Thursday, August 27, 2009

Animoto Update!

Animoto just keeps getting better!  In the beginning, you could make a video by uploading pictures and sync them to music (see my previous post featuring CIMC curriculum). Then you could add text to your pics and now you can do it all with video!

The process is simple as always. Just get your video clips (upload clips from your camera or phone, or if you don't have any, use some from Animoto's library which is stocked with good stuff from iStockphoto and Getty Images!) and mix them liberally among your pictures and text.

You don't even need a complex video editor.  Just find the parts of your video clips that you like best. You can choose up to 10-second highlights, but they recommend using 3-5 seconds for the best flow within an Animoto video.

For each highlight, you can decide whether you want to hear your clip's audio or if you'd rather just keep playing the soundtrack instead. To pick more than one highlight from a clip, just use the duplicate feature.

It's that simple!  Have you heard of an easier way to mix pictures, text, audio, and video to create exciting high-quality videos for free?  Visit Animoto!

Animoto is truly an innovative company in the world of Web 2.0.  There are so many applications and what a great tool to foster the creativity within all of us! Try Animoto for Education and get unlimited videos for you and your students!

Animoto for Education - Bringing your classroom to live

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Do You Have an Issuu?

I know many of you might say that I have "issues," but I have never had an "Issuu!"

I think that might soon change as MAVCC recently told me about Issuu, which is also a Time 50 Best Websites for 2009.

Have you ever wanted to turn one of your designed PDF files into page flipping books for interaction on the web? Now's your chance and guess what??? Yep, my favorite two words....IT'S FREE!

Issuu is a Living Library for individuals, publishers and businesses. It's free and open for everyone, who publish and share the web's best publications. You can upload any kind of document and they will turn it into a great looking online publication. They also have three different view modes to fit your needs: Magazine, Presentation and Paper.

The library that you create for yourself is where you organize everything. You can see how many people are viewing, bookmarking and linking to your publications and where in the world people love you the most.

They also have a community where you can post your profile and connect with people in world of online publishing. You can also get your favorite Issuu on Facebook, Blogger, and MySpace with just a few clicks. You can even customize their viewer completely and integrate it in your own website.
Even if you don't want to publish anything, you can follow other authors and bookmark the good stuff for later or instantly share your coolest finds. For thse that want more, publishers and businesses should take a look at Issuu Pro. Designers and developers should take a look at Issuu Platform.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

findingDulcinea - The Librarian of the Internet

findingDulcinea – presents only credible, high-quality and trustworthy Web sites, saving time for the novice and the experienced user alike.

Each piece, whether a Web Guide, a Beyond the Headlines story or a Netcetera article, receives the same meticulous research. The Web sites included in each piece are connected through original narrative, providing users with information on each site before they even click on it.

So when you don’t have the time to go out and find the stories you want on the web, try findingDulcinea. Check out what happened on this day in history or search their extensive index to help you find topics of interest.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Cheating Among Students: an Epidemic?

It seems like you can't read a newspaper, watch the news, or search the internet without finding reports on cheating. It's athletes, politicians, students or somebody else. I will assume the the first two are money or power-related, but why do students cheat (because everybody does it, because it's easier than learning the material, for the thrill of it, or because of demands for academic achievement by state and federal education authorities)? And why are they so open about their methods (just check out all of the examples on YouTube)?

I found the following article written, "Cheating Stats Getting Out of Control: Researcher" by Amy Minsky in the Vancouver Sun (August 8, 2009) and I also found a YouTube video, "Cheating Documentary" that I thought you might enjoy.

OTTAWA — Cheating among students is reaching "epidemic" proportions, according to an expert who spoke at the annual American Psychological Association conference Saturday in Toronto.

The problem is widespread and growing, with some studies showing that up to 80 per cent of high-achieving high school students, and 75 per cent of college students admit to cheating, said Eric Anderman — a professor of educational policy and leadership at Ohio State University.

Although this trend has been growing over the past 50 years, it is well within the abilities of schools and teachers to reverse, he said.

Anderman and his colleagues argue the environment and atmosphere a teacher brings into a classroom makes all the difference.

Oftentimes, teachers "threaten" students into paying attention. "They warn them that this will be on Friday's test, and if they don't do well on the test it will be really bad" Anderman said.

But research shows cheating is more likely to occur when a good test score is a student's ultimate goal.

Previous study's by the American Psychological Association show cheating is relatively infrequent in elementary school, but increases as children become adolescents and progress through grade levels. The increasing incidence of cheating correlates almost perfectly with increasing pressure from teachers to get good grades.

"The teacher could tell their students it is important to learn a topic because it's interesting and helpful, rather than pressuring them to because it's on a test."

This way, Anderman and his colleagues said students won't see cheating as a means to an end.

"Kids should feel the goal is to learn," Anderman said. "If they feel they need to learn this material for their life, then there isn't logically a reason to cheat. The kids will value learning."

Christopher Usih, superintendent for student success at the Toronto District School Board, said there are several steps schools should take to discourage cheating. First, he said, students need to be made aware of what constitutes academic dishonesty.

"One of the most common forms is plagiarism. If students don't know what it is, it's difficult to punish them for copying something they read," Usih said.

The school board issues student agendas in which rules against plagiarism and other forms of cheating, and the repercussions associated with them, are explained. Usih said teachers are expected to go over the rules in class and have them attached to course outlines.

A further, and more valuable action teachers can take, is to teach students how to think critically.

Usih added he discourages "simple true or false or multiple-choice questions," saying it's more feasible for students to cheat when a test only involves basic recall.

Instead, he said the board encourages ways for instructors to teach their students how to be critical thinkers. "It will force the student to use their own words to defend their position."

The purpose of sending a child to school, Anderman said, is for them to learn.

"When kids cheat, they're only learning how to cheat, which is something they might take with them in their adult life."
© Copyright (c) Canwest News Service

Cheating Documentary

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

What Everyone Should Know About Google Search

Sometimes I find something that seems so easy and I sit here dumbfounded because I think, “Why didn’t I know this years ago?” Does that ever happen to you?

For example, yesterday’s post taught me something I didn’t know. On virtually any hand-held calculator, you can press the number you want, then the “times” function key and then the “equal” key and that would give you the square of the number that you first entered. How cool is that? I knew about keyboard shortcuts, but I never knew there were calculator shortcuts. There has to be other calculator shortcuts and maybe that will be the topic of a future post??? I’m now left wondering how much quicker I could have finished all of my math tests in school all those years ago.

So now you know how the topic of today’s post came about. While attempting to research a few things on the internet, I realized that the key words I chose to search by really weren’t so “key” after all. I was left to sort through pages of links that provided a plethora of topics not really related to the intent of my search. I figured there must be better methods to refine my search.

So what is it that everyone should know about Google Search?

Google offers the following tips for using refining your searches:

• Use square brackets [ ] to denote queries
So [ to be or not to be ] is an example of a query; [ to be ] or [ not to be ] are two examples of queries.

• Phrase search ("")
By putting double quotes around a set of words, you are telling Google to consider the exact words in that exact order without any change. Google already uses the order and the fact that the words are together as a very strong signal and will stray from it only for a good reason, so quotes are usually unnecessary. By insisting on phrase search you might be missing good results accidentally. For example, a search for [ "Alexander Bell" ] (with quotes) will miss the pages that refer to Alexander G. Bell.

• Search within a specific website (site:)
Google allows you to specify that your search results must come from a given website. For example, the query [ iraq ] will return pages about Iraq but only from The simpler queries [ iraq ] or [ iraq New York Times ] will usually be just as good, though they might return results from other sites that mention the New York Times. You can also specify a whole class of sites, for example [ iraq ] will return results only from a .gov domain and [ iraq ] will return results only from Iraqi sites.

• Terms you want to exclude (-)
Attaching a minus sign immediately before a word indicates that you do not want pages that contain this word to appear in your results. The minus sign should appear immediately before the word and should be preceded with a space. For example, in the query [ anti-virus software ], the minus sign is used as a hyphen and will not be interpreted as an exclusion symbol; whereas the query [ anti-virus -software ] will search for the words 'anti-virus' but exclude references to software. You can exclude as many words as you want by using the - sign in front of all of them, for example [ jaguar -cars -football -os ]. The - sign can be used to exclude more than just words. For example, place a hyphen before the 'site:' operator (without a space) to exclude a specific site from your search results.

• Fill in the blanks (*)
The *, or wildcard, is a little-known feature that can be very powerful. If you include * within a query, it tells Google to try to treat the star as a placeholder for any unknown term(s) and then find the best matches. For example, the search [ Google * ] will give you results about many of Google's products (go to next page and next page -- we have many products). The query [ Obama voted * on the * bill ] will give you stories about different votes on different bills. Note that the * operator works only on whole words, not parts of words.

• Search exactly as is (+)
Google employs synonyms automatically, so that it finds pages that mention, for example, childcare for the query [ child care ] (with a space), or California history for the query [ ca history ]. But sometimes Google helps out a little too much and gives you a synonym when you don't really want it. By attaching a + immediately before a word (remember, don't add a space after the +), you are telling Google to match that word precisely as you typed it. Putting double quotes around a single word will do the same thing.

• The OR operator
Google's default behavior is to consider all the words in a search. If you want to specifically allow either one of several words, you can use the OR operator (note that you have to type 'OR' in ALL CAPS). For example, [ Dallas Cowboys 2004 OR 2005 ] will give you results about either one of these years, whereas [ Dallas Cowboys 2004 2005 ] (without the OR) will show pages that include both years on the same page. The symbol can be substituted for OR. (The AND operator, by the way, is the default, so it is not needed.)

• Exceptions
Search is rarely absolute. Search engines use a variety of techniques to imitate how people think and to approximate their behavior. As a result, most rules have exceptions. For example, the query [ for better or for worse ] will not be interpreted by Google as an OR query, but as a phrase that matches a (very popular) comic strip. Google will show calculator results for the query [ 34 * 87 ] rather than use the 'Fill in the blanks' operator. Both cases follow the obvious intent of the query. Here is a list of exceptions to some of the rules and guidelines that were mentioned in this and the Basic Search Help article:

• Exceptions to 'Every word matters'
* Words that are commonly used, like 'the,' 'a,' and 'for,' are usually ignored (these are called stop words). But there are even exceptions to this exception. The search [ the who ] likely refers to the band; the query [ who ] probably refers to the World Health Organization -- Google will not ignore the word 'the' in the first query.
* Synonyms might replace some words in your original query. (Adding + before a word disables synonyms.)
* A particular word might not appear on a page in your results if there is sufficient other evidence that the page is relevant. The evidence might come from language analysis that Google has done or many other sources. For example, the query [ overhead view of the Bellagio pool ] will give you nice overhead pictures from pages that do not include the word 'overhead.'

• Punctuation that is not ignored
* Punctuation in popular terms that have particular meanings, like [ C++ ] or [ C# ] (both are names of programming languages), are not ignored.
* The dollar sign ($) is used to indicate prices. [ nikon 400 ] and [ nikon $400 ] will give different results.
* The hyphen - is sometimes used as a signal that the two words around it are very strongly connected. (Unless there is no space after the - and a space before it, in which case it is a negative sign.)
* The underscore symbol _ is not ignored when it connects two words, e.g. [ quick_sort ].

• Search for particular kinds of files
* You can find only files of a certain type by using the filetype: operator. For example, to find a PDF cheat sheet, try filetype:pdf "cheat sheet".

• Advanced tip: find synonyms
* To find pages that include terms like the one you're searching for, try the tilde (~) sign. For example, a search for ~nutrition ~information McDonald's turns up pages that contain words like info, food, facts, and protein.

• Combine operators into a single search
* Any number of these operators can go into one search to narrow your results even more. For example, you can search for all the McDonald's nutritional information that appears on sites NOT including by combining the minus sign and site operator, too, like this: ~nutrition McDonalds

Check out the following for more tips on conducting web searches:

Google's own search operator cheat sheet (print it out and keep it handy for reference)

Monday, August 10, 2009

Math Magic

We have all seen a magic show, but have any of you witnessed a "mathemagic" show? Arthur Benjamin is a professor of mathematics at Harvey Mudd College and quite the "Mathemagician." Check out his act!


Via the Open Culture Blog.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Get Ript!

I recently found Ript and I had to share it with you.

It is a FREE site that is simple and fun to use. According to the site, "If you’ve ever made a list, torn a page from a magazine or bookmarked a Web page “for future reference,” Ript is the tool for you. It puts the “fun” back in functionality, so you can get more done, in less time… with less stress."

Organize your thoughts, tasks, inspirations, ambitions and so much more.
"You can Rip just about anything. It is part scrapbook, part “to-do” list (or to-buy list), Ript mimics the actions of ripping, piling and arranging scraps of information. If you can see it on your computer, you can “rip” it. Simply drag and drop images and text from the internet or your computer and arrange them however you please — making it easy to compile, print and share your handiwork."

Rip just about anything.
"Part scrapbook, part “to-do” list (or to-buy list), Ript mimics the actions of ripping, piling and arranging scraps of information. If you can see it on your computer, you can “rip” it. Simply drag and drop images and text from the internet or your computer and arrange them however you please — making it easy to compile, print and share your handiwork."

Take a look at the video from DemoGirl on how to use Ript:

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