Friday, October 30, 2009

Gaming and Education - Rethinking the Rules

We decided to explore these articles because of a recent announcement by our board to investigate and pursue the opening of all-boys schools. Our board sees this as a means of dealing with the falling grades and general behavioural issues of boys in our schools. We're sure that this solution will work for many boys, we definitely hope, but we can't help but think about the connections which have been made between gaming, learning, and boys and whether a rethinking of how we see the institution of school and how we teach may not offer a complimentary long-term strategy: one that would also better prepare our kids for the careers, jobs, and socio-political mosaic of the future.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

New Note-Taking Service for the Busy Post-Secondary Student

NoNotes note-taking services which allows you to record your lectures, meetings, debates, or personal notes through a digital recorder of your choosing (they obviously sell and recommend their recorders, and they require that you submit files in either MP3 or Windows Media format.), upload the audio file to your free NoNotes.com account online, and then download or have the transcribed notes e-mailed for a fee. The fee starts at $9.57 per class hour, and they advertise packages of 1, 5, and 10 hour class times.

The automatically generated notes can then be edited and modified at one's leisure, allowing the student to build on the class notes. There are some quality-assurance issues to keep in mind and which NoNotes does point out:
  • Have the recorder as close to the output source as possible to get the best audio quality, and in turn, most accurate notes;
  • Only one speaker/time. (For Example: Scattered back and forth speech may be difficult).
For students with disabilities, students with a heavy workload and the financial ability to dedicate some money toward such a service, or student work groups who pitch-in to manage their workload, such a service is well worth the reasonable fee. Most files will be transcribed and delivered with 1-2 days.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Nook - Book Store Enters the eBook Game

Yet another e-book article, a follow-up to yesterday's e-publishing article: Nook, the Barnes & Noble ebook reader, has just hit the market...Amazon Kindle's big competitor. And it comes with some nice features, for around $250 USD you get enough memory to hold about 1,500 books, supports the open e-Pub standard, and it's running Android, Google's mobile OS.

With Barnes & Noble in the ebook reader game, school libraries and educators will have to seriously consider the very real market penetration of this technology and how to integrate it into class activities.

For more detail on Nook read Barb Dybwad's article on Mashable.

Monday, October 19, 2009

FastPencil - Collaborate, Write, and e-Publish

About two weeks ago I posted an article on Sony's eBook Platform for Self-Publishing and wondered aloud as to how we can tie this type of tool into creative writing activities. Well, along comes FastPencil, an application which combines workflow, writing, and self-publishing into a service.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

cctext - New(ish) Wiki on the Market

cctext is newish wiki in an already flooded wiki market, with many of the free wiki offerings already being taken advantage of by educators. cctext is aiming to cater to the Enterprise 2.0 interests with a focus on the small business market.

cctext is starting to get some coverage on the blog circuit - check RWW's article, but what really caught my attention and made me decide to mention this new player is the fact that it's open to Google Apps users and allows us to carry over our login,
"If your company uses Google Apps, you don't need to remember another account or password. Just use your company Google Apps account to sign in to any services of cctext. Welcome Google Apps users!"

For many of us who are using Google Apps in classroom activities, or have fully integrated these services into our teaching plans, a wiki environment which accommodates tools from our preferred service is a real bonus. The only drawback is the price, or the fact that it actually costs, $12 a month. Check out the full list of features you get for $12 a month.

It would be a tool best integrated at a corporate level by IT, and offered as the default for the school as a means of absorbing the expenses. But not all of us work for districts / boards that are in a position to pursue this financially.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Survey of K-12 Educators on Social Networking

edWeb.net, a social networking site for educators, has just published the preliminary findings (never quite sure what that means) of a survey of K-12 Educators on social networking and online collaboration tools. The online survey had 979 total responses, seems like a high number but it's actually a very low 1.4 % response rate of total members available to respond. But in terms of capturing general patterns, I think it's still a useful number of respondents and kind of represents the typical school profile, this is the response breakdown: 59% teachers, 14% principals, and 26% librarians - the last one is kind of high, but librarians do tend to be more responsive to information gathering exercises.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Sony's eBook Platform for Self-Publishing

Sony recently setup a partnership with Smashwords and Author Solutions which will allow any author (published or self-published) to upload a book to their eBook Store, and in-turn give all these writers access to disseminate their work via the e-reader platform.

Sony will of course monitor and vet content for hate speech, plagiarism, formatting issues or public-domain books offered by someone other than the legitimate author or a legal representative.

I can't hep but think that there's got to be a number of different ways to tie this tool into an activity, especially secondary and post-secondary projects and creative writing classes. These open platforms really do represent the promise of the web for all with the interaction, control, and participation of Web 2.0 - for digital learning, a peer-based learning environment guided by teachers and educators, as emphasized by the Digital Youth Project.

As a side note, Amazon also provides a similar service which allows authors to self-publish to the Kindle platform - it's called Digital Text Platform, but Amazon’s service only accepts submissions from within the United States.