February 28

Skype Getting Serious as a Networking Tool for Teachers

skype

Skype has introduced their new Skype in the Classroom initiative aimed at helping Teachers using Skype connect in a new social networking feature on their website.

While it has been around for over seven years, and many of us teachers have used Skype for a while as a means of connecting with each other in a variety of ways, Skype has not offered an easy method for teachers to connect. Previously, teachers have had to rely on education blogs and forums for finding colleagues and subject area experts for their link-ups. With Skype in the Classroom, finding fellow teachers in similar areas is now quite a bit easier.

Click here to signup for the beta version of Skype in the Classroom.

February 4

Wetoku – Free Web-based Conferencing

wetoku

Recently, I was asked to help a colleague broadcast her class to a group of teachers meeting at another location.  The leader of the off-site group preferred using Skype, so we went with that option, but I decided to look into better choices for future broadcasts.  Skype is a great tool for a two-way conference, but it required the teacher to either have someone man a the computer with Skype and the camera to make the call or to accept the incoming call, or to stop teaching to personally go to the computer to do the same.

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January 27

Present.ly – A Private Microblogging Site.

Are you looking for an option for collaborating with co-workers using a microblogging site similar to Twitter, but want privacy that you cannot get on a open social network?  Check out Present.ly.  Present.ly allows organizations to collaborate in real-time, share documents, and communicate via mobile devices without the entire online world seeing what you are doing.

Check it out here.

August 1

Could Skype be shutdown?

Hopefully not.  At least not until June 2010.  Skype has a legal disagreement with peer-to-peer company, Joltid, about licensing issues.  Ebay is apparently developing their own technology in place of the software licensed from Joltid.  So, maybe this will be moot by the time the lawsuit makes it to court.

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May 30

QNext … Three-way Video Conferencing

Recently Oovoo changed their free plan to effectively kill off three-way video conferencing, choosing to offer only two-way video for free users.  Many users (including myself) have decided to stay with Skype for two-way video calls.  After all, Skype has a much larger user base than Oovoo.  Of course, Oovoo had a good chance of catching up to Skype if they had not pulled the questionable move that they did. 

Now that my Oovoo rant is over, let’s look at another conferencing service that looks promising … Qnext.

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May 16

Farewell Oovoo

Apparently, Oovoo wants to purge itself of a lot of “free” users.  This week, Oovoo announced changes to its plans.  Previously, Oovoo allowed free users to have a 3-way video conference.  Users could pay for a 6-way video conferencing option.  Oovoo’s new pricing plans include a 2-way free option while requiring a subscription for 3-way video and up.  I am not sure why Oovoo would make this move.  They should realize that this will alienate users who began using Oovoo for its 3-way conferencing option.  I can only guess that Oovoo decided that it cost them too much to offer free (ad-supported) 3-way conferencing, and is using this option to rid itself of the free user base.

When I first came across Oovoo, it was a great resource when covering lessons on video conferencing and remote computing.  However, with this move, we will be switching our focus back to Skype for classroom lessons.

April 29

Twitter

Its been a while since I have posted about Twitter.  I the past 9 months, Twitter has seen a huge jump in popularity.  Recently, a lot of celebrities and network news organizations have jumped on the Twitter bandwagon and brought even more attention to Twitter.  Now, its hard to go a day without seeing a news show on FoxNews or CNN mention their Twitter page.

When I eventually decided to join Twitter, I was not sure how useful the service would be for me.  I mainly saw Twitter as a useful tool for communicating a quick message within a group, company, or class about an upcoming meeting or task.  Now, I see Twitter as a way of networking with other like-minded users.  For example, I have started using one of my Twitter accounts to keep up with others interested in using technology in education.

For more info on Twitter, click here to read Twitter’s explanation or look below to see Common Craft’s “Twitter in Plain English” video.

December 2

Easy Internet Broadcasting with Ustream

Are you looking for an option for live broadcasting over the internet?  Check out Ustream.tv.  Ustream.tv is a free service that makes it extremely easy to get started with your own Internet Broadcast.  These “Netcasts” are available to be viewed from Ustream’s website or from any website that alllows the embedding of their Flash-based viewer.  All you need is a broadband internet connection, a decent quality webcam or firewire connected digital camcorder, and an idea.  Ustream also has a record option to record the netcasts for playing back later.  I have used Ustream to broadcast school events and a few classroom projects.

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

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

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