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Archived Posts from “Software”

Freeware mp3 recorder(+podcasts rant)



I find it amusing that some colleagues are loathe to call syndicated XML enclosed media files by the populist name ‘podcast’. Like ‘Polaroid’ for the noughties perhaps. Others claim that podcasts are just mp3 files. The association with Apple is a difficult pill to swallow for some PC only users. In fact podcasts are any media to which you can subscribe and read/watch/listen using a feed reader, and if you choose a portable player - of which over 70% just happen to be iPods. RSS is the the corner stone upon which web 2.0 delivery is based and is here to stay - just like ‘podcast’ I’m afraid. Ironically, it was the open-source community that developed the podcast code/RSS enclosures and coined the name.

And now to the reason I am making this post. I came across this handy piece of PC only freeware - MP3myMP3 Recorder. The blurb says:

MP3myMP3 RecorderRecord internet radio and save to mp3 or wav. Record streaming audio from the Internet, microphone, or any other source for that matter. MP3myMP3 Recorder works directly with your system sound card - if you can hear it, you can record it! Use the scan tool to list all mp3, wav, aif, swa, or sun au audio files on your computer - then play and record portions of any of these files.

Handy for recording mp3s for students or for them turning into podcasts. And back to the rant. Wikipedia tells it like it is. From Wikipedia’s definition:

“Neither podcasting nor listening to podcasts requires an iPod or other portable player, and no over-the-air broadcasting is required. The name association came about simply because Apple Computer’s iPod was the most marketed and the best-selling portable digital audio player when podcasting began, and was used by early practitioners. However, the use of the “pod” name in 2004 probably played a part in Apple’s development of podcasting products and services in 2005, further [cleverly] linking the device and the activity in the news media.”

I try to explain podcasting to students by saying, mp3 players are to audio and video files what a postbox is to a magazine subscription. Podcasts aren’t just audio files, they are ‘home’ delivered personal choices.

Microsoft PhotoStory 3



Photo Story 3

Microsoft’s free Photo Story 3 is a useful tool for teachers and students alike purely based on it’s efficient use of resources in a quick and easy (enough) manner. Photo Story 3 allows you to create slideshows using your digital photos. With a single click, you can touch-up, crop, or rotate pictures. Some special effects, soundtracks, and your own voice narration to your photo stories. Then, personalize them with titles and captions.

I read an article today on the Times Educational Supplement blog regarding and these are some of the ways they suggest Photo Story 3 can be used in an educational setting:

-present new vocabulary using individual objects or by miming actions
-to practice dialogue work such as buying different items in a shop or asking for directions
-to give a description of your daily routine or local area for example
-to design a comic strip
-to make a record of a trip
-to put together a multimedia resource for your partner school
-to design a comic strip
-to make a record of a trip
-to put together a multimedia resource for your partner school

There is a well composed online tutorial including video clips and teacher notes on how to use Photo Story 3 for Windows at this website Assignment: Photo-movie.

Flock - web2.0 browser



I need to mention this browser as it is so good. It is built using the Mozilla engine and has some great tools built into it. Rather than go to individual sites to upload and see photos and blogs they are built into the browser. An example that I downloaded and watched from Screencastsonline shows many of these tools in action. You are able to display thumbnails of photocasted photos in the top of your browser and drag and drop them anywhere including blogs and emails. You are able to store snippets of text at the bottom of your browser. Not only can you upload photos in the browser to the photo storage site but also edit on the fly. The browser also uses tags to help filter the things you do in order to help you better manage things later on.
It is a great utility for students and classrooms in that it simplifies things, it also can be used at school and home with good effect. It also works on multiple platforms.
Well worth a look.

More Info On Live Cams



After reading the FishCam post from Reg, I thought I would put this information forward as if you are an Apple School like mine you already (usually) have the facility to enable the cam scenario and much more. It takes a little planning and setting up but once in place you have a huge potential facility to interact through multimedia.

A couple of years ago my school wanted access to video libraries so to cut a long story short I went down the road of setting up a a quicktime streaming server which is just a matter of starting this service up in Tiger Server (don’t forget there is a free version called Darwin Server that you can download). Once set up it’s accessed by admin from anywhere in the school using a remote tool and students use a web interface to access content. Anyway using Quicktime Broadcaster (as you know free) you have a live feed from any camera and the control of access, streaming the feed if you wish, capturing and compressing the feed if you wish and forwarding to the internet is very easy with QT server.

You could actually just use an eMac as your server for small scale things and your eMac could also be the computer that has the camera attached. The larger your school the more of an expensive it may be if you scale to meet demand but its worth messing with if you already have the server software to try it. Anyway just in case it was not considered I thought I would mention it and if you teach Media and Music in a large capacity it is a great tool.

FishCam and CrabCam



A Message in a Bottle from a Mac Island

I thought I might share a little project we started in our Year 6/7 class at Beachlands Primary School two weeks ago. It was prompted by a question from John Akhurst of Wollongong West PS who asked on the MacEd mailing list:

“My class is in the process of setting up a yabby tank. The kids have asked me if they could watch the yabbies from home via a webcam. We are a NSW DET school running macs (10.4) and have a few iSight cameras. Is it possible to do this, and if so how do I go about it?”

The response from Warren McCulloch was swift, such is the power of mailing lists and switched-on educators:

“Pretty easy to do (in a techo sort of way!) Have a look at EvoCam.

The only downside is that you will need a computer within firewire-cable distance of your camera.

Then set up evocam to FTP the camera output into your DET web account.

Also, my experience has been that this is a good use of an older computer.

I am currently using an old ruby imac to do this.”

“Aha!”, I thought, Judy (Judy Kealy, my long-suffering partner in crime teaching the Yr 6/7s, and our intrepid ICT co-ordinator) and I had just set up a terrarium and a fish tank for our Science and S&E studies.

“We could do FishCam!” shouts Reg. “I’ve got a spare iBook (let’s not go down the DET iBook lease thread just now but this is in fact my DET lease-expired “iPilot” G3 iBook 600, waiting for replacement) and I could use my iSight camera and set it up in the classroom to watch the plants and the fish”.

” Yeah, right Reg!”

Never let common sense get in the way of a great idea!

Downloading and setting up the EvoCam software was easy and it has proven to be quite powerful. It comes with a free 15 day fully functional trial before you are required to fork out between US$25 - 35, depending on OS. There are several techie points to note here for the unwary, however.

Firstly I downloaded the Tiger (OS X 10.4.6) version to install onto my PowerBook. When it came time to install it on the iBook running Panther (10.3.9) I needed to download an earlier version as the Tiger version is not compatible with Panther. (Damn cats!)

Secondly when clicking on the video settings, it kept crashing. A long study of the EvoCam FAQs on the website revealed a possible clash with a macam plug-in in Quicktime so into the trash it went. I must add here I also sent an email to EvoCam Tech help and that Nick responded promptly, giving me several tests to run, and even asking for the “crash log” to be sent to him for analysis.

The third techie caution is a bit stranger. After we had set up the iBook and iSight at school one of the kids noticed that I’d set the Date a day ahead. EvoCam has a date/time display option and it uses the computer Date and Time settings for this. We wound the clock back a day and all was well; so we thought. However, later I needed to quit and restart the application, and when it did so it curtly informed me that my 15-day trial period had expired - after just one day! “On what planet does 15 days equate to one of ours?” I asked the kids, to stunned silent reply. Anyway, by this time I had resolved that the software was worth the US$25 so, risking life and limb, I logged in and paid Kagi my hard-earned $$$.

So how did it all work out? Really well indeed.

The iSight comes with an assortment of mounting brackets, all designed for various Macs, but none really for fish tanks or hermit crab tanks (more on them later). However by taping one to the top of the aquarium we were able to focus down into the top of the tank. Just don’t drop the iSight into the water. I’m sure it wouldn’t do the iBook much good shorting out the firewire connection. Sort of fried fish and chips perhaps?

We set the image to a suitable size for viewing over the intranet, inserted a suitable date, caption and logo into the image, hooked the iBook into the school network and set it to become a web-server, all done from within EvoCam. (I think it uses OS X’s built in Apache Web Server for this.)

Now when the wise ladies and gentlemen from our central office tell us you can’t connect a Mac into a Windows network, please simply ignore them. Our iBook is running as a FishCam webserver within a 100% Windows XP environment. The only thing I needed to change was a port setting, and as I’m a bit of a mug about that sort of stuff, this was trial and error.

EvoCam wanted to use port 8080, which I tried, but it wouldn’t work. As 8080 is the school’s proxy server port, I guess the server didn’t like this little white upstart Mac trying to muscle in. EvoCam then suggested port 80 but then promptly told me I couldn’t use it as it was reserved for something else, so I typed in 8081 and it worked. Perhaps someone with better understanding of networks and ports might like to explain all this to me.

With a bit of deft left and right clicking on an admin Acer, we put a link to FishCam on the school’s intranet home page, and within minutes every classroom in the school, and every admin computer, could access the intranet and watch the fish live in action. (Something to soothe the boss in a savage moment perhaps!)

The kids think it’s fantastic being able to see the fish live, are constantly asking how it all works, and are actively coming up with bright new ideas to observe. We even watched a caterpillar eating a leaf in the terrarium! In fact, last week we had a time for parents to visit for learning journeys following our class’s assembly and every child wanted to show what they were doing with FishCam.

The concluding activity for the week involved shifting the entire setup to our Year 3/4 class who are studying the oceans, and have Heidi and Hermie, two hermit crabs, in residence. Welcome to Hermit Crab Cam! Suddenly the fish have gone and crabs have arrived.

This prompted us to try an overnight experiment. A powerful feature of EvoCam allows it to take a series of photos that it stores in an archive folder. Timing can be set from 1 second to 48 hours. We set ours to 2 minutes. In addition EvoCam uses these images to create time-lapse movies so the bright idea was, “Let’s put the crabs somewhere and watch them for 24 hours. We can see what they’re up to at night time (with the light on of course until - we set up infrared cam!) Where could we put them where it’s quiet and safe?” “Aha, the music room!”

You’d think that would be an oxymoron but it’s not, particularly after the drummers and trumpeters have left at lunchtime Thursday. So enlisting the help of two intrepid Year 3/4 techies we took Heidi and Hermie, tank, iBook and iSight and their security light and set them up in the corner behind the guitars. Once the ethernet cable was plugged in they were up and running; as well up and running as hermit crabs can ever be; and the time lapse evidence suggests that they really do run! (See the link at the bottom of the page for a Mini movie of our running crabs.)View the Crab Movie

At 8am Friday morning, kids were arriving, wanting to get into their classroom to watch the crabs on the intranet. There was great excitement. At 2 o’clock that afternoon we brought Heidi and Hermie back to the classroom, set up a data projector, hooked up the iBook, and watched them on the big screen. What a fantastic end to a very exciting week.

To conclude, I won’t venture into the curriculum aspects of such a project, suffice to say that they go far beyond Science, S&E and T&E. The project was set up on a whim, as a spontaneous way of sharing with children. It may develop, grow and change during the next few weeks.

Already the kids have suggested watching the clouds with it, setting up and observing a carnivorous plant terrarium and even watching the classroom and playground - an interesting thought, especially coming from the kids.

One young girl from our Year 5/6 class, who has a brother in the CrabCam class, is planning to bring a bird to school so that her class can watch it, and her teacher has even asked me when she was going to get a camera to use in her class too.

One future step would be to get the images outside the school network to be viewed from home, but that’s a later project, perhaps linked to a longer-term plan to set up a complete school website.

As a footnote, clearly this project uses Apple technology. However it is the educational aspects of ideas such as these that are the most important. EvoCam will work with a range of cameras, not just the iSight. It “uses QuickTime to capture video, so you can use any QuickTime-compatible camera or video input device with EvoCam. Mac OS X 10.3 and 10.4 supports FireWire DV camcorders and FireWire IIDC cameras (like the iSight and iBot) without the need for additional drivers”.

I cannot advise on how to set this up using Windows and “PC” technology as I’ve never tried it, but I can head you in this direction, courtesy of EvoCam FAQs:

I would think that if you have an old Windows computer sitting there doing nothing, just like Warren’s ruby iMac, it could be set up as a webcam server. Perhaps a Linux box could do it too.

Is there a PC version of EvoCam?
No, but if you’re looking for Windows webcam software we recommend webcamXP. This software is very similar to EvoCam and runs on Windows 98, ME, NT, XP, 2000 and 2003

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  • Melanie: Thank you Kim! I will definitely check out this link and see the developments for higher education on the SLED.
  • Kim Flintoff: We have been using Second Life in a range of situations. Built a Wound Care Clinic with Curtin University for training nurses about wound care and the relationship between hand-washing and infection in a...
  • Melanie: Hello Paul, I am wondering, have continued to utilize SecondLife? Do you find that it has better user-friendly features? Do you find that your courses are easier to teach in this format? Is the VLC classroom a...
  • Melanie: We may agree to disagree on the instant gratification society term, however when you look at new social network devices that are connected to mobile devices – there is an urgency that is attached to those...
  • Kim Flintoff: "instant gratification society" - I'm not sure I'm part of that society. Educational institutions do not make decisions - people do. Which people in educational institutions will cling dearly to email? Email...
  • Melanie: I agree that email is outdated in most settings. However, many educational institutions will cling dearly to email due to the aspect of "waiting before sending." Email is still a resource and an appropriate tool...
  • Maryjane: This is incredible and we need to spread it to school districts. It was posted two years ago and I've not seen new policies or classroom innovations happen since then. People are afraid of what the kids might do....
  • Suzanne: I cannot help but think that this trend, while reflecting archetypal youth rejection of all things "adult," is also related to the digital immigrant/digital native thing. The young are very flexible, very willing...
  • Maryjane: This made me laugh outloud. School districts are still discussing whether they'll give access to students for email; do all their business by email instead of walking next door and talking to someone; and wonder...
  • Nick Smith: This video was exactly what I needed/wanted to hear. As a student working towards being a teacher, I find it great to not only revolutionize teaching, but to re-invent it all together. One woman mentioned...
  • Scott Merrick: Hey there, feel free to unpublish this comment--it's more or less for your own info: This is to let you know that Digital Chalkie has been nominated for Blog-o-the-Month at the Blogger's Hut on Second Life...
  • Laura Seabrook: I have one other question, which I can't find answer to on the Murku wiki (no doubt the answer is right there and I keep missing it) - where/how does one get it?
  • Laura Seabrook: Murku looks really interesting (and I shall definitely try it), though the examples could do with some improvement, as per my comments above. Positioning can be important - see the Blambot article at...
  • Kim Flintoff: Murku is designed to facilitate the construction of comics based on content in a Second Life TM, ie SL, environment. Murku will be of interest to those who have always dreamt of creating their own comics but...
  • Laura Seabrook: Actually there was a typo in my previous comment. I meant to write wouldn't be, not would as far as being the first to do an SL comic. I discovered Plywood shortly after starting my own, which can be found...
  • Kim Flintoff: Hi Laura, The example in the article wasn't intended to be a highly refined product - it literally took me 60 seconds to create with some random images grabbed from my hard drive. The points you make about...
  • Laura Seabrook: I started doing Second Life comics late in 2007 ( though I didn't use Comic Life - rather I drew bits, used screenshots and put it together using PaintShopPro and Fireworks (for speech balloons etc). I knew...
  • michael chalk: Great stuff Paul .. lots of good points here. You are right about the ABC - they're really leading the charge into the new era of digital participation aren't they! My favourite thing they do is the way they...
  • Ken Allan: Kia ora Kim! I don't think it is anything to do with HOW we communicate. It is more to do with how kids see email. It is simply to do with the age-old feature of youngsters avoiding ANYTHING that is associated...
  • Aaron Fisher: This is very cool! It is amazing how those principles from long ago are relevant today, just in different forms. Students do learn better by doing, no matter the subject. We teachers need to do a better job...
  • Julie Carney: Thanks for this post, and for posters like Paul who have linked and commented on resources for educators to use. As is the case with most things, it seems the right combination of educator/program/developer...
  • Debbie: I, too am upset that this website has been taken off-line. My special education students loved it, and I knew I could always find an activity geared their levels and abilities. I hope that it will soon be running...
  • Andrew Westerman: Each LO costs $20 000. So, if 20 students use that learning object for 0.1 of an hour (6 minutes), that's 2 student / hours @ $10 000 per hour. If 2000 students use that LO for 0.2 of an hour (12...
  • Cathy Nash: Learning Objects are one of the tools in a good teacher's toolbox. It is simplistic to lay them aside as past it. A poor teacher can make a pencil look dull and a great teacher may just achieve great things...
  • Suzanne: I am so upset that this site has been removed, however I fully understand why. My Year One children and my pre-primary children loved using the site and it catered for all ability levels in my class. i do hope...
  • Julie: I am sorry that Rainbow Maths has been forced off the web. My daughter loved it so it is missed. Any idea when Jenny may put it back on the web with added security measures to prevent it being copied etc?
  • Jen Zupp: I totally agree with Jenny's reason to take it off. I have spent thousands of hours keeping my website up which is pretty much a directory of quality websites I find online. If I had created a masterpiece like...
  • Kristy Dickson: I agree with Paul, $20 000, $80 000, or whatever they cost, kids are losing interest. I think they have their place for a bit of drill and practice occasionally, but I wouldn't pay for them. Motivation and...
  • Ingrid: I'm distraught that rain forest maths is not available. My 3/4 kids loved it. My kids loved it and it is so easy to cater for their abilities with the different levels. Anyone know if there's a chance it will be up...
  • Azam Ali: my kids love this site, they come on rainforest to learn. Anyone trying to stop kids education is playing with our future. Shame on people who are greedy for money and dont care for the future.
  • Bryn Jones: Channel 4 in the UK has £50million to develop new media content. Ewan McIntosh has some role in it as Digital Commissioner for Scotland. Jobs open now!
  • Thomas Goodwin: Paul Reid has pointed educators in the right direction (create and collaborate) however he started from an incorrect premise; The Learning Federation's Digital Resources are completely different from the...
  • Patricia Corby: Phew, what a terrific wealth of useful info here! Thanks Paul. In reference to this comment "They need to move from static to dynamic in form" as an overall comment it is relevant but being fair some are...
  • Paul Reid: If everyone's Math is correct the Teaching & Learning Federation pays $20k for jpeg pictures Learning Objects! eg these ones shown here http://www.thelearningfederati
  • Janice Millard: its not fair that my class can't go on rain forest maths because of other people copying we were going to do a test on it but it was closed down my class was very upset not very happy!