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Happy New Year 2010


Happy New Year to all my readers! May this be a happy, healthy, peaceful and prosperous year ahead for you and your families! See you in 2010! Brian

iPevo Point 2 View Camera

As many of you know by now I carry quite of bit of technology with me when I am doing presentations and workshops. I always carry with me my laptop, data projector, PaperShow, and speakers. The only other piece of equipment that I wanted to add to my toolkit was a document camera, but I had not found just the right one for me. Then a couple of weeks ago I was introduced to the iPevo Point 2 View Camera at the New Jersey Computer Cooperative (NJECC) by Dave Marra from Apple Computer. Dave was using the iPevo Point 2 View Camera to demonstrate some apps on his iPhone. I was totally blown away by the quality of the picture that I saw and by the size and flexibility of the camera and knew that I had to get my hands on one to review for you. I would like to thank Pauline from the iPevo Company for providing me with this review unit.

So if you are looking for a lightweight document camera that can be used with both Mac and Windows then I urge you to take a look at the iPevo Point 2 View Camera. The iPevo Point 2 View Camera is a 2.0 Mega pixel camera with auto focus which attaches via your USB Port. In order to start using the iPevo Point 2 View Camera camera I downloaded the latest iPevo P2V software application from their website simply plugged in the camera. It was just that easy to get started. The iPevo Point 2 View Camera does come with an installation CD and a User Manual on the supplied CD- but just in case I wanted to download the latest software from their website.

In the box is a QuickStart Guide which will have you up and running in no time. The iPevo P2V software is easy to use and allows you to adjust the Exposure, Resolution, Zoom in, Zoom Out, Mirror, as well as Timer function. The iPevo P2V camera has an Auto Focus feature which makes it an ideal tool to be used as a document camera. Place a book or any object under the camera and within seconds your picture comes into focus. The iPevo is an ideal tool for taking a look at objects at a very close distance with great sharpness. It is amazing to see the object or page you have placed under the camera lens come up on your computer with such clarity. The iPevo Point 2 View Camera comes with handy weighted stand that can be used to affix your camera and makes it an ideal portable document camera. The camera can also be taken off the base and used as a handheld camera for taking close up snapshots of items. Likewise, you are also supplied with a handy clip to allow you to use the iPevo P2V camera as a webcam that can be affixed to a monitor or a laptop. Once you have placed an object under the camera it is very easy to take a snapshot of the item by pressing the Enter key or by Pressing the Green camera button on the camera itself. The images are automatically stored in your pictures directory and can be reviewed from within the iPevo P2V software.

For anyone who is doing instruction of an electronic device (ie. iPhone, IPod Touch, Blackberry phone) or needs a portable document camera, I urge you to take a look at the iPevo Point 2 View Camera from iPevo. I truly was amazed at the quality of the picture and just how light it is to carry around. I know that this is one gadget that I will carry around in my bag when I do presentations and workshops. If you are a presentor or teacher you are going to really enjoy uisng the iPevo P2V camera and at a selling price of $69 dollars I predict they will fly off of the shelves. For more information about the iPevo P2V Camera click here.

Technology Predictions for 2010


I guess this is the time of the season to look into the crystal ball and make predictions about the year ahead. Certainly 2009 has been an exciting year for all types of technology and in 2010, I predict we will begin to see even more rapid developments. One of the really exciting development has been in the area of mobile handsets.

With more people connected to the web via their smartphones we need to take a look at this factor and plan accordingly. With Apple raising the bar with the iPhone we have seen a flurry of development and new smartphones are being released on a weekly basis. This year we saw the release of the BlackBerry Storm 2 as well as the Motorola Droid featuring the Android operating system from Google. This has certainly been a hotbed of development and the apps for these mobile devices continues at a furious pace. Next year we will continue to see huge developments in the mobile handset market which will play out well for us in education. The real tipping point for this technology will be the ability to run Flash applications on these handsets. From what I have been reading Adobe is working hard with Research in Motion (BlackBerry) and Google to build Flash into their development tools. Once Flash becomes standard on these devices you will see incredible applications that can deliver on the promise of these devices for learning. In many cases the students we work with are carrying very powerful computing devices which could be used as an educational tool to advance their learning. So next year look for smartphones to play a larger role in the area of classroom and mobile learning. I am already beginning to see a number of companies that are developing accessories or companion products to work with smartphones which could really propel this whole arena. So next year might just be the year of mLearning- that is mobile learning opportunities from anywhere on your smartphones.

As much all of us are used to starting up our applications from our hard drives - we will continue to see a shift to the cloud at even a faster pace of adoption. I recently had a conversation with my nephew who is in his early twenty's who had just purchased a new Windows laptop. I asked him if he had purchased a copy of Microsoft Office to install and he looked at me and said "there is no reason to, I am now using GoogleDocs for all of my work." So yes there is a huge shift happening and as we move forward we will begin to see more and more students and educators adopt the cloud to do all of their work. I suspect that as I speak to educators, that many schools will jump on board in 2010 and will sign up for Google Apps for Education. In doing so, both teachers and students will recognize the quantum leap in collaboration and learning that just wasn't possible with standalone applications. So look for 2010 to bring about huge shifts in collaboration and moving to the cloud for our personal computing.

We have also just begun to witness the movement from the printed book to the digital book and 2010 is going to be a banner year for ebooks as it explodes into the market. If it is any indication, Amazon reported that their sales from downloaded books to the Kindle outpaced that for printed books for the 2009 Holidays! With this in mind we will see a number of new players in this market with their own spin on the feature set. During the 2009 holiday season we saw the release of the Nook from Barnes & Noble which was an instant success. We also have Sony in the market touting not one but three different Sony Readers. Competition is good, and I suspect we will see a host of other companies making announcements about their branded eReaders at the Consumer Electronic Show come this January in Las Vegas. In any case- it is clear that ebooks will evolve over time and will play a much bigger role in schools. As we saw in the Kindle 2- having access to text to speech built-in can make a world of difference for students who need accessible curriculum material. Having consumer products that are designed with assistive technology from the beginning helps to keep the costs down and make it a universally designed product from the get go.

I hope you have a wonderful and Happy New Year! I would appreciate hearing about your predictions for 2010- so feel free to add your comments.

Happy Holidays!


Wishing all my readers a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season. Enjoy your time off with friends and family!

From Adobe Captivate 4 to YouTube

In a recent post I talked about how I used CodeBaby Production Studio with an Adobe Captivate 4 project to create some very unique and engaging content. In my effort to share the project I decided to upload it to YouTube so that others may find value in looking at what I did. One of the new features in Adobe Captivate 4 is the ability to export your projects and save them in a .AVI format which can then be uploaded to YouTube. In previous versions of Adobe Captivate you would have to use a third party application to convert your SWF project to .AVI. But now with the new enhancements in Adobe Captivate 4 all of the conversion can be done right from within the application. Here is an Adobe Captivate 4 video to show you how to export your video in an .AVI format. You can view the resulting video on YouTube by clicking here.

SOLO 6- A Literacy Tool with the Right Balance of Power and Features!

Brian Friedlander graphicIt was with great anticipation that I arrived home last week to find my copy of SOLO 6 waiting at my doorstep. I have trained hundreds of educators and students on SOLO over the years and was excited to learn about all of the new features that Don Johnston Incorporated had added to the new version. For those of you who may not be familiar with SOLO 6, it includes the following four applications: Write:OutLoud 6, Co:Writer 6, Draft:Builder 6, and Read:OutLoud 6. SOLO 6 provides students with a suite of applications that work together to provide the student with a level of support not often found in other products. SOLO 6 is an ideal tool for both writing and reading and provides students with text to speech support using the high quality Acapela speech engine. Using the Acapela speech engine throughout the SOLO 6 product is a welcome addition. Students will now enjoy having access to a high quality naturally sounding male (Ryan) and female (Heather) voice to read their text. For me this is a huge feature and one I know that students will enjoy using when writing or reading text on the computer. From the user's point of view, I am really excited to see that students can jump into any of the four applications without having to Log–in. Students can now simply click on any of the four applications and get right into the work they need to do. However, if the teacher does prefer, students can sign in to Student Central as they did before in SOLO 5.

Write:OutLoud still remains one of the easiest talking word processors to use and provides student with a great deal of support in the writing process. Students will appreciate the ability to easily navigate through their written work and listen back to what they have written in the new high quality voices.

Co:Writer graphic

Write:OutLoud still provides students with spelling supports using the Franklin Spell Check engine which is really good at picking up the mistakes that students with learning disabilities tend to make. If you work with students with poor spelling skills you will find that having the text-to-speech support available in the spell checker, as is the case in Write:OutLoud, is essential. Students can also use the Homonym checking feature in Write:OutLoud to help them flag the confusable words that often wind up in their writing. I have always found the Bibliographer Tool to be indispensable for students who are creating their first bibliography. In fact when I show this feature to teachers that I am training, they often comment that they wished they had a tool like this when they were doing their graduate work. In today’s Internet age, students younger and younger are now be asked to show where they found their information; and being able to create a citation with the advent of the Bibliographer Tool and the Bibliographer Wizard has really streamlined the process for students making it possible for them to successfully create a bibliography. In Write:OutLoud I was please to see that there is more flexibility in the interface allowing students to change the size of the icons on the toolbar, making it more consistent with the concept of Universal Design and this is true throughout SOLO 6.

Working with Co:Writer throughout the years, I have always been amazed at its ability to predict words based on a couple of keystrokes. For me Co:Writer has always been the premier word-prediction tool in the industry and with the release of Co:Writer 6 it continues to hold its place and takes a quantum leap in usability and design. If you have used other versions of Co:Writer, you will be extremely happy to see the redesign of the user interface. The value proposition now for using Co:Writer 6 is in its simplicity and power. After you launch Co:Writer 6 you will see a small floating window in your writing application. Begin typing and Co:Writer 6 will begin to provide you with a list of predicted words. The interface is clean and helps students to focus on their writing. With the latest version students should be up and running with Co:Writer 6 in no time. All the familiar features are still retained in Co:Writer 6 and customizing the user experience is significantly easier to do. To customize the features in Co:Writer 6 you simply click on the arrow at the bottom of the Co:Writer 6 dialog box and the dialog box flips over to reveal the Options. You will find it incredibly easy to select or create Topic dictionaries and giving students access to the Word Bank feature that shows up when word processing can help students with word-retrieval difficulties. I guess I can’t state it enough to say just how clean and usable the new interface is in Co:Writer 6 that will allow students to focus on the task at hand and complete their written work. I should also mention that Co:Writer 6 can be used to read text in almost any environment.

For students that need more support in the area of writing, Draft:Builder remains a very strong application. While Draft:Builder 6 has not changed all that much as compared to the previous version it does contain many more writing templates that students will find helpful. Draft:Builder 6 is ideal for students who are challenged when presented with a blank page and told to write. Using the templates and prompts, teachers can create writing environments that can help move students through the writing process. In Draft:Builder 6, students have the text-to-speech, spell checking, Bibliographer Tool, and dictionary supports built in that they can take advantage of. The real power of SOLO 6 is in the integration of the tools. Students who need spelling supports can quickly open a note in Draft:Builder 6 and turn on Co:Writer 6. It is this integration that allows students to focus on their writing so that the tools fade into the background. Students can now customize the tool bar in Draft:Builder 6 as they can in Write:OutLoud.

Of all the applications in SOLO 6 the one that has really evolved is Read:OutLoud. With the advent of a high quality text-to-speech engine and ease of use, Read:OutLoud firmly plants itself as an all-around tool for reading text on the computer and on the Web. Keeping in the tradition of Read:OutLoud, students can easily highlight and extract text notes to the sidebar or can add an Outline to complete as they are reading the text. Read:OutLoud comes with a number of outlines that can be used to help students better comprehend the text that they are reading. Once the student has captured the notes, they can be sent to Write:OutLoud or Draft:Builder and take advantage of the tools that are available in each of the respective writing environments.

One of the most important features which is not apparent to the user is the ability of Read:OutLoud to open a wide variety of different text formats. Read:Outloud can open PDF, NIMAS, DAISY 3, Microsoft "Save As Daisy", Bookshare files, Rich Text Format (RTF), TXT, HTML, and XML. For districts investing in a text-to-speech reader, it is important for the reader to have the ability to support a wide range of formats, which is the case for Read:OutLoud. As more students access services that provide text in the NIMAS or DAISY 3 format it is important that the text reader can efficiently work with these file formats. When working with NIMAS files it is not unusual to have to use a utility to unpack them before they can be opened in a reader. This is not the case with Read:OutLoud—simply open the file and Read:OutLoud does all the work for you. It is really that simple!

SOLO screen shot

With more and more students accessing NIMAS formatted books, this is a critical feature and one that that I know teachers and students will appreciate. Once you have opened your NIMAS formatted book, students will be able to change the Etext style very quickly. If you are working with students with visual impairments you can quickly change the background and the color and size of the text with one mouse click. Then with a click on the Read button, students will have access to the text, have it read to them and highlighted on the computer screen.

Read:OutLoud has made huge improvements in being a tool that can access and read the Web on both Windows and Macintosh platforms. When accessing the web, you will find Read:OutLoud to be much faster than the previous version at rendering web pages and now you can quickly jump around the web by clicking on page links. The text-to-speech engine makes it a pleasure to listen to and you will find some really nice features like the ability to look up the definition of words using the Google search engine. Read:OutLoud uses a simple Read button to have students turn the text-to-speech engine on and off. With a simple and clean interface students will be accessing the information they need and take notes if they desire.

Users of SOLO 5 who migrate to SOLO 6 should feel right at home with the release, but with the fine tuning and interface improvements, students will be able to be more productive and access the features they need more easily. SOLO 6 provides students with an array of features which makes it a compelling literacy tool for students with a wide range of abilities. With the release of SOLO 6, Don Johnston Incorporated has set the mark for an integrated literacy suite that has the right balance of power and features. More importantly, with the changes in the interface and careful vigilance to usability, students and teachers will be up and running with SOLO 6 in no time.

Brian S. Friedlander, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor of Education at the College of St. Elizabeth, Morristown, NJ where he Coordinates the Graduate Programs in Special Education and teaches graduate courses in assistive technology. Brian is the subject matter expert in the soon to be released video: Assistive Technology: Powerful Solutions for Success available from National Professional Resources (nprinc.com) as well as new reference guide: Assistive Technology: What Every Educator Needs to Know to be distributed by National Professional Resources (nprinc.com). Dr. Friedlander maintains an assistive technology practice and provides evaluations, workshops and training in the area of assistive technology. With a background in school psychology Dr. Friedlander brings a unique perspective to his assistive technology practice. Dr. Friedlander publishes Inclusion Times an electronic newsletter which focuses on educational and assistive technology- it is published four times a year.

One Sentence Summary Created with Context Organizer -SOLO 6 provides students with an array of features which makes it a compelling literacy tool for students with a wide range of abilities.


This article originally appeared on the Don Johnston, Inc Website.

Snagit Mac- Beta

One of my favorite PC applications has got to be Snagit from TechSmith. I have been using it for years on Windows and it is by far one of the most versatile screen capturing applications on the market. I have used it for just about all my screen capturing for my blog and it has always performed and delivered when I needed it to. So I was very excited to learn that Snagit Mac is now in beta and available for those that are interested in testing it out. Here is the scoop from the TechSmith website:

Snagit Screen Capture Software

Creating an image of all or part of what you see on your computer monitor PLUS:

  • Flexible options that let you capture only what you want.
  • Annotation varieties like arrows, speech bubbles, and more make it easy to customize your capture.
  • Versatility in what you do with your capture. Send it to your favorite app, share it online, or save it for later.
So if you have the chance download Snagit for Mac beta and give it a test drive

Screencasting for the Masses with Camtasia Studio 6 & Adobe Captivate 4.

Yesterday I had the privilege to present at 21st Century Learning Conference which was sponsored at by the Center for Innovative Education on the campus of Kean University. My first session was titled: Screencasting for the Masses with Camtasia Studio 6 & Adobe Captivate 4. It was very exciting to see the interest in this offering as the room quickly filled to capacity. Some of the educators had shared that the presentation was very timely, since they had just ordered the software to experiment with, in their districts. One of the overriding questions about the screencasting technology was just how long would it take to produce a video tutorial? Even though I shared with them that these tools were intended for the development of rapid eLearning material- it was going to take them some time to learn how to use the tools before they felt comfortable being able to create these assets quickly. Like anything else, with a little practice their skills would certainly improve and allow them to create materials that much faster.

I think that everyone who attended my presentation was floored with the quality of the finished videos that could be produced using Camtasia Studio 6 and Adobe Captivate 4. Many of the teacher present saw the value of creating these materials and more and more schools are now requiring their teachers to maintain a website and post materials. What better way to show students how to do something then with a video demonstration that can be streamed over the web.

During the course of the presentation I shared with my audience some tips and tricks and how to master the skills to do screencasting. I explained how it was important it was to script the video from the onset before having the urge to record. Once you start to record it is important to think about the audio and to keep your productions somewhere between two to four minutes in length. The post production work is where the fun begins and depending how compulsive you are- it can take a lot of time to edit your video. After the video is complete you will need to upload it to your server or host it for others to view. It is important to decide beforehand how you intend to use the video and where it will be hosted and what types of devices you intend to access the video. There are certainly lots of things to think about when using this technology but the outcome is certainly worth the investment of time.

If you are interested in learning how to use Camtasia Studio 6 or Adobe Captivate 4- please feel free to contact me for training and workshops. I can provide you with one on one coaching and training right over the web at your convenience. To get in touch with me click here.

Here are two examples that I used during my presentation showing off the two programs. Click on the image to view the video.

The following video was created with Camtasia Studio 6
















The following video was created using Adobe Captivate 4 and CodeBaby















Polaroid PoGo


When you think of Polaroid the first thing that comes to mind was the Polaroid Land Camera that provided us with instantly developed pictures. Last year I became aware that Polaroid was working on a portable Bluetooth printer that would be ideal to print pictures from your cell phone or digital camera using Zink (Zero Ink Technology) technology. The secret to the small format printer is that the photgraphic paper is has embedded in it crystals that when heated unveil the color. Last week I saw that RadioShack had the Polaroid PoGo on sale for $29.95 and knew that I had to purchase and try it out with my Blackberry Curve.

The Polaroid PoGo printer arrived today and once it was charged I paired it with my Blackberry Curve and I was ready to go. The Bluetooth pairing was very quick and within seconds I was up and running. I simply opened a picture on Blackberry Curve and using the Blackberry Curve key I selected Send Using Bluetooth and within seconds the photograph was sent to the Polaroid PoGo pronter. The photographs are printed on 2 x 3 inch photographic paper and have a adhesive backing if you want to use it as a sticker. A pack of Zink Photo Paper costs $9.95 as is good for 30 prints. I also tried the printer with my Olympus digital camera and connected it via the USB cable. As soon as the digital camera was connected I was able to select the Print button on the camera and within seconds the camera downloaded the picture to the printer. All in all it was a real positive introduction to the Paloroid PoGo printer. Its portable size is really nice and the fact that you can print from your cell phone via Bluetooth is a great feature. I can think of lots of educational applications for this printer. Considering the price now is the time to buy one to have around!

Working with CodeBaby Production Studio & Adobe Captivate 4

One of the really exciting features of DevLearn 09 Conference was the Marketplace Expo. Walking around the Marketplace Expo I was introduced to a number of new eLearning tools that really caught my eye. On the top of the list was the offering from CodeBaby, a unique production application with a set of life-like male and female avatars that one can lip synch with narration. When I first saw how the characters were able to lip synch with the audio file I was really floored. While many of us have encountered various avatars while we surf the web, the CodeBay characters have a natural appeal and are very engaging, with a human like quality that is hard to resist. I think it was this natural appeal that really got me hooked and I spent some time talking with the wonderful CodeBaby staff that were present at the conference to learn how I could integrate their characters into my Adobe Captivate 4 projects. I was excited to learn that once I had animated my CodeBaby character I could export it as a FLV or SWF and bring it right into Adobe Captivate 4.

By that time I was through talking to the CodeBaby staff my head was swirling. Once I got back to New Jersey I had emailed Audrey Dalton, eLearning Product Marketing Specialist at CodeBaby and she was able to set me up for a Trial of CodeBaby Prooduction Studio. The staff at CodeBaby were really fantastic and they set up a webinar to walk me through the steps to create my first CodeBaby project. A big thanks goes out to Jeff and Jim for coordinating this webinar. As sophisticated as the CodeBay software is I found it very intuitive to use and was up and running in no time. Using a copy of Audacity I was able to record my voice and import it directly into the CodeBaby Production Studio. Upon import, one of the really cool features is the auto animate feature which synchs the lips of the character from the wav. file. To see it in action is not to believe- it is a little spooky. Not only does CodeBaby synch your lips but the way the body, eyes and the figure moves so gracefully there are times you forget it is a avatar. Once I saw what I was able to do, I thought about all of the ways I could use CodeBay to make my demonstrations and simulations that much more engaging. Now imagine having my CodeBaby avatar as a guide on the side moving along the demonstration or assisting me during a simulation. With that in mind I got to work and am in the process of integrating a couple of scenarios with CodeBaby into my Adobe Captivate projects. Using short 5 to 15 seconds snippets my CodeBaby character can guide you through the process on screen, keeping my students engaged and supported.

In the example that follows I am introducing my students to Write:Outloud, a talking word processor and am having them work through a simulation of what it is like to use the Spell Checker. You will see how I was able to integrate the CodeBaby character (with my voice) into the simulation video which adds great depth and support for a user who maybe unfamiliar with the software application. The CodeBaby character can guide the student on screen and help them to learn how to use the software. I would be interested in your comments and how you think CodeBaby could be integrated into your projects. Here is the link to view the Write:Outloud Video.

ConceptDraw Mindmap and ConceptDraw Project to support Google Desktop Search





PRESS RELEASE

Contact: Olin Reams

Email: oreams@csodessa.com

Phone: +1 (408) 441-1150 x 205



ConceptDraw Mindmap and ConceptDraw Project to support Google Desktop Search

Plug-in provides convenient access to ideas and information captured using CS Odessa visual documents for Windows





San Jose, CA, December 8, 2009 -- CS Odessa, the leading provider of business productivity and visualization software solutions for Macintosh and PC, announced today the release of its new Google Desktop Search® plug-in. The plug-in is available at no charge to individual and corporate customers who have the current Windows version of the company’s ConceptDraw MINDMAP® or ConceptDraw PROJECT®.



“With the release today of this new plug-in, our customers—especially those working in the enterprise—can now use Google Desktop Search to locate business-critical ideas and information stored inside their ConceptDraw mind maps and project plans,” said Yuriy Varbanets, ConceptDraw MINDMAP product manager. “Unlike typical file systems, ConceptDraw mind maps provide an intuitive, collaborative way to organize the brainstorming, research and planning that is critical to business success.”



CS Odessa’s new plug-in enables customers to use Google Desktop Search to dig deep inside ConceptDraw MINDMAP and ConceptDraw PROJECT documents. This gives users immediate access to a wide range of content types, including project management plans, project task lists, creative brainstorming for new products and services, detailed research notes, and relevant hyperlinks. Search results are then viewable from the Google Desktop Page.

“Our customers are telling us how important search has become to their business,” said Danil Somsikov, ConceptDraw MINDMAP developer. “Integration with Google Desktop Search gives our users a quick, convenient way to search the wealth of information they generate using ConceptDraw mind mapping and project planning software.”



The Google Desktop Search plug-in for ConceptDraw MINDMAP and ConceptDraw PROJECT can be downloaded at http://www.conceptdraw.com/googlesearch. The update is currently available for Windows users only.



The ConceptDraw Productivity Product Line

CS Odessa ConceptDraw products for Macintosh and Windows include:

• ConceptDraw MINDMAP

Brainstorming tool that utilizes mind mapping techniques to help organize ideas and tasks

• ConceptDraw PROJECT

Professional project management software

• ConceptDraw Office

Powerful integrated productivity software suite that allows one to plan, do and manage any process or project

• ConceptDraw PRO

Diagramming and drawing software

• ConceptDraw PRO WebWave Plug-in

Optional software plug-in for ConceptDraw PRO to create professional diagrams and drawings on the stage of website or application prototyping and design, page mocking-up and site-mapping

• ConceptDraw PRO NetDiagrammer Plug-in

Optional network and system design plug-in for ConceptDraw Pro



ABOUT CS ODESSA

Founded in 1993, Computer Systems Odessa supplies cross-platform productivity tools and graphics technologies to professional and corporate users. With headquarters in Odessa, Ukraine and an office in California, USA, CS Odessa sells products internationally through resellers in over 25 countries, and directly sells products in over 120 countries. The ConceptDraw line of productivity solutions has won numerous awards and is used by hundreds of thousands of people all over the world.

To learn more about CS Odessa, please visit

http://www.conceptdraw.com/

# # #







ED's New Tech Chief Previews National Tech Plan

On December 1, Karen Cator, Director of Educational Technology for the Education Department gave a preview of the first draft of the administration's National Education Technology Plan.


Here are the highlights brought to you by Context Organizer. The original article can be found at the eSchool Website.


  • Technology is essential to the nation's education reform, said Karen Cator, lifelong educator and ED's new director of education technology.
  • As America's brand-new director of education technology, career educator Karen Cator underscores the determination of President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan to develop "a transformative agenda" for the nation's schools and colleges.
  • She said the U.S. Department of Education (ED) will unveil the first draft of the administration's National Education Technology Plan next month.
  • It will focus on ensuring effective teachers are present "in every zip code," on seamlessly bridging the gap between the wide array of technology students use outside of school and the more limited technology available to them in the classroom.
  • In broad terms, Cator said in an interview with eSchool News, the administration's ed-tech plan will seek to bring to fruition the president's vow to make the United States first in the world in the number of college graduates by 2020 and to give every willing student at least one year of postsecondary education.
* keywords are in blue



NPR Inc Releases DVD: Assistive Technology- Powerful Solutions for Success

After months of work I am proud to announce that my new Assistive Technology DVD- Assistive Technology: Powerful Solutions for Success is now available from my publisher, NPR Inc. To find out more click on the links.


Technology is not only having a profound impact on the way we live our lives, but also how we learn and access information. For students with disabilities, technology can make the difference between success and failure in general education environments. Assistive Technology (AT) provides a means to help students compensate for their disabilities while building upon their strengths. Utilizing the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL), this revised and updated DVD takes you into classrooms where AT solutions are being successfully implemented for students requiring:

  • auditory processing supports
  • fine-motor and writing supports
  • reading supports

Observe first-hand how hardware and software programs not only assist students in being more successful academically, but how AT empowers them to be more confident and independent learners.

How to use this DVD

  • If you are a principal or school administrator, use this DVD at faculty meetings to build the skills of your staff.
  • If you are a professor/instructor at a college or university, use this DVD to enhance your classroom instruction.
  • If you are a staff developer or trainer, use this DVD with new and/or experienced teachers.
  • If you are a classroom teacher, use this DVD as a resource for proven Assistive Technology solutions.
  • If you are a parent, use this DVD to better understand the value of Assistive Technology

The viewer will be able to:

  • Describe the value of Assistive Technology in helping students access the general education curriculum
  • Explain how Assistive Technology adheres to the theory of Universal Design for Learning (UDL)
  • List a variety of hardware and software programs available for use as AT solutions
  • Identify specific AT devices and software programs to support students experiencing auditory processing, fine-motor, writing, as well as reading problems
  • Identify the five steps to successfully implement Assistive Technology
To find out more about the DVD click on the link.

One Sentence Summary Created with Context Organizer After months of work I am proud to announce that my new Assistive Technology DVD- Assistive Technology: Powerful Solutions for Success is now available from my publisher, NPR Inc.

Seavus Dropmind™ 1.1 is Released

I recently received an email from Seavus that they updated DropMind and decided to take it for a test drive on my PC to learn about its features and ease of use. DropMind is an easy to use mind mapping application that includes a host of features that one would expect to find in a mind mapping application.

DropMind 1.1 uses the standard convention of allowing you to use the Enter and Insert key to add branches to your mind map. DropMind uses the familiar Fluid Ribbon Interface and has divided the features into Home, Insert, Format, View and Presentation. When starting a new map there are a number of various Templates to choose from to get the process rolling. At this point in time the Templates are all traditional mind mapping structures which have a Central idea and supporting ideas going around the the main point from the one o'clock position. I would have liked to be able to start with Top- down or Left to Right maps when using DropMind and hope to see this in a future release. Once you select a template you will feel right at home using DropMind, you can easily add topics and subtopics from the toolbar or use the keyboard to accomplish this without breaking your concentration. You can easily change the shape of your topics and subtopics and number them if you wish. Formatting your mind map is a cinch in DropMind and you have lots of different options for colors, backgrounds and for including icons and images in your mind map. DropMind supports inserting relationship lines as well as boundaries and in the current release you can now use Summary Arcs and Elbows. DropMind gives you lots of control as to how images and text are formatted within a topic and bringing in your own images is straightforward.

In this latest version, DropMind1.1 now includes a Task Information pane that lets you enter Start Dates, Resources, Duration of Task, Priority, Percent Complete that is displayed within the mind map. You can also insert Alerts into your mind map and DropMind will alert you at the prescribed time-which I thought was a handy feature. One of the handiest feature which was included in this update is Map Parts. With the advent of Map Parts you can now store previously developed portions of your mind maps and use them as the the building blocks for your maps. This should allow you to develop you mind maps that much more quickly and make sections of your maps reuseable. Nice touch! Users of DropMind can add URLs, File Attachments, and Notes to any idea in their mind map. DropMind comes with s small library of icons and images that can be used within the application. I would have like to see a larger collection of images ship with DropMind. Having said that it is easy to resize and align images to the text in a topic as you see fit. To quickly format your map you can use the Map Styles which will automatically change the topic styles, color and background of your map. With the Map Color feature you can quickly change the color of your entire mind map with a click of a mouse. DropMind 1.1 now includes a Filter function that lets you quickly show or hide topics in your mind map that has any of the following features: Notes, Attachments, Tasks, Hyperlinks, Icons, and Alerts. While this is a good first step, DropMind should allow you to filter on text in your topic and allow you to save your searches for future use. DropMind 1.1 also includes a Presentation feature that automatically takes snapshots of your mind map which can be then viewed as a slide show presentation. While you can manually take snapshots of your mind map and put together a presentation, I would have liked to be able to have more control over the the presentation and more formatting features. DropMind 1.1 also includes a number of different formats for exporting your minds which include: PDF, XML, FreeMind, PowerPoint, RTF, Word, HTML, and Image. If you are using other mind mapping software applications you can directly import your mind maps from the following applications: MindManager, XMind, FreeMind, and Word Outlines.

Overall, DropMind is an easy to use mind mapping application that has all of the bases covered for those that enjoy mind mapping. With the release of DropMind 1.1, Seavus has added a number of features that should add to your productivity. However, they need to think about adding an Export to Microsoft Project- considering that they added Task Information to this release. Likewise, there should be more mind mapping templates with different structures built-in. I believe the real strength and value proposition for DropMind is the integration and synchronization of your mind maps with the web version of DropMind. One can easily start your mind maps with the desktop version of DropMind and then synchronize it and upload it to with the web version. Once your mind map is uploaded to the server you can open it and use it on the web with a browser and have access to it from anywhere you have access to the Internet and a browser. For more information about DropMind you can go to their website.

One Sentence Summary Created with Context Organizer I believe the real strength and value proposition for DropMind is the integration and synchronization of your mind maps with the web version of DropMind.

Interesting Uses of QR Codes for Educators

Many of us are used to seeing those familiar UPC Codes on products that can be scanned at the check out counters to look up the price and product name. While attending the DevLearn 09 Conference I came across another type of bar code called the QR Code. While I had seen them in different venues I did not at first grasp how they might be used during a conference or in an educational setting. At the DevLearn 09, QR Codes could be found on the signage of every workshop that when read by a QR Reader on a smartphone would take you to a web site for additional information about the presentation. While QR Codes have been popular in Japan, they are just beginning to gain popularity in the United States and Europe. I obtained this information from Wikipedia about QR Codes which I though would be of interest to you:

A QR Code is a matrix code (or two-dimensional bar code) created by Japanese corporation Denso-Wave in 1994. The "QR" is derived from "Quick Response", as the creator intended the code to allow its contents to be decoded at high speed.

QR Codes are common in Japan, where they are currently the most popular type of two dimensional codes. Moreover, most current Japanese mobile phones can read this code with their camera.


With the rise in the number of smartphones (Android, iPhones, Blackberry) in use, QR Codes become a great way for "tagging" physical information that links to a URL. With a QR Reader installed you can simply point your camera phone at the QR Code and be instantly taken to a website to provide your viewers with additional information. You can embed text, RSS feeds, and URL's in a QR Code. Imagine printing the code on lectures, notes or study guides so that your students can be supplied with supplemental information. Or how about adding QR codes to physical objects in your environment and have your students learn more about the topic. The use of QR codes are endless! So give it a try and let me know what you think. So download a QR Reader to your smartphone and give this QR Code a try! To generate and print out a QR code go to the Kaywa website. So point your smartphone camera at the QR Code below to see what happens!

One Sentence Summary Created with Context Organizer With a QR Reader installed you can simply point your camera phone at the QR Code and be instantly taken to a website to provide your viewers with additional information.


qrcode




Happy Thanksgiving!

I want to take this opportunity to wish all my readers a Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a great day tomorrow and get the opportunity to spend some time with your friends and families! Enjoy the day! Brian

Capturing Notes Using Papershow

I had a great day working with a group of teachers in assisting them to incorporate the principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) into their math lessons. Over the course of two days we went over the principles of UDL and had a chance to look at a variety of tools and strategies that could be employed into their lessons. We had a chance to use Google Forms, Delicious, Webspiration, and InspireData to give the teachers some new tools to actively engage students in their learning. It was exciting to feel the energy in the workshop as the teachers began to see how they could use the various tools to reach their students. During the workshop I was able to capture some of the ideas using Papershow which was a real hit with the teachers. At the end of the second day I captured some notes which I can share with you. Papershow is a wonderful tool for recording and capturing ideas. After today's session I saved the notes as a PDF file and placed them on our wiki which worked really well. Here is is a link to today's notes as captured with Papershow.

One Sentence Summary Created with Context Organizer
During the workshop I was able to capture some of the ideas using Papershow which was a real hit with the teachers.

Writing Proposals with MindView 3 Business Edition

As a technology consultant I am often asked by my clients to write up a proposal for my services. For many of us who are in this situation our first inclination is to open up Microsoft Word and start to draft our proposal. While I have written about this topic before, it is worth mentioning again that I have found it to be a tremendous time saver to draft my proposals in a mind map and then export them to Microsoft Word. In the past couple of weeks I have had to put three proposals together and in this instance I decided to put MindView 3 Business Edition through its paces to draft my proposals. I have been using MindView 3 Business Edition lately, to track some of my projects using the Gantt Chart and Timelines but had not investigated how to use it to generate proposals.

In general I find it a good strategy to brainstorm the topics for my proposals in the mind map which gives me the freedom to move around the key ideas. Once I have the main headings I can begin to insert the details for each main topic. In MindView 3 Business Edition I decided to add more text to flesh out my ideas by using the Notes feature. For each idea that I wanted a fuller explanation I typed in some notes into the text editor. I generally also add some graphics and icons to my maps to spruce them up. After all of my ideas and notes were completed I was able to export my mind map to Microsoft Word. MindView 3 Business Edition provides a nice set of formatted Word templates to Export your mind maps to. You have considerable control as to what comes over during the export process. I have found that MindView 3 Business Edition outputs your mind maps quickly and accurately to Microsoft Word and the finished product is very professionally formatted.

As much as I would like to think that the content of my proposals is what gets me my work, it does help when your proposals are succinct and look professional. In this case, MindView 3 Business Edition has assisted me to get my proposals in, in less time with laser focus. So the next time you need to write a business proposal open up MindView 3 Business Edition and give it a whirl you will be glad you did- take it from me.

One Sentence Summary Created by Context Organizer
In the past couple of weeks I have had to put three proposals together and in this instance I decided to put MindView 3 Business Edition through its paces to draft my proposals.

Delivering e-Learning Assets in PDF Format Webinar

Two weeks ago I delivered a presentation at the DevLearn 09 Conference on: Delivering e-Learning Assets in PDF Format which focused on how one can deliver a range of content using the ubiquitous PDF format. During my session I showed my participants how I am using Adobe Acrobat Pro Extended, Adobe Captivate 4, Camtasia Studio, and Adobe Presenter to create rich and engaging eLearning assets. Using a combination of these tools it is possible to create some interesting materials that can be shared with the Adobe Acrobat Reader. One of the real take aways from the presentation is that it is now possible to embed video in your PDF's which your users can view with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader 9.

The presentation was well received and it occurred to me that there may be others out there who may benefit from this presentation who were not able to attend the DevLearn 09 Conference. I am in the process of putting together a 1 hour long webinar to show you how to make the most of the tools you have at your disposal. There will be a nominal fee of $19.99 to attend the webinar but your return on investment will be huge. You can pay and register for the webinar by clicking on this link.

In the webinar you will learn how to:
  • Create interactive handouts in PDF format with Adobe Acrobat 9 Pro
  • Embed a SWF and FLV File into a PDF
  • Create PDF Portfolios with a range of rich media
  • Create Flash based eLearning assets with Adobe Presenter
  • Upload a Captivate SWF file to BlackBoard as a zip package
  • Embed Adobe Captivate SWF files into your projects
  • Output your Adobe Captivate projects in PDF format
The Delivering e-Learning Assets in PDF Format Webinar is scheduled for January 11, 2010 at 1:00 pm EST. To Register click here. Plan now to attend!

Acrobat.com Now Integrates Tables & Presentation

I have been following Acroabt.com since its inception and today Adobe has finally integrated their suite of services under one roof. Acrobat.com is an essential service for Adobe since it is tightly integrated into Acrobat 9 line of products. If you have a copy of Acrobat 9 you can easily upload your PDF files to Acrobat.com come and share them with others by providing them with a URL that is generated. Acrobat.com can also be used when distributing PDF Forms and becomes the repository for the information that gets submitted.

The Acrobat.com Suite now includes Buzzword, a collaborative word processor, Tables, a database tool, and Presentation, a slide deck presentation tool. All of your files are accessible to you when connected to the web and you can invite others to collaborate on your documents if you wish. All of the applications have the very aesthetically please Flash look to them and are very inviting to use. Additionally you can use your Acrobat.com account to connect and share your computer with up to two other people, which makes is easy to collaborate and do small trainings or webinars. While the feature set looks to me to have stayed the same having all of the tools under one roof really helps to solidify this offering. I still have my free Acrobat.com account but if you feel that you need more storage or would like to host larger meetings you can upgrade to one of their Premium accounts. Take a look at Acrobat.com and let me know your comments.

Service Pack 2 Available for MindView 3 Business Edition

While using MindView 3 Business Edition today I was alerted that Service Pack 2 was available for download from Matchware. After you install the Service Pack your version of MindView 3 should be at Version 3.160. There is also Service Pack2 for MindView 3 as well.






This Service Pack contains the following changes:

Service Pack 2:

New Features:
  • MindView now supports pen input as well as standard keyboard/mouse input.
  • MindView now supports the use of SMART boards.
  • Timeline view: The detail level of the Timeline now matches the detail level used in the Timeline Outline. This means that only branches that are visible in the outline are shown on the timeline itself.
Fixes:
  • Copying a branch containing a text note now also copies the text note as expected.
  • The command Send no longer causes MindView to swap to another open document in some circumstances.
  • The filtering of dates has been updated.
  • The Mind Map now scrolls to the left when editing branch labels that expand outside the right edge of the workspace.
  • The Auto Correct function now works as expected when editing branch labels.
  • The Find/Replace and Spellchecking functions now expand invisible branches when necessary.
  • The Show Time Info setting chosen to display or hide start and end times is now preserved as expected when saving and re-opening the Mind Map.
  • Mind Maps shown in the Top Down view with their sub-branches displayed vertically are now updated as expected when branches are moved or deleted.
  • The layout of Mind Maps whose branches have been arranged "manually" (with auto-layout off) is now preserved as expected when saving and re-opening the file.
  • It is now possible to insert a branch from the Timeline Outline without causing the "Insert Event" dialog to open.
  • The dialog displayed when opening a packed map containing files whose original versions has changed since the map was packed no longer shows multiple entries when the same file has been used on several branches.
  • The Show Branch Data settings chosen to display or hide start/end times, priority level, completion percentage and resource names are now preserved as expected when saving and re-opening the Mind Map.
  • When updating the priority level, completion percentage and/or resource names of a branch, the changes are now reflected immediately on the Mind Map.
  • Copying branches containing calculations values now works as expected.
  • Gantt view:
    • The timescale chosen (years, quarters, months, days etc.) to represent the Gantt chart is now preserved as expected when saving and re-opening the file.
    • The label displayed in the Predecessors column of the Gantt Outline is now shown correctly in the case of tasks linked with predecessors with a Start to Start link.
    • Tasks having a summary task as predecessor task and linked to it with a percentage lead time (so that the task can start some time before the summary task ends) are now scheduled correctly in all circumstances.
    • Saving very large Gantt charts no longer causes MindView to freeze while generating the file preview picture.
  • MS Project Export: The Mind Map hierarchy is now always preserved as expected when exporting to MS Project 2007.
  • Excel Export: Sheet names are now localized as expected in versions of MindView other than English.
  • XML import: This now works as expected when branches have branch boundaries.

Second Generation Pogoplug™ Unveiled Today

Next-generation Hardware Design and Software Provide Enhanced Storage, Multimedia and Social Media Capabilities

San Francisco, Calif. – November 20, 2009 – Cloud Engines, Inc. unveiled the second generation of the award winning Pogoplug multimedia sharing device today giving consumers more flexibility to store personal content safely in the home and access, manage, and share it from anywhere on the Internet. The new Pogoplug hardware sports a new design boasting multiple USB ports supporting up to 4 external drives for expanded data capacity. The new Pogoplug also gives users improved sharing capabilities, an easy drag-and-drop interface to create engaging multi-media slide shows, seamless media playback, and enhanced sharing with friends on Facebook, Twitter and MySpace.

Pogoplug acts like a gateway from your home or office through the Internet. It allows you to access, share and even stream your personal digital media directly to anybody, anywhere in the world. Your content always remains physically in your home or office, making it secure, convenient and available on your terms. Pogoplug is perfect for those individuals with increasingly mobile lifestyles and small businesses in need of simple, inexpensive mobile data access solutions.

“The reaction to the Pogoplug has been incredible. By listening to user feedback and following our own product roadmap, we are bringing a great second-generation product that gives our customers access to a host of new features that both improve the function of the Pogoplug, and add to the fun of using it as well.” said Daniel Putterman, CEO of Cloud Engines, Inc. “We are committed to giving our customers the best way to access their data from anywhere in the world, pushing the envelope with both product quality and design aesthetic. The result is what you see here today.”

NEW HARDWARE
The new Pogoplug design retains the simplicity and ease of use of the original while listening to consumer feedback and adding the ability to directly connect up to 4 external hard drives at once. The resulting product boasts an improved design with greatly improved functionality for users with multiple drives and an increasing need for easy synching and sharing of their digital libraries. This upgrade turns the Pogoplug into an even more prominent feature in the modern digital home or small business.



NEW FEATURES

Automatically Synchronize Photos, Videos, Music and Other Selected Content
Users can synchronize their Pogoplug with their PC or Mac to automatically import new content from popular applications such as iTunes, Windows Media Player, and iPhoto. This feature allows Pogoplug owners to “set it and forget it” and always have access to new photos, videos and music from anywhere on the Internet.

Drag-and-Drop Music and Photo Slideshows
Users can easily create and share fun and engaging slideshows using their stored photos, videos and music. Creating a slideshow with Pogoplug is as simple as drag and drop, and sharing these slideshows is just as easy as ever. Once a user’s link is shared and viewed, their slideshow will immediately begin with the photos, videos and music they selected, playing seamlessly in the viewer’s browser.
Easier Sharing with Pogoplug Address Book
Pogoplug Address Book greatly improves the speed and ease of use of sharing with a user’s friends and family. Pogoplug automatically remembers all email addresses entered in a user’s previous shares - even if that share no longer exists – and makes them available in an easy to use address book to make sharing truly one click away.

Global Search Across Multiple Drives and Pogoplugs
With support for multiple drives on a single Pogoplug (and multiple Pogoplugs on the same account) Pogoplug has added "global" search support across all of a user’s Pogoplugs and drives. Search filters are now a distinct feature, allowing users to view all of their photos, videos and music in a single organized view, or to search for a specific file across all Pogoplugs and drives.
Organize Your Music, Photos and Videos
Pogoplug automatically displays music by Album, Artist and Genre, and shows cover art for quick access to a user’s favorite music. Photos are now displayed by photo timeline and videos are only a click away, including the ability to watch a preview in the thumbnail itself.

Play movies directly from my.pogoplug.com, or even to the iPhone
Pogoplug now supports the playback of videos directly from a Pogoplug, with support for the most popular cameras, video cameras and mobile phones. Movies can be shared and viewed directly from the Pogoplug website – or even from an iPhone!

Pricing and Availability
We are currently taking Pre-Orders for Pogoplug at www.pogoplug.com Units will ship before the end of the year – just in time for the Holiday Season. The Pogoplug has a suggested retail price of $129, with no additional service fees.




USEFUL LINKS
• Pogoplug web site: www.pogoplug.com
• Product photos: www.flickr.com/photos/pogoplug
• Twitter feed: www.twitter.com/pogoplug
• Pogoplug online community: www.pogoplugged.com
ABOUT THE POGOPLUG
The Pogoplug is a device that connects up to 4 external hard drives to the Internet. It is designed for consumers who have an external hard drive and have high speed Internet. Consumers can securely access and share all of their content [Files, Photos, and Video] from any Web browser or enabled mobile device with no additional monthly fees. Free your inner drive.
ABOUT CLOUD ENGINES, INC.
Founded in 2007 by experienced entrepreneurs from the digital media and security industries, Cloud Engines is located in San Francisco, California. The company was formed with a mission to change the way personal content is stored and distributed over the Internet. The Cloud Engines philosophy is that by making a product simple, open and affordable, the community will participate in making it better. For more information, please visit our Web site, www.cloudengines.com.