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Saturday, December 29, 2007

Give Your Students a Little TV for Homework

Wouldn't they just love that? I don't watch much television anymore, but when I did, I remember saying many times, "I would love to have my students see this." It was usually a program that had a message and could teach my students in a way that could hold their attention. Well, I'm sure there's still some good stuff on the tube that might be useful for students to watch, especially if you're teaching college students. And guess what, we don't have to bring in bootleg VHS tapes anymore. I'm not saying that is what I did or anything.

Today's new revolution is Internet TV. 2007 was a big year for Internet TV. Yes, we all know that YouTube is king, but it has it's limitation. For one, you're not going to to find the latest episodes of your favorite primetime shows. So that gem of a program that you're hoping to show your students is probably not available. And good luck trying to show only a piece of a YouTube video. But lately the Networks have changed their tune about Internet TV. Yes, there's iTunes, but I don't want to go broke buying shows I only want to show pieces of, and there's just something odd about spending money to educate. It should be free for education. That's my motto. Anyway, some of the major networks are bailing on iTunes.

So the networks are experimenting with offering their shows on the web. Read more about that at Last.100.com - Internet TV: 2007 Year in Review. I've personally tried NBC Direct, and I just didn't get it. What I do get is Hulu. They offer network shows in full length with short 15 second commercial that can't be skipped. Yes, I tried :-(. The commercials are so short you can't even get up to go to the bathroom in that amount of time. Anyway, what I like most about Hulu is that you can embed the video anywhere you like, including your course blog or Blackboard. And, I love this part, you can choose only the clip you want to show when you embed, so your viewers (students) don't have to watch all of Jay Leno. See below. I clipped only the part of the Tonight Show where Jay shows what a horrible job teachers in America are doing. How about that for a tease.



The whole show shows up, so viewers can watch the rest, including the commercials, if they want. Hulu is in private beta right now, but I'm sure it will open up soon enough. It will be interesting to see how much content they will be able to get on the site. So far NBC, Fox and Bravo are the big names. Quality is good too.

So the next time you're watching a television program and you think it might be appropriate for your students to watch, check out Hulu and see if it's there. You'll have it posted on your site in no time.

Monday, December 24, 2007

The Best Web 2.0 Applications for College Faculty & Students in 2007

It's that time of the year where everyone is making lists, so I'm going to make my own. For inspiration I've read both Larry Ferlazzo's at http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/2007/12/21/the-best-web-20-applic...
and Silvia Tolisano's at http://www.langwitches.org/blog/2007/12/22/best-web-20-applications...
I got the scoop from a discussion started by Steve Hargadon on Classroom 2.0, which is a social network for educators created in Ning. I mention this because Ning is number one on my list, which has a clear theme: Communication and FREE. Have a look at my list:
  1. Ning - Like the idea of a social network like Facebook and MySpace to link students and communicate with them, but hate the lack of control and total distraction that these major networks bring? Try Ning. Ning is an online service where you can create, customize, and share your own Social Network for free in seconds. You choose a combination of features (videos, blogs, photos, forums, etc.) from an ever-growing list of options. Then customize how it looks, decide if it's public or private, and add your school logo if you have one. People who join your network will automatically have a customizable profile page and will be able to message and friend each other.
  2. Jing - I know. Ning, now Jing. Funny. But they're both awesome. I posted about Jing from TechSmith before. Jing is an app that makes it possible to record screencasts for free on a Mac or PC. After you create your screencast, you're able to upload the file seamlessly to Screencast.com for free. Well, free for 2 months. It's only a trial, but hosting rates aren't too bad. I think it was $69 for a year for 25gb of space and bandwidth. This is the easiest and fastest option for sharing your screencast, but getting back to my theme of free, there are options for exporting directly to a file on your computer or ftp to your own server.
  3. Twitter - People just don't understand Twitter, but it has some great uses for college faculty and students. I don't think I'd want to use Twitter in the traditional way with students, but how about this. Can't afford those expensive clickers or handheld wireless devices that resemble television remote controls? Try Twitter. Students sign up for accounts, you befriend them all, and when you ask a question in class, you can have them all twitter their responses. Display your twitter feed on the overhead projector and discuss the responses. If students don't have texting on their phones, they can use the web and still participate. It's fun.
  4. TextMarks - Create a TextMark to publish information and let people get in touch with you via text message. Select a Keyword that people will use to access your TextMark. Decide whether you want to create a social TextMark for information sharing and chatting, or if you want a dynamic TextMark that interacts with a web application. If you chose a social TextMark, you may enter up to 125 characters of text for a response. Users then text your keyword to 41411 and they get your response in return. If you chose a dynamic TextMark, enter the URL you want to interact with and pull content from. I have mine pull content from the course blog, so students get updates from TextMark when there is new information posted on the blog. In this case, all subscribers to my TextMark get the the update automatically. Subscribers can also communicate with you and other subscribers via text without displaying any real phone numbers.
  5. Zotero - I explored Zotero some time ago, but got interested again after a presentation at Educause this year in Seattle. I'm planning to incorporate it into my freshman composition courses next year. Zotero is a "free, easy-to-use Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources. It lives right where you do your work — in the web browser itself." It works with most databases like Jstor and EbscoHost, books sites like Amazon, and newspaper websites like New York Times, and Wikipedia. The list is unlimited. It allows you to collect the citation information as well as archive the page (for webpages). Read more here.
  6. Firefox - Yep, a browser. It's worth mentioning again because it just keeps getting better. I can't believe my school still doesn't allow us to have it. So my students and I have it installed on our usb thumbdrives, required equipment for my classes. What makes Firefox superior are the extensions. Extensions are small add-ons that add new functionality to Firefox, from a simple toolbar button to a completely new feature. They allow you to customize Firefox to fit your own needs and preferences. A few notable extensions are Zotero, mentioned above, Greasemonkey, Better Gmail, FireFTP, and Answers. There are too many to explain in detail, so here's one example. 1-Click Answers is an extension that will save you even more time with AnswerTips that instantly deliver the information you are looking for. Just point at any word, hold the Alt key (Ctrl in Linux) and click. Upon letting go, an AnswerTip in the form of a pop-up "information bubble" appears on the screen explaining the term. It's great for students.
  7. Gmail - I can't believe some faculty are still trying to manage student email using Outlook. Outlook is good, but it's not Gmail. And to be fair, I use Yahoo! too, and they both have awesome features for helping you manage email. I'm going with Gmail because our district will be adopting Google Apps soon. First, Gmail has superior spam filtering without having to set up a bunch of filters. It has integration with Google Talk and now AIM so you can chat with your contacts right in Gmail. You get a ton of storage space, so you don't really have to delete anything. And with that, Gmail has great search, go figure. You can tag emails with labels that now have color. And with Better Gmail, a Firefox extension, you can add a ton more features. For instance, I have now have my GTD app, Remember the Milk, integrated right in Gmail, and Google Reader is integrated as well. Lastly, although there a quite a bit more I could say about Gmail, the filtering system is easy to set up and use. Oh, one more. There's IMAP, so you can use it on the iPhone or in Thunderbird.
  8. GrandCentral - You get a new phone number that does incredible things. The number can ring to any number you already own or all of them at the same time. You can screen callers, listen in on messages as they leave them, pick up the call during the message, block callers, and access messages online or have them sent to email or text message. You can set up different rings and greetings for individuals or groups, and you can switch phones in the middle of a call. All your regular phone numbers stay private even when you return calls. Voicemail box is a great organizational tool as well. Keep records of all student contact.
  9. Utterz - Utterz mashes together the voice, video, pictures, and text you call or send in and creates an 'Utter' that can immediately update your existing web pages or blogs. Take a picture of a plant with your cell phone and send it to Utterz. Then dial 712-432-Mooo and leave a voice description of the plant. The two are mashed together and automatically posted to your Biology class blog or any web page for that matter. Think of the possibilities.
  10. *jangl - *jangl allows for you to call or text anyone for free without knowing the number. All you need is his/her email address, and your phone number stays private. It helps you turn your list of email addresses into a list of local phone numbers. This is a great way of communicating with students via your cell phone without having to give up your private cell number. You can also block users.
This is for 2007, so that is why there are some notable apps missing. Let's just say they are valuable for college faculty and students, but they are "old school." This lists consists of apps like YouTube, Flickr, Wordpress/Blogger, PBWiki/Wetpaint, Meebo, Del.icio.us, Odeo and Feedburner. I still use them all, but 2007 brough a whole new crop of tools that make it easier for faculty to communicate and interact with their students. Are you using any of these tools? Leave a comment and let me know how.