Tools

Friday, July 15, 2011 at 12:02 pm
Jennifer Dick's picture

Exploring Google+


I was pretty excited when I got my Google+ invitation last week. I might have fist-bumped the air, and just perhaps I crowed a little on Facebook by offering invitations to my friends. The flood of answering excitement never came. Two people asked for invites, and more asked, “What the heck is Google+?” My two invites aren’t posting much of anything. Even my generally tech-savvy supervisor wanted a rundown.

To say it’s Google’s answer to Facebook is the short explanation. The interface definitely shares some strong similarities at first blush. There’s a posting box that allows you to share web links, videos, photos, or your location. There’s an activity feed and suggestions of folks you might want to add. All this works and is great.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011 at 9:37 am
Jennifer Dick's picture

Make an Android App? There’s a Meta-App for That.

Google Introduces SF Bay Educators to App Inventor for Android



Mobile apps have changed our relationship with information access in the wider world. With mobile devices such as smart phones and tablet computers becoming more powerful and affordable, more people are regularly supplementing their experiences out in the world by calling up services like Google Maps, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Four Square, and Shazam to record what they’re doing, find out what other people thought about whatever restaurant/park/business they’re at, or share their own opinion.

Ten years ago, if I passed a statue of some historic figure and wanted to learn more, I’d have to make a note and then go visit the library. Now, I can just whip out my phone and Google the name. I can also use my phone to take a geo-tagged picture, upload it to Flickr (which will automatically highlight it in my Facebook feed), share a web link about what I learned about the statue on Twitter, and check in on Four Square. What’s that song playing at the café I just passed? Shazam! “Bossa for the Devil” by Dr. Rubberfunk. Apps are changing how we interact with the world.

For youth, using apps to learn more about places as they experience them is second nature, and those apps can be powerful learning tools. What isn’t second nature is app development. Designing and building a working app generally requires some serious programming savvy, but youth are very interested in apps—they see how relevant apps are to daily life and how they’re being used by more people, more frequently—and this motivates those with an interest in tech to take the programming plunge. Learning programming can be a long slog through lots of information to create very simple programs. I remember taking an intro to CS class, which had us learn BASIC. I can’t find my notes, but I’m pretty sure it took us a week to know enough to code the “Hello, world” program that seems to be lesson 1 for just about any programming course, regardless of language. My classmates and I found our interest in programming waning fast. And if motivated college students ten years ago lost their interest so quickly, imagine what happens with the youth of today, living at a mile a minute.
Thursday, June 16, 2011 at 2:23 pm
Jennifer Dick's picture

Tool Review: Glogster



Everyone who’s had to make a poster for a class project at one time or another, raise your hand. I’m going to guess that pretty much all of you reading this raised your hands and at some point in your schooling had to wrestle poster boards on the bus or walking down the street, worrying that the glue wouldn’t hold and various attachments would fall off and fly away on the wind. (Okay, maybe that was just me?)

Posters are time-honored methods of sharing information: not only are they still used to communicate important ideas to people all over the world, but of course educators have been using them as assessment products for years. Creating a poster forces students to consider what information to include and how to organize, arrange, and illustrate it. These are still valuable experiences for youth—skills that are no less important today than they were twenty years ago when you could write a computer program with a hole punch. Glogster seeks to bring the poster into the 21st century by allowing users to create a digital poster, or glog, with multimedia and hyperlinked elements to extend and supplement the information it contains. (The initial “g” in “glog” is meant to evoke “graphics.”)

Tuesday, June 07, 2011 at 3:43 pm
Jennifer Dick's picture

Tool Review: Storify



One of the most common concerns I hear from educators when we’re discussing using social media tools with youth is the sheer number of sites out there. Using new media for information gathering requires patience. It can be really hard to make sense of how an event or topic is being played out across the major platforms: tracking topics across Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, YouTube, and blogs requires a real desire to see what’s happening in real time. Even if you’re a seasoned web browser tab jockey or use a social media aggregator like FriendFeed, events in a timeline without context or analysis aren’t being displayed to their best advantage.

Storify is an online platform that allows users to bring together disparate entries from various new media platforms and curate a story.

Monday, May 02, 2011 at 1:10 pm
Jennifer Dick's picture

Tool Review: Looplabs



Music loops have long been a staple of electronic and experimental music and have since worked their way into rock and roll, hip-hop, techno, and other musical genres. As with so many of the tools we’ve looked at, creating loops from a series of samples — once a painstaking process for all but professional music producers with special equipment — is now easy thanks to applications like Audacity and GarageBand, which make home recording and mixing fairly simple if you want to create your own audio. What if you just want to play in someone else’s musical sandbox? Then Looplabs is for you. In-browser editor? Check. Pre-loaded samples? Check. Easy publishing? Check.

Loop creation just got as easy as drag-and-drop.