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Archive for the ‘Learning 2.1’ Category

Re: Sweet Music

47.) JamStudio–I have all the natural music talent of …ah …something that is not talented musically and isn’t good with similes, but I absolutely LOVED JamStudio. JamStudio is a website that allows you to create songs on-line using computer-generated chords and instruments. It’s billed as being for musicians, but I, a non-musician, was completely taken by it. It’s fun to string chords together to see what comes out and you can get something that sounds very professional just by goofing around. Creating an account at JamStudio is quick and easy to do and you’ll need to set one up if you want to save your songs. This site would be handy for teachers looking to introduction music and music theory to their class.

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46.) It’s been two years since Helene Blowers of the Public Library of Charlotte-Mecklenberg Counties put together a handy self-study guide to Web 2.0 applications for the librarians at her place of work. Since then, this tutorial has burned a path across the English-speaking library world like a comet. But like the real world, the virtual world never stands still which is why the current Learning 2.0 webmistress is updating the original lessons.

It was fun to revisit the first ten lessons although Zoho Notebook doesn’t want to scroll down more often than not. I made it a point to recheck my blog address in Technorati and I’m pleased to report that “If This Be Method” is now ranked 2,124,756th. Yes! My journey to world domination continues! 🙂 I’m also pleased to report that Technorati’s indexing is much more on the ball now. My blog entries are caught up to the present although some of the images are not.

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Once again, your intrepid heroine finds herself cruising dangerous waters of the Pierian spring …..

42.) Google Groups and Usenet–a blast from the past, but I prefer listservs.

43.) Midi files–not really useful unless you are a musician.

44.) Jott.com–Interesting. I can see this service being useful to people who are on the road a lot, have a long commute, or are doing other things that takes them away from their office and the handy communication devices therein. For a look at how one Middle Eastern dancer uses Jott, check out this article by Woodrow Hill who dances under the stage name Asim.

45.) Flowcharts & Mindmaps–First, let’s get our terminology right. A “mindmap” is actually a “brainstorm” and the process of generating ideas by writing them down and then connecting related ones together with arrows is called “brainstorming”. I learned how to this in college English class with the most widely available tech tools there are–paper and pen. Brainstorming is a handy way to organize ideas for papers and presentations and to break through those mental blocks that always seem to accompany writing same. Why programmers had to change the name just because they invented a way to let you create one on your computer, I don’t know.

If you’ve done time in a bureaucracy of any sort, you know all about flowcharts and you may have even had to create some. If you aren’t into going on-line just to do a flowchart, you can go into Microsoft PowerPoint, create an equally cool looking chart there with boxes and arrows, and then print off just that slide.

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In which our journey of enlightment continues.

#37.) Pandora and LastFM–I can see where these two services would be of interest to acquisitions librarians or people doing listeners’ advisory. Basically, both websites allow you to type in the names of groups or musicians and then the site pulls up music that is similar in style. Pandora only allows you to have a quick taste, however, before it wants you to register so I tend to favor LastFM. When it comes to finding new music for my personal collection, however, I recommend CDBaby.

CDBaby is a commercial site that caters to independent musicians. I found it an especially good source for ethnic or Middle Eastern dance music which tends to be very specialized.

#38.) Comic Relief–I got a big kick out of Shelf Check (available at ToonDo). It’s great to see how artists, using a limited palette of tools, are able to create different and amusing comic strips.

#39.) Animoto–Animoto looked really cool and professional and I was eager to try it out–right up until I opened the registration screen. Be forewarned–Animoto wants A LOT of information for the purposes of selling you stuff before it will let you register. You don’t even get to take a trial version out for a spin. I didn’t sign up and I don’t encourage other potential users to do so either. Applications want to be free, man.

#40.) Retroland–Okay, I LOVED Retroland. It’s a site dedicated to pop culture from the past couple of decades, great for stuff you vaguely recollect as a kid. I did a search on space food sticks, tasty bits of junk food “just like the astronauts eat”, and came up with this result. Completely devoid of nutritional value, but darn tasty. Neat, huh? Alright, maybe you had to be there. A warning: this cyber trip down memory lane is very addictive.

#41.) Live Mocha–There are a number of language learning sites out there. Live Mocha goes them one better by offering on-line writing and speaking help from native language tutors. No Arabic, unfortunately. In order to take advantage of its interactive elements, however, you need to have digital audio software and recording technology and the know-how to use them.

An alternative might be the BBC Language Center. There’s a big chunk set up for non-native speakers to learn English (ESL teachers, be advised), but there’s also a handy Berlitz phrase-book-style of audio and video for people looking to learn Spanish, German, French, Greek, Portugese, and Chinese. It’s not meant to substitute for actual one-on-one instruction, but to serve as a complement to same. Check it out and see how well you can follow along.

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#36.) On-line photo editing software–The beauty of photo editing software is that it can turn a so-so photo into a work of art. I was really happy with Piknik which I found very intuitive and easy to use. Below is an example of one of my photos that I was able to alter in Piknik.

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This is the original photo taken at the Oakland Farmers Market in Oakland, CA in October of this year.
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And this is the edited version of same. I cropped the photo, heightened the colors, blurred the focus, put a border on it, and saved the edited version to my hard drive–all done using only the freeware version of Piknik. You can pay a fee to get more options, but, for an amateur like me, I had all the elements I needed. Another nice feature: you don’t need to create an account to use the software. This baby is sweet, I’m tellin’ you.

There are other on-line photo editing services out there, but I think Piknik is the best. Try it, you’ll like it.

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What we’ve got here is a failure to communicate.
–Captain, Road Prison 36, “Cool Hand Luke”

#35.) Twitter and Jaiku–Maybe I’m revealing my age, but I just don’t get the point of text messaging. I’ve checked out the websites, taken a look at the sample feeds, even read Jaiku founder Jyri Engstrom’s talk on cell phones and social peripheral vision and I still can’t figure out why anyone would text message or mini-blog when they could simply send an e-mail or make an actual phone call from an actual phone.

Both cellphones and text messaging are predicated on the same assumption: that people not only can, but SHOULD be in contact all the time which is a bafflement to me. Back in the Really Olde Days, what you wanted to be more than anything else is out of touch, especially from annoying people like bosses and parents who would make you work and curb your fun. And back then, when you were ditching your responsibilities, you had a legitimate excuse: you had no way to communicate with them.

Phones of yore were boxes that were attached to walls and booths. You had to pay to play and phones, while located in a lot of public places, weren’t everywhere. You did not pack them with you and they did not do things like remember the last phone number you called. You had to do that yourself, by writing down phone numbers on your hand or on small slips of paper. Not only could you get better reception on a land-line phone, but if you chose not to call, you could always claim that you had lost the number.

What about e-mail, the Internet, the web, computer cafes? Not even a remote possibility. Anyone who had a home computer back then was using it to whack a virtual Ping-Pong ball back and forth.

I love to blog and I go into severe withdrawal if deprived of my e-mail, but I don’t have a compulsion to send messages every second, especially about the sort of trivial things that people usually text to each other e.g. “I’m stuck in traffic”, “I’m in the ketchup aisle at the grocery store”, etc. In the old days, you went to the store, forgot your shopping list, couldn’t contact homebase for instructions, brought back the wrong kind of tuna, and, as a result, weren’t asked to do the shopping again, thus allowing you to legitimately avoid another dreary chore.

Do a little experiment and put aside your cell and your Blackberry for a day. Yes, deliberately put yourself out of communication range for a single day. Know what that strange yet exhilarating sensation is that you’re now experiencing? It’s called freedom, my friends, freedom. And it’s very sweet.

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In this exciting episode, our valiant heroine learns about on-line fitness tools.

#34.) FitDay and Nutridiary are on-line versions of the food/exercise journals experts often recommend you keep if you are trying to lose weight and/or up your exercise level. Some people can make these work for them. I, on the other hand, keep them faithfully for a short time and then become bored and ditch the whole thing. I also question the fitness applications of sites that essentially require us to plant ourselves in front of a computer. If we’re sitting still looking at a screen, aren’t we, in fact, being less active?

An on-line fitness activity that doesn’t get mentioned is the walking challenge. By counting miles or steps, you are able to track your progress along a map. Depending on the program, you may or may not have a deadline to complete your trek by. Following your progress through a real or imaginary landscape keeps you motivated.

Here are a couple that I’ve run across:

Get Fit on Route 66 requires you to register, but is free. You track your progress down–you guessed it–the historic Route 66 highway. For every minute that you exercise, your virtual car moves one mile down the road. A nice feature of this program are the links that take you to websites or photo features on the towns that you pass through. Downside: the database you enter your miles in can be glitchy. The site is run by AARP, but you don’t need to be a member to participate.

Walk the Last Great Race–without ever leaving home–when you roll with Boy Scout Troop 298 and the other walkers following the route of the Iditarod this spring. Idita-Walk requires you to pay a small fee ($10.00) in order to register. The proceeds go to the Nome Boy Scouts and you receive a logo pin if you finish. This is a walking challenge with a set time limit (between Feb. 3-March 18, 2007) and a goal of 1049 minutes. You need to do a minimum of 30 minutes of walking for 35 days. A nice feature of this site is that you can print off and mail in your entry fee as well as your finished log sheet instead of doing it on-line. There is also an Idita-Splash swimming challenge (a fundraiser for the Nome Swim Team) with a higher registration fee and earlier deadline.

My personal favorite, however, is the Eowyn Challenge, a Lord of Rings-based walking program where you can follow in the footsteps of the Fellowship across Middle Earth. It’s completely free and there’s no need to register unless you want to. The site itself is four years old now, but is still useful. A nice feature of this program is the “Milestones for Your Journey” on the Tools page. You can print out a listing of what events in the story are happening at the various milepoints along your route. You can also keep track of the number of miles you’ve logged on the “Milestones Celebration Page”. You do need to register in order to access the Milestones database. There are also fun features like Middle Earth postcards you can send to other people when you make your destination.

Words to the wise: 1) you will develop a LOT of respect for the endurance of the Fellowship once you start laying down the footleather and 2) expect the Lothlorien to the Falls of Rauros leg of the trip to take forever. I swear that River Anduin just keeps on going. And going. And going. You’ll be beggin’ for orcs to attack to break up the monotony.


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