Saturday, December 5, 2009

Tools of Innovation

In an earlier posting, we talked about the Technology Innovation Grant at JCCC and where ideas come from, see The TIG funds are still available for JCCC faculty…and additionally, since innovation often just requires elbow grease (and no funds), we thought we’d share some resources with you.

JCCC is a member of the New Media Consortium (NMC) and they host a cool technologies site at Check it out (and contribute, if you wish).

Tracy Newman, Ed Tech Center Sr. Analyst, brought to my attention an article about a 3D Video Projector. As the blurb states: “The automobile, moving pictures, personal computers, cell phones, and social networks—all of these technologies, once considered frivolous, have made such a huge impact on our culture that our daily lives would change dramatically without them. Could 3-D video be next?” Check out the article at From page 3 of the report: “Sound Video Systems, maker of the AVRover brand of portable audio-visual systems, has partnered with BenQ to release the AVRover 3DSVS24, which the company says is the "first fully integrated 3-D Stereoscopic Educational System." The product is a portable and rugged 3-D AV system with all components securely mounted inside. It features a powder-coated, scratch-resistant steel console, as well as a 3-D projector from BenQ and sequentially numbered active-shutter glasses, storage, and sanitation for an entire class. It lists for $7,895.” Who at JCCC (or elsewhere) will be the first to find an important instructional use for a 3D video projector?

Also from Tracy, who would have thought $148 would buy students a chance to snap pictures of Earth from space? Check out Images are shown at and at

One of the current innovations currently offered by Google is the new Google Wave tool. From the NMC, comes word that a visitor to their web site shared a research paper on "A Study and Analysis of Google Wave and its Potential Impact on Education and Collaboration." The paper was written by Johanna Hane ( who gave permission to share with NMC Members. A PDF format copy is available at

And while we’re talking about innovation, what will the classroom of the future (Classroom 3.0) look like. Check out the “Classroom 3.0: the brave new world of high-tech teaching” blog posting at As the article’s subhead indicates “iPhone apps, teachers on Twitter, downloadable lectures: Will a university education ever be the same?” What are you doing to include relevant technology in your courses?

Finally, Marziah Karch attended the Web 2.0 Expo in New York recently. The Expo keynote addresses are all available on YouTube at Got a few minutes? Check out topics ranging from “Radical Abundance: How We Get Past "Free" to “The O’Reilly Radar” to “There’s a #Hashtag for That” to “Streams of Content, Limited Attention: The Flow of Information through Social Media” and more.

Do you have innovative tools or sites you’d like to share? E-mail me at

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Are you looking for a short video clip to supplement your instruction or reinforce a concept? Are you looking for ways to reinforce in-class or online class lectures?

Ambrose Video has over 1000 Educational DVDs in their collection including science and history topics. New releases include "21st Century Turning Points in U.S. History (2000-2009)", "America's National Monuments: The Geologic West", "A History of Chinese American Achievement", "When the Water Tap Runs Dry" (a look at the challenges faced in a climate changed world) and new Ancient History DVDs. Ambrose’s video collection is designed to provide clips for educators to deliver digitally in the classroom (face-to-face or online). That means they’re available for download or in a streaming format.

JCCC will license 50 hours of video from Ambrose that can be used in the classroom or online. The same 50 hours of video will be available to students via the JCCC Library’s web site (requires use of a proxy server).

If you're interested in seeing the variety of video clips available, visit Ambrose Video. Here are some helpful steps you:

  1. Go to
  2. You will find the tutorial helpful (see the link on the right of Ambrose Video’s home page or at
  3. When done watching the tutorial, click the Home tab to return to the Ambrose Video home page.
  4. Type a key word in the search box (after the magnifying glass icon on upper right side of the page) that represents the video you seek; such as, “history” or “astronomy” or “law” and press the Enter key.
  5. A list of videos that match the keyword will appear on the screen.
  6. Click the title and the next screen will show “Programs and individual clips.” You’ll see a sample clip at the top of the screen.
  7. While you cannot view each clip, you can mouse over the “I” or Information icon (that precedes each title) to see more information on the clip.
  8. When you find clips that you might be able to use, make a note of the clip (such as “1754 - The Albany Plan of Union”) or the name of the entire program (such as “18th Century Turning Points in U.S. History”).

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Seed of an Idea: Education, Technology & Innovation

For several years JCCC has set aside 1% of its Information Technology Plan (ITP) budget to fund the Technology Innovation Grant (TIG) program. Faculty members may apply for a grant which is “designed to assist JCCC faculty with the acquisition of technical hardware and software, which fosters innovation in instruction. This process has been created to help make possible and expedite technological innovations that improve learning at JCCC.” Not all of the grant applications have been funded and some proposals have been funded wholly or partially out of other college resources besides TIG funds. One benefit of the program is that it brings to light instructional needs that while not funded through TIG, need to be funded within the institutional budget.

Some of the funded projects have included the acquisition of an iTouch mobile device for a faculty member teaching in the Interactive Media program, several Kindles for faculty in the Reading program, Camtasia Studio, handheld camcorders and wireless Wacom tablets for 35 faculty in a pilot project to develop tutorials for classroom/online use, PDAs for Nursing faculty to try out software for their curriculum, assembling equipment for an Archaeological Field School, the addition of three “Cones of Silence” for use by students viewing media in the Library and a 3D printer for the Drafting Department to enable students to visually create a 3D model from CADD drawings. The last two projects are detailed in a recent Technology Brown Bag session (see or ).

Sometimes there’s a scarcity of faculty proposals for TIG funds. I suspect that one reason is that technological innovation doesn’t always require funds, hardware or software. With faculty creativity and access to a wide range of free web 2.0 or rich internet applications (RIAs), sometimes no institutional funding is required.

When funding is required, where does the seed of an idea come from? We’ve encouraged brainstorming of ideas during Technology Brown Bag sessions and JCCC faculty members are always invited to visit with a staff member in the Educational Technology Center (ETC) to discuss possible instructional technology projects (and not just for TIG proposals).

As an additional brainstorming opportunity, TechNews shares information about webinars, Web 2.0 tools and ideas that could provide the seed of an idea for a TIG proposal.

Recently I asked colleagues on the New Media Consortium subscribers list (JCCC is a NMC member) for classroom innovations from their institutions. Here are a few of the responses.
Edward Lee Lamoureux (Associate Professor in the Interactive Media Program and Department of Communication at Bradley University) teaches a course entirely (100%) in Second Life (see ). His initial motivation was to find a distance learning environment that would support audio interaction with his students. Edward teaches “Introduction to Field Research in Virtual Worlds” in second life, a three-week intersession course at Bradley U. You can hear an audio interview about his experiences teaching in SL at .

Pamela Gades (Instructional Technology Specialist, University of Minnesota, Morris) reported that an organic chemistry professor is using Camtasia Relay to record “pre-lab lectures” for her students and posting them on her course web site and on iTunes U. Students are required to view the pre-lab lectures before attending the weekly organic chemistry labs. The instructor creates the videos in her office using an iMac. Camtasia Relay is available at JCCC too and can be run on either a Macintosh or Windows PC. More information on JCCC’s Camtasia Relay pilot will be available by late-November. The instructor at UM-Morris uses humor and stories while infusing her sessions with lots of encouragement and real-life application of the topics.

Damon E. Betlow (Academic Technology, Rochester Institute of Technology) reported that RIT has created a Teaching & Learning Technology Studio (similar to JCCC’s Learning Studio) which allows instructors to try out new technologies in a safe, supported environment. The classroom features:
  • 25 student tablet PCs
  • An instructor tablet PC and stylus-enabled monitor
  • Collaboration and Faculty Monitoring System for the tablets (DyKnow Vision and Monitor)
  • Student Response System (iClicker)
  • Multiple Digital Projection Systems (3 screens that allow for widescreen content or 3 separate sources)
  • Flexible Seating Design
  • Remote Pan/Tilt Video capture capability
  • Audio conferencing capability through room’s sound system (remote microphones and ceiling speakers)

RIT is looking into adding an interactive whiteboard, instructor-controlled lecture capture and/or live streaming, as well as videoconferencing capability. For more information, visit .

So, if you have an idea for a TIG, stop by the ETC and talk with the Center’s staff about your idea. Maybe we can help you flesh it out.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Embedding a YouTube Video in a PowerPoint Slideshow

The following steps walk you through embedding a YouTube video in a PowerPoint slideshow. Note that this approach only works when you have access to the internet (both during creation of the slideshow and playback). You can watch a YouTube video that demonstrates this process at The steps listed below draw heavily on the video by Laura Bergells of

  1. Be sure you have an active Internet connection.
  2. Open PowerPoint and be sure the Developer tab is visible.
  3. If Developer tab is not visible, go to the Office button (upper left corner), click on it and then select PowerPoint options (lower right of menu box that appears).
  4. Select Popular (left margin of menu box) and select the Show Developer tab in the Ribbon check box.
  5. Select OK button.
  6. Add a new slide (can be any type or blank).
  7. Now that the Developer tab is visible, select it and select More Controls icon (looks like a crossed hammer and wrench).
  8. Scroll all the way down until you find the Shockwave Flash Object (the list is alphabetical), select it and click OK.
  9. Now draw with your cursor/mouse the rectangular area within which you want the video to appear.
  10. You can use the handles on the rectangle to resize the image size.
  11. Now go to YouTube and locate the video you want to include.
  12. When you find the video, go to the box that includes the URL and Embed tag.
  13. Select the entire URL and press Ctrl+C to copy the URL to the clipboard.
  14. Go back to PowerPoint and right click on the rectangle target area that you created in which to play the video.
  15. Select Properties from the menu that appears when you right click.
  16. In the Properties box that appears, click on box behind the Movie label and press Ctrl+V to paste the URL into that Properties field.
  17. Now you must edit the URL. Wherever you see “watch?” delete it.
  18. Wherever you see the equal sign (=) replace it with a slash (/).
  19. Still in the Properties box, if you don’t want the movie to loop, change the Loop setting to False.
  20. If you don’t want the movie to start playing automatically, change the Playing setting to False.
  21. When finished, close the Properties box.
  22. If you need to reposition the video, do so using the handles on the rectangle.
  23. Press F5 to preview.
  24. Click the play button (center of the screen image).
  25. Notice that you have access to the regular video controls to pause and restart the video as well as to adjust the volume.
  26. When the movie finishes, if you have additional slides, you can click to forward to the new slide.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Recovering Deleted Photo Files

Periodically, we receive inquiries about how to recover lost files, specifically from camera cards. There are many programs that recover deleted files but PhotoRec is specifically designed for recovery of data from hard disks, CDRom and various camera cards. See , it’s free. Thanks to Nick Greenup for this information.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Google Tricks

Did you know that you can enter specific keywords in any Google search box to quickly obtain information you need? For instance, if you want to know the weather in a specific city, you can enter:

weather: [followed by the city name]

To find the weather in Boston today, type in:

weather: boston

If you don’t get the information you need (some city names are not one-of-a-kind), add the state abbreviation after a comma, such as:

weather: Kansas City, KS

Other examples (that generate a list of links to the information you need) include the following.

To find flights to a specific city:

flight: Durango, CO

To find the current time in another city:

time: Flint, MI

Find a definition:

define: haggadah

To find a current stock quote:

stock: KFT

To identify a file type, try entering:

filetype: amr

And, if you want to know movie show times for your area, type the following (substitute the movie name you want to see and your zip code):

movie: Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince 66210

Thanks to Marziah Karch for her research on Google and her SIDLIT presentation titled “100 Things You Can Do with Google (Besides Searching),” see

Monday, September 14, 2009

Top 24 Sites for Teaching & Learning

The American Association of School Librarians (AASL) recently announced a new resource for school library media specialists and their teacher colleagues. The Best Websites for Teaching and Learning, a list honoring the top 25 Internet sites for enhancing learning and curriculum development, is considered the "best of the best" by AASL.

The Top 25 Web sites for Teaching and Learning foster the qualities of innovation, creativity, active participation and collaboration. The Web sites honored include: Animoto; Classroom 2.0; Curriki; Diigo; Edublogs; Facebook; Good Reads; Google Reader; Mindmeister; Ning; Our Story; Partnership for 21st Century Skills; Polleverywhere; Primary Access; RezED; Second Life; Simply Box; Skype; SOS for Information Literacy; Teacher Tube; Twitter; VoiceThread; Wikispaces; Wordle; and Zoho.

"The task force worked very hard to target websites that support learner-centered, inquiry-based curriculum. In the hands of knowledgeable educators, these innovative and versatile Web 2.0 tools and resources can be used to engage and motivate students in the learning process and to develop 21st century skills," said AASL Best List Task Force Chair, Pam Berger.

All sites are free, Web-based sites that are user-friendly and encourage a community of learners to explore and discover. They also provide a foundation to support AASL's “Standards for the 21st-Century Learner.” Valuable information on each site, including tips for effective classroom use, are available at

Web 2.0 Apps such as Twitter, Facebook, ePortfolios and More

This past Wednesday, Tracy Newman and I presented a Technology Brown Bag session on “Twitter, Tumblr, Yammer, Huh? – How to Navigate Massive Information Streams and Have a Life.” A video archive of the session is available from the “Video Archive” link on the Tech Brown Bag schedule page ( ). I was a last minute substitute presenter for Marziah Karch, who presented the same topic at the Summer Institute on Distance Learning and Instructional Technology (SIDLIT) in late July. Marziah’s paper and others from the conference are available in the JCCC Library’s ScholarSpace archive (see ).

Future Sessions
Over the coming weeks, we’ll be focusing on a variety of Web 2.0 tools and considering how they can be used for educational purposes. The Twitter session was the first in the series, followed this coming week (Wednesday, September 16) with “Struttin Your Stuff – Exploring ePortfolios for Everyone (Faculty, Staff and Students) presented by Bob Epp and “Going Where They Are–Using Facebook in Class” presented by Keith Krieger and Jonathan Bacon. Details are available on the Tech Brown Bag schedule page ( ).

Defining Web 2.0
If you’re still unsure what Web 2.0 includes, check out a couple of earlier blog posts at and .

Regarding Twitter
Back to Twitter, a July 2009 survey by Faculty Focus (see ) found that almost 80% of faculty are familiar with Twitter compared to 30+% who use Twitter. The report discussed reasons why faculty use Twitter as well as the leading reasons they do not. Page 9 of the report (released in September 2009) summarizes the findings. Faculty survey responses fell in three categories. Faculty use twitter primarily to:
  • “Stay current on news/trends”
  • “Network with colleagues”
  • “Participate in conference backchannel”

If you have an opportunity to review the survey findings, spend some time reading the revealing comments of active tweeters and their current plus planned uses of the tool. You’ll find some potentially useful applications of Twitter.

The report is available online at the site.

Monday, August 31, 2009

New Media Consortium Summer Archives Online

JCCC is a member of the New Media Consortium (NMC) which holds an annual Summer Conference. A collection of videos from the 2009 NMC Summer Conference in Monterey are available, including:
  • Keynote presentations by Kathy Sierra and Marco Torres
  • Point Lobos Photo Shoot- a slide show of the best photos from the pre-conference digital photography workshop
  • The Five Minutes of Fame session (10 great presentations in less than an hour! with a gong!)
  • And more.

You can watch all of these packaged together in a single Flash Player (there is a scrolling menu below the video area):
or browse them individually, where we have reference links as well as QuickTime versions:

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Summer Institute on Distance Learning & Instructional Technology (SIDLIT)

It’s been a while since I posted a tip and my only valid excuse is that the Ed Tech Center (including this writer) have been feverishly preparing for SIDLIT (Summer Institute on Distance Learning & Instructional Technology). The conference ran Thursday and Friday, July 30-31, 2009 and now it is history.

It's always a period of readjustment when SIDLIT is over. We spend so much time planning and building toward the event, followed by a sigh of relief (and an emotional letdown) when it’s over. Can you believe that we’ve been doing this for 10 years and we’ve grown from 50 attendees the first year to around 400 this year?

For those who attended, if you can’t quite let go yet and want to relive some of SIDLIT through a history of tweets, check out (visibletweets of SIDLIT postings and those with the #sidlit hash tag).

If interested in a sampling of the sessions, you can visit Rob Gibson’s “Integrating Social Networking & Web 2.0 Applications into eLearning” slideshow at or Paul Decelles’ session on “Science Simulations for Students in Second Life” at or Aaron Sumner’s presentation on “Quick Application Development with Web Frameworks” at More presentations will be available shortly on JCCC’s ScholarSpace site (I'll alert you when they're ready).

For now, we can start planning for SIDLIT 2010. Thanks to all presenters, committee volunteers and sponsors for supporting year 10 of this endeavor.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Twitter for Education?

Launched in July 2006 (see as a little communications service (originally called Twttr and created by Odeo), Twitter has become the latest fade and fastest growing Web 2.0 tool on the planet. Twitter ( was described early in its history as “a social network around text messaging” (see above link). Early subscribers (twitterers) would send messages (“tweets”) on such mundane things as “totally could use a vacation now!!!” to “This girl can play some funky songs on her ukulele.”

While those types of tweets are still very common, the tool is also being used to offer customer support (, UPS), sell products (, inform about current events ( and more.

Of special interest to educators are the suggestions offered by Jim Vanides in his Digital Learning Environments blog back in early June 2009 ( He suggests using Twitter:
  • To create “a backchannel…for student participation (posting questions/comments) during a large group presentation – sort of like giving the audience permission to pass notes, because you can give the note-passing a metacognitive purpose.” Jim has seen this technique used at education conferences and we’ll give this a try at SIDLIT (the Summer Institute on Distance Learning and Instructional Technology scheduled for July 30-31, 2009; see
  • For “real-time collaboration” among students, such as when on a field trips.
  • To enhance audience participation at athletic events.
  • To communicate with a specific audience such as “students’ parents” or alumni or campus clubs (instead of “always creating lengthy newsletters or wading through lots of email”).
  • To handle conference planning or to provide “non-attendees” a sense of “being there”. Check out
If you’re interested in learning more about how twitter works, check out Tim O’Reilly and Sarah Milsten’s The Twitter Book, from O’Reilly Press, $19.99. It’s a fast read.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

VideoGuys Guides

Grassroots video is all the rage and even identified as one of the higher education trends “on the horizon” by the EDUCAUSE/New Media Consortium Horizons 2009 report. If you’re interested in serious (or even hobby) videography, the following information on storage for video capture and editing will be useful.

While we’re talking about video, check out the new JCCC YouTube video channel at . You’ll find Board reports, Kansas Tour video, Athletics, interviews and more.

If you want more information on YouTube EDU ("a gateway to educational video content") check out the article at

Monday, June 22, 2009

Summer Institute on Distance Learning & Instructional Technology

For the tenth year in a row, Johnson County Community College will co-sponsor a 2-day free conference (the Summer Institute on Distance Learning & Instructional Technology or SIDLIT, pronounced sidelight) to be held in the Regnier Center on campus on July 30-31, 2009. The regional conference draws 250-300 participants primarily from KS and MO, but is open to anyone (in the past we’ve had a smattering of attendees from the coasts and a number of states in-between). The two-day institute includes presentations, topic-oriented special interest discussion groups, hands-on workshops, and demonstrations.

For more detail, check out . Registration is now open and available at .

A sample of SIDLIT 2009 sessions includes: "Choosing an ePortfolio Tool" by Benito Berardo, "Relax and Enjoy a Taste of MERLOT" (the Learning Object Repository) by Heather Seitz, "Delivering High Stakes Assessments in a Computerized Testing Center" by Philip Wilhauk, "Spanish: Reality Online" by Nellie Modaress, "The Open Education Resource Phenomenon: Free Educational Resources for All" by Gloria Creed-Dikeogu, "Digital Storytelling: How to Bring Your Stories to Life" by Tracy Newman and "Effective Video Storytelling" by Bob Epp.

For a listing of all sessions visit or to see a tentative schedule of sessions, visit .

SoftChalk Version 5 Now Available

SoftChalk LessonBuilder version 5 is now available (we license it at JCCC for use by all our faculty and staff). "With SoftChalk LessonBuilder you can...." (verbage from their web site)
  • "Create interactive web pages for your e-learning courses. It's easy, quick, and your lessons will look like a professional designer created them.
  • "Engage your students with lessons that include pop-up text annotations, self-assessment quizzes, and interactive learning games.
  • "Package your lessons for delivery via CD-ROM, Intranet, Internet, or integrate with your LMS (Learning Management System).
"If you can use a word-processing program, you can use LessonBuilder. Designed for teachers and content-experts who don't have time to learn complex software, LessonBuilder is simple, yet powerful, with only the features you need to create exciting, interactive, content for your online course."

Demos and training are offered by SoftChalk on LessonBuilder 5. Check out for details.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Royalty Free Clip Media

At JCCC, we periodically have faculty members ask about clip media that can be used in handouts, in class or online without concern for copyright infringement. There is a good blog posting at that discusses 6 different web sites that have (potentially) royalty free images available. Be sure to carefully ready any restrictions associated with a specific image (the blog discusses sites such as Stock Xchange, Flickr, Morguefile, Dreamstime, FreeFoto and Picapp).

Keep in mind, you can also use clip media from Microsoft’s clipart site, if you or your campus has a license agreement with Microsoft; e.g., you have purchased or licensed Microsoft Office (see ).

Monday, May 4, 2009

Large Screen TV? LCD or Plasma?

I posted a message on a distribution list at JCCC and asked the question: Has anyone researched or bought a large screen TV lately and have any advice or caveats to offer? Suggested brands or models? Brands or models to avoid? Plasma vs. LCD? Vendors to use or avoid (Best Buy, Nebraska, Costco, other)?

I received so many inquiries about what my research found that I posted the following summary, which drew heavily (and verbatim) on a message I received from a co-worker (Tracy, Sr. Analyst, Ed Tech Center). I’ve added a few comments (based on other responses from the JCCC community):

Subject: RE: Large Screen TV Advice?

Plasma has a better contrast ratio and may look better, but usually they have glare issues so if you have a lot of reflection in your room you may want to go with LCD instead. Plasma can also have burn-in issues despite what the salesmen will tell you, but not as bad as it used to be. Beware some of the new LCD TV’s that have a shiny coating – it improves the contrast ratio but again, glare becomes an issue if you have a bright room.

Jonathan’s Note: We have a well-lit living room so we opted to not go with plasma. However, I did hear from several staff who purchased a plasma from Nebraska Furniture Mart or elsewhere and loved it. The Samsung and Panasonic were top choices, though some indicated the Samsung has a high repair cost and return rate—though their products are also rated top of the line. Another member of the JCCC community (Derek) also wrote: “If you watch a lot of sports on TV, Plasma is the way to go. If you plan on hooking up a computer to it, and will have static images on the screen, then LCD is where you want to look. It all depends on taste really. Plasma’s can get burn in, and have a glass screen. LCD’s are like computer monitors, hold out longer to static images, and they don’t have the glass to reflect light. I believe Plasma’s use more energy than LCD’s do as well.

Maybe this will help:

Back to Tracy: We have a 47-inch LCD in our family room – a Samsung. We are very happy with it, and it was a good price. We also have a Samsung blu-ray player hooked to it, and there are some special things that they can do because they are both the same brand – like the TV knows when we turn on the blu-ray and can switch inputs to view it without help from us.

Jonathan’s Note: We decided to go with a Sony because of the same compatibility issues. We have a Sony blue-ray player already. Further, my understanding is that if you choose a speaker system/CD player from the same manufacturer (which we’ll do) you gain some auto syncing abilities too. However, several folks mentioned that they avoid Sony because you’re just paying for the name.

We have a 42-inch plasma in the basement, where glare is not an issue. It’s a Panasonic. The plasmas tend to have a faster response time and are therefore better for gaming, and the basement is where my son plays his PS3. There is a bigger risk of burn-in with games, but we have not had any problems (yet), so if you are careful with your TV and don’t leave it paused on the same screen for hours at a time, you should be fine.

Jonathan’s Note: I did follow-up with Derek asking about burn-in and he commented, “I do a pretty good job to make sure I don’t get burn-in on my TV. (To get burn-in) you would have to have a static image up for hours on end. One thing people don’t think about is when you watch a television program that is in standard definition (4x3 aspect ratio) and you don’t stretch your picture out to fit the screen, after a year or two you run the risk of burning the bars on the side into your screen. With a Plasma, after you turn it off, you will see the phosphorus silhouette of the image on the screen for awhile, that isn’t burn in, but is natural and goes away.”

Back to Tracy: My parents bought a Sony 50-inch LCD TV recently for a really good price. The Sony’s are one of the best, but you typically pay a lot more just for the name. We are happy with our Samsung, although I might have bought a Sony if they were the price my parents got theirs for. If you buy a plasma, I would get a Panasonic.

You might want to consider professional calibration. These TV’s throw out a lot of heat, and the efficiency can be improved if they are calibrated properly. Typically you buy the service when you get the TV, but you have to wait several months to put a certain number of hours on the TV and then someone comes to your house to calibrate.

You probably want a 1080p TV, and 120Hz is also an important number. The contrast ratios that are reported can be misleading, because the human eye really can’t see beyond a certain ratio. Also keep in mind that when you get the TV home and calibrated, you won’t be staring at it next to 100 other TV’s and I bet the picture would look great no matter which one you buy.

Also, don’t get taken in by the $100 cables most stores will try to sell you. If you need HDMI cables or any other cables, get them at . You do probably want a good power conditioner/surge protector to plug everything into, and you may want to consider a Logitech Harmony universal remote if you are going to end up with a lot of components. My parents have the Logitech Harmony 670 (around $150) and are very happy with it – my mother hated having a bunch of remotes and could never figure out how to do anything, and now it’s easy. There are more expensive models, but the 670 is sufficient.

Buying these big TV’s was a scary purchase for me and I waited for a couple years and did a lot of research before I finally bit the bullet and bought them – and we love them!

Jonathan’s Final Notes: John (JCCC Librarian) pointed out that the March 2009 Consumer Reports magazine has a feature article on Best TVs, including ratings on 100+ plasma & LCD sets.

That’s a summary of what I heard through the JCCC list and as always, remember the caveat/disclaimer: please do your own research. Use these notes as just a starting point.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Telling Your Story with Video & Your Video Camera

Yesterday, Bob Epp, Sr. Analyst (Johnson County Community College, Educational Technology Center), presented a Technology Brown Bag on "Telling Your Story with Video." Bob shared his experiences as an attendee at the Travel Channel Academy's 4-day boot camp led by Michael Rosenblum.

Bob discussed the required steps and planning required to effectively communicate a concept in a video format. He briefly touched on storyboarding, script writing and pre-planning for a video shoot, as a brief summary of the 4-day boot camp.

His presentation reminded me of a recent discussion on the New Media Consortium (NMC) list in response to the question: "How good of a camera do you need to videotape for web delivery? Should you still get as good a camera as you can afford or are the cheaper consumer cameras all you need?"

Here are the points I gleaned from the postings (slightly edited).

  • As long as your video image size on the web is something on the order of 320 x 240 pixels, you'll do fine even with old non-high definition (HD) cameras, and certainly with a moderately good consumer HD camera. (Hertz)
  • The little FlipVideo cameras are good for talking head interviews and field news. Actually, I just sent in a video from home that was aired on the local TV news (using) my FlipVideo. The FlipVideo is good for that and for moving around outside. Good because you can quickly upload to YouTube, without needing that much video knowledge. In my opinion, that is the best use of the cheaper consumer cameras: field use. (Laur)
  • In a classroom setting using a FlipVideo or similar camera with no external mic might not provide the quality you need. Recording location and target destination (YouTube, iTunes U, streaming video server) are all considerations. When our target is iTunes U, we use a wireless mic with a digital video camcorder on a tripod. Most of our classrooms are large with people making noise and moving around. You do not notice it until you actually try to record a class lecture and edit the resulting video. (Laur)
  • If you plan to do a lot of editing, you'd be best served by something a little more traditional in terms of a camcorder. A FlipVideo and its peers create video files that are designed to be delivered as-is for the most part. They aren't suitable for frame accurate editing. Scrubbing through these types of files can be an exercise in patience even on a nicely equipped machine. (Saunders)
  • If you use a cheap consumer camera in a big classroom with students coughing and shuffling around, you are going to have audio problems.” (Laur)
  • Your “videographer’s kit” should include a good quality video camcorder, a wireless mic, an equipment bag, tripod, backup hard drive, and editing software. I would suggest (a camcorder) that allows for external mics and either uses a miniDV tape or solid state built-in memory with sufficient storage to record a complete class without needing a recharge or swap power or storage mid-way through. (Laur)
  • Good audio can make not so great video look better. Good audio also compresses better, and delivers content more effectively. (Hertz)
  • Good quality audio quality may require one of the better cameras. An external mic or various mics fed through a mixer (mic for lecturer, mic for audience) can really improve quality of the recording. A camera with good mic/line audio inputs is essential. If you can get a balanced audio input on the camera, even better, but consumer models tend to have just a simple mini-plug input. (Hertz)
  • If you are not working with a good camcorder and a tripod then the best bet might be to only record audio and then use something to capture the presentation on the computer (Camtasia Studio or other screen capture tools). For instance, a chemistry class is best recorded with only audio with a PowerPoint slideshow synchronized with the audio. (Laur)
  • You need to determine what value is added by including video over just using an audio recording. Video adds extra editing time and extra download time. If video is mostly someone talking in front of a class, then the audio plus photos, the so-called enhanced podcast, might work pretty good. (Laur)
  • If you do get a solid state camera, consider getting one that records in the MJPEG format instead of .mp4 or .wmv. I'd personally recommend a better quality SD DV camera that accommodates the audio concerns others are addressing. That way you get a tape backup, which is a good place to store the video long term (those FlipVideo HD files pile up quickly on your hard drive), you get frame accurate editing that performs well on even a moderately equipped machine, and you'll still be well above the level of delivery in terms of quality. (Saunders)

Special thanks to John Kingsley (Instructional Media Developer, University of Virginia) for posting the question and to Paul Hertz (Senior System Engineer, Northwestern University), Don Laur (Digital Media Systems Specialist - Web Dev & Tech Support, College of Mass Communications & Media Arts , Southern Illinois University) and Grover Saunders (Web Media Design Engineer, Center for Instructional Technology, James Madison University) who posted responses.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Geo-Everything -- 3rd Horizon Report 2009 Trend

The third major trend identified by the Horizon Report 2009 ( that is expected to effect higher education is “Geo-Everything.” The horizon timeline for this trend is 2-3 year “out.” The Horizon Report’s opening statement on this trend follows:

Everything on the Earth’s surface has a location that can be expressed with just two coordinates. Using the new classes of geolocation tools, it is very easy to determine and capture the exact location of physical objects — as well as capturing the location where digital media such as photographs and video are taken. The other side of this coin is that it is also becoming easier to work with the geolocative data thus captured: it can be plotted on maps; combined with data about other events, objects, or people; graphed; charted; or manipulated in myriad ways. Devices we commonly carry with us increasingly have the ability to know where they (and, consequently, we) are, and to record our coordinates as we take photographs, talk to friends, or post updates to social networking websites. The “everything” in geo-everything is what makes this group of technologies interesting, and what will make them so much a part of our lives — geolocation, geotagging, and location-aware devices are already very nearly everywhere. Geo-coded data (phones, cameras)

In essence geotagging is already here; its full application is yet to be seen, but already

  • Many camera images are geo-tagged when the image is captured so you can record and determine the exact location where the images originated.

  • It’s no longer a time-consuming effort to geo-tag images (as was the case in the past) with the images’ physical location; it’s now largely automatic for cameras and mobiles already on the market and in use.
  • A number of web-based applications exist that accept geo-tagged data and respond based on the user’s current location. One example is which displays local news, a Google map of the location, instant alerts, blog posts and more. ( is another example of what the site self-describes as “the mobile key to your city.”

Educational uses of geotagging are already emerging, such as Rachel Leow’s tagging of sites from The Travels of Marco Polo using images from Google Maps, Google Images, Wikipedia and the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica (see

For a fitness class, Community Walk ( enables the user to create a jogging or walking route using geotagged data (latitude and longitude), by clicking on a map location (for each turn) or by entering addresses. Each custom map can be annotated with geotagged data and photos stored (pulled from)

For fine art or photography classes, ( can be used to indicate the physical location of the subject of a work of art. Imagine mapping the physical location of an end-of-the-semester photography class’ exhibits of best works or creating a geotagged map of the physical locations of all of Michelangelo’s works.

In summary, when the physical location of an object or individual adds to the instructional value of a discipline, geotagging may be a future educational trend that can enhance the learning process.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Cloud Computing: Follow-up

I received a couple of follow-up email messages on the last post and want to share the author's additional insights. The responses are listed below as received.

From Justin Dugger: I appreciate concept, but these examples aren’t really highlighting the “compute” in cloud computing.

A better example might be Replacing a Pixar renderfarm with Amazon’s EC2 service ( EC2 allows you to basically rent time on Amazon’s massive cloud, and do so on demand. For example, you might when a computer modeling class wants to render a scene, rather than buy a few dozen computers that sit idle, you might buy time on EC2 and use a few thousand computers for a brief moment instead. When it’s done, those computers become part of the “cloud” again.

EC2 is marketed towards websites, where “flashcrowds” ( can overwhelm organizations not expecting a sudden spike in popularity. By using EC2, you can snap up more computers and bandwidth instantaneously to serve that traffic, and relinquish it when it dies down.

Cloud computing or not, your point about data loss and security on the web is well worth highlighting. There’s an New Yorker cartoon about the internet: “On the internet nobody knows you’re a dog” (,_nobody_knows_you%27re_a_dog). The same goes for people who run websites. Ma.gnolia [] ran an online bookmark service essentially out of someone’s basement on a PowerMac, and failed to institute a solid backup procedure and in the end lost every user’s bookmarks. For bookmarks, perhaps nothing of value was lost, but if Zotero were to suffer a similar fate I think many users would be in outrage.

In fact, Zotero stores your data locally rather than in the cloud, and Zotero publishes guidelines for making backups of your data ( I think this example highlights the dangers: how can you be sure your work is safe if it’s hard to even know where it’s stored?

From Keith Krieger: I would suggest that the use of distributed computing resources to only process data is somewhat restrictive.

*Anything* that could be handled with a thin client, from tagging photos with Flickr to manipulating those photos with Adobe’s online version of Photoshop constitutes cloud computing. Or how about adding a Twitter post with a cell phone? Not much computing involved, but very much using the cloud of distributed data processing to interact with other users and data.

And the issue of security seems to arise when considering data in the cloud. We somehow forget about the 1000s of laptops lost or stolen each year, and the breaches of corporate and government data stores that have exposed many SSNs and credit card numbers. Data that is *not* in the cloud seems to be at as much risk as data in the cloud.

As for data loss, I used to be a ma.gnolia user. However, I think that was a disclosure problem rather than a data loss problem. If Larry Haff(Halff? sources differ) had disclosed that ma.gnolia was running on a computer in his basement, I’m thinking that people might have used the service with a different level of expectation, and backed up their data appropriately.

Then again, how many users back up their data appropriately to begin with? Ask people if they have a backup of their digital camera images. The numbers aren’t encouraging.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Cloud Computing--Second Horizon Report 2009 Trend

The Second major trend identified by the Horizon Report 2009 ( that is expected to effect higher education is “Cloud Computing.” The horizon timeline for this trend is 1 year or less…so it’s predicted to be an imminent educational trend. The Horizon Report’s opening statement on this trend follows:

The emergence of very large “data farms” — specialized data centers that host thousands of servers — has created a surplus of computing resources that has come to be called the cloud. Growing out of research in grid computing, cloud computing transforms once-expensive resources like disk storage and processing cycles into a readily available, cheap commodity. Development platforms layered onto the cloud infrastructure enable thin-client, web-based applications for image editing, word processing, social networking, and media creation. Many of us use the cloud, or cloud-based applications, without even being aware of it. Advances in computer science to ensure redundancy and protection from natural disasters have led to data being shared across many different hosting facilities. Improved infrastructure has made the cloud robust and reliable; as usage grows, the cloud is fundamentally changing our notions of computing and communication.

Perhaps some clarification might help in understanding this trend. With all the talk of “data farms” and “development platforms layered onto the cloud infrastructure,” cloud computing simply refers to the use of Internet-based (called the "cloud") software and storage. The essence of cloud computing means you can create and store content (documents, images, and so on) on the web rather than on your computer using web-based software rather than software installed on your local computer.

Cloud computing incorporates the concept of software as a service (SaaS), Web 2.0 and other recent, technology trends where the common theme is reliance on the Internet for access to computing power and meeting your computing needs. The best know example of cloud computing is Google Apps which provides common business applications online that are accessed using a web browser. The products created by Google Apps are documents stored online, not on your local hard drive (although those documents may be downloaded and used locally or distributed, just as you would any other document).

Additional examples of cloud computing include:

An interesting side effect of cloud computing is the proposition that telecommuting is “dead” and superseded by a growing cadre of Cloudworkers. For an interesting view, check out the Cloudworker’s Blog at

One negative of cloud computing is the fact that (in the words of the Horizon Report 2009) “entrusting your work and data to the cloud is also a commitment of trust that the service provider will continue to be there, even in face of changing market and other conditions.” In other words, what happens if the “cloud vendor” ceases to exist? Data security is another issue: how safe and private is your data.

These issues, for many institutions of higher education, are superseded by the cost issue. Cloud computing applications are typically free.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Mobiles - a Horizon Report 2009 Trend

The Horizon Report 2009 ( begins its list of major trends expected to effect higher education with “Mobiles.” The horizon timeline for this trend is 1 year or less…so it’s predicted to be an imminent trend to effect education. The Horizon Report’s opening statement on this trend follows:

The unprecedented evolution of mobiles continues to generate great interest. The idea of a single portable device that can make phone calls, take pictures, record audio and video, store data, music, and movies, and interact with the Internet — all of it — has become so interwoven into our lifestyles that it is now surprising to learn that someone does not carry one. As new devices continue to enter the market, new features and new capabilities are appearing at an accelerated pace. One recent feature — the ability to run third-party applications — represents a fundamental change in the way we regard mobiles and opens the door to myriad uses for education, entertainment, productivity, and social interaction.

Mobiles (also called handhelds and personal digital assistants) include broadband devices such as the Smartphone and Apple’s iPhone and iTouch iPod. The report notes the replacement of laptop or portable computers with mobiles. This is becoming a more realistic approach because many mobiles can now run 3rd party applications.

The 1.2 billion phones produced each year include new features such as location awareness (we’ll talk about geo-tagging and geo-everything as another trend) and as devices for creating and accessing content by both faculty and students. Smartphone applications can allow users to access text, calculate, and play educational games (ex. Art Masterpiece ID game, CRAM test review) as well as to integrate with web-based applications (email, ebooks, podcasts, updates to social networks like Facebook and Twitter).

New tools such as Stoneware’s WebNetwork 5e2 enable access to data from anywhere, anytime: using any device, including mobiles.

You can check out, which includes links tagged by the Horizon Advisory Board and friends. Simply follow the link to find additional resources and examples of this trend. You can add to this list, by tagging resources with “hz09” and “mobile” when you save them to Delicious.

Tomorrow: trend #2, Cloud Computing.

Friday, February 27, 2009

What's the Buzz - Innovation & Technological Trends

In a Technology Brown Bag session (held at JCCC on Wednesday, February 25, 2009), Marziah Karch, Keith Krieger and I tried to focus on what's new, what's old, what's hot, and what's trendy in instructional technology. Our belief is that innovation in instruction often has its genesis in that moment of epiphany that follows exposure to a new "trend" or idea. So we focused on discussing new technological trends based on the Horizon Report 2009 by the New Media Consortium and EDUCAUSE.

This year’s Horizon Report 2009 lists 6 “big” new trends including:
  1. Mobile devices
  2. Cloud computing
  3. Geo-everything
  4. The personal web
  5. Semantic-aware applications, and
  6. Smart objects.

Over the next several days, we’ll focus on each of these trends and share specific examples of tools and applications that fall under each trend. If you’re impatient, you can view the entire report (in PDF file format) at

You can also view a video/slideshow that records when the report was presented at EDUCAUSE (53 minutes in length) at (or

Keep in mind that the Horizon Report 2009 identifies:

  • The top 6 predictions for technologies that will be adopted in higher education,
  • Provides a timeline for the anticipated adoption (ranging from less than a year to four-five years),
  • Provides current examples of how the trends are being used, and
  • Allows readers to participate by adding additional examples through the use of social bookmarking (uses delicious, see but you can also view just the bookmarks for each trend – I’ll share those links as we go along).

More to follow...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Transitioning from Word 2003 to 2007

Thanks to Maureen Fitzpatrick who pointed me toward a very helpful web site at (the actual long URL is

This Flash-based site visually demonstrates where you’ll find a familiar Word 2003 command or action on the new Word 2007 interface. With the shift to tabs for all Office 2007 applications, some functions were re-arranged and appear hidden to the “converted” user. Now, you have a web-accessible tool to use in finding that misplaced, rearranged, seemingly hidden new location for those old, beloved Word commands.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Icon If You Must

I frequently see web sites, online courses and PowerPoint presentations with an overabundance of animated GIFs and icons. Frankly, when it comes to cutesy icons and graphics of any kind, more is not better. Too much of anything can be distracting and unprofessional looking.

On A&E’s “Sell This House” TV show, one rule of thumb is “Less is more! When preparing your home for sale or an open house, minimize the amount of personal items that are on display. Excessive personal photos, trinkets and memorabilia will distract a buyer. Remember, the goal is to provide an environment where the buyers can picture themselves in the home for years to come.”

When you welcome a student (consumer of knowledge) into your course or to your web page (virtual home), the same principle applies. Eliminate clutter, don’t distract the “learner,” focus on what is important (e.g., the content you wish to pour into their brain). Always ask yourself “does that icon, animated GIF or graphic help convey or enhance the information the student needs to acquire or is it a distraction?”

Now that I’ve tried to talk you out of using animated GIFs and icons, here’s where you can find a collection of the little devils, if you insist on using them. Take a look at the very clean, professional icons at but please avoid the cheesy stuff at

Need more? Check out the very nice icons at and

Monday, February 9, 2009

The Digital Research Tools (DiRT) Wiki

The range of digital resources for instructional use is pretty wide ranging (and constantly changing). Web 2.0 tools emerge quickly and sometimes disappear just as quickly. That’s why it’s always helpful to have a single source to determine what’s available…especially when you share a common interest and point of view (e.g., education). Lisa Spiro of Rice University and her wiki colleagues collect and share information about tools and resources that are useful for educators and scholars. Her project, the Digital Research Tools Wiki (DiRT) can be viewed at and includes “a directory of tools organized by research activity, as well as reviews of select tools in which we not only describe the tool's features, but also explore how it might be employed most effectively by researchers.”

Browse a little and you’ll find tools that enable you to do everything from “Analyze Statistics” to “Visualize Data” plus many functions in between. Some of the categories of tools covered include those for blogging, creating mashups, editing images, making a screencast, managing bibliographic information, sharing bookmarks, converting files and much more.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Capturing YouTube Video to Your Desktop

From time to time, we receive requests from faculty regarding capturing video from the web (typically YouTube or TeacherTube clips) to their desktop for use in class. The reasons include:
  • Slow web access times
  • Insurance that the video clip will be available for class use and not disappear or be withdrawn
  • The need to extract a segment and not use the entire video.

There are many tools available to capture video from the web (your students probably know about more tools than you and I ever will) and it’s important to review each use to be sure it complies with educational fair use (use the "Four Factor Analysis"). If the usage is appropriate and does not infringe on copyright, you can go to, enter the URL for the video and click the Get Video button to start the download. The download frequently takes less time than playing the video over the web. Just be sure you save the file using the .flv (Flash video) file extension.

By the way, some YouTube videos, such as President Elect Obama’s weekly addresses, now have a download option (just under the left lower corner of the video image space). It provides access to a H.264 encoded version that can be downloaded and played later offline.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Zamzar: Online File Conversion

A faculty member recently inquired "My office computer used to be able to read Works, but that capability seems to have disappeared with the appearance of Word 2007. Can someone point me to what I need to do to get Works working for me?"

As a test, she sent me a couple files and I went to and easily converted them. The site is loaded with pop-ups and advertising (and it you stay on the site long enough, your computer will start talking to you ("you've won..."). Just ignore all that and you'll see the 4-step process to convert a file from one format to another. In this case, I converted a .wps file to a .doc.

Zamzar can convert to and from a variety of formats (video, graphic image, document, music, archive). Once you make your selection and identify the file, Zamzar uploads it and then emails you the converted file. There are file size limits (depending on the type of file) and it does take a few minutes to convert and then email the converted file to you.

As always, use at your own risk. I would not use for highly sensitive data (there's a copy out there somewhere) that might be used or abused. Zamzar will of course try to sell you a premium service. It's an option if you use the service frequently and want faster turn-around.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009 Equals Short Web Links

Have you ever sent an email message that included a long, indecipherable URL (web link) that broke across two lines so it didn't work for the recipient of your message? If so, there's a free, easy to use service sponsored by Gilby Productions that converts those long web links to a short (tiny) URL that'll always work.

You can go to, enter the long URL in the text box at the top of the page and it'll generate a tiny URL that begins with The new link never expires, so you can use it whenever you wish (in email or on web pages).

You can also add TinyURL to your Internet Explorer Links menu (how to do so is explained at Once added, you can navigate to any site and generate a TinyURL instantly for that site using your Links menu.

As an example, here's a moderately long URL to a Wikipedia article on the birth of modern copyright:

The TinyURL for the same site is:

Obviously the longer the original URL, the more "character" savings you'll encounter.

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