Gotta Be An Easier Way

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Archive for the ‘Tools’ Category

Hot Potatoes, E-Learning Games for Free!

Where I work we often have to build more interactive learning experiences and we played around a few years ago with a demo version of Hot Potatoes. We really liked it and found it easy to use but very limited in the demo version so we put it on the shelf. Today as I was going through my RSS feeds I found out that Hot Potatoes is now a free application along with a web based maze builder Quandry.

For a list of the types of things you can build in Hot Potatoes check out the site where I discovered that it is now free. Here is the site and below that is an exerp from it. E-Learning Curve Blog

“There are five basic programs in the Hot Potatoes suite:
1. JQuiz creates question-based quizzes.
Questions can be of four different types, including multiple-choice and short-answer. Specific feedback can be provided both for right answers and predicted wrong answers or distractors. In short-answer questions, the learner’s guess is intelligently parsed and helpful feedback to show what part of a guess is right and what part is wrong. The learner can ask for a hint in the form of a “free letter” from the answer.
2. JCloze creates gap-fill exercises.
Unlimited correct answers can be specified for each gap, and the learner can ask for a hint and see a letter of the correct answer. A specific clue can also be included for each gap. Automatic scoring is also included. The program allows gapping of selected words, or the automatic gapping of every nth word in a text.
3. JCross creates word jumble / crossword puzzles which can be completed online.
You can use a grid of virtually any size. As in JQuiz and JCloze, a hint button allows the learner to request a free letter if help is needed.
4. JMix creates jumbled-sentence exercises.
You can specify as many different correct answers as you want, based on the words and punctuation in the base sentence, and a hint button prompts the learner with the next correct word or segment of the sentence if needed.
5. JMatch creates matching or ordering exercises.
A list of fixed items appears on the left (these can be pictures or text), with jumbled items on the right. This can be used for matching vocabulary to pictures or translations, or for ordering sentences to form a sequence or a conversation.

These tools are complemented by a program called the Masher, which facilitates the creation of complete units of material (such as multiple-question quizzes) in one simple operation. The utility supports a range of question types including:
• True/False
• Short Answer
• Multiple Choice
• Cloze Test
• Word Jumble / Crossword
• Drag and Drop
• Mix and Match
Hot Potatoes allows you to add:
• Text
• Images
• Audio
• Video
• Question Timer
• Web plug-in objects like Flash Player
to your web server of LCMS-deployed question tests. The tool also adds interoperability in the shape of SCORM 1.2.”

Hot Potatoes is not the most straight forward application to use but once you know how to build each of the games ( a minute or two of investment) they are easy to to do. When I was trying to figure out how to build a JMix I simply Googled “JMix Hot Potatoes” and the first result was a youtube video that was only 3 minutes long. Within another 2 minutes I had created a great instructional game.

The process is very easy but there is that initial confusion as to how to interact with the program.

Give Hot Potatoes a try and I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how much more dynamic you can make otherwise dry learning opportunities.

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  • Filed under: Peripherals, Tools
  • Screenr is a free screen recording application that requires no installation and works right through your browser.

    I generally do my fair share of screen recordings usually to show people how to use applications. I use the great free tool Jing to do this and have loved it but it does require a few simple steps to install it and get it working. Screenr takes an easy process and makes it even easier somehow.

    You literally only need a Twitter account and a browser to be recording short tutorials (5 min max) with Screenr that have a surprisingly great quality. Once you have recorded you are left with the option of Tweeting your recording, although you can elect not to tweet but you still need to sign into Twitter (hence needing the Twitter account). From there you can access the raw files for that you recorded or get the embed code to put it anywhere you like. All this is done platform independent because it is all browser powered.

    Screenr also has a bookmarklet that makes it easy to quickly and easily record wherever you are as long as your browser is open. This truly is such an easy tool to easily incorporate into your routine that could save tons of time in giving direction to students or other instructors. Screenr videos will also play on an iPhone and other mobile devices which is great for getting your tutorials to people wherever they are.

    I don’t see this tool replacing Jing or Camtasia (the granddaddy of all screen recorders and possibly the most expensive as well) but it does simplify and speed up the process of screen recording and sharing. If you don’t already have Jing or Camtasia then Screenr may be the right fit for you, heck I will probably be using it more often than I use the other tools because it fits so well into my workflow.

    Here is an example of a short screenrecording I created.

    How can this be used in Education?

    I would come up with my own reasons to use this in education but honestly early in the writing of this post I found another article that shows great ways of how to use Screenr for education so here it is.

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  • Filed under: Mobile, Podcast, Screen Recording, Tools, Video
  • I know everyone probably has some sort of Google account and if you don’t you have probably have heard about it. But I wanted to make sure that I wrote something about it because it is one of those fundamental online tools that you must tap into and I didn’t want to take it for granted, that and there are so many tools that people haven’t tapped into that add so much to the experience.

    Google pretty much owns my life and there is a good reason for that. It’s easy, free, integrated and unified. On top of it I can gather all the Google tools that I use onto one page, my Google Homepage . This is where I have my Gmail, Google Docs, Google Calendar, Google Reader, and many other tools that aren’t even Google tools like the weather, or alternative search engines.

    So how do you get a google Homepage? If you have a Gmail account then you already have access to the Google Homepage and ALL of the tools I have listed here and MORE you simply need to login with your Gmail account to access it and it is all FREE!

    Let me elaborate on some of the tools that Google offers:

    • Google Docs: Word Processing, Spreadsheet creation, online forms/surveys, presentation/slideshow creation. All of which can be fully private or fully collaborative with several people working on the same document at the same time from the same room or thousands of miles away.
    • Gmail: Email that offers over 5 GB of storage space (It’s space is ever growing as well depending how long you have had it for, I’m up to nearly 8GB), to-do lists, contact lists, Instant messaging, video chat, and many plugins that increase it’s functionality like GTD inbox, Boxbe, and Google Calendar. And because it is all integrated you send some emails right to your calendar like Entourage and Outlook.
    • Google Calendar: Create multiple calendars that you can share with family, friends collegues, co-workers or the entire world if you want. Tap into co-workers (if they are sharing) calendars to help you schedule meetings or events. Break it down into months days or hours. Reminders help you keep track of your life as well.
    • Picasa: An online photo storage site like Flickr. Easily organize, find, and share your photos. (Stay tuned for a more in depth look at Picasa and Flickr coming very soon)
    • Google Reader: A RSS feed reader that allows for sharing and works really good.
    • Blogger: A easy to use blog that integrates into all your other tools, grab photos from Picasa, documents from Docs and populate your blog so others can keep up to date with what you are doing.
    • Google Sites: A no code required web builder that utilizes drag and drop modular design. Easily have a website up and running in minutes.
    • Youtube: yup your Google account automatically gives you a youtube account.
    • Google Maps: A map of everywhere. Get directions and save them to your account so you always have them for accessibility. And check out street view which lets you go down to street level in most major cities in the world and look around as if you are in a car.
    • Google Translate: Translate from language to language. Very Handy. 43 languages supported and counting.
    • iGoogle: Your personalized Homepage of widgets/nuggets/gadgets. Can house most of the Google tools along with thousands of other tools that enhance productivity or just supply fun.
    • and many more like Finance, Scholar, Books, News etc. And they are constantly adding more.

    The best part of it all is that it all exists online (but you can have it run off your desktop too if you want) and is accessible from any computer in the world that have computer access.

    How can I use this for education?

    • Increase productivity.
    • Almost everything you do can be online and is sharable.
    • Reduce desktop clutter with fewer applications.
    • Give students a free alternative to pricey desktop applications.
    • Most of your tools can be accessible on one web page. It’s your desktop online.
    • It lives online so you have access everywhere and are not tethered to one computer.
    • Collaborate synchronously or a-synchronously online whenever or wherever with students, course co-writers, colleagues or whoever.
    • Set students up to collaborate online, this works especially good with distance courses.
    • View Microsoft Office documents without Microsoft Office.
    • and there is so much more but so little space

    So what do /would you use the Google products for?

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  • Filed under: Calendar/PIM, Collaborative, Conferencing, Editors, File Viewers, Office, RSS Readers, Search, Social Networking, Tools
  • Mind Mapping on Steroids

    The folks at Webdesigner Depot have posted 50 Great Examples of Data Visualization. These tools enable one to view large amounts of data in a visual spacial fashion that helps to reveal patters, trends and groups that are not easily observed in the traditional format. Unfortunately, this site lists 50 tools and while I have used several, but not all, I cannot make a recommendation on which tools is the best. Furthermore, the tool you choose or will need will also depend on the type of data that you need to view.

    Educational Application:

    Being able to present data in a visual spacial format will help most, if not all, learners get better grasp of what the data can reveal.

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  • Filed under: Graphics, Learning, Mind Mapping, Presentation, Research, Tools
  • Eight Reasons Your Next Computer Should Be A Mac

    Harry McCracken of PCWorld offers the following Eight Reasons Your Next Computer Should Be A Mac:

    1. Macs are consistently consistent.
    2. The joy of predictability.
    3. Who needs security headaches?
    4. Crud, or the lack thereof.
    5. Details count.
    6. Apple is one of the world’s best software companies.
    7. The Apple Store’s Genius Bar rocks.
    8. Hey, Macs are PCs.

    While I must admit that I do use a MacBook Pro I also have to acknowledge that the primary reason I do use a Mac is because it is the one platform that allows me to run Mac OS, XP, Vista and Ubuntu all on one system.  McCracken refers to this in point eight of his article. His first point “Macs are consistently consistent” is really an explanation of Mac being very reliable and extremely easy to use–my second reason for using a Mac.

    Unfortunately, the folks at Apple believe that their uniqueness, ease of use and sexy design justify pricing the Mac at levels that are unrealistic. A base aluminum MacBook that has a Intel Core 2 Duo, 2 GB of RAM and an onboard video card starts at $1350 which is about $500-600 more than a similarly equiped HP, Toshiba or Sony. The 15″ MacBook Pro starts at $2500 and a fully decked out 17″ is well over $3400, so only diehard users or those who have the need and budget can afford these highend systems. The ardent Mac fans will quickly point out that you get so much more with a basic Mac (iLife suite) and other built in software that the addition cost is warranted.

    Regardless of the excessive cost, the Mac is one of the easiest systems to use and for those who are looking for an easier way the Mac does deliver.

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  • Filed under: Operating Systems, Tools
  • Visuwords™


    Visuwords™ is an online graphical dictionary where you can look up words to find their meanings and associations with other words and concepts. The tool enables you to produce diagrams and learn how words associate.

    Visuword combines a web 2.0 type visualization tool with Princeton University’s opensource WordNet database to create an interactive click and drag type tool that is free for everyone to use.

    Educational Applications

    Because Visuword functions like both a dictionary and thesaurus it is ideal for writers, journalists, students, teachers or anyone else who has an interest in words.

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  • Filed under: Editors, Graphics, Learning, Research, Tools
  • Photoface


    Photoface allows you to upload an image of your face (or someone elses–assuming you have permission) and then modify that image by changing the age, weight, caricature and emotion. The instructions are built right into the site–the most challenging part may simply be the uploading of your image.

    While I don’t really see any pure academic or educational purposes for the site I still want to recommend the site for its pure entertainment value.

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  • Filed under: Editors, Graphics, Tools
  • Picture Resizer

    I copied the following How to use it instructions directly from the Photo Resizer 3.5 site:

    • Download PhotoResize400.exe and place it on your desktop.
    • Drag and drop JPG files or folders with JPG files on the application icon.
    • The tool will resize JPG images and save them next to the originals. Names of the new pictures will be based on the original names, with a suffix indicating their size. For example, the resized version of MyPhoto.jpg will be called MyPhoto-400.jpg, where the number 400 indicates the size of the picture.

    In addition to editing the name of the image you can adjust the pixel size and compression, sharpen the image and much more. Whether you are resizing 1 or 100 (or more images) this FREE tool makes the job quick and easy.

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  • Filed under: Editors, Graphics, Tools
  • Directory of Learning Tools

    With 2872 tools and counting (over 2100 free) Jane Hart’s Directory of Learning Tools on the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies site will definately have something for everyone.

    It is not necessarily easy sifting through more than 2800 tools to find the one that you want but because the directory is broken down into logical categories and even has a section dedicated to personal productivity, it can serve as an excellent starting place to see just what is available.

    Many of the tools in the list will eventually find their way onto this site.

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  • Filed under: Learning, Search, Tools