Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Taming the eBook hydra with Calibre

It seems that every technology creates a standards war: VHS/Beta, Windows/Mac -- even technology that's been around as long as the automobile still hasn't attained universal agreement about which is the proper side of the road for driving.

The ebook is no different: there are many competing formats and (putative) standards, and every player in the market seems to have settled on a different one. This becomes even more confusing if you have more than one device which can display ebooks (e.g., an Amazon Kindle and a smart phone) or a device that can display more than one format (e.g., an iPad which can run the Kindle app as well as using Apple's own native ebook format).

Calibre, a free and open source package, can help. Calibre organizes your ebooks into a searchable database, will display most common formats, and will even convert one format to another. It will also sync your book collection to your device, and has a nifty packaging feature that lets you convert web feeds into ebooks for later reading on your mobile device.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Transcriptions and Captions - what a headache....

Universal Subtitles claims that they have " built the easiest way to subtitle videos. Add our subtitling widget to your video (or your site) and click the "subtitle me" button. The rest is simple! Totally free, and no software to download"  I saw that it is really easy to use, you select a URL, the video start playing and you start typing. It will wait if you are deleting or stopping, so that you can catch up, and then it will start after a few seconds if you are not typing, so that you can continue. It will start from a few seconds before so you can check what you just typed. Then it provides a very easy way to sync and play and re edit.
The design for entering text is very good and easy to use. However, (there is always a "however", when will the perfect tool be created?) there are some limitations:
1- It will not take any video format, for example, it does not like .wmv
2- You can edit several things but you cannot move or decide where you want the captioning text to show.
3- It places the caption not at the bottom but a little above the bottom, so even if you have left some space for captioning, it will cover the text in the movie, unless you use only one line.. and even in that case it is too high for my preference.
The concept and the project are worth exploring further, they share their code, it is built in HTML5 and Javascript, it is web based, and let you download the script in different formats. Their tutorials are also easy to follow.
The Chronicle this morning has an article about them and they also talk about Scripto, another one in my list....

Let me know if you give US a try!

Friday, December 3, 2010

Wormhole, another web conferencing system

I tested the Wormhole IT web conferencing system today and was very impressed with the quality of video and audio by multiple users. The system offers what most web conferencing systems have: Recording capabilities, Document sharing, screen sharing, Audio, Video (both for multiple users), whiteboard, and chat. It also provides options for document sharing such as: share in the whiteboard, download as pdf (no matter what your original format is) and download in original format. The host decides how to share the documents. This screenshot shows the conference area, with feature icons on top, whiteboard, participants list on the right, chat at the bottom, and one of the presenters' video.

 It is not free or open source. I understand that the cost is way below its competitors (Elluminate and A. Connect) although their production quality is as good as the others we have tested.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Collaborative writing

Using http://typewith.me it is possible to type with others in a same document.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Podpress is a handy plugin that turns any WordPress installation into a great platform to host and distribute audio lecturecasts. It has an incredible array of features. With it, you can distribute your audio lecturecasts on your WordPress blog (complete with a fully featured and incredibly configurable media player). It can also generate the necessary RSS feed to list your audio lecturecasts on iTunes (and allow you to exert complete control over how they will look on iTunes). One of the other great added features is that Podpress allows you to visualise (via an array of cool graphs) download statistics of each lecturecast. All in all, Podpress is pretty much the only solution you'll ever need if you want to distribute audio lecturecasts (as long as you are doing so from a WordPress site, that is).

(taken from http://chronicle.com/blogPost/5-Lecturecasting-Tools-That-I/25722/)

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Further comments on new blackboard

It took me a while but now I understand the logic of this product.  So a virtue is that the look and feel of most courses will be similar/identicial varying only by what tools are enabled and what modules the instructor chooses to include on the homepage.  The visual editor appears robust.  When you turn it off you can do html and thus embed.  Here are some vices. 

a.        There seems to be some redundancy of tools.  What they call journals looks like blogs (except maybe private, though it can be made public).   
b.      There is no digest form of the email update for  discussion.  So you either get everything, pos by post, or you get nothing. 
c.       It really doesn’t want you to use external tools for communicating, though you can do it as a url. 
d.      While the instructor can create contacts (presumably for himself and the TAs) students don’t have an analogous capability.  So they don’t seem to be able to upload a picture of themselves or provide a bio sketch.  
e.      Instructors have to empower everything.  Students can’t do it themselves.  Say a class has students working in group.  The instructor has to create those groups and then enable tools for the groups.  The students can’t do that on their own. 

So still some typical LMS issues. 


Wednesday, January 6, 2010

getting results from test (quiz) in blackboard

You can get the results via export of a file, but it looks terrible and not useful.  The results from a survey seem to come in ok.  There are redundant columns, but that can be readily managed. 

respondus actually worked

It gave an error message but the quiz is there in the blackboard server.   I then made Norma a student in my class site and have been using here login in student mode.   I had her take the quizzes I made and write a discussion post, but I couldn’t figure out how to see the actual submissions for the quizzes.  I will try now with a survey.  Then I’m going to do something else, so as not to chew up the whole day with this.

editing questions

I made a question with multiple fill in the blanks using a table.  There was an error in the title.  I tried to change the title.  It didn’t seem to accept the change.  Also, one has to go through three screens to get this thing to work.  That isn’t good.  I wonder if this works ok with respondus.  Otherwise, trouble.