How 30 Minutes a Day Can Increase Your Intelligence: Interesting thoughts on how you can learn a new skill, read more books, and just improve yourself in general. The next step might be some suggested curricula for popular skills–for example, if I knew someone who wanted to learn to program in 30 minutes a day, what path would I send them down? What about accountability?
Rdio redesign hands-on: It gets pretty loud in the areas around my office sometimes, between a busy, open cubicle area right outside and the CRL conference room next door. When closing my door isn’t enough, headphones and streaming music from Rdio are great. You can stream several hours for free (though Rdio uses a weird logarithm to determine how many hours that is per month), or choose one of their premium options. I’m about to pick the $4.99 per month unlimited web streaming option to drown out the voices in my head outside my walls.
ESPN BracketBound: In honor of our Kansas Jayhawks and the NCAA Tournament currently in action, I’ll share my favorite app to keep up with the scores. This free app (for iPad or iPhone) allows you to track your favorite teams’ schedules, start times, minute-by-minute updates, and overall highlights. You can also fill out a bracket and compete with others. While I still love to fill out my good, old-fashioned paper bracket this one conveniently does the work for you and keeps track of which games you picked correctly. This app is also available for Android users.
This week TED rolled out their newest concept for inquisitive minds, named TED-ed. This exciting initiative invites teachers to submit their best lessons to be shared online. Teachers will then get the opportunity to work with experts at TED to refine their lessons, record the audio, and prepare them to be shared online. Each lesson must be shorter than 10 minutes. TED will then bring in an animator (they are also looking for new animators) to create fun and interesting visuals to accompany the teacher’s lesson.
These lessons, similar to their longer TED Talks, are available for free on TED.com or on the TED-Ed YouTube channel. Right now, there are about 12 videos available but they are working to add more each week. In April of this year, TED will unveil a new website to showcase the TED-Ed lesson and other learning tools. I’ve had a chance to watch some of the videos and they are truly stunning. Here is my favorite:
Click the following links to submit your own lesson, nominate an educator, or nominate an animator to be a part of the TED-Ed learning initiative.
Khan Academy fans, fire up your App Stores: The online video tutorial powerhouse has released a native iPad app to give learners anytime, anywhere access to the thousands of lectures available on the site. In spite of my reservations of Khan Academy (more on that in a moment) I’ve downloaded it and kicked the tires a bit–here are some initial thoughts.
The application itself is a nicely-done video viewer. Two key features jump out: First, a timestamped transcript, making it easy to follow along with transcribed videos (not all videos have transcripts yet); and second, the ability to download videos (with their transcripts) for offline access–great for taking Khan Academy with you on the plane or on road trips.
As you might imagine, the tech blogs have already chimed in on the new app, including Fast Company and Mashable. I’m not seeing much from education bloggers (yet).
Now, about those reservations–by and large, I think Salman Khan is doing great work toward replacing the textbook. I said textbook. What I’ve realized is that maybe my reservations about these video tutorials have less to do with the tutorials themselves and more about the ways they’re being used (or being suggested to use) by otherwise well-meaning educators and billionaires. Video lectures–regardless of their quality–are not the “future of educations.” They are part of the future of education, maybe, but they’re not the panacea I fret too many people make them out to be.
If you disagree with me, let me have it in the comments below.
Reeder for Mac: I’ve been a long-time NetNewsWire fan for my RSS feeds. Once upon a time it was the only game in town for native Mac RSS readers with feed syncing (meaning I could keep my feeds’ read/not read status up-to-date across work and home computers). Now any feed reader worth its salt provides this service, via Google Reader (which also gives me a de facto web-based reader). NetNewsWire is a good, utilitarian reader (and it’s now available for free) but I finally decided it was time for a change. I used Reeder to catch up on what I missed by being away from computers a good chunk of last week. In just a couple of hours it changed my RSS reading habits. I really like how clean and, uh, reader-friendly Reeder is–the built-in Readability support cleans all the visual noise and lets you focus on content. Very nice and worth the ten bucks.
Graphic note-taking at TED 2012: I must admit, I’m mildly obsessive when it comes to finding the best way to take notes (for myself). I’ve tried a lot of different techniques, but tend to always go back to mind maps. That said, I wish I could take notes like these, beautifully crafted by Robert Fabricant at last week’s TED conference.
Miro: This free video conversion tool is available for both Mac and PC. I use this handy app at least once a week to convert different types of videos. Miro also helps download and organize videos from many sources on the Internet, such as TED. Aaron talked about Miro last year here as well.
Kindle apps: I have the free Kindle app installed on my MacBook, iPhone, and iPad allowing me to access my books from almost anywhere. You don’t actually need a Kindle to read Kindle books; you’ll just need an Amazon account. Each app allows you to sync your last page read (as well as any highlights and notes) across all devices, no mater which one you’ve used last. I love being able to sit and read on my iPad for long periods of time or catch a couple of pages of the same book on my phone while I’m standing in line. This app is also available for Blackberry, Android, PC, and Windows Phone 7.
Yesterday, Apple demonstrated the new iPad which will be available to purchase on March 16th (but you can pre-order now) with a price tag starting at $499. The new iPad boasts better cameras on the front and back, faster processor, and a crystal-clear Retina display screen. The built-in video camera has been improved with noise-reducing technology. The OS now includes a new microphone icon for voice-recognition, which is similar to the iPhone 4′s Siri app, although there was no actual mention during the press release of Siri being included in the new iPad.
Also, this iPad is simply being referred to as the new iPad. No fancy names or additional numbers are a part of this newest Apple addition. I think this version, much like its predecessors, is a fantastic piece of technology. Here is a handy comparison chart between the iPad 2 and the new iPad. I already have the original iPad, so I probably won’t run out and buy this one quite yet. While the majority of its features have been improved upon, I don’t see anything that has really changed too much. I do wish my original iPad had the ability to project onto a screen using an adaptor (the latter two iPad version can do this), but this issue has only come up a few times. It is worth noting that the price of the iPad 2 has been lowered significantly.
Check out Apple’s website for more information on the new iPad and to view the press release demonstration.
I’m pretty open about my general dislike of ed tech. Far too many products in that arena are stripped-down, dumbed-down, over-thought ripoffs of more successful, consumer-oriented counterparts. My stance is always that, by and large, consumer-oriented products are better-designed and more desirable anyway, so figure out how to leverage them in schools. (I’m also pretty disenchanted with where education in heading in general, but that’s a whole separate issue.)
That said, I’m pretty bummed right now that I didn’t make it down to SXSWedu this year. In its second year, the education-focused arm of the increasingly huge SXSW Festival in Austin, Texas. SXSW Interactive has been the place to go to see what’s new in consumer tech and the web for years now, and now it looks like SXSWedu is becoming the same for instructional technology. They’ve got some big-name keynoters in Arne Duncan, LeVar Burton, and Marjorie Scardino; and big names like Edmodo are announcing big new initiatives to help bring ed tech closer to their consumer counterparts in terms of functionality and style. (Hopefully.) Even consumer tech-oriented blogs like Tech Crunch and Fast Company are covering the conference–so even
if you’re not in attendance you can follow along on Twitter (hash tag: #sxswedu) or regular Google searches of SXSWedu.
SXSWedu kicked off on Tuesday and runs through Thursday. While we’re not there this year, you can plan on meeting at least one of us in Austin this time next year.
Read It For Me: This neat little service summarizes popular business books like The Lean Startup, Switch, Making Ideas Happen, and Linchpin. Sounds like good ol’ Cliff’s Notes, right? Not at all–Read It For Me’s summaries employ multimedia learning theory and the LEMA approach–Learn, Experience, Memorize, Act–to help you comprehend books in short order. I really like this idea and look forward to seeing it evolve.
Just add points? What UX can (and cannot) learn from games: These annotated slides, from a talk by Sebastian Deterding in 2010, are a must-view for anyone interested in “gamifying” a product–even instruction. UX, for those who don’t know, is shorthand for user experience–replace user with learner as you read through these slides. Bottom line: Game mechanics alone don’t make people want to play games–there has to be some fun involved, too! And when we’re really learning–not just reciting what we’ve memorized–we’re probably having fun whether we like it or not.
ScreenFlow: I’ve been using this product for a few years now and have mentioned it in the past, but I use it at least a few times a week and it definitely makes life easier. ScreenFlow is screencasting software for Mac that allows you to capture and edit an activity or process all on your desktop. I use it to create tutorials, edit videos, record everything, fix audio, etc. While a ScreenFlow license runs around $99.00, no additional equipment is necessary. The software works well with the built-in microphone and video camera on your computer. (Test the trial-run out for free) You can produce professional-looking videos in a short amount of time. ScreenFlow allows you to zoom in on specific area and import existing video that wasn’t shot using ScreenFlow. You can also add text, music, and record your own narration.
Free Books: I’ve got this app on my iPad and really like it. This free app gives you access to 23,469 free books and/or documents in the public domain. You can find these books in other apps as well, but they are nicely organized here. You’ll need wi-fi to download the books, but can then read them whenever you’d like. You can also upload your own books via Dropbox or email.
We’re big fans of the free organizational note-taking app, Evernote. We’ve talked about it here, here, and here. Recently they’ve updated a few features.
Evernote Hello. The Evernote Hello app for iPhone is designed to help you organize people, photos, and their contact information. You can now connect it to your address book.
Evernote for Android. Evernote for Android has added a new feature discovery menu. This tool helps you find old and new features including tips for creating checklists, how to use Skitch, record audio, take a photo, and more.
Evernote for Schools. This resource site for educators includes case studies, videos, and an online community to help use Evernote more effectively. For more information, check out the Evernote blog.
I’ll be spending a lot of time in airports and planes this week, and plan to get caught up on some reading. I’m also putting Seth Godin’s new book, Stop Stealing Dreams (What Are Schools For?), on my list. The book, announced on Monday, is absolutely free, and here’s how you can download it in a number of formats perfect for your computer, tablet, or even print.
I haven’t read a word of Stop Stealing Dreams yet, but as probably know I have some major issues with most school reform efforts today and what accounts for accountability. As we move to models that allow us to measure quantifiable gains (or more often, lack thereof), we cut the programs only measurable with qualifiable means. Unfortunately, those programs (read: the arts, extracurriculars, physical education/sports) are the programs that teach kids creativity, leadership, and entrepreneurship. I’m encouraged that Seth features the work of one of my heroes, Sir Ken Robinson, in the book. (If you still haven’t seen Sir Ken’s two TED talks on how schools kill creativity and revolutionizing learning, drop what you’re doing and watch them now.)
A bonus for those of you interested in the digital publishing process: Seth has also written a piece on the tools and process he used to create the book, including thoughts on the shortcomings presented by both Apple’s and Amazon’s book creation options.
Bump: This free app allows you to share contact information and photos by bumping your phone against another phone. This app is cross-platform, meaning an iPhone can share information with an Android. Click here for more information.
AppZapp: I presented at a conference yesterday where I learned about this handy free app. AppZapp keeps track of the latest deals and apps that are on sale in the Apple App Store. You can choose to be notified by an alert on your phone or by email. You can also view lists of the most popular apps in the App Store.
Designing for How People Learn by Julie Dierksen: We’re reading this for our new, informal book study group. It’s a fun, informal overview of instructional design–perhaps of most use to people who have found themselves in the position of writing documentation or developing e-learning, but were never exposed to (or have long forgotten) sound instructional design principles. I’m just a few chapters in so far but have found it to be an enjoyable read and a good review of my master’s program experience.
Start Developing iOS Apps Today: Disclaimer–I haven’t actually looked much past the first few pages of this tutorial. But if you know someone who knows a little bit about object-oriented programming and wants to cash in on the app craze, this free tutorial from Apple itself looks to be a good way to get going.