Let’s add dimdim to our list

Received the following email yesterday evening from web conferencing site Dimdim:

Subject: Dimdim aquired by salesforce.com

Dear Customer:

Dimdim has been acquired by salesforce.com. Your free Dimdim account will remain active until March 15, 2011. After that date, you will no longer be able to access your free Dimdim account.

Please see the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for additional information.

We appreciate your understanding, and we thank you!

This affects free accounts as well as paid accounts. All recordings you have on their site must be downloaded before your account expires, which depends on whether you were a monthly or annual subscriber. [official announcement]

Response to Yahoo’s plans to shut down delicious

Warning: This is an emotional response to yesterday’s announcement by Yahoo! that they are shutting down the popular, absolutely essential, epitome of web 2.0 tool delicious.

What the hell?! First Facebook and now Yahoo! have screwed me (us) over. Two really simple, very functional, extremely valuable web2.0 tools that I’ve been preaching and pushing all year b/c they are/were incredibly useful — delicious and drop.io — and the parent companies pulled/are about to pull the plug.

  • October brought us the announcement that Facebook bought drop.io and that free accounts were to quickly disappear and paid accounts discontinued Dec.15.
  • Yesterday brought us even more shocking news that Yahoo has decided to sunset their very popular social tagging tool delicious.

Damn them.

Now what do I tell faculty? What are you going to tell your faculty? How are you going to sell them on some really amazing online tool that does something incredibly useful for their class and yet runs the serious risk of being acquired by [huge company name here] and very quickly wiped out?

Yes! I’ve found this great tool that helps you meet that learning objective, keeps your students engaged, encourages active learning … but just an fyi — don’t get too dependent on it, b/c it’s very possible someday you’ll suddenly have to export everything, find a new tool, and figure out how to migrate from one to another.

[Update: Now Yahoo! Says Delicious Will Live On … Somewhere Else]

Google Takes Aim

I recently noticed that I’m more and more frequently opting to use Google Docs rather than my locally installed software as I’m taking notes in focus groups sessions and create spreadsheet for a survey tool comparison project, and as a result I’m paying an increasing amount of attention to “New Features!” and Google Labs to see how my user experience has changed or will change very soon. In looking through the new features list yesterday, I noticed several items listed that strengthen my belief that Google is quietly taking aim and positioning itself to take over the educational web technologies market.

Is Google planning on creating its own Learning Management Systems? Old news! (See Matt’s post from earlier this year.) Over a year ago, the Wall Street Journal hypothesized on the Five Companies Google Might Buy Next, but as I look through new features and those that Google says are “keeping us busy”, I wonder if Google would even consider acquiring a company like Bb. Why would they? They already have (or are working on) manyof the pieces that come together to make an LMS, and with Google’s tendency to gobble up companies, they could easily acquire the missing pieces.

LMS features and how they relate to existing Google technologies



  • discussion boards/listservs (Groups)
  • email (Gmail)
  • IM/chat/audio conferencing (Talk)
  • annoucnements (Alerts)
  • web-based calling, voicemail (Voice)

Class Management

Recent tweeks Google is making that seem more “education-friendly”

  • Improved view of revision history in documents (gradable collaborative documents)
  • Upload several different file types and either convert to google docs format or view in google docs viewer (universal file type – instructor can view document submission whether created in Word, Word Perfect, PDF, Google Docs, etc.)
  • Upload different versions of a file (assignment submissions, including rough drafts)

Google Labs, acquisitions, “keeping us busy” items and New Features! and how they could eventually effect education

Future Google Conquests Predictions

  • Prezi (mind-mapping)
  • TechSmith (testing) – however…
    Google could create a secure testing browser by modifying Chrome
    Google already is working on Breadcrumb, which could eventually become an alternative to StudyMate
  • Epsilen (learning outcomes measurement and portfolios)
  • Survey Monkey (advanced survey functionality)

Future Educational Google Site Name Predicitons

  • Google Edu – Google’s LMS, including all of the above
  • Google Meeting – Google’s web conferencing system that combines Talk (chat, private messaging, audio conferencing) with Docs (live document sharing/collaborating, collaborative drawing and whiteboard, file sharing) and Moderator (event moderating)

It’s only a matter of time.

(Finally) Playing with Prezi

People have been talking about Prezi for a while now, and I’m finally giving it a try. (I’m pretty sure Matt and Harriet used it over a year ago at TxDLA, so I’m definitely behind on this one. Oh well.) Below is my first whack at prezi for my eLearning Online Course Design workshop.

In the workshop, we basically we cover three main areas in this workshop: instructional design (the basics), learning objectives (and using the Goals tool in Bb Vista), and structuring your content (and using Learning Modules, Folders, and Selective Release in Vista). We spent a full hour (out of the two-hour session) on learning objectives, and I knew I’d made an impression when one of the participants came up to me afterwards and said, “This really goes against the ‘fly by the seat of your pants’ mentality that we’re all tempted to take, where we don’t work on our class until a week before we meet.”

Click to view prezi.

Lessons learned after using Prezi:

  • Limited design options (fonts, shapes, colors), but this keeps it simply and easy to use
  • I zoomed/focused a bit too much on each individual point. Useful sometimes, but other times it’s too much.
  • I like the ability to easily zoom out and focus on a topic discussed earlier, rather than having to find it in my sequence of slides then later trying to find where I am.
  • Definitely a time suck. Not on the scale of the Sims or Second Life, but set aside a couple of hours for you to explore.
  • This “non-traditional” presentation is definitely impressive. … At least to those who are not overly-tech-savvy.

Thoughts from a former Second Life advocate

(In response to Matt’s previous post re: the Second Life educational discount…) Actually, the educational discount was pretty good if you consider the amount of space you get on an island and all you can fit there – education, advertisements, meeting spaces, etc.

Where the expense really comes in and caused many institutions to balk is development — people quickly realized that building/programming in SL was not easy by any means for most people without a computer science degree. You’d end up either farming out the development to emerging technologies groups on your campus or paying big bucks to put something up. (Or you’ll find some geeky instructional designer who quickly falls in love with it and dumps hundreds of hours into developing in SL.) If you don’t have either of these and you’re using SL for education, you have to invest time in researching areas and finding places that will help achieve your objective.

Yes, I admit — I was a big-time SL advocate in the beginning. I’ve since been able to step back and realize just how much work and exactly how realistic it is (isn’t) to invest time/money in this project. SL had tons of potential, especially in education … it just isn’t practical.

I’m wondering what this SL alternative is that was mentioned in the article. (I’ve been away from SL and virtual worlds for so long; I apologize if there’s an obvious answer.) I think even with this alternative, the excitement over virtual worlds will decrease dramatically. My reasoning is this — sure, you have an open source alternative. But chances are (and Matt, please correct me if I’m wrong) you’ll have to self-host, meaning you’ll have to find hardware to put it on and people to maintain it. I know this is almost sounding cliché but with budgets being slashed as drastically as they are this year and projected for next, most places are just not going to be able to justify the expense. I suspect many schools were already seriously looking at their SL property to be included in the cutbacks we’re all facing, and LL’s announcement just made their decision a lot easier.


Collaboration, file-sharing, podcasting and more with drop.io

Sorry for the very long delay in posting. The new job and my one-year-old are taking up 113% of my time.  Just wanted to let you know about a new tool a co-worker discovered at Educause Southwest Regional.  Drop.io is a file hosting site that gives users the ability to upload images, documents, audio, video, and more.  A free account gives you 100Mb of space to set up your “drop” (area where you can upload your files), and users can then view a web-friendly version of the file or download the original.  

Adding content to your drop couldn’t be much easier.  Drop.io gives you an email address that you can use to email or MMS files that are auto-added to your drop.  You also get a phone number that you use to call in and record audio which is then saved in mp3 format and auto-added to your drop (read: easy-podcasting).  You can even fax directly into your drop.  A Firefox add-in allows you to drag and drop directly into your drop.

Content can be protected by setting a guest password.  You can even give guests the ability to add their own files, leave comments, and even delete files. Drop.io also gives you the ability to set an expiration date for the files you upload.

Viewers of your content have multiple methods of being notified any time you add content to your drop.  They can sign up for email alerts (which you, the drop owner, can customize both the alert message and the welcome message) that are sent out any time you add content.  Users can subscribe to an RSS feed or add it to your iTunes as a podcast.  They can even get SMS alerts – they just choose their service provider and enter their phone number.  Add drop updates to your Facebook feed so friends see when you add content, or add the drop directly to your profile.  Users can tweet any file added to your drop.  Users can even add a widget for your drop to their website.  I could go on.  

The educational possibilites are endless: podcasting, collaboration, team building, to name a few.  So, do you use drop.io?  Are you interested in drop.io?  What ideas do you have for using drop.io in your class?

Click image to view drop.io demo.

Textbook rentals anyone??

Where have I been?? Yet another edtech trend was brought to my attention today, and I had never heard of it before…

We’ve been working (read: struggling) with our campus bookstores, trying to work out a solution for our online/distance students who want to sell back their books. Sure, they could always sell them through Amazon.com or ebay, but we want our bookstores to set up some type of procedure to work with them. (How do your campus bookstores handle this, if you don’t mind my asking?)

Well today, out of the blue, my director sent me an email that didn’t really offer a solution, but it does offer a definite alternative. Textbook rentals — much in the spirit of Netflix and movie rentals — allow students to rent textbooks for a month/semester/year (depending on the service you choose) with the understanding that you will return the textbook in “good” condition. Different services have different pricing schemes. Below is a quick look at a couple of textbook rental sites that are out there.


Claims to be #1 in textbook rentals. You pay per book for a semester, quarter, or summer. You do have the ability to extend your rental for an additional cost for an extra 15 days, 30 days, semester, or quarter. They’ll even plant a tree for every book you rent, buy, or sell with them. Here’s an example of what you might save:

Biology with MasteringBiology
ISBN: 0321543254
Amazon.com price (new): $137.75
Chegg.com price (per semester): $66.79


Campus Technology did a story on them today, so I wanted to include them in my post, but sadly several of their pages (including the signup page) are throwing errors.

According to CT’s story, Skoobit offers several plans to choose from. The special 45-day summer rental plan allows a student to rent books at $24.99 each. Or students can opt for what they anticipate to be the most popular plan – $10.99 per book per month for four months. Not bad … if only their site would work.


Listed in a recent Wall Street Journal article, BookRenter.com allows students to rent books for 15, 30, 60, 90 (~1 quarter), or 125 (~1 semester) days, with the option to purchase it new. Going back to our previous example:

Biology with MasteringBiology
ISBN: 0321543254
Amazon.com price (new): $137.75
BookRenter.com price (125 days): $63.75

So you can definitely save quite a chunk of change using these websites. Oh how I wish these had been available when I was getting my undergrad degree. That being said, even grad students (who tend to hold onto their textbooks to keep as references) would be interested in these sites. Several offer the option to purchase the books new, and with our example above, BookRenter.com’s purchase price ($142.94) is close to even Amazon.com’s (current) lowest used price ($123.89).

Anyway, as a result of all this, we’re planning on letting our students know about this. My question for you all is — had you heard of this before? Have you heard from any students who have used these sites? What did they think?

Google Docs now does surveys

Thanks (again) to Ramblings of a Technology Coordinator for another great find!

Did you know that Google Docs now supports survey-creation with data collection? I apologize if this is old news, but Google has created a very nice, very easy interface for creating and publishing surveys. Basically, you create a blank spreadsheet within Google Docs, click on the Forms tab at the top, and it steps you through creating your survey/form. With six question types to choose from (text, paragraph text, multiple choice, checkboxes, choose from a list, and scale 1-n), you can create a simple yet very functional survey.

What I especially like about Google Doc’s survey tool is the ability to embed the survey directly into your html page by using iframes. Below, you’ll see the EduGeek Journal survey I created. Please take a sec to answer the questions if you get a chance. Google gave me the code to copy/paste directly into my blog posting. Very nice. You also have the ability to email the survey directly to a list of people, and at any time you can stop accepting survey responses.


Microsoft’s Multisurface Sphere

(Found this on TechCruch today…) As Microsoft works on making every available surface a computer screen, a recent demo of Microsoft’s Surface Sphere has, well, surfaced.

Could this be technology’s version of the crystal ball? This makes me start imagining 3D objects rendered inside the sphere that we can zoom in on, manipulate, and view from different angles. Anyway, fun to think about.

PS — Matt, I’d like one of these so I can have it set as a globe to put on my desk. There should be enough in our EGJ budget, y’think?

PSS – Just found a related article at Ars Technica.

Learning to Change, Changing to Learn

(Found at Ramblings of a Technology Coordinator)