Gotta Be An Easier Way

Using technology to make your life easier!

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
  • A Revamped Communication Tool: Digsby

    A few months back I wrote an article on 3 of my picks for best Instant Messengers (IM) aggregators ( 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.


    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)
  • 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
  • RSS: Keeping Track of the Web Your way

    I know that most everyone that is reading this has heard of RSS feeds. What I also know is that so many people either under use an RSS reader or don’t use it at all.

    There are a ton of RSS tools out there, some are extensions of like Sage for Firefox, Google Reader, and there are stand alone readers like Filterbox , Toluu, Hordit, Social Median, and Mac mail even has an integrated RSS feed reader. Many of these tools are also integrated into a much larger social community to help filter out the noise and make your experience even more rich. So why is RSS such an underused tool?

    First off we need to address who would benefit from using an RSS tool and to do this I am going to steal a schtick from Jeff Foxworthy:

    • If you spend any more than 30 min a day on the internet, ya might need RSS.
    • If you look at the same website more than 4 times a month, ya might need RSS.
    • If you feel like you miss world news, ya might need RSS
    • If you like to maintain currency with anything, ya might need RSS
    • If you ever feel bogged down going on the internet, ya might need RSS.

    In my opinion the reason RSS feeds are so underused is a lack of understanding and technical jargon. That coupled with the thought that they can be hard to setup and difficult to use. In 2 minutes you can have an RSS reader setup and be using it, when youfind a website you want to add you only have to click one or 2 buttons to have it added. It’s that easy.

    So what is RSS?

    Essentially RSS brings the web to your door and allows you to quickly scan the articles that you already find interesting and either fully read them or determine if you would rather not.

    I personally use Google Reader and I subscribe to 59 websites and get on average 200-250 new articles everyday, Now if I were to go to every website and look through those articles I would easily take up my entire workday but because of RSS I am able to scan all those articles, read the ones that I find most interesting and bookmark them if need be all in 45 min spread out the day. Essentially this increases my productivity by over 800 percent.

    Not only is my productivity up but I pair this up with other social networking tools such as twitter and even the built in sharing tools that most RSS feeds have now and I am able to share articles that my co-workers and colleagues find useful which keeps them current and up to date.

    If you are like me though there are tools that you can use to further filter a website that you have subscribed to. Pipes by Yahoo! will filter based on nearly whatever criteria you wish. I use it primarily for a website called Gizmodo which has nearly a hundred posts a day but I have it filtered to give me only 20-30 articles per day of things that I know I am going to be interested in instead of all the other articles that I know I won’t read.

    How can I use this for education?

    • Increase productivity
    • Stay up to date with current trends in education, technology or whatever
    • You won’t miss important articles
    • Waste less time on the internet
    • archive articles you like
    • develop relationships with colleagues and share important articles

    As usual I am open to know how you think it can be used in education and look forward to my RSS setup article coming soon. Also I will be posting my thoughts on the different RSS tools that I listed above.

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  • Filed under: Uncategorized
  • A Showcase of SingleFunction

    In the past few years there has been a trend towards very simple, single function websites like Google search. These pages do one thing and are very simplistic in design but offer great functionality. Here is a website that showcases some of these great single function tools and in a strange turn of events for web 2.0 tools the name actually describes its purpose, SingleFunction.

    How can this be used in education?

    SingleFunction is a great place to find tools that are the easiest to use because they only do one thing. It may take some searching and research and there may be some duds but there is gold to be found. Of course I will likely post some highlights from SingleFunction here in the future so stay tuned.

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  • Filed under: Uncategorized