November 30

Skype

Several  years ago I was travelling around the country two or three weeks.  I was looking for a tool to communicate back home with my family.  This was before the days of mobile phone family plans.  We had been using the various IM services with voice, but their voip technology lacked clarity and reliability. Then, I came across Skype.  At that point, I was still on dial-up at home, and usually on dial-up on the road.  I was very pleased with the quality of Skype voice with dial-up connections.

Skype is a free text, voice, and video messaging service. To get Skype, follow this link and sign up for an account.  Skype is available for Windows, Windows Mobile / PPC, Linux, Nokia Internet Tablets, Mac, and iPhones.  As new devices become popular, we will likely see Skype ported to them as well.

Over the years, my usage of Skype gradually decreased with the introduction of our mobile phone’s  family plan and then my career change to teaching.  I just did not need VOIP (voice over internet protocol) anymore. My Skype usage was relegated to a backup way for my family to contact me if I was working late in my first classroom (it is a mobile phone dead zone).

Recently, I have talked to several educators who have been using Skype in many unique and innovated ways.  I have talked to teachers who have used Skype in their foreign language claases to talk to individuals and even other classrooms speaking the languages they are teaching.  Some teachers have used Skype for bringing subject area experts as guest speakers.  My classes have used Skype in lessons in online conferencing and collaboration, methods of I.T. Support, and professional interviews of guests and by guests from businesses.

I know there are a lot of great ideas for using Skype in education. If you are using Skype for teaching, leave a comment and share your experiences.

November 29

Grrrr…The Latest WordPress Update Broke my Offline Blog Editing

Generally, I use either Microsoft’s Live Writer or the Firefox Scribefire plug-in for my writing my blog posts.  Yesterday, I upgraded my WordPress installation.  The upgrade went smoothly on the website, but my offline blog editors no longer work properly.  Entries I created with Windows Live Writer and Scribefire are not inserting images properly and add garbage code to my posts.  So, for now, I am back to editing my posts through WordPress’ adminstration screens. <sigh>

November 29

Free Image Resizer

PixResizer

PixResizer

With the megapixels in cameras continuously increasing, I often have the need to resize a lot of my images for use on the web or in presentations.  Rather than using PaintshopPro or GIMP, I usually use PixResizer for quick image resizing.

PixResizer is a free application that does a simple task very well.  Thus saving me a lot of time.  With PixResizer, I can resize an entire folder of 200 photos and even save them in a new file format in just a few minutes.  This has become of the my staple applications I use almost daily.

November 29

Online FLV Converter

If you have a FLV file that you need to convert to AVI, MOV, or MP4 formats, check out Vixy.net.  With the new wave of low-end flash-based video cameras, the need to convert FLV files to more compatible video formats is increasing.  Vixy.net offers an online solution to help fulfill these needs.

I have not used Vixy.net in a few months.  When I last used it, the process was very slow, which is understandable for a web-based video converter.  However, if you need to convert a FLV file to another format and you do not want to install a converter application, such as eRightsoft’s Super, then Vixy might be for you.

November 29

Add Speech Bubbles to Your Photos

Kyolo Bubble Talk Example

Kyolo Bubble Talk Example

Ever look at a photo and think of the perfect speech bubble to go along with it?  Kyolo is a web-based app that allows you to upload a photo and quickly add a speech bubble to your photo.
Obviously, you can use graphic editing apps such as Paint Shop Pro, GIMP, or Photoshop.  However, by the time you load the application, open the file, add your layers and text box, you might have forgotten your amazingly perfect caption.  So, if you need a quick caption and you are not teaching a lesson in graphic editing, give Kyolo a try.
November 29

Remote Access for your Computer

LogMeIn

LogMeIn

If you are looking for a reliable and affordable Remote Access for your computer, check out Logmein.com.

After using GoToMyPC and GoToMeeting during my days in the I.T. Industry, I was pleasantly surprised to find the mostly free Logmein.com.  By “mostly free”, I am referring to LogMeIn’s pricing structure.  LogMeIn offers several levels of service.  However, for the past 2 years, their free service has met 95% of my needs.  The only option that I have occassionally needed was remote printing and file transferring.  I have stayed with the “free” option because I did not “need” those options enough to justify subscribing to their premium levels of service.  My typical level of service involves connecting to my “teacher” computer in my classroom while I am away from the classroom or connecting to my home computer while I am either at school or out of town.

To use LogMeIn, go to their website and create a free account.  You will be required to download a small app on the host computer.  This app and computer must turned on and have an active internet connection in order to connect from a remote location.  Once connected, you will see your remote computer’s desktop and be able to run all of your applications on that machine.  Depending upon your internet connection speed and the type of application you are running, the speed of the remote control may vary.  For example, I do not advise using LogMeIn to try to watch a movie on the remote machine.  However, running a Word or Excel document will usually be OK.

November 29

Windows Movie Maker for Mutlimedia Projects

This is a topic I had not considered blogging about until recently. If
you are looking for an easy and free video editing application, Windows
Movie Maker (WMM) is a great choice for beginners.  With more and more
students using multimedia in projects, WMM is perfect for quick and
easy video editing.  With WMM, you can create video clips instead of
the same ‘ole Powerpoint slideshow. You can import AVI and WMV video
clips, MP3 and WAV audio files, and most popular graphic file formats.
WMM has a basic library of video video transition and effects.  In
addition, you have several options for creating titles or credits.br /br /WMM
does not have an extensive list of formats for saving your final
video.  However, the thing to remember is that it is free for Windows
XP and Vista users.  Once you have graduated to requiring a more
full-featured application, there are plenty of affordable video editors
on the market, such as Cyberlink’s Power Director.

November 29

Acronym Finder

OK, I am in my third year as a High School Teacher.  I am still coming across acronyms that are thrown out by administrators and “educators” who all seem to assume that everyone knows the meaning of every single acronym they throw out during their presentations.  Continue reading

November 28

Google shutting down their Virtual Environment

A while back, I made a note to blog about Google’s Virtual Environment system … Lively. I downloaded and played around with Lively after it was introduced in July 2008.  I never got around to blogging about it, because Lively seemed rather slow and boring when I tried it out.  I had thought that Lively could be useful as an educational and informational resource / tool.  Continue reading

November 28

Site Updates

My hectic shedule this semester has kept me so busy that I have not had time to devote to this blog.  Hopefully, I will have a little more time over the next few weeks.  I plan on getting back on track with this site and adding a few new features as well.