Follow Ontario Edu-Bloggers, Part II

Last #FollowFriday, I used Montage to put together a visual representation of Ontario Edu-Bloggers based upon their RSS feeds.  I like the effect and suggested that it might be an interesting starting page should you want to see what the folks throughout the province were blogging.  The content of the entry was based upon the results from Rodd Lucier who had originally posted the list on his blog.

For the past week, I was musing about other ways to display collections like that.  One resource that I’ve always wanted to create something of substance is LiveBinders.  So, in tribute to the Ontario educators who blog, here’s another way to bring these resources together.  Starting with Rodd’s list, I kept an eye on my Seesmic Desktop column of Ontario Educators and when I found a new Twitter message, checked the profile to see if there was a blog attached.  If there was, I added it to the LiveBinder that I’d created.  Now, I can copy and paste with the best of them but the folks at LiveBinders have created a little Bookmarklet that makes things so easy.  Just find a page and click – tell LiveBinders where to store it in the popup window and move on.  It was an incredibly quick way to pull them all together.

I maintained the original categorization that Rodd started, just taking a little liberties in order to get the titles to fit in the tabs and the result is an interesting way to categorize and display all of the blogs from a single page.  LiveBinders doesn’t spawn a new window with each link – it displays the results in a frame in the same window.  I found this very handy as I browsed around to make sure that I didn’t mess up when putting things together.

So, there you have it … a nice tribute to Ontario Bloggers for this #FollowFriday.  You can check it out live at this link.

Obviously, I created it for this blog entry.  But, I keep thinking of the best way to manage a class of bloggers and think that this might be another easy way to keep tabs on each of them with minimal navigation

Web for All

I had this topic on my queue of things to blog about and must admit that it had kind of faded from memory until I read this tweet from Ira Socol yesterday.

When you visit the links PC, Macintosh, you’re directed to the Collections page of add-ons for the Firefox web browser.  The goal of Mr. Socol’s collections is pretty evident in the descriptor "Make your browser accessible to virtually all students with this collection."

So, what’s the big deal?  A browser is a browser, right?  Well, not quite so.  In fact, if you follow Mr. Socol, you know that he is a champion for digital inclusion using technologies and techniques to help level the playing field for all students. 

Recently, I wrote a post asking if *I* could live in a browser.  As I think about it in the context of the above, a better question might have been "Could *everyone" live in a browser".  For some, the answer is no, if you’re using a bare bones browser.  But, with a little assistance, it becomes feasible.  Through the use of carefully selected Firefox add-ons, the "browser" can be reinvented to include more users.  I recall when I was using Firefox 3.# downloading and installing the MITS collection.  To my surprise, the collection of add-ons was very helpful and I found myself using many of them to enhance my own browsing experience.

In the best spirit of "Necessary for some, good for all", educators really should take a look at this collection.  In addition to the original audience, the package represents a very good collection offering in-browser utility and productivity for all students.

It may cause some chagrin for some that opt for a single browser so that it can be locked down and controlled centrally.  But, let’s not forget that the clientelle in education should have access to the best tools that are available.  There may come a time when these add-ons are available for all browsers but at this point, it’s only Firefox that does the job.  Educators need to evaluate these resources and, if they fit the bill, need to advocate to make them available for all students.

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links for 2010-12-30

A Great Confluence

I’ve had FourSquare on my portable device for a while.  I wouldn’t say that I’m a power user by any extent and mostly use it to check in to restaurants after the food is ordered and we’re waiting delivery.  I’m also a mayor of three locations.  Two involve park benches and seagulls and the other a Tim Horton’s.  I wouldn’t exactly say that I’m changing the world with my check-in habits.  But, I do like the potential of discounts from vendors if I give them a little notice when I check in to their stores.  I just have to find such a place…

One of the recent upgrades to the service was announced just before Christmas included the ability to post pictures and comments as you check in.  What a great concept – now when you’re checking, you can also document it.  That certainly makes things more interesting.  I remember thinking at the time that it might inspire me to use FourSquare more often if I could find an interesting angle other than the exhaust pipe of the car in front of me.  At least, my current use amuses Ron_Mill.

But, when you think about it, it does diversify any photos that you might want to share.  So, you’d have FourSquare pictures documenting where you’ve been and another service like Flickr where you share and document your life.  Wouldn’t it be nice if there was a meld between the two?  There is now.

The service FlickSquare fills that gap.  It seems like a natural evolution.  Post your FourSquare pictures and they’re posted to your Flickr account at the same time.

The concept makes both services immediately more valuable and it’s not hard to see that this functionality is a natural match.  The most immediate use that springs to mind is staying in touch with folks as you holiday.  (Of course, you have a housesitter…)  But, for the vendor that will give discounts or recognition for folks that check in, they get more advertising for free immediately.  For you, there’s no more finding time when you’re home to locate and upload the pictures after the fact.  In education, imagine parents staying in touch as you document a field trip on the fly.

Right from the start, this is such a great idea.  Perhaps it will be the inspiration that FourSquare needs to build right into their application or to acquire this startup.  The natural extension would, of course, be to extend posting options to any of the other photo sharing services so that you can update any of them as well.

links for 2010-12-29

Grabbing Identity

Last night was a banner night if you’re a Minnesota Vikings fan.  They pulled it together and beat the Philadelphia Eagles 24-14.  But, that’s just an aside to my post this morning.

The football game was broadcast by the NBC who has the rights to all the Sunday night games in the United States.  In Canada, while we get the NBC feed from Boston on our Expressvu, media laws indicate that if a Canadian station owns the rights to the show, the Canadian version is shown instead.  Even though I can switch to the NBC channel, I get the feed from TSN which owns the Canadian broadcasting rights.

That’s not a problem.  There are two things that you notice this way.  First of all, the commercials are Canadian and, secondly, the network promotions are for the TSN channel.  It is here that you can see that they “get it”.  While TSN has a website, they also have a Facebook presence and the celebrities that bring the sports news have Twitter accounts.

And why would that be?  It seems to me it’s for two reasons.  First of all, more and more people are turning to Facebook as a place to combine their news and information sources.  Secondly, if you look at the red box, there is a message to “Get the Conversation Started”.  By reaching out and supporting their sector, they bring added value to their brand at what they do best … providing sports news and entertainment.

They’re not the only ones.  Major news sources get it as well.  Sure, they have their main websites, but they also have active presences on Facebook.

The advantage?  Friends, Likes, Discussion Forums, and just drive by viewers of their content all take advantage of this.  At the time of this posting, over 200K people have taken the time to “like” the TSN page.  How many more, including me, just go for the stories and discussions?

With all of the money and the importance of education, what is its response?  Well, education is still debating the value of social media and wondering why the disconnect with its constituents.  In a world where we talk about engagement and the importance of presence, why isn’t everyone exploiting this forum?  Not only does it reach out to the community and offers another publishing space, it does it for free.  It’s just a matter of deciding to play there.

It was this issue that was part of the rationale of inviting the Waterloo Region DSB to present at the RCAC Symposium in December.  They’ve decided to take the plunge and invest time and PD efforts into embracing social media and Facebook as a way of making the connections to their community.

I can understand debating the issues and deciding where to deploy limited resources.  However, there are certain technologies that have proven themselves and will be here for the long run.  The problem is that you only have one chance to grab your brand while it’s still free.  Even in the beginning, if all that you do is configure it so that you have a presence and re-direct to your traditional source, you’re in the game.  Monitor its use and see what the response it.  If you don’t grab your identity now, who will grab it instead of you?

How many times do you hear “Visit us on Facebook” elsewhere?  Isn’t it time your organization could say the same?

links for 2010-12-28