Open Source Whiteboard Software


Recently, I downloaded the Open-Sankore software.  I needed a piece of software to do some drawing and got way, way more than I expected. 

I think that I went well over the top when I read that the software was the same and worked the same on Macintosh, Windows, and Linux.  You don’t see that range of support often.

Upon installation on Linux, I immediately was curious as to support for my Wacom Bamboo tablet.  I wasn’t disappointed. Everything worked as you would expect.  No configuration or extra drivers to install.  It just worked. I wish that I had other equipment to try it on and test their claims of compatibility.

The software is so intuitive.  If you’ve ever used any other type of whiteboard software, you’ll pick this up immediately.

I was impressed trying the application on different computers.  It goes full screen and you wouldn’t know what computer platform you’re working on.  To me, that’s the sort of transparency that we can appreciate.

The tools and tool sets are really obvious.  Pick a tool, pick a colour, and go to it.  Speaking of tools, the toolbar can be moved to the top or bottom of the screen.  They recommend the bottom for whiteboards.

Projects can have multiple pages.  Add a place and title it in the left panel. 

The installation comes with a big collection of resources for creating your multi-media document.

Nothing is proprietary to the software.  If your computer can play it, Open-Sankore can play it.  So, include audio, movies, or graphic images with easy.  Can’t find it in their collection – facility is there to search for it on the internet.

Objects are dragged onto the workspace where resizing, rotating, etc. are all well defined in the frame around the object.

Selection of language was a bit inconsistent. 

The software has its roots based in the French language.  Even though I was able to change the language and restart in English, there were still a few elements that remained in French.  But, I’ll be honest.  The iconage and the display was so graphically intuitive, I didn’t really notice until I started to write this post and give it a thorough test.

I’ve worked with a number of whiteboard software in the past and so there was really no big learning curve digging into this one.  In any classroom, this will be a welcome addition.  It will be really welcomed to a classroom where students bring their own laptops and you’re looking for software like this for presentation, displays, and just plain creativity fun.

Q&A – Jeopardy Style


One of the favourite tools that was shared during my university class was a Flash based version of the popular game show, Jeopardy.  We talked about using it as a diagnostic tool or as a way to have students challenge their classmates during the research of a particular topic.  It certainly isn’t something that you base an entire course on, but it’s nice to shake things up a bit.  Paired with a SMARTBoard, it also helps students with their presentation skills.

These days, not all devices effectively use Flash anymore and so that opportunity is lost.  Plus, if you created a game at home, you had to remember to bring the questions to school in order to use it!  If there was an application that screamed for a web-based solution, this was it.

Enter Flipquiz.

Like so many things these days, there’s a free and a paid (pro) version. The free version has the features that you need to give it a fair shakedown.

Visit the site and try out the demo quiz that’s online.  Six categories with five questions in each category.

If you’ve watched early evening television in the last 50 years, the presentation is so familiar.

Choose a category and a value…

I’ll take NBA Teams for 400…

I’ll buzz in with the answer “Utah”.  A reveal shows the answer is true.

Selecting student responses can be done a number of ways – hands, call on a student, or I used to use those “That was easy” devices from Staples.

That’s about it! 

You’re not going to use it daily – it would lose its lustre – but add it to your arsenal.

This Never Gets Old


A couple of days ago, I was channel surfing looking for something interesting to watch on television to kill some time.  We had company on the way so it couldn’t be too time consuming.  I also had my laptop open to the left of me and had half an eye on new Twitter messages flying by. 

I noticed a few in a row from Brian Aspinall in my Ontario Educators stream.  (@mraspinall)

It looked like he was as bored as I was or was doing some research. 

He was retweeting messages about Scrawlar.  It’s one of his babies in the digital world – a combination of word processor / whiteboard built with collaboration and no data collection in mind.  A lot of people like the approach that he’s taken.  I reviewed the product here.

It was actually interesting to see where he was digging up the resources.  I stopped looking for something on the tube and watched him.  I thought I would help his cause and retweeted messages as he sent them.  It’s probably a futile effort because earlier that week we came to the agreement that we probably have the same community on the social network.  Oh well.

There was one that was of particular interest to me.

It was a short tutorial, written in blendspace.  This was a service that I’d never heard of before.  But, I retweeted the message knowing that would somehow, some day, reach my radar for a little more research.

 

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A couple of seconds later, my half-eye noticed that my Twitter message had been retweeted.  Brian?

This wasn’t a terribly unusual occurrence – this is how Twitter works, right?

Then, again and again and again.

I looked yet again and there was a retweeter that I’d never seen before.  So, I checked her bio.

She was from Italy.

I did a little mental math time conversion and realized that it was very early in the morning, her time.

Two things crossed my mind.

  • I wonder what wine region she lives in?
  • Is she camped out at Monza at Curva Parabolica waiting for the Grand Prix?

Am I bad because the two things that I think of when I think Italy are wine and Formula 1 racing?

In reality, she’s probably a hard working teacher preparing for a new class, looking for good resources and certainly Scrawlar fits that bill.

I thought Brian might get a kick out of the reach that his project has so sent him a private message to check the source.

We had a little back and forth about the humility of all this.  We’re just a couple of people doing some learning and sharing in the evening. 

The fact that someone half a world away wants to join in just blows you away.  As Brian noted, he’s just a guy sitting on a living room couch cranking out code on his laptop.  Yet, his work is being appreciated so far away.  But, when you think of the reality, it could be a first year teacher two blocks over looking for good resources.

There’s something about this shared learning that is so impressive.  For how many years have school boards tried to engage teachers with official memos sent from central office and failed?

Yet, the connected learner has that – and so much more.

For me, this moment never gets old.

Another #BIT14 Visualization


After Saturday’s post about Tweetbeam, I received a note from a former student of mine, @JeffClark who invited me to try his Twitter visualization program.

So I did!

Jeff’s done a bunch of visualizations at his Neoformix site.  He calls his Twitter search visualization Spot.

I fed it the hashtag #bit14 and sat back to watch.  I do enjoy a good visualization and I wasn’t disappointed here.

In fact, he visualizes the data a number of different ways.  Your visualization is selected by the icons on the top of the screen.

 

Banner View

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Timeline View

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User View

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Word View

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Source View

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Group View

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I’ve captured the above images real sized and let WordPress resize them for your browser.  Use your local browser to view the original image if you’re interested in seeing it.

Complete descriptions about the views are contained on the page Introducing Spot on the Neoformix site.

I’m glad that Jeff dropped by to remind me of his work.  Visit the Neoformix site if you’re interested in more details about this project or any of the others that have been created.

In the meantime, I hope that you enjoy another way to visualize the buzz leading to the #BIT14 conference.

Popcorn Tour of Essex County


I’ve heard many reasons why students aren’t allowed to create movies in class …

  • installing the video creation software takes up too much room on the image;
  • we don’t have licenses for all students;
  • movie making is reserved for this course;
  • our computers don’t have enough hard drive space;
  • we’ve got to constantly apply updates for bug fixes;
  • <fill in your own>

It results in frustration from the need to put together digital resources and to present them as a movie.

If that’s the case, or you want to get an easy to use, fully functional cloud based creation tool, you need to check out Mozilla’s Popcorn Maker.

It’s got most of the functionality that you need to create your content – layers, timeline, transitions, scrubber bar, preview in the environment, the ability to import created content from a wide variety of sources …

To kick the wheels, I decided to make a video promoting Essex County.  Well, sort of…

I figured the four cornerstones would be Windsor, Amherstburg, Leamington, and Belle River.  (Sorry, Stoney Point)

As I looked at the sources available (Popcorn calls them Events), a couple immediately caught my eye…  Google Maps and a Flickr search.

So, I created a separate layer for each municipality’s map using Google Maps.  Double clicking in the window presented lets you zoom in and move around to get things positioned just the way you want them to be.  Images are randomly generated from a search of Flickr for the community.  Of course, you can upload your own but I thought this was an interesting concept and it worked so quickly.

Once a layer has been created, objects can be moved or stretched on the timeline.  As you would expect, the layers themselves can be ordered after the fact.  I had complete freedom to mix and match.  I started with an idea and it kept evolving as I experimented.  There was nothing in Popcorm Maker to slow me down.

Of course, you need a title and a good kiosk program just runs a continuous loop.  Literally, within five minutes, I had created my first movie!

Creating and logging in with a Mozilla Persona unlocks additional features like bringing in YouTube movies for remixing or the ability to permanently save your efforts in the cloud.  This really did generate some wow at my keyboard.

After playing around with Popcorn Maker for a while, I could easily see how it addresses the issues above. 

If your students have a browser and internet access, that’s all that’s needed to start to create productions from their efforts.  This is the real deal.

Where Do I Start; Where Do I Go Next?


Do an internet search for “Programming Languages” and it can be so intimidating.

Even for someone who has been programming since Mr. Cook’s class in Grade 11.

Can you imagine how it must feel for someone who just fell off the turnip truck and decided that they wanted to learn to program?  We’ve got your front ends; your back ends; your desktops; your mobiles; your databases; …

Where do you start?  What if you have some skills and are looking for next step?

Bento tries to help out by putting together a pretty big collection of places to look.

I started looking at the recommendations and found myself nodding in agreement.

I liked the progression and the colour coding for front end, mobile, etc.

But as I scrolled down, I started to gulp.

It’s a big world out there!  I thought I had mastered this after learning Fortran and COBOL.

How wrong can you be?!

Python with Ease


For many, Python is the programming language of choice for use in the classroom.  Why?

There have been many ways to get at Python and make it successful.  As mentioned previously, and it will come up with any computer science teacher, there’s nothing like a silly missing semi-colon to drive the introductory programming student crazy.  In many cases, people will introduce Scratch or Alice as an introductory language since building with blocks overcomes this situation.  The programming concepts are great for those getting started.

But, not well enough to base an entire secondary school program around them.

After playing with trinket.io, I think this may be a good logical next step.  It’s designed to present a Python programming environment right in your browser.  There’s no need to put in a call to technicians for installation and updates to the latest version…you’ve got it all here.

To get a sense of the trinket environment, check out their “Hour of Python“.

Everyone is familiar with programming turtles in your language of choice.  Why not do it here?

The concept in the tutorial is not one of exhaustive typing; you’re presented with the contructs and can modify and run right your efforts from the webpage.  The examples are simple enough to introduce the Python essentials and lend themselves to a bit of exploration to see what you can do.

Give it a shot and see if it doesn’t present the type of environment that you want for your class?

If so, the next step is to put it into your class environment.  You’re covered there as well.