Thanks James

Kudos to James Farmer, who runs the Edublogs service. He has outdone himself.

The server was upgraded last week and the new functionality is fabulous. We can now easily embed Flash, Director, YouTube, Google Video, and iFilm files directly into blog posts, which is a greatly appreciated feature. As well as that, he has installed additional WordPress plug-ins which enable us to do a heap of cool stuff, like the “listen to podcast” option through Talkr, and a link to easily add photos directly from your Flickr account, like so.
Playing the didj and Carmella and Doug's place On Lake Koshlong More Huskys

Thanks James for continuing to make Edublogs (and I’m hoping Learnerblogs too!) better all the time.

By the way, all this funky Web 2.0 spelling of words like Flickr, Talkr, Frappr, etc is making me wonder if I should start spelling my own last name as Betchr?

Extra, Extra, Read all about it!

As my reliance on RSS feeds has increased lately I’ve outgrown my ability, or willingness, to manually keep track of the blogs that I like to follow. From initially wanting to keep up with a small handful of blogs from a few people I know, my needs have now grown to include a much larger number of blogs and feeds that I like to keep up with. Seems that there are lots of folk I know who are now blogging, as well as there being a number of “professional” blogs which I find interesting so the idea of automating the process of tracking them is definitely something I’m interested in.

Fortunately every blog comes with the built-in technology for doing exactly this – RSS. RSS (an acronym for Really Simple Syndication) creates a feed using XML which can be read and regularly checked by software designed to do just that. In effect, it’s a bit like managing email in that I have a list of blogs and websites that I’vesubscribed to, and the updates appear in my reader as soon as an update happens to any of them. I no longer need to remember to check all these sites to see if they’ve been updated – my feed reader does it for me.

On the Mac, I’ve been using a free open source RSS reader called Vienna, and I really like it. Very simple, easy to use and works well. There are a bunch of others of course – I tried NetNewsWire for a while, and although it was pretty good, it wasn’t free whereas Vienna was. I actually prefer Vienna’s interface more too.

On Windows, I hear that FeedReader or FeedDemon are pretty good, but I haven’t tried them. FeedReader looks quite good from the screenshots I’ve seen.

There are also a few web-based feedreaders such as Bloglines that work through the browser directly, but I’ve not really played with them very much. I guess I’m still an applications kinda guy 🙂

Either way, an RSS feed aggregator of some sort is definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already done so. Managing all my blog and other feeds are so much simpler now that my software does the heavy lifting for me.

Move over Lonelygirl, here comes Jo

Well, the big story on YouTube recently was that of Lonelygirl15, a supposed teenage girl named Bree who was videoblogging her life story on YouTube. I watched a couple of episodes and although it was interesting I couldn’t help thinking that it was an overly-slick production for a teenage girl to be making alone in her bedroom. As it turns out, lonelygirl did indeed turn out to be a hoaxygirl, and the whole thing was in fact made up by a couple of screenwriters looking to get some hype… For a while there, Bree was the most popular channel on YouTube.

But let me introduce you to some real YouTube videos made by Jo, a friend of mine back in Australia, and I think they are far more interesting than Bree and her made-up adventures. I worked with Jo on a couple of writing projects… at the time, she was head-over-heels in love with a new man in her life. Since then, well, things seem to have gone a bit pear shaped and Jo decided to vent her thoughts as a YouTube videoblog.

Jo muses about life and love, and gives us a little peek into her internet dating forays. I’ve enjoyed watching them, and think they deserve a look. Heck, they beat television anytime! You go girl!

Check them out at http://www.youtube.com/profile?user=Sassenech2

Just a thought

I want to see if this works.

It’s a voice recording made in GCast, a web based podcasting tool. Since Edublogs don’t appear to support podcasting, I’m curious about ways to create/store an audio file somewhere and then link to it from inside the blog post. What intrigues me about GCast is that you can create the recording for free using a telephone. Just call the phone number provided and enter your PIN, then record you message. Hmmm, interesting. What can we do with that idea?

The dial in number is US based, but I suppose you could always Skype it. Otherwise just record locally with Audacity and upload the audio file to GCast as usual.

It’s not technically a podcast if you just link to it like this, as there is no RSS feed involved, but it still has possibilities.

Swept up in Blogging

With all the hype about Web 2.0 in the classroom, I have been very keen to explore the use of blogs as a learning tool and have been busy reading lots of articles and blogs, listening to podcasts, etc, trying to absorb lots of ideas on how this might be best done. I don’t think anyone really has any clear strategies about edublogging… a handful of teachers are just trying out different ideas and I guess the most effective uses will just bubble their way to the top eventually.

In the meantime, I decided to set each of my students up with a learnerblogs account and attempt to create some sort of blogging ecosystem in the classroom. Of course, I hope they expand and link to idea way outside of just the classroom, but it’s a start.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

The Natural Law of Blogging

I just finished reading an interesting book about blogging, titled Who Let the Blogs Out, but a guy called Biz Stone. I’m still wondering what the name Biz might be short for, but regardless, I did find it quite an engaging read. Biz Stone was a very early blogger, was involved in created Xanga, has written a couple of books on the subject and now works at Google helping run Blogger. I guess that makes his opinions worth hearing, purely just based on his credentials.

The overriding message I took from his book was that the true worth of blogging cannot be appreciated on a small scale. A single blog post, or even a single blog, is not what it’s all about. Blogging gets it’s power from becoming a large scale ecosystem, a thriving community of people all cross linking to each other, creating connections and networks of ideas. The power of blogging is way more than the sum of its individual parts, and to gauge the power of this new medium it needs to be seen in the light of the much bigger picture that it creates.

He draws some good analogies, some of which coincidentally come from the last book I read before this one, The Wisdom of Crowds by James Surowiecki. The point made in that book, in fact both books, is that groups of people can be collectively smarter than the brightest individuals within the group, if the group is made up of diverse individuals with a broad range of views, supported by a medium that allows them to communicate freely.

Sounds like blogging to me.

Adding my Voice

I figured that since I was enjoying the whole blogging experience during our teaching exchange to Canada, I would start another blog, this time focussed on matters educational/technological. I plan to use it mainly to air my thoughts and ideas about the uses of technology, especially with regard to education, but pretty much about whatever I feel like writing about.

I can see a lot of potential for the uses of blogs, wikis and podcasts in the educational environment, but it will be interesting to see exactly how it all pans out. I did convert a largely textbook task into a podcast project last semester, and I think it worked out ok, but this semester I am going to try to push things a bit further.

If you have any ideas about interesting uses of Web 2.0 technology in the classroom it would be great to hear about them…