Wednesday, January 27, 2010

I Think, Therefore...

iTunes U is a good thing, but it is not the be-all and end-all of free, online, university-level lectures.

MIT offers Open Courseware, "free lecture notes, exams and videos" from MIT professors. Not all listed courses offer usable materials--many are just syllabi or reading lists; however, some provide lectures notes, audio lectures or more. Each listing shows icons of what content the course makes available, which is useful.

TechCrunch calls Academic Earth the "Hulu for education," and they're not wrong. Providing video content on topics ranging from literary history to astrophysics to politics, Academic Earth's site is searchable by topic, university or professor.

Moreover, the content comes from top-notch universities: Harvard, Yale, Stanford and Berkeley, just to name a few. Here's a selection from a series of lectures by Michael Sandel on "Justice: What's the Right Thing To Do?"

Watch it on Academic Earth

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The Physics Behind Figure Skating

Talk about teachable moments! NBC and the Science Foundation collaborated on this series of 10 videos exploring the science behind, for example, snow-boarding and figure skating, just to name a few, as a tie-in with the upcoming Winter Olympics.

Click the "watch video" link in the lower right-hand corner.

On Beakers and Bunson Burners

If you haven't informed your Science Dept. about National Lab Day, do it now! Even Thomas Friedman is on board.

Sponsored by several leading scientifically-based organizations,such as the National Science Foundation, NLD links up science classrooms with local professionals in an effort to improve the quality of labs and scientific inquiry in schools, whether through direct participating or help with resource funding.

Teachers create a project/lab, and the site helps connect them with scientists, engineers, university students or other professionals in a collaborative effort.

Now as an English major/teacher, don't get me started on the whole privileging of science over the arts thing, but any program that promotes students' creative thinking and analytical abilities--along with intellectual curiosity--has my 100% support.

I've passed this along to my own Science Dept., and will certainly be gently nudging them to participate.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Now Moderating Comments

Sorry about that! I've gone for a couple of years without getting spam comments, but it seems to be happening frequently now, sooo.... I thought of just re-instating the Captcha thing, but that's very annoying for you, dear reader; thus, I shall just preview before posting them.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

EBSCO and the 19th Century

EBSCO is neolithic. Oh, sure it's all high tech and database-y, but its aggressive policies reek of imperialism and monopolies. In this day of open source and creative commons, its outdated.

What fomented such a rant on my usually benign blog? An email I received from Gale (who, granted, have a stake in this) described a bidding war they've been having with EBSCO over Time, Inc. and Forbes content.

Gale's bid allowed for other services to carry the content in a spirit of equal access. EBSCO's much-higher bid included rights as sole provider, which offends my democratic, openly-sourced soul to the core. Guess who won?

I blame Time and Forbes as much as EBSCO. These are not some obscure, highly specialized journals, but popular periodicals for the mass market. Limiting them to the often exorbitantly expensive EBSCO narrows public access prodigiously. While Gale is equally expensive, their bid (which they excerpted here) allows other, possibly cheaper, companies to also carry the content.

I used to think this was a problem limited to academic libraries: having to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to access specialized content not available elsewhere. Apparently corporate greed is seeping down the food chain.

This seems like a virtual hi-jacking; it forces libraries to purchase EBSCO databases if they want to provide basic content to their patrons. Moreover, who do you think will really pay the artificially high price EBSCO forked out for the periodicals? It's going to be passed on to us, of course.

If you'd like to add your voice to the protest, you can join the Facebook group "Librarians for Fair Access to Content" (started by Gale, and I'm not sure what joining a Facebook group will do, but I'll pass along the info!). Or we can start a flood of Tweets.

You can email EBSCO or call Time, Inc. at 212.522.1212. (I can't seem to find a non-subscription email address).

Come the revolution, brother!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

ISTE SIMGS: Keeping You Technologically Current!

Well, maybe that's an overstatement. But the SIGMS group in ISTE (Special Interest Group: Media Specialists) just started a newsletter to feature tech articles and issues. You can access the first issue here. Yours truly has an article on book trailers.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

MUN: Research Handout

I'm working on upgrading all my forms for Model UN to make them more visually enticing. This one works well for guiding students' issue research.

Know Your Issue

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

It's All About the Cloud, Baby...

eSchool News just reported that Google took a giant step towards making it easier than ever to spend your life in the cloud and ignore your hard drive as storage space.

While a Google account always gave you unlimited storage space, it always converted any document you uploaded into a Google doc. Now, apparently, will store documents in any format. Your account comes with a free gigabyte or storage space, and only non-Google documents will count towards that allotment. Moreover, files will now increase to a 258 MB size limit.

While not currently available (I tried!), this should be phased in by the end of the month. The real test, will be whether it accepts iWork files.

And, while I'm talking about Google, is anyone else glad to see them finally taking on China? Granted, it took being hacked by, allegedly, the Chinese government to force them to it, but the Wall Street Journal reports their very public stance has had impact on other companies.

Google's statement against censorship in China also set a new standard for many multinational companies that have cooperated with the Chinese government for years, saying that sacrifices had to be made in order to reach China's massive market.

China has often claimed that taking it to task on human rights issues is tantamount to cultural empirialism. But as I tell my Model UN students, they're a member of the UN and signed the charter, which says all members must uphold its principles. There you go.

Of course, while Google took considerable flack for agreeing to the censorhip necessary to run in China, the article suggest they have actually been able to provide Chinese citizens access to information they wouldn't have otherwise:
"Our postings on the Internet are deleted by [other] Web sites, or when we upload pictures showing bad things on the street, they are deleted … I don't know what to do without Google," Ms. Xu said.

Which raises the question: is it better or worse for them to pull out of China? Do you stick with high ideals that could actually hurt the people of China? Or sacrifice the ideal for practical, tangible benefits that overtime may erode the original obstacles? Are these even intelligible questions?

I'll run a little poll of my own on the side, and see what readers think.

EdWeb: Slow the Pace! is a relatively new social networking site similar to Ning, but dedicated solely to education. It also has a LOT fewer people on it, which can be good or bad depending on your point of view.

I loved Ning when I first joined a few summers back and everyone was discovering the joys of professional social networking. However, it has grown a bit ponderous and unwieldy for me, so I haven't been on in a while.]

EdWeb offers several features: blogging, chatting, calendar sharing, a wiki, document archives and more; I like the interface better than Ning--it seems cleaner and easier to navigate. Of course, there aren't many people with which to form a network yet, which is a drawback. But there is a school librarians group with 50 members in it; it will be interesting to see if we can make that a viable community.

I am a bit concerned that there already seems to be a corporate presence on the site. Again, we'll see what happens.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Animoto Book Trailers: Redux

I'm doing the book trailers this week with the 9th graders. Which is great timing, since I'm writing the project up for the new ISTE SIGMS newsletter. I've created a new student handout for the tech process. Individual teachers will need to decide the criteria for their classes. Here's a link for the rubric I use.

Animoto Book Trailers

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Wonderful Websites with Wix

I didn't think website creation could get much easier than iWeb--and then I found Wix. To be concise: Wix rocks!!

Wix offers professionally (and beautifully) designed Flash-based templates you use to create your own website. It even hosts and publishes them..for free!

It offers hundreds of template designs, and editing those templates is a snap with their easy editing tools. All the usual tools--font, color, shapes, etc.--are available, and you can even add effects and animations. Need help? Quick tutorials are instantly available as you work.

Wix has its own (somewhat limited) photo library, or easily connects to Flickr.

They make their money with the "freemium" concept: basic access is free, users pay more to upgrade to pro versions. For example, $4.95/month buys you your own domain name.

I've been thinking of putting together a website for my documentary workshops; finding Wix inspires me to move ahead with that, because they've removed all the usual frustrations out of website design. Much as I love iWeb, given my limited skills, I can still only create a fairly basic site. Wix allows amateurs to create sites the pros would be proud of.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Testing Snagit: I'm Sold!

I've been spending the last 90 minutes playing with Snagit. School was out 2 hours ago. Fair to say, I love it. Not that there aren't kinks (it's working better with Safari than with Firefox at the moment). But, wow, what it can do!

Notice the really long picture of the blog--it can do a rolling screen capture. Your picture image is no longer limited by the size of your screen. You can even save it as a JPEG2 file, which would allow it to be scrollable, rather than a long file like this.

And you can curve lines, have a lot more control over editing properties (shadow, line size, etc) than with Skitch.

Come the time, I'm definitely buying this!

Snagit for Mac is Beta-Testing

If you're a Mac user, you might want to take a look at Snagit, Tech-Smith's answer to Skitch, which I've been using for a couple of years.

They're beta-testing, so it's free...but don't expect it to work seamlessly!

Both programs allow you to take a screen capture, and then add text, arrows, etc., making them great for tutorials. Snagit has been available for Windows users for quite a while (my Mom loves it).

Here's the question, though: Skitch is free, so why would anyone pay for Snagit, once it's out of beta? TechSmith will really have to load on the features!

I like beta-testing (it makes me feel so cutting edge!), so I'll definitely take a look at it. And TechSmith is a fabulous company; I use Camtasia and love it, though, again, it's new and not as feature-rich as the Windows version. Oh, well!

SoundSnap Pro for Education: Not Free, But Close!

Anyone who works with multimedia projects knows what a headache the soundtrack can be. Students want to use their favorite top-of-the-charts song, and even when you convince them not to, it's difficult quality to find loops they can use.

I've posted before about Jamendo and FreePlay Music, my favorite because it allows students to choose music by mood.

But I ran across Soundsnap the other day,and I'm going to use it for my film class and other media projects that come up next semester.

While it's not free, the site offers reasonable educator pricing--6 months for $89, though you can purchase shorter time frames,too. Better yet, the site offers professional level music and sound effects, which obviously makes for better projects.

The clips are organized by category and are keyword searchable. Unfortunately, adding in mood terms didn't work all that well. A search for "jazz happy" yielded two results, though "orchestra suspense" had 28 hits, which isn't bad.

Most files can be downloaded as mp3's and many as either wav or AIFF files, too.

If you do a lot of work with media projects, it's definitely worth looking into.

Once we've done our first few projects with it, I'll report back on how it's going.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Kudos to the NYT

The NYT published an article last weekend on Google's latest research on kids lack of coherent search strategies. Nowhere in the article did they mention libraries and/or librarians. I was irked. So I sent off a letter to the Times, and darned if they didn't print it.

Probably the only way I'll ever be in it! : )