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I don’t think I have used my desk phone as often as I have used it in the last couple of days. And it’s all because of the eruption of the volcano in Iceland which has suspended flights coming in and out of the UK.

This week, there are two important events happening which I am involved in: a symposium on the impact of emerging technology on teaching and learning, and curriculum development; and, a curriculum meeting on ICT with teachers.

The two symposium speakers are flying in from the US and Hong Kong. My 6 meeting participants are flying in from Ireland, Switzerland (x2), Thailand, China, and the US. Yesterday, we decided to just cancel the ICT meeting to avoid the risk of meeting participants being stranded here for days. Re-scheduling the meeting will be a pain but I think it is a sound decision given the volatile travel situation.

The lovely Kathy has recommended Doodle to arrange our next meeting. Great idea!

The symposium will still happen albeit with 30 less face-to-face participants and that the speakers are delivering their keynote address remotely. The quest for solutions started on Monday. I have pulled in wonderful techie colleagues from work (shout out to: Paul H, James, the other James, Craig, and Darren) for advice. And they have given me more solutions that I have not heard of – what a network at work!

We wanted to make sure that the transition from one speaker to the next (from one country to another) is seamless and that they are clearly visible by the 80+ participants in the symposium site. That sound is clear and that we can access their presentation slides without a problem is ideal, too. Desirable: to allow those who are not able to attend the symposium due to travel issues to ‘tune in’.

I’m a big fan of Elluminate and it was the first solution that I thought of but reviews of the tool tells me that the video functionality is not great. Great for voice webinar but not so great with video.

One of our speakers suggested VIA – another tool I have not heard or used before. The interface does not looks as ‘slick’ as DimDim but the functionalities are similar to webinar spaces I’ve seen.

VIA screenshot

VIA screenshot

We’re very happy to have a solution that the speakers feel confident about and we are happy to support them at our end. The great thing about this is that we can invite a limited number of people to participate virtually! The webinar will be hosted and supported by the Univeristy of Laval in Canada. We’re doing a trial run tomorrow and fingers crossed it will work and we’re all set for Thursday!

Magimix CitiZ

Magimix CitiZ

On other gadgety news, my Magimix CitiZ arrived today! I made a decaf espresso. It was ok. Not mind-blowing or memorable. But boy, it looks great on my kitchen top!

I am hoping the non-decaf coffee which I’ll have tomorrow is good or I’ll be really, really, really cranky.

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On my RSS feed the other day, I read that there’s a new tag cloud generator called Tagxed. I’ve never heard of it! In fact if you ask me to create a tag cloud of say Tiger Wood’s apology speech, I’ll say someone has done it already. But if you insist in having another one, I’ll go to Wordle to create the tag cloud.

Really Wordle is the only tag cloud generator I know until I read about Tagxed. So I shared it on facebook (as you do) which lead to an introduction to another tag cloud generator.

tag cloud sharing on facebook

tag cloud sharing on facebook

A google search gives me this list of other tag cloud generators. Have you tried any of them? Do you have a preference?

Here’s a look at the few mentioned above:

Wordle – already mentioned above. It’s the only I’ve used more than once. You have options of nearly 30 languages and fonts, various layouts, and different colour palettes. My preference is to randomize. However, if you want to take a copy of the image, you’ll have to do a screen grab. You can also send it to the gallery where you’ll get a URL address for your tag cloud. You can see a tag cloud of a recent blog post from Dan North (of Spectacular Attractions film blog) here. Note that by default, numbers and common words in the chosen language are removed. For Dan’s blog content, I allowed Wordle to use numbers. Otherwise, I would not get that big 3D in the tag cloud.

NB: I will be using the same content for other tag clouds shown below.

Tagxedo, released a few days ago, boasts of better algorithm than Wordle. According to the Washington Post, even Wordle creator (Jonathan Feinberg) regards it as next gen Worlde. A Wordle 2.0? In Tagxedo, I like that you can save the image on different resolutions from thumbnail (100×100) up to a 16mp image both on jpg and png formats. I prefer to have the list of options to be the other way around with changing shape first then colours last. There are many themes to choose from and about 35 fonts plus you can add more fonts if you wish. You can click on words on the tag cloud and change their directions. There are different shape options for your tag cloud (like a star here) and you can even use your own photo (tried this several times but it didn’t come out right) or make the tag clouds appear in a shape of a word. Pretty cool for something on beta.

Tagxedo sample

Tagxedo sample

Tagul (not my favourite name for a tag cloud generator) is the creation of a guy from Russia called Alex who was inspired by Wordle to create something more functional. Each tag in the cloud are click-able and will lead to a google search of the word. I put in my sample text and when I fetched the tags, I was told that the max tag limit is 300 (see screenshot) so only the first 300 popular tags are going to be used. You can get an image by doing a screenshot but that really defeats the purpose intended by Alex in his design. At the moment you can create 20 free tag clouds. As he said on his blog, “Tagul is a startup and I am going to make a profit on this venture some day”. Good luck to him.

Let’s see if the embedding code for the tag cloud works here on WP. On the preview version, the largest word on the heart-shaped tag cloud is “that” which is probably the most important word in Dan’s blog. Heh.

<object width=”100″ height=”100″ type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” data=”http://cdn.tagul.com/cloud.swf”&gt;
<param name=”movie” value=”http://cdn.tagul.com/cloud.swf”></param&gt;
<param name=”flashvars” value=”id=8684@2″>
<param name=”allowscriptaccess” value=”always”></param>
<param name=”swfversion” value=”10″/>
<param name=”expressinstall” value=”http://cdn.tagul.com/expressInstall.swf”/&gt;
<embed src=”http://cdn.tagul.com/cloud.swf&#8221; type=”application/x-shockwave-flash” allowscriptaccess=”always” width=”100″ height=”100″ flashvars=”id=8684@2″></embed>
</object>

(Ok, embed code does not work on WordPress but I think it might be a WP fault.)

Honestly, I find it a bit complicated. I’m not sure how I can make it ignore common English words without manually putting in words like “that”, “in, and “and”. I wonder if you can use Google Custom Search to define the search parameters so it’s not calling on the entire interweb for a word in the tag cloud like “avatar”. If Alex wants to make money out of this, a defined search parameter might be the key to the success of his innovation. It will be useful for businesses who might want to use a bit of flash and tag clouds on their homepage which clients can click to take them to product areas (and not to all of the web and other competitors!). Some of the comments to his blog post are from teachers – which shows that teachers are first in there when a new tech tools come out 😉 Tagul will look really “flashy” on an interactive whiteboard and great for looking up words. But again, for me, it’s about being able to define search parameters. If it’s for vocabulary building or information, it would be useful if the tags link to an online dictionary or to wikipedia. However, as an educator, I’m not big on paying for things when a free alternative is available.

Alexandra Pickett commented on Alex’s blog:

please consider allowing a free educator account version o this software.
here are just a few links that i pulled together quickly but there are many more and lots of educators at all levels using the tool.

http://www.educationworld.com/a_tech/columnists/dyck/dyck030.shtml
http://www.techedknow.com/?p=56
http://blog.ecollege.com/WordPress/?p=115
http://mpondu.blogspot.com/2009/12/educational-uses-of-wordle.html
http://livebinders.com/play/play_or_edit/3017

I’ll explore the other tag cloud generators in the next blog posts.

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I love our Second Life sessions on Tuesdays because we get to tour different lands. As mentioned in previous blog posts, I am lucky enough to be included in a free workshop on building in Second Life. I am becoming a big fan of the platform and I just want to do more things in it!

One of the places we visited is the Genome Island (SLURL: http://slurl.com/secondlife/Genome/118/145/53). It’s an interactive science lab with many objects you can touch and areas you can explore. We didn’t stay long there but I would love to go back. Read more about the Genome Island from Educause here.

kloza xootfly on a horsey

kloza xootfly on a horsey

We spent a longer time in the island of Mexico which I believe was designed by the Mexico tourism board. It was good fun to ride the horse and visit the churches. I didn’t take a lot of pictures (or maybe I did but I can’t find them!) but the photos were also posted by Robin here at Koin-up.

I did a cheeky thing and used the “fly” option while on the horse! Good fun and my horsey managed it well 🙂

More about our tour from Robin in her blog post.

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Are we on the right spot?

Are we on the right spot?

I was so excited to go to the second SL session organised by Liz Dorland (SL= Chimera Cosmos) and Robin Heyden (Spiral Theas). After the first session, it became clear to me how powerful this platform is for network and establishing a learning community. I can’t stop talking about it at work!

I was also excited to show off my new clothes which I got for free at the SL xtreet marketplace. You can get your own FREE emerald corset gown here.

SL building session on skybox

SL building session on skybox

Session 2 was a building exercise. This was the first time, I’ve built anything on SL! I’m not sure what a made exactly but it’s a spherical thing. Some of the building options are quite easy to figure out like position, rotate, stretch. If you want to be more precise about your building, you can input numbers on the xyz grid.

Participants who were present during the first session are noticeably more able to follow instructions as we have learned to control our avatars and not bump into things. But the newbies get a lot of support from Chimera and Spiral so that they are able to catch up on the lesson. Spiral and Chimera took turns “holding” the mic so to speak. While one is on audio, the other supports the local chat to help out with technical issues. It works really well and I felt very supported! It is a good strategy.

After the intro to building, we started editing our profile but didn’t really finish as we were hit by a tornado! We were thrown out to a seemingly bottomless chasm. We were so disoriented after and didn’t know where we were when we landed. It was so exciting!!

"Oooh"

"Oooh"

Tornado

Tornado

"I just killed our students!!!!"

"I just killed our students!!!!" (Chimera Cosmos)

"Where did everyone go?"

"Where did everyone go?"

Robin (Spiral) wrote about their sessions here.

Look forward to next session!

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Do you have SecondLife? Do you use it? Or like me, did you get yourself an avatar then forgot about it? I can’t remember my first avatar. It was years ago. I remember being frustrated because I couldn’t get past the fiddly stuff of creating my avatar so I can go to the good bits which is finding out, first-hand, what it can do for me as an educator.

So the forgotten avatar probably created using a now defunct email is gone forever (or is it really? Do avatars die after not being used for years? If not, where do they go?). Late last year, I found a good reason to create a new account and patiently spent time to make sure my avatar is kitted out, ready to face the virtual world!

My Avatar

kloza Xootfly: my avatar wearing a new outfit

Now to the good bits! My avatar attended the SL concurrent sessions as part of the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative (ELI) annual meeting. What a fantastic experience! Ok, it took me awhile to figure out:

  • how to sit,
  • how to move without running into people and objects,
  • that the closer my avatar is to the “speaker” the better I can hear them (like a shy student, I sat at the back of the amphitheatre), and,
  • that I was wearing hideous clothes.

Thanks to the lovely Robin who gave me better clothes and some tips on how to use SL. It was also Robin who invited me to take part in a workshop on building in SL which started this week and will carry on for 3 more weeks.

Vodpod videos no longer available.
more about “kloza on SL“, posted with vodpod

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online workshop platformIB has been offering online professional development workshop for a few years now but it is only since last year when Primary Years Programme (PYP) has launched it’s first online workshop on assessment. I was a participant in the first run of the workshop and then, subsequently, observed the other iterations.

I found the first workshop quite daunting- there were too many tools available to click and I am not really sure where to go to find the understandings the workshop intends to develop. However, there was a really active group of participants who took the time (and it does take a lot of time!) to join the forum and participate in knowledge construction and sharing.

After a round of feedback, the moodle platform was tidied up and online workshop mentors became more savvy about supporting participants in scaffolding the use of the tools.

I am currently co-mentoring an induction to the PYP workshop for teachers who have recently joined a school implementing the programme. This is the second online workshop offering for the PYP. Paul, the other mentor, is very good in providing me guidance and we have developed a system using google docs to monitor the participants’ participation.

The second module finishes this Sunday and a new module starts on Monday. There are participants who join the forum at the beginning of the week, and some, towards the end of the week. As a mentor, managing time is crucial so that timely feedback and encouragement is given to those who have posted a response to the prompt at the start of the module.

Have you participated in an online workshop before?

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Stanford engineering offers free engineering online courses. “View lecture videos, access reading lists and other course handouts, take quizzes and tests, and communicate with other SEE students, all at your convenience.”

Apparently it suits novice to experienced programmers. I did some programming when I was much, much younger and I tried to pick it up again 10 years ago. So maybe I can be classed as a novice. I think I will give this onlin course a go.

I will add that to my assessment online workshop, Spanish class at the Uni, learning how to use Aperture, keeping up to date with my social networking sites and researching for work.

Who needs a social life? I just need the internet.

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