Gotta Be An Easier Way

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Archive for the ‘Email/Communications’ Category

A Revamped Communication Tool: Digsby

A few months back I wrote an article on 3 of my picks for best Instant Messengers (IM) aggregators (http://www.tywallart.com/symanticweb/?p=9) that collect multiple IM accounts into one place/application. Well I have now had to revamp that list and add one more to the mix, Digsby.

Now that is not to say the others are obsolete but Digsby does have a huge advantage at the moment because it offers the added benefit of aggregating your email and social networking accounts as well. To me this is definitely a game changer as I only have 2 IM accounts but I have many more email accounts and am signed into several social networking sites that I can now aggregate from one application without having to switch back and forth. Digsby has been around for awhile but it wasn’t until recently that they upgraded the speed of their application making it far more usable.

Digsby also allows a task manager that alerts you when things need to get done, a handy feature for the absent minded like myself.

So sounds too good to be true right? Actually that is right, there are a few things that don’t make this the best choice for all people. First it is a down loadable application, which isn’t a bad thing but I really like having these kind of applications online and run in a browser (like Meebo) that way I have access to it wherever I go without being tethered to one computer. a temporary deficiency is that it is Windows only, they are developing other versions but they are not out yet and I am impatient (subscribe to my RSS feed to find out when it becomes available for Mac and Linux).

Now something that is despicable for all of them, their mobile presence or lack thereof. I really don’t know why these companies haven’t got a presence on the iPhone or Blackberry. Everything is moving this way and they really need to have a presence that does a better job of the built in IM’s.

All in all Digsby has a huge amount of potential and may be good enough for most people to use but alas I must wait until a Mac version comes out. You can download the PDF of this comparison chart here or click on the image to view it in a browser.

imcomparison

How can this be used for education?

I will refer to a previous article I posted on IM’s for ways it can be used in education.

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  • Filed under: Email/Communications, Instant Messaging (IM)
  • Many instant messaging tools (MSN, Gtalk, Yahoo, AIM) really bridged the gap that email left by allowing you to have synchronous conversations with people. The only problem with it is that there are so many services out there that it gets hard to figure out which friend/collegue/student is on which service. That is where Adium, Meebo and Pidgin come in. They collect various IM services into one service.

    So How could this work for Education?

    • As an instructor you could make yourself available to all your students by using this service. That way it doesn’t require them to change their ways any and makes you available to them for whatever times you designate.
    • Set up lectures with question periods and have it open so students with laptops can message their questions in. This engages the more shy students and lets you preview a question temporarily before answering.

    If you want a comparison chart that I created of the three services you can download the PDF here.

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  • Filed under: Email/Communications
  • Can you Diigo it?

    I wrote an article extolling the social bookmarking tool Diigo. In my zeal I left out some really important ways that Diigo can and is used so I thought it was worth a revisit.

    Diigo’s tools in a nutshell:

    • Research tools
      • tagging
      • list creation
      • persistent highlighting (if you highlight text on a web page it will show up there every time you return and if you make it public anyone else will see it, or only allow people in a group view it instead of the whole world) Try it out yourself by clicking the link no signup required. http://www.diigo.com/04tra
      • persistent commenting (same as the highlights )
      • archiving bookmarks
    • Presentation tool
      • Webslides via lists (add bookmarks to a list as well as your own slides. It all plays back to whomever you send the link to with full web interactivity and they don’t even need a Diigo account, check this one out http://slides.diigo.com/list/tylerwall/web20_applications and you can even print it out)
    • Social bookmarking tools
      • tagging
      • public and private access to individual bookmarks
      • search engine
      • unread bookmarking functions
      • create bookmark lists
      • share bookmarks to entire groups
      • see bookmarks that your groups post but you retain the right to not bookmark them.
      • discover people who have similar bookmarks, tags, groups
      • show the sites you bookmark most
      • messaging
      • cloud lists
      • Posting to blogs (I posted this article to my blog from Diigo)

    There is more but I only have so much space.

    So what can an educator use this application for?
    Here are some ideas I came up with,

    • Use the annotation tools to keep notes for yourself on important websites, I know sometimes its nice going to a website i haven’t seen in a long while and have a few notes or the important text highlighted.
    • Make your annotations public and have your students become Diigo members which will allow your
    • Create a list of links that are important to a course, this creates a webslide presentation that you can share with whomever you want. This will then bypass deep linking copyright (as far as I understand the copyright laws). The links in the presentation are still navigable and provide students an overview of resources.
    • Broaden your knowledge horizon by joining a group. I have found dozens of E-Learning and Education groups which harness the power of the masses by bringing you all the best resources on the web regarding whatever topic you choose.
    • Why not create a web research quiz? Set it up like a scavanger hunt by finding a bunch of websites that your students need to do research on and post questions on those sites using the “post it” annotation tool in Diigo. This displays your questions to them on the page that they needed to research which teaches them research skills and they won’t know the question until they do the research.
    • Create a group for your whole class and make the research process a group activity spreading the knowledge around.

    These are just some ideas that I came up with but the possibilities are there for the taking.

    I want to hear about what you use Diigo for or ideas that you may have on how to use it for education.

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  • Filed under: Bookmarking, Email/Communications, Research, Search
  • Gmail – Simply the Best/Easiest

    I have been using email or a form of email going back to the BBS days in the late 80’s the Kermit based access to the University of Alberta in the early 90’s and then through dial-& and then ISDN access through commercial ISP’s in the mid 90’s up to the broadband access of today. There are very few email servers (Sendmail & Exchange), systems (PINE & ELM) and clients (Eudora, Pegasus, Outlook, Thunderbird) that I have not used on all platforms (Windows, Mac, UNIX and Linux) so this perspective is not coming from a “Johnny come lately” nor does it come from someone who is “religiously” tied to a particular OS or platform.

    Gmail

    Gmail

    I started using Google mail (Gmail) back in 2005 after receiving an invite from a colleague in Silicon Valley. Gmail as introduced in early 2004 and up until 2005 it was being tested by a relatively small group of beta testers. In 2005 you had to recieve and invite from a current Gmail user to get access to the system. It wasn’t until early 2006 when Google introduced an integrated calendar that I decided to give up all my other email system ties and rely exclusively on Gmail. Until a better system comes along I will continue to use Gmail because it is simply the easiest and best system available. Gmails advantages include:

    • Free
    • Web-based – access from anywhere
    • Enormous storage capacity
    • Searchable
    • Integrated
      • Calendar
      • RSS Reader
      • Google Docs
      • Contacts
      • Chat
      • Video-conferencing
    • Development community
    • Hundreds of plugins

    As the resident computer guru in my family and circle of friends I am often called upon to help diagnose and help people solve their problems. This means that I am often called upon to help people out with there Internet problems which are more often than not related to the sending and receiving of email. The sooner I get people off of their POP/SMTP based email and onto Gmail the sooner their (and my) problems go away.

    Gmail just works and is the simplest (you don’t need any training to use it) and most effective email system we have yet. I say yet because I am still looking for something that will be even easier to use and when that comes along I will be using it.

    Just go to http://www.gmail.com and give it a go.

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  • Filed under: Bookmarking, Calendar/PIM, Email/Communications, Slideshow