collapsable folders for a tree menu

    = All online and accessible from anywhere but must use a browser

    -Looks bland
    -Not many extra features
    -Not intuitive to set up the folders (need to click on a feed and then select feed settings)

    In the next article I will go over some very social options in RSS called Toluu and Social Median. Check for it later this week.

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  • Filed under: RSS Readers