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Monday, June 30, 2014

Web 2.0 Tool Project: VoiceThread

 Check out this VoiceThread!
Check out this VoiceThread on the Challenges and Rewards of Distance Education

Recently, I collaborated with three other graduate students at the University of Houston to create a VoiceThread conversation on the topic of distance education.

We divided up the topic by "challenges" versus "advantages," and within that, we each picked an area or participant in online education to focus on (students, teachers, institutions, etc.) 

I had looked forward to trying out VoiceThread because I was interested in the aspect of people being able to respond with not only comments, but voice-recording, and video-recording as well. I made two pictographic slides on the sub-topic of Rewards and Advantages for teachers and institutions. Then, I added both my voice-recording and written voice-over in case visitors wanted to review what I said or check out my references. 

All the group members were fabulous with communication, and we were able to complete the project in a week's time mainly through email. We sent each other our drafts, waited for feedback, and finalized it with the group leader. Tuhin Dey was assigned the leader of the project, so he coordinated with everyone and organized the materials into one VoiceThread discussion. 

I thought VoiceThread was pretty easy to use. One of its best features is that you could use a variety of multimedia to create a presentation or discussion as well as to respond to one. I liked how clearly it recorded my voice, but that may be because I have a decent microphone. I especially thought it was easy to record and delete-- which I did multiple times! When I added my typed-comments I was unsure if it was going to show up with two of my icons. I then realized that it bundled into my single icon, so that was organized. I think it would be nice if VoiceThread could add simple bold or italics options to the font so that responders could emphasize certain things in their typed comments. During this week, I plan on dropping by my peers' VoiceThreads to leave comments and maybe even try out the video-recording response option!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Web 2.0 Tool Review: Piktochart

Infographics are charts, diagrams, or visual images that communicate a message using little words. The purpose of an infographic is to for a person to walk away from it having learned something without having to do a lot of reading. The above infographic was made using an online application called Pikotochart (http://piktochart.com/).

Pikotochart is primarily a communication tool. It has a variety of pre-made designs that are ready to go. You can enter in new information, change up the design and graphics, insert your own images, and shorten or lengthen the infographic. The canvas is extremely flexible and quite easy to use. You can also create your own graphic from scratch.

Piktochart in the context of Education
Similar to my review on thinglink, Piktochart can be used for many educational purposes that call for the display of main ideas:
  • Timelines (Similar to my above example)
  • Book Reports (Explaining main ideas)
  • Information Page (That's what I made!)
  • Map (There are a lot of map options to show statistics make comparisons)
  • Processes and Cycles

Advantages and Disadvantages
  • User-friendly interface
  • Regular computer short-cuts apply (Ex. Ctrl+Z)
  • Lots of design options
  • Free account available
  • Free account comes with VERY limited pre-made design options (maybe only about 20 free)
  • Charts do not come with concept maps

Before Using
There are very little requirements. The user must have basic computer navigation skills, an internet connection, and updated web browser.

How to Use
1. Register for an account and log in.

2. Select a design.

3. Name it.

This is what your screen should look like (with the exception of the infographic design). Notice that the canvas is organized into certain blocks. To edit a block, just click on it and the particular item that you want to change.

4. On your left side, you'll notice different tools. Let's look at the Graphics and Icons tools. You can use the search bar to search for a specific item or click on the drop-down menu to select a category of icons.

5. Let's skip down to the Tools icon. Here you can find and insert more multimedia to present more detailed information.

If we click on the CHARTS option a spreadsheet similar to Microsoft Office's Chart's spreadsheet will appear. You can edit your chart design and contents by changing the input values here.

6. Edit pre-made text by clicking directly into the block and text. Add text by clicking on the Text icon from your toolbar on the left.

7. Save or publish your work. The options are located on your top right-hand corner.

Other Thoughts
I was very impressed that Piktochart had so many chart options, including the spreadsheet to manipulate data. I was a little dissapointed that there were no concept mapping tools, though. I was also frustrated that there were so little free pre-designed infographics, but it's FREE, so it's hard to complain. I recommend Piktochart for those who want to present information using detailed data. However, I would not recommend it for people who want to create a minimalistic infographic.

If you haven't checked out Canva (www.canva.com) yet, I highly recommend it and prefer it over Piktochart for creating infographics, posters, covers, and a variety of other things that aren't available on Piktochart. Canva is also free and comes with a large amount of free graphics to enhance your design.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Web 2.0 Tool Review: thinglink

thinglink (http://www.thinglink.com/is a communication tool used to create interactive graphics. In other words, you can create a graphic with links and videos that appear from just scrolling your mouse over the screen. 

In the above example, I used this Web 2.0 tool to create an interactive graphic on a city called Ha Tien. I wanted to say a lot, but pictures are worth a thousand words, so I linked several pictures to my graphic, instead. In addition, videos and a more detailed webpage on Ha Tien are also linked. Icons bulge from the image indicating that a link is active. Any readers looking at my graphic can navigate and choose what they want to learn about Ha Tien in one glance. thinglinks are most often used as a sort of map-like graphic in which links lead to related or more detailed information.

Before Using
thinglink is an online tool that only requires an account registration. Usage is free for personal or commercial use, but fees apply to use it on a larger scale. One of the best things about this tool is its simple interface. You can easily add icons by clicking on the image, and a box automatically asks you to insert a url link and text. One only needs to have basic computer and internet navigation skills to use it. Having some digital graphics skills will come in handy if you want to make your graphic look more purposeful by adding arrows, trails, smaller graphics, etc.

How to Use thinglink

thinglink in Educational Contexts
thinglink is a tool to express concepts in creative ways. I think its biggest appeal is how it works as a sort of infographic. You begin with a picture or graphic and then add extra information to expand on the big idea without overwhelming it with words. There are so many ways to use it-- here are a few:

Now that you know a few great things about thinglink, how about the disadvantages? 

  • Video links - Sometimes the video links show the video as a small window on the image, but sometimes it opens in a new tab/window
  • Embedding - Depending on what webpage you want to post the graphic on, you may have to go through a process of adding thinglink onto your site and insert it into your page's HTML 

Other Thoughts
After exploring this tool, it's definitely in my digital toolbox for future use! I highly recommend it for both educators and students to use as a communication tool when they want to explain ideas and concepts in creative ways.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Web 2.0 Tool Review: Weebly

Accommodation - Below is the script to the video.

(Title slide)
In this segment, I will review a Web 2.0 communication tool called Weebly.

(Weebly site and example sites)
Weebly is a free online website builder. You can create anything from blogs, basic information websites, to business sites with e-commerce options. You don't have to know any HTML to use Weebly. All you need is an internet connection and web browser. 

Weebly boasts that its tools are easy to use. Building a site consists of selecting a site format and theme and utilizing drag and drop features. It automatically adapts to your phone internet browsers. This tool is completely web-based and you do not need to download any special programs to use it.

(Screencast of Weebly main page and its different tools) 00:42
Screencast script unavailable.

(Before using Weebly slide) 04:16
Here are some suggestions before you begin using Weebly:
1. Decide on the website type (Do you want to make a blog, information, or e-commerce site?)
2. Browse other similar websites (to get ideas on how you want to organize your site)
3. Draft your site (on paper or online)
4. Make a test website to explore tools (and get a sense of how its interface works)

(Educational Uses slide) 04:40
As an educational tool, I think it's great for communicating a large amount of information to learners. For example, as a classroom website, a source of general or expert information, a place for blogging and discussion, and it can also be used as a place to get information on or display completed digital work. For students, weebly is an easy tool to help develop an e-portfolio. 

In my case, I designed my Weebly site as an information resource for people who are interested in the JET Program and Japanese public schools. 

(Screenshot of Weebly and Wix) 05:12
I highly recommend Weebly because it is relatively easy to use. Another website builder with similar features that you might also want to look into is called Wix on wix.com.

(Thank you slide)
Thank you for watching.

(Credit slides)

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Self Introduction

My name is Thanh Tran. Nice to meet you!

I am a M.Ed. student in the Learning, Design, and Technology program at the University of Houston. My background is in elementary education. I used to teach elementary for a few years, then went abroad to teach for a few years, and now I'm back as a student.

My professional interests are, ofcourse, educational technology, literacy education, and English Second Language education. My personal interests are the Japanese language and culture, doodling with web graphics, and taking care of my dogs. I recently became very interested in graphic design and digital video after taking Dr. Susie Gronseth's Educational Multimedia and Dr. Bernard Robin's Educational Uses of Digital Video classes, so I am looking forward to the assignments in my current technology classes and applying what I've learned so far.

I made this blog to review and share different types of Web 2.0 Communication Tools and their uses in the educational context. I hope you will find the information on this blog helpful.

Feel free to leave any comments!

Thanh Tran

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