Google Notebook facing the chop

Google have announced that they are going to stop offering some services  that are useful for education. One of these is Google Notebook. Here’s what Techcrunch have reported;

Google Notebook will continue to function for current users, but will no longer accept new ones. However, existing users won’t be able to use the browser extension, which makes the service significantly less useful. Among Google’s suggestions for replacements are SearchWiki, Google Docs, Tasks (Gmail), and Google Bookmarks.

Personally, I think this is a great shame. I had planned to introduce many of my students to Google Notebook this coming school year. I have found it invaluable for collecting snippets from the web for future reference purposes and think it is highly useful for student research.  I’m going to have to spend some time investigating  Zoho Notebook as an alternative.  I’ve yet to use it but have heard good reports.  YouTube have explanatory videos exploring how to use Zoho notebook so these will be essential viewing in order to figure things out.

What I liked about Google Notebook was that it fitted seamslessly into my useage of Google products. I enjoy using Google Reader and Docs and Notebook accompanied these very well. I’ve left a comment on their official blog (along with 531 others!) imploring them to reconsider. Perhaps you can too – there is strength in numbers!  

Google have also decided to cease uploads to Google Video (this will take effect in a few months). It will serve an archive purpose as you will still be able to view content stored there. This decision is not so surprising considering Google’s purchase of YouTube in 2006 and the popularity of this site.

What’s next for Google and the services they offer? Will Knol face the chopping block too. It’s hardly set the world on fire.  I’ve been reading that Microsoft and Yahoo are entering talks again re the possibilty of merger. Perhaps the threat of serious competition should this ever happen will see turnarounds in the Google camp.  Interesting times we live in!

*Update – Here’s a good link to a lifehacker article recommending Evernote as an alternative. I signed up to Evernote awhile ago so will have to spend more time learning how it operates.

School’s out Friday

This is Hector Projector’s ‘It’s art’. (Hectornado on YouTube) who has created this hand drawn stop motion animation to his original composition. He represents talent and initiative in my opinion. He’s a guy living in Sweden, who, with the help of myspace and YouTube, is managing to carve out a name for himself and his creative talents.

Great, isn’t it. This is what is possible for the students we teach. Our schools need to start recognising that we can assist our students to showcase their talents and use this media to create a positive digital footprint for themselves (and quite possibly a future career for themselves as well).  

It’s inspiring to see young people using social media to good effect.  Almost makes me excited about the prospect of returning to school soon. I did say almost. I have to admit that I am enjoying the downtime holidays afford!

Have a great weekend. Forecast is for sunny weather here in Melbourne and I intend to soak it up.

YouTube into Powerpoint – Wikihow has advice

I have never successfully been able to get a YouTube .flv video to play in a PowerPoint presentation. We have a Library PowerPoint that runs through a large television and we have often wanted to embed videos from YouTube into this. Our workaround has been to use a converter like keepvid to shift it from .flv format to .avi format so that they will play in PowerPoint.   

I followed a link tonight from Dai Barnes onTwitter that took me to an article from the School Library Journal written by Joyce Valenza.  It was called, ‘When YouTube is blocked (eight ways around)’ and is worth reading if you work in schools facing problems accessing YouTube. One of the links had me intrigued re the PowerPoint solution and I ended up at ‘wikiHow  – The How-to Manual that you can edit’.  The article in question was called, How to Embed YouTube Flash Videos in Your PowerPoint Presentations‘  and step by step instructions were provided. I haven’t tested them as yet, but come my return to work I’m sure I’ll be putting them to good use! According to instructions at the bottom of the page you can embed the article in its entirity into your blog. Their creative commons licence makes them very generous. Hence, the following; 

 

How to Embed YouTube Flash Videos in Your PowerPoint Presentations

from wikiHow – The How to Manual That You Can Edit

YouTube is considered to be one of the world’s most popular online community. YouTube is known for its fast video download rate, making it the number one choice for presenters when it comes to the video aspect of their presentations.

Steps

Play YouTube Flash Video Online in PowerPoint with Internet Access

  1. In PowerPoint 2003 and earlier versions, go to View -> Toolbars -> select “Control Toolbox”. In PowerPoint 2007, go to PowerPoint Options -> Popular -> tick “Show Developer tab in the Ribbon”.
  2. In the Control Toolbox, click the last icon “More Controls” which is displayed as hammer plus wrench. In the set of controls available on your computer, select “Shockwave Flash Object”. Then use your mouse to draw and resize an area in the slide as you like to place your YouTube video.
  3. Go to the YouTube video page you’d like to add, and check the URL in the address bar of your Web browser. You’ll get an address like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hChq5drjQl4 Change the phrase watch?v= to v/, and now the address become http://www.youtube.com/v/hChq5drjQl4
  4. Right click the area you drew which is displayed as a big cross, select Properties and go to Properties tab. Copy and paste the YouTube video address in the field as value of attribute Movie; set the value of attribute Playing and Loop to False. Close the Properties tab when everything is done.

Get YouTube Flash Video Offline and Add To Presentations
When you don’t like the live YouTube video way, which requires live and reliable Internet connection, you may download YouTube video to your hard drive, and insert the video into presentation offline. It’s also very easy to make in a few minutes.

  1. Go to the YouTube video page you’d like to add, and check the URL in the address bar of your Web browser. You’ll get an address like http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hChq5drjQl4. Then try some online services like KeepVid or other offline tools to retrieve and download the original Flash video file from the address. Rename the downloaded YouTube Flash video file from “get_video” to “xxx.flv” as you like in FLV format.
  2. Now you need to decide in which format of YouTube Flash video you’d like to add in PowerPoint presentation. If directly inserting the Flash video in FLV format, you have to ensure the FLV file could be properly played back at first. It’s recommended to install VideoLAN VLC media player to play YouTube Flash video files in FLV format.
  1. Find the hidden Control Toolbox out in PowerPoint and go to “More Controls” as the way in the first steps of online YouTube section above. Select “VideoLAN VLC ActiveX Plugin v1/v2” in the set of controls available, then draw and resize the displayed area with mouse in the slide as you like. Right click the area you drew and go to Properties tab, and complete the value of attribute “MRL” with the path of the YouTube Flash video file, like D:\Temp\2008\temp.flv, then close the tab. Now the YouTube Flash video in your hard drive is ready to play in the presentation.

— Insert YouTube Video As Common Video

Besides, you may also try to convert your YouTube Flash video in FLV format to other common video format like AVI, MOV, etc with some online services such as vixy.net or other offline video conversion tools. Then you can directly insert these converted video in your hard drive via “Insert Movie from File” in PowerPoint.

— Insert YouTube Video As SWF Flash Movie

Generally speaking, to avoid video codec problem with different computers, and ensure the properly video playback in PowerPoint, Flash video in FLV format and other video formats is not recommended to be inserted in PowerPoint. Based on the popularity of Adobe Flash player, which is widely installed on most computers in the world, Flash movie in SWF is highly compatible cross-platform and properly played back. You may try some video to Flash conversion tools, such as WebVideo Author, to convert FLV or other video formats to SWF format.
The Flash movie file in SWF format could be inserted into PowerPoint presentation as “Shockwave Flash Object” in Contorl Toolbox like the way in the first steps of online YouTube section above. And you can embed the SWF Flash file in your presentation through setting the attribute “EmbedMovie” to True in Properties tab.
By the way, some presentation authoring tools, such as PPT2Flash Professional (http://www.sameshow.com/powerpoint-to-flash-pro.html), Articulate Presenter, offer the shortcut to insert SWF Flash files quickly, and finally output the PowerPoint presentation with YouTube Flash video as Flash movie in SWF format. Flash-based presentation is kind of great solution to avoid compatibility issues from video codec, PowerPoint versions and operating systems, and easy to make Web compliance.
Maybe the total guide for YouTube video in PowerPoint is a little of complicated for everyone. Google’s PowerPoint killer in Google Docs is highly expected to add the feature to add YouTube video in online presentation instantly, if Google really wants to be the killer. After all, YouTube is a great video treasure for everyone, we can make better use of it with our works and life.

Related wikiHows

Article provided by wikiHow, a wiki how-to manual. Please edit this article and find author credits at the original wikiHow article on How to Embed YouTube Flash Videos in Your PowerPoint Presentations. All content on wikiHow can be shared under a Creative Commons license.

(The grammar in the final paragraph suggests English is not the native language of the contributor. What is wonderful is that people are willing to share their knowledge across language barriers.)

A year ago today……..

stairs to zen
Image by julkastro via Flickr

It was a year ago today that I first put fingers to keypad and started to write this blog.  So much has happened since then it seems like two years rather than just one. Then I was interested, now I am connected.

Being connected means that I am always learning and consequently, I seem to be so much busier. There is just so much to do, but all of it is interesting and I don’t want to stop. But I do need to take stock. I was reading Garr Reynold’s blog today and once again found the aura of calm that encapsulates his writing. You do need to visit Presentation Zen and be swept away by the ideas that Garr presents. I feel so lucky to have crossed paths with him on this 12 month journey. He is a man with much to offer.  

Garr’s blog post from January 10th talks of the lessons he has learnt from Jazz and Zen. Lessons he has been able to apply to life. I can relate and intend to refer to this list often in the coming year. Maybe you can too.

Twenty-one things I’ve learned from jazz and Zen
  1. In structure there is freedom and spontaneity.
  2. Restraints and limitations can be great liberators.
  3. Don’t ever force it; be ever natural.
  4. Good intentions are key. Sincerity is king, and yet…
  5. It’s not about you.
  6. Listen more than speak.
  7. Speak only when you have something to say, and then in the most economic way possible. 
  8. Your approach can be direct and subtle at the same time.
  9. Fear is natural (and human), but work through it and past it. Don’t let fear hold you back.
  10. Mistakes are part of it (do not worrying about them).
  11. Embrace the power of now, this moment.
  12. Technique matters, but it’s not the most important element.
  13. Make no pretenses; put up no facades. 
  14. Laugh, smile if you feel like it — why not?
  15. Share yourself with others; make a contribution.
  16. Simplicity is supremely beautiful, yet difficult to obtain.
  17. Emptiness and silence are powerful elements of expression.
  18. Remove the clutter, strive for absolute clarity.
  19. If you think you have mastered it, you’ve have already begun your descent.
  20. Always be learning. Always be learning. Always be learning.
  21. Curiosity is your greatest gift, nurture it (in yourself and in others)
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Commoncraft – what to expect in 2009.

“In a word: Education.”

Those are the words of Lee Lefever, and great words they are for all of us.

Commoncraft’s incredibly effective Explanations in Plain English videos have been staple products for me as teaching tools ever since I’ve discovered just how well they explain new technologies that can be quite difficult to explain. When you’re under the pump and a class of 24 year 9 girls are looking at you and expecting great things, just pull out a Lefever Plain English video and all is well. Lee has said this in a recent blog post;

“We’re convinced, more than ever, that Common Craft is an *educational* explanation company. While our library of videos is currently technology-oriented (and zombies ), our challenge in 2009 and beyond is to establish Common Craft as a company whose explanations are focused on education in multiple fields and potentially impact very broad audiences in positive ways.”

I’m going to be watching with great interest in 2009 to see what they cover. Here is their latest effort, Saving money in Plain English, something that the students we teach will find very useful.

Learning, 21st Century style.

Drupal
Image via Wikipedia

Lately I’ve been trying to learn how to use Drupal. The motivation for this is my husband’s business that needs a web presence. I set something up in Google Sites but had a look at what some businesses had achieved with Drupal and thought that might be a better option. My problem was I have never used Drupal, knew nothing about it and needed to find out how to approach setting something up.

 

So what did I do? I went straight to twitter and asked people there to point me in the direction of tutorials that might help me.  Did I get help? Absolutely. Links were provided, twitter names were offered as go to people and I connected with some followers who I hadn’t  connected with before. So why am I telling you this?

I was in a PLP fellows meeting and we were discussing the successes and challenges we were having with teams in our cohorts. The discussion led by Sheryl and Will was centred around how we have to connect what we are trying to do to learning rather than focusing on teaching Web 2.0 tools acquisition.  The idea was that it isn’t the tool that should be the focus but rather how that tool can be the effective medium for the learning possibilities for our students. Now I totally agree with this, it’s the kind of thinking I believe and it’s what I try and focus on when I discuss adoption of new ideas in my school setting.  However, there is no avoiding the fact that at some point teaching the tools has to happen. Our teachers need to feel competent dealing with blogs, wikis, nings, voicethread, and any other web 2.0 app that has the ability to connect our kids with one another and the outside world. My feeling is if they don’t feel confident they will be less likely to adopt these ideas as permanent shifts in their classroom practice.

I was making the point that I could empathise with how some of our staff are feeling since I’ve started exploring drupal. I feel ‘dumb’ for want of a better word; I can’t figure out where best to start and it all seems a bit overwhelming. Similar to feelings I had just over a year or so ago when I started exploring new technologies.  Will countered me by suggesting that my learning is now different. He asked “Did I go and buy a manual or did I go to my network first”?  The point he was making was that I learn differently now and this is the kind of thing I need to impress upon the teachers and students I interact with. My community of learners has shaped my attitude and actions and this very powerful learning is something that our colleagues and students need to benefit from also.

There are many challenges ahead for us if we want  to see systemic change happen. I need to remember that small steps are OK   – they will muster support and allow us to start taking larger steps, maybe even leaps.   

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School’s out Friday

Another improveverywhere effort to keep us smiling. This time they congregate at JFK airport to welcome back a stranger. The unsuspecting victims  find themselves confronted with a crowd bearing signs, flowers and ballons. It’s magic watching the expressions on their faces.

Improveverywhere have  a mission planned for tomorrow, the 10th of January.  It’s the 8th Annual No Pants! Subway Ride. Here are the details of the mission as they appear on their site;

DETAILS

When: Saturday, January 10 at 3:00 PM, Sharp! (Over by around 5:30)
Where: Meet at Foley Square at the black sculpture/fountain. It’s near the Brooklyn Bridge 6 train stop, between Centre and Lafayette, just north of Duane. (Google Map)
Bring: A backpack and a metro card.
Do not bring: A camera (we’ll have several photographers on hand)
Wear: Normal winter clothes (hat, gloves, etc)
Facebook: You can RSVP to the Facebook Event
After Party: For those over 21, there will be an official No Pants after party at Sidebar, 15th Street and Irving Place. First drink is free if you arrive without pants.

If you’re a reader living in New York this should be a lot of fun if you’re comfortable riding the subway wearing only your underpants.  Wish I was there, although I really don’t think I’d be game enough for this mission!

Have  a great weekend.

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Screentoaster – screencasts made easy.

Tonight I’ve been practising with Screentoaster, a screencast application that is still in beta. I had to apply for an invitation but that was no hassle. It came through within 15 minutes. It is very easy to use. I watched the demo video and had it sorted pretty quickly.

You press start recording and Screentoaster will load. You can record either full screen or a specific part of the screen by following simple instructions. It doesn’t record voice in the initial capture but you can add audio or text in the preview stage. Your screencast is stored on their server and you can share the url or embed the screencast into your site. I’m hoping it will load here. I’m having to use wordpress’ post video to your blog’ option using vodpod to get it in here. I’m not good with html code embeds so I do hope this option works as it would be great for you to see what it looks like.

Jane Hart listed Screentoast as one of her predictions for Top Tools in 2009. Check out her list; it’s well worth the look.

Vodpod videos no longer available.  

more about “Screentoast – screencasts made easy. “, posted with vodpod

 

 

 

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Trends to watch- how should educators respond?

I was reading an online article today from eweek.com called ‘Five trends to watch in 2009’.  Their focus audience is small to medium size business. The five trends to watch as they saw it were;

1. Cloud Computing.

2. Virtualisation

3. Notebook/Netbook adoption

4. Open Source Software

5. Online Social Networking

My question is, are we as educators onto this? If we are going to effectively prepare our students for the workplaces they will be entering, shouldn’t we be incorporating some of these applications into our teaching environments and curriculum?

I work in a 1:1 school, but as we see the cost of computers and wireless air devices reduce I could envisage students fronting up in both private and public education with their own computers with internet access at the ready. I’m wondering if schools are prepared for this?

* Update –  Many students today have phones with internet access – don’t know why I didn’t think of this when I was writing this post. Just dim sometimes! Once again though, many schools take the no phones in class policy when they should be capitalising on the incredibly powerful tool students have at their disposal.

I know that this year I intend to make greater use of the cloud and create and store more of my documentation using online applications. It just makes sense. It’s something I intend to share with my students and will be encouraging them to use Google docs and notebook.   

These are ideas we need to keep at the forefront of our thinking if we are going to best prepare our students for the workplaces they will be entering.

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School’s out Friday

This is One year in 40 seconds. It’s beautiful. It’s the work of eirikso  (Eirik Solheim)  from Oslo in Norway. All the images were taken at the same spot over the course of 2008 showing the changing seasons. Look at this and contemplate the year ahead. What will you be doing as the seasons unfold? An open book right now ready to be filled.

Thanks to Elizabeth Holmes who posted the link to this on Twitter.

Enjoy the weekend!