Monthly Archives: August 2008

Multiple email addresses in one

Almost all online tools and web applications not to mention blogs require you to register an account or at least give an email address before you can use them fully. This causes a problem when you want to use one of these services with pupils and they either don’t have their own email addresses or you don’t want them to use their own addresses for whatever reason.

Google Mail provides one option to work around this. If you don’t know anything about Google Mail, it is one of a number of web applications that are provided by Google and are free to use. Google Mail is an email account and webmail program (a bit like hotmail or yahoo mail). Google Mail has several advantages including a large amount of storage space (several gigabytes) and advanced search and filtering capabilities, making it easy to find messages. It is free and straightforward to sign up for a Google Mail account and you can sign up for as many different accounts as you want.

Google Mail is useful in overcoming the requirement for lots of email accounts because once you have signed up for an email address, for example mrtdolan@googlemail.com, you then get more than just the user name ‘mrtdolan’. You can add a ‘+’ to the username and then anything after it and it will be delivered to the same account. So email sent to mrtdolan@googlemail.com, mrtdolan+one@googlemail.com and mrtdolan+two@googlemail.com would all end up in the same place. Although Google Mail treats these as the same account, anywhere else they would be considered different addresses and so could be used separately to sign up for a service multiple times.

For example, say you were setting up a class blog and you wanted each student to have their own login so you could keep track of who wrote what. You could set up a new google account (e.g. mrtdolan08yr10@googlemail.com) and then use varations on that address to sign all your pupils up to the blog, e.g. mrtdolan08yr10+bob@googlemail.com, mrtdolan08yr10+jane@googlemail.com, etc.

Obviously there are always issues to consider when using online tools with students where they have to register for accounts, but by following careful procedures, only using first names, not requiring them to use their own email and having clear rules and guidelines it is possible to make the most of some of the great tools out there.

You can find out more about Google Mail and sign up for an account at mail.google.co.uk

Webcams for showcasing work

Many people have seen or used Webcams for video calling over the internet. Applications such as Skype have made seeing people the other side of the world and talking to them very accessible.

The Webcams that make this possible are simply digital cameras that are capable of recording video and taking still pictures and at a fraction of the cost of other digital cameras.

In the classroom there could be many uses of a webcam. One possible use would be to showcase a pupils work. Instead of trying to hold a piece of work up or describe what it looks like to the class, a webcam can be used to show a live picture of the work that can be projected so that even those at the back can clearly see what you are talking about.

Almost all webcams will come with some software that will allow you to show the image live (often called the preview) on the computer. If you want to you can also capture the picture as a snapshot or as a video that could be saved and shown to the class again later.

If you are buying a webcam try to get a High resolution model of at least 1.3 megapixels. The lower resolution cameras won’t be clear enough to show a good picture when projected on a large screen. I have a basic model and it does the job ok. One of the new 5 MP cameras especially with autofocus would be even better.

You can buy many webcams from Amazon.co.uk as well as computer shops and even larger supermarkets.

Interactive timelines – Mnemograph

I was excited when I first came across Mnemograph (I’m glad I am typing and not pronouncing that) and had a play with the demo. Mnemograph is a web based application that allows you to create visual and interactive timelines.

You add events and enter basic details like dates and locations and then more detailed information and links. The events are then organised into a timeline that you can zoom in and out of and explore. The main timeline view is nicely organised with more information available when you hover over or click on an event. You can create text labels for events or use pictures. It is possible to show two timelines simultaneously above and below the date line. The demo shows this well with a history of the Wright Brothers split into two timelines, one with text labels and the other with pictures.

Mnemograph is currently in beta (still being developed) and doesn’t have a complete feature set yet, but it is already a useful tool. The application is designed to allow easy collaboration on creating timelines and they can be shared easily too. The best way to get a feel for the application is to have a play with the demo and then sign up and try creating your own timeline on the Mnemograph website.

It’s worth looking at the instructions that explain more about the tool and how to use it. They also reveal the origin of the name Mnemograph.

As they say:

Why is it called Mnemograph?
Like many good technology companies, the origin of our name is Greek. Mnemosyne was the personification of memory in Greek mythology. She was the daughter of Gaia and Uranus and, after a nine night stand with Zeus, the mother of the Muses. To be honest, we aren’t terribly happy with the name. It doesn’t seem exactly main stream and is hard to type and pronounce. So, if you have any decent ideas, let us know!

Downloading YouTube videos

The growth of online video fueled by video sharing websites like YouTube has created a great resource of millions of videos ready and waiting to be tapped into to support our teaching and our pupils learning. Obviously there is a lot of rubbish that needs to be waded through, but there are some gems as well.

Because of the possibility of misuse of these sort of sites and the unsuitable nature of some of the videos, most of these sites are blocked by school networks. That means that it is impossible to show a video streamed directly from the site in the classroom and another approach is needed.

As long as there are no copyright issues, videos can be downloaded from YouTube (and other video sharing sites) using one of a number of free websites. These websites will take the address of the video (that you get from the YouTube page) and will download the video and allow you to save it on your computer for playing back later.

Some of the sites download it in the format (type of video) that YouTube uses, which has the file extension .flv . If you get a file like this you will need a special video playing software such as VLC media player or Wimpy desktop FLV player, both of which are free. Other websites will convert the file for you into a format that can be played on windows media player (e.g. .avi, .mpg or .wmv).

Here is a list of some of the websites that you can use to save videos from YouTube and other sites:

Sites that will download as .flv files

Sites that will download and convert videos into nice formats

I haven’t tested all of these sites, but have listed several to help you find one you like.

**UPDATE**

I have found another web site called Youconvertit.com that allows you to convert and download videos as well as convert files of all kinds into other formats.

Delicious.com – free your bookmarks

One of the best features of web browsers when they first became popular with start of the mass use of the Internet back in the 90s was the ability to save, or bookmark, favourite web sites. Making it easy to find them again. Bookmarks are still a major feature of all browsers and there have been various advances and additions that make them easier to use and more useful. The problem with the bookmarks in your browser, on your computer is that if you go to another computer or even use a different browser on your computer then you don’t have access to them.

Over the past few years services that solve this problem have sprung up on the Internet. They are websites where you can register and then bookmark web sites from any computer and access them from any computer. These services are called social bookmarking services. The name suggests one of their major features, the ability to share your bookmarks with other people (if you want to) and collaborate in building lists of useful web sites.

The biggest and probably best known of these sites is called Delicious.com (formally Del.icio.us). Continue reading