Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Eureka! Jott is here!

Have you ever had that ‘eureka’ moment when you’ve stumbled upon a piece of technology that is so interesting and useful to you that you can’t believe it’s real or free? I experienced this feeling today when I tried Jott. I first learned about it this morning as I managed to catch a few minutes of a presentation by Michael Wesch entitled ‘A Portal to the Future of Education” where he showcased several Web 2.0 applications that together can serve as tools for education today and into tomorrow.

In a nutshell, what Jott does in allow you to call a phone number and leave a voicemail message and then Jott transcribes the voicemail message into a text message that can be sent to a recipient’s email address. Very nice! Let me give you some good scenarios for its use.

[Update on Jott - 08 January 2009. Six months after this original blog posting - I have learned about changes in the Jott plans. The Free plan only allows you to jott yourself. The scenarios below were originally written when the Free plan allowed you to Jott anyone. Keep that in mind when reading the rest of this blog post.]

Scenario #1: My wife is a clinical social worker. I can’t call her during the day to communicate a message because she’s usually in a counseling session with a client. So I usually pass a message to her by email which she receives between clients or at the end of her workday. With Jott, I can now do this on the road with my cell phone! I can leave a voicemail with Jott that will be transcribed into an email and sent to her inbox. Nice!

Scenario #2: I like to use Twitter and so when I am traveling, or away from my computer, I can send a text message from my cell phone to Twitter. I can use Jott to plug-into Twitter. So by calling a telephone number, I can update my Twitter status. No clumsy text messaging on my small phone keypad required. Nice!

Scenario #3: I’m a Blogger – as you know. I learned that Jott has a plug-in to Blogger! So now blog posts can be made by voice using Jott! Nice!

Scenario #4: I use my email inbox as my ‘things-to-do-list’. I often find myself sending myself an email to remind me of something I have to do. Well, now I can do this while I am away from the computer. A call to Jott and I can send myself an email reminding myself of something. Nice!

I definitely had the ‘eureka’ moment today after only using Jott for an hour. I will use it for a month and report back the pros and cons of Jott as a comment to this post. If you use Jott, let us know how you like it and how you use it by leaving a comment below.

Note to Canadian readers: Jott's 1-866 number will not work so long distance charges may apply. Major cities have a local number and you can find the list here.

[Note: phone image, originally uploaded by Liquid Lucidity. Usage licensed by Creative Commons.]

Monday, June 16, 2008

iPhones are for the birds!

In 2006, I blogged about iPods as training aids in sports. Since 2006 there has been many examples about iPods being used as a just-in-time performance support aid for various training and educational contexts. I was recently at the Eastern Ontario Symposium for Educational Technology in Ottawa and a presenter from the University of Ontario Institute of Technology showed how the nursing school was using a PDA to help nursing students. These students on the floor had access to just-in-time resources on the PDA (textbook, drug guide, etc.). In addition, these students were able to log their training competencies as they complete them, instead of logging them once they arrive home for the evening. A lovely example of how a portable device can enhance a learning environment by both being a resources for information and by storing data for later use.

So by now you’re probably asking yourself, what does this story about nursing students have to do with the title of this posting? (i.e. having anything to do with and iPhone or with birds). Well, I’m sorry to report that it really has very little to do with it. However, I thought it was a nice little introductory story to what I want to describe next: BirdJam! Yuppers. No typo here - definitely BirdJam.

13May06-RoseBreastedGrosbeak-Pair, - photo by Eric Tremblay.

Bird watching is a popular hobby and many companies make resources for the avid birdwatcher. A myriad number of field guides and a long list of bird song CDs are available. I recently came across an application that uses an iPod, or an iPhone, as a performance support for birdwatchers. Paper-based field guides with photos have routinely been used at the time of a bird sighting for identification purposes; however, operating a series of birdsong CDs is much harder to manage when you are out in the field. That’s where BirdJam comes in. With what I consider to be a very elegant solution, BirdJam will transform your iPhone, or iPod, into a virtual field guide which integrates together both photos and the accompanying bird songs. BirdJam is a piece of software that converts data from the popular Stokes Field Guides for Birdsongs into a format that leverages the unique features of the iPhone and iPod (such as cover flow, and fast title searching, etc.). The result is a portable encyclopedia of photos and songs that is fast and easy to use. The technophilic bird watcher will salivate at the first sigh of BirdJam! If you don’t already have your own iPod or iPhone don’t worry. They will sell you a pre-loaded iPod ready for the field right out of the box. Several different add-ons are available, so not only can you obtain photos and audio of bird songs from eastern and western regions of North America, but you can also obtain data packs for birds native to Mexico and Costa Rica. I would bet that in coming months that BirdJam, and it’s partners, will continue to expand its available selection.

Much of our education and learning takes place outside the classroom. BirdJam is one example of a tool that creates a just-in-time performance supports for birdwatchers. Just another example of how people are thinking outside the box to make learning a lot easier for us all.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Flickr images for YOU!

Flickr allows its users to grant Creative Commons licenses to their photos and as a result many of these images can be available for YOUR use! There are different types of Creative Commons licenses and Flickr breaks them down for you and categorizes its database of photos accordingly. One example of a licence type is “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivitives License”. What this means is that you can use any image tagged with this license if you meet 3 conditions:
  • Attribution: you must give credit to the photographer

  • NonCommercial: you must not use the image for commercial purposes

  • No Derivitives: you may not modify the image in any way

It turns out that at the time I am writing this posting there are over 23 million photos on Flickr that you can search and use with this license. WOW! It is a veritable Gold Mine for educators putting together course materials.

Check it out Flickr's Creative Commons page here.

Take care


PS: The image above was found on Flickr with a Creative Commons license. Credit to Kevin Day. [http://www.flickr.com/photos/tanagerphotography/556740737/]

PSS: I've posted on this blog before about free image databases, add Flickr to the list now.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Wikis in the Classroom - iGlobe

I attended the Eastern Ontario Symposium on Educational Technology (EOSET) hosted by the University of Ottawa last Thursday (May 29th). The format this year was different than in the past. It consisted of a series of short 10 minute presentations. One talk that I found interesting was by Mark Salter in the School of Political Studies at the University of Ottawa. He described his large introductory class in "Politics of Globalization" which he branded as ‘iGlobe’ to attract student attention on the materials and to convey that this course was different than other politics courses. It sure was. Mark mixed aspects of problem-based learning (PBL), wikis and pod-casting into the materials of his course. His course has two assignments (in which students had choice as to what deliverables they had to submit) and two exams. Mark reported that often in undergraduate politics courses, professors give feedback to students on their papers and students do not get the opportunity to integrate that feedback into future assignments. He felt that by using the wiki in the course that students could take advantage of professor (and peer) feedback to improve their work by incorporating feedback. I have written on the topic of using wikis as class assignments before, so it is clear to the readers of this blog that I am very pro-wikis. Mark mentioned a good point that I took away from this presentation: he felt that students need a significant amount of training on how to use a wiki in the context of education. In his experience, the concept of a wiki was new to some of his students and so basic training on how to operate it was necessary.

In addition, he felt it was important to emphasize to the students that the goal of using a wiki in this course is not to create as many pages as you can, but rather to create a few pages and edit them extensively and repeatedly. The cycle of ‘research-write-feedback-edit-repeat’ was the preferred activity here. Not simply a linear ‘write as much as you can’ scenario. It is this feedback integrating cycle that is the key in an educational context! The entire course is still a work in progress and you can check out the iGlobe wiki here.

If you use wikis in your undergraduate courses, let us know how they are working in your context by leaving a comment below.