Saturday, December 11, 2010

Wiki Spaces: Wiki's for everyone!


WikiSpaces For articles on using Wiki’s in education you could start here: Link to educational Wiki’s 

A wiki is a collection of linked web pages each of which can be edited and updated easily due to a relatively uniform page style and a simplified user interface. Each page typically has a page history, which allows undesirable edits to be reversed simply. Wikipedia is a prototypical example and there is a good collection of educational Wiki’s here Educational Wiki Examples

We were introduced to setting up a Wiki on Wikispaces the Link is here: WikiSpaces Using these in an educational context is a matter of assigning appropriate roles when setting up the wiki. On the free version you can set it up so that only members can edit pages, and then you could assign memberships to your class or whatever. Again this can be a great tool for co-operative learning.

Educational use

Wiki's are a good tool for co-operative and project work. This is a tool which can be used to consolidate learning by asking students to populate it with what they have learnt. In my opinion Wiki's are less useful as a presentation tool for a stand alone course, as one cannot guarantee that all pages of it are visited.

Further reading:

Wikispaces is not the only option available, the folowing page indexes a number of alternatives

Link Free Wiki’s
For articles on using Wiki’s in education you could start here:

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Prezi an alternative to "death by power point"

Web based, can be used with a MAC or a PC. Presumably linux as well, but I have not tested that.
Prezi is an interesting alternative to PowerPoint, and makes it easier to put together a non-linear exposition of material. What do I mean by this?
It allows you to prepare a cloud of material for your class and , depending on the class’s progress giving them greater or lesser amount of it without looking as if you ran out of material, or looking as if you are skipping over slides.
You can embed pictures, links to you tube clips your presentation. Your presentation can be up on the web for students to view at their leisure for revision etc.
It is famous for stunning visual effects, zooming into the full stop of a sentence to reveal paragraphs of additional material, spinning your slides in from many directions etc. All this is set up in a very intuitive interface, the underlying model of which is that your presentation is all laid out on one large sheet which you zoom from place to place on looking at individual frames of the presentation. It is easy to set up multiple paths through the slides.
Down sides. I does not have the presentation features which allow you to build a stand alone presentation for self paced learning with built in quizzes that PowerPoint does and it does not yet allow you to package your presentation with a narration.
Any time you use it at least half the questions, in my experience, tend to be about the presentation tool rather than the content of your talk.
Prezi is available here: Prezi Web Site
Educational use.
A more flexible presentation tool than power point, with novelty value.
Further reading: 
There is a collection of educational PREZI’s on this web site:
Link here URL

Saving a copy of a prezi for offline presentation
Log into your page on the Prezi website
open the Prezi that you wish to save.
On the right hand side you will see a button labeled Download, click on this.
A small window now opens up headed Choose a Format to Download
Select the first option which is 
Export to Portable Prezi and click the download button
The Prezi now downloads as a zip file
When you open this there will be a folder with the name of your Prezi. open this and you will find a file called prezi.exe When you run this your Prezi opens.

Getting Audio into Prezi
We assume you have an audio file as an mp3 which you want to put into your prezi to play at some point in your presentation. The following method should work
Prezi does not have the capability to run audio only, so the first step is to convert the audio file into a movie!
The simplest way to do this on a PC is to use movie maker.
Open movie maker and start a new project.
Then import a picture which will be on screen while the audio plays.
Next select "import audio or music" and import your sound track.
Now we save it from movie maker, where the format I chose was small image and the extension is.wmv 
My project is now written to disk as TestTalkForPrezi.wmv

The next step we have to do is convert this to the video format Prezi likes, which has an extension .FLV.
To do this we use an online converter which is called zamzar you can use it from here 
Zamzar web site.
The site is very simple with numbered steps 1,2,3. There is a free option which works fine. 
You upload the movie to the Zamzar site, then select the format you want to convert it to, in our case .FLV, and after you put in your email address zamzar will send you a link to the converted movie.
This can take a little while, I’ve just run a test file through the system and it took about a half hour.
You now download the file by following the link in the email and you are ready to go to prezi
Open up Prezi,
Choose insert file, and then your file and after a short time you are up and running

Concept mapping with Cmap Tools!

At this stage if one has been playing with the internet and involved in education, you may well have encountered “Mind maps”. Here is an example:

Mind map made with Freemind
Mind maps consist of labels for things connected by links. In a mind map there is generally one central theme and everything proceeds from this, as do branches from a tree.
Concept maps, as conceived in CmapTools, differ, insofar as the links are labeled. This seems like a trivial difference but the theory is that by insisting that you have to define the relationship between the entities shown you force the user to invoke deep thinking about the subject and this promotes longer lasting and better learning. They also allow cross links between nodes, in the above classroom example I could also put in a link between “teacher” and “Students” with the relations ship “talks to” or teaches
Details of the software are on the CmapTools web site. CmapTools Website.
URL: Versions are available for MAC and Linux.
Educational Use.
The most interesting one is for both formative and summative assessment. In the formative role we ask an individual or group to put together a concept map showing all that they know about a subject. We can then look this over identify gaps and misconceptions in the map, and teach to those deficits.
In the summative role it aids in a similar way in identifying gaps and misconceptions.
Notes: this is probably one of the more significant pieces of software that we encountered on this course, however it is also one that probably requires the largest amount of learning time to benefit fully from. As such consider this as just being a starting point. 
Further reading is here: Paper on Concept maps by Novak
Novak is the Cornell professor who pioneered these.
A paper on using Cmaps for summative assessment of ships cadets is here:
Paper on using CmapTools in a Cadet sandwich course.


Photosynth, a new way of looking at lots of photographs – is a technology that stitches several digital photographs together This may be to form one very high resolution image, or more intriguingly it may be to form a virtual 3D image on an object where one can navigate from image to image using a virtual 3D model of the object. This whole process is carried out automatically within the software, all you input is a series of photographs with at least 50% overlap between them.–I’ve a sample one which shows the Cathedral in Glendalough hereMonastic Ruins at Glendalough
There is a Fun TED talk about this software hereTED Talk
Educational value
This could go into project work, group work or could be used in the context of an eTwinning relationship between two classes in different countries.
It could also be used to provide students with 3 D images of objects such as craftwork examples, or details of a construction method such as building a foundation or a dovetail joint.
I have used this program via both a MAC and a PC. you may, however, have to download and install some silverlight components to view the results, and this may present a problem if you don't have administrative control over your computer.

Photo Story Three

  • PhotoStory3Image.PNGfree download from Microsoft) Note: Before you download this Microsoft want you to run licence check on your windows installation, this gives you a code which enables the download.
This is a very simple tool, which just allows you to combine pictures music narration and text to form a slide show. This can then be saved in video format, and played in class or dropped into a blog or a Wiki as one sees fit.
The program is pretty self explanatory. You drop photographs onto a timeline, and the program allows some simple photo editing so that you can crop, remove red eyes etc. Oe thing which may need a little more explanation is the start and end of motion concept. For each image you can specify a start and end section of the image for its display. For example you may have an image of St Patrick preaching, you can start with a general view of the whole image and zoom in while the picture is on screen to end on just his face.
There is a good tutorial document about how to use it from 
  • David Jakes,an american Instructional Technology Coordinator , here:
  • PDF from David Jakes which has more than enough information to get you started.
Educational uses
The obvious one is to put together a presentation for classroom use, less obvious is letting students use it for projects, group work, book reviews etc. As this is a Microsoft product, its likely to be seen as threat free by your IT department and thus easy to get installed on classroom machines. After that the students just upload images, or gather them from appropriate sources on the web, add music, and narration and they have quite an impressive piece of work as a result.
MAC equivalent:
IMovie08 There is a tutorial on how to do the equivalent of photostorythree in Imovie 08 here

Further reading: is a Wiki on pbworks, dedicated to photo story three. It looks very good
Digital story telling page from the pbworks Wiki, giving links to general digital sory telling resources.

Monkey Jam for animation

Take a 15 euro webcam, take a box of Plasticine and you are Stephen Speilberg! Well maybe not. But here is an example of what you can do:
claymation animation example
Monkey jam is a free program for doing frame by frame animation, which can be a series of post it notes, a step by step guide to a calculation, or whatever. Its quite simple to use, and after about forty minutes with the program the group I was in had quite a respectable minute of animation in the can. Very silly movie about a cat. For the technically minded we were shooting at six frames per second which is about as slow as you can go, while keeping up the continuous motion illusion.
There is a reasonable video guide here: MonkeyJam Tutorial which will give you a feel for what is involved and there is also a pdf format guide to using the program here:
pdf Guide to using MonkeyJam
Educational uses
This is good material for a class project or group work as it gives the students a great sense of achievement seeing the movie rolling. Its results can be imported into MovieMaker, if you want to combine them with live footage shot with a video camera.
I’ve used it to produce animations for use in class. A simple example for maths is here 
Divide by a fraction example
This shows the kind of simple resource which can be built. I would use this in class by running and pausing it te explain each stage as we go along.

MAC versions: Monkey jam can be run using virtual PC however the MonkeyJam author suggests Frame Thief, as an equivalent for stop-motion animation. I Can Animate, has also been suggested by Cormac Cahill for a Mac platform, its a little more expensive at £45. Site license and educational pricing is available.

Comic Life Do more with your photographs

This is so far the only commercial product in this blog, licences are available for educational use at euro 14.95 on this web page: Comic Life Educational Sales
What is is it?
Its a series of comic style templates with lettering tools which allow you to create comic strips with your own images for content.
Educational use.
Apart from art and communications where the students can produce work either as individuals or group work, I think the following examples show how it can be used to increase student engagement.
A social and health education class used comics built by the students to explore issues such as bullying peer pressure and criminality.
A class for school age mothers presented health education material by having the students generate comic strips describing the issues from templates, which the students were then allowed to print out in color. Because being allowed to print in color was not the norm for budgetary reasons, the students were proud of their work and laminated them to take home.
Further reading:
There is a good tutorial on using the MAC version of the program here:
Link to Tutorial URL 
The tutorial is also applicable to a PC platform (that’s what we used in Malta) and there are further references at the end of that article.

Trailmeme A new way to guide tour parties on the web!

TrailMeme is a tool from the XEROX group which allows you to define a path through the web which other users can follow. The path can be linear or branched where users follow it by exploring a map.
As the authors of this web tool describe it "TrailMeme is a way to tell a story with web pages."
Here is the overview:
And as they say on all the best cooking shows: here's one I prepared earlier: This covers some of the tools I have described here.

Educational uses:
This could be a great tool for independent exploration of a topic. It could provide an introduction to a subject for a class, and could be a homework assignment.
Alternatly, you could ask your students to construct a trail to document the best resources they have found while researching a class project.
The posiblities are large, and as this tool is still in its infancy I think it has a lot of potential. This is one to watch.

Audacity for podcasting and soundtracks.

Audacity, for those who are not familiar with it, is in effect a word processor for sound. It allows you to record, cut, edit and change the "font" i.e. add special effects to your spoken work. It can be used to record podcats, and it can also be used for recording and editing soundtracks which you might use with an animation, a movie, or a slide show. It can be downloaded here: AudacityDownload There are versions for windows, Mac, and Linux machines, and there is a link on the page for older windows machines as well as Mac machines running OS9.
The editor allows you to edit and combine tracks, remove umm’s and aggh’s as well as those long pauses while you try and think up what to say next. It also allows you to combine tracks and control the overall volume.
Audacity tutorial page: Tutorials from Audacity about Audacity
Educational use:
A great tool for generating podcasts and audio for voice overs on slides and movies.

Mac Equivalent:
Garage band. This can be the functional equivalent of Audacity however it has a lot more built in functionality in terms of sound effects, musical instruments etc.
Further Reading
Audacity Further readingA nice page with more info