Free: SnagIt Screen Capture

26 11 2007

TechSmith, who are still giving out copies of Camtasia Studio for free, are now also giving away another of their premium products, SnagIt.

Like Camtasia, SnagIt allows you to capture anything you see on your screen and save it and edit it for creating small instructional resources. However, SnagIt can be configured for “one-clicK” access on your computer, and allows you to capture high-quality still images as well as video. You can add effects and instructional text and graphics, and even make your tutorial interactive with clickable areas and text.

Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (English)
Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (German)
Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (French)

Click here for a key to register SnagIt 7.2.5 demo as a fully licensed version.

Because SnagIt outputs interactive Flash files as well as images and video files, it can be used in a number of ways to create mobile learning content for PDAs, mobile phones and media players. It could also be used by learners to document their mastery of a computer-based process or to create content for sharing with other learners.

(via Freebies Blog)

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Mobile Assessment Made Easy

25 08 2007

There’s some great news from the Australian Flexible Learning Framework, the national organisation which promotes flexible learning opportunities in the Australian Vocational Education and Training system.

Not only has the Framework successfully drafted a further 4 year strategy to continue to support teachers and trainers Australia-wide (congrats and hurrah!), but work has begun on improving tools for conducting assessments using mobile devices.

This work will build on a previous Framework project which produced the QTI m-Player. a free mobile assessment tool compatible with the international Question and Test Interoperability Standard (QTI). According to the Framework Press Release:

Peter Higgs, Manager of Learning Technology at TAFE Tasmania said: “The first version of QTI m-Player looked at quizzing and not uploading assessment outcomes and results onto an organisational system.

“The new functions will include the ability to send assessment information, including photo attachments via secure e-mail to upload directly into a Learning Management System.

“Assessors will no longer have to manually enter the data into their administration systems and process the results once they get back to the office,” said Mr Higgs.

The work is being supported and funded by the AFLF’s New Practices In Flexible Learning project. The M-Learning community looks forward to hearing more about this work in the year ahead!

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Free Mobile Poetry Resources

1 05 2007

Tony Vincent at the Learning In Hand blog reports that K12 Handhelds has made some great poetry resources available, for use on Palm and Windows Mobile devices, as well as laptop and desktop PCs:Poetry eBooks

  • Two mobile references in the (free) Mobipocket e-book format: a brief overview of “Types of Poetry,” and an anthology of some of the best classical poems.
  • A Poetry Scavenger Hunt in Microsoft Word format, which can be viewed and completed on PDAs with Word software, or on a laptop or desktop computer.
  • A brief poetry types quiz in Quizzler format.
  • Links to additional supporting materials online.
  • A guide to using these resources for classroom activities.

These are great resources, and provide good examples of what can be developed for mobile platforms using free authoring and reading software.

Screenshots of Resources

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Complete schematics for sub-$150 handheld (learning?) device

21 03 2007

In my last post, I picked up Dr. Paul Trafford’s idea for a $100 PDA, and he was gracious enough to add his comment:

Your thoughts on a $100 One-PDA-A-Learner are very welcome. Many thanks for picking this up. My musings on OxPDA are now more than 2 years old and since then connectivity has improved a lot, so my wishes should probably be revised.

An affordable Linux-based PDA sounds a good candidate, but brand new equipment always comes at a considerable premium. If it is to work I think it is important to bring in experiences from a broad range of initiatives, each of which can contribute at least some lessons. One project that offered much promise a few years ago was the Simputer, but it didn’t prove as cost-effective as hoped.

I’d be ecstatic to see Paul’s revised thoughts on what a $100 PDA might incorporate today, given advancements in technology in the last two years. I agree with Paul that brand new equipment generally carries abit of a price tag, but this is often the result of manufacturer, wholesale, and retail markups – a hurdle side-stepped by the creators of the OLPC by controlling their own manufacturing and distribution, rather than purchase a marked-up consumer model. Having control over design and manufacturing also meant the OLPC machines could be designed from the ground up to support pedagogical objectives – rather than the usual consumer entertainment or business objectives.

So… what if we could make this thing from scratch, and cut out the mark-ups? What if the project was run as an open-source platform, enabling its hardware and software to be continuously revised and improved by a community of developers? To inspire ideas about what might one day be, I refer to the Chumby project, (which I’ve previously blogged), an open-source handheld computing platform being developed as a from-scratch device with an expected retail cost of under US$150 – I reckon that would put the actual parts and manufacturing cost around $100.

Because it’s an open source project, all of the Chumby hardware schematics and component lists (indeed, even a blueprint of the PCB and assembly drawing) are freely available to their developer community, as well as the Linux-based OS that it runs. The documentation demonstrates that putting together a $100 handheld device from scratch is highly feasible. The Chumby concept certainly isn’t my idea of an ideal handheld learning device; but it does provide some inspiration for a working model of how such a device might be designed, refined, and implemented.

So… what would *you* like to see in an ideal handheld learning device? Ideally, such a question should be answered in pedagogical, rather than technological, terms, with every bit of incorporated technology in the design underpinned by a set of learning objectives or opportunities it facilitates, and justified on a (educational) return-on-investment basis.

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A $100 One-PDA-A-Learner (OPAL?)

20 03 2007

Dr. Paul Trafford of Oxford University has got me thinking with his idea for a $100 PDA for education. He’s already put together the figures to show that it’s already possible – yes, right now – to put together a $100 PDA package for students (even his older figures from last year put the package price under US$150, the current cost of manufacturing an OLPC laptop), which could include a local version of Wikipedia, packaged up for complete searching and reference using Tomeraider software.

Seeing as he’s managed to put together a $100 learner PDA without the global consortium the OLPC project has entailed, he now has me thinking what one could put together in a custom $100 PDA, built and designed from scratch, and based on an open platform architecture. After all, it’s already possible to build a complete, though basic, mobile phone handset for $25… and an open-platform, Linux-based handheld device was recently launched by electronics company Grundig, featuring a 2-megapixel camera, sleek clamshell design, mp3 player, microSD expandable memory, FM radio, and wireless connectivity – all achieved with a single chip (minimising production costs). The feasibility of a Linux-based handheld device is further supported by the fact that most Motorola phones have been running Linux as their OS since 2003, not to mention many Samsung models. Even GPS can (and has been) be integrated with a Linux-based handheld device, and according to some analysts, Linux is expected to be one of the dominant OSes in the handheld market by 2010

Dr. Trafford has his own wishlists for what might be included in such a tool – veering away from a telephone-like device towards more of a PDA-like device, and I agree that a PDA-type interface could provide a good deal more flexiblity in terms of learning activities and interfaces.

Whatever the form factor, I personally would like to see an informationally connected – or at least, Internet connected – low cost device, which leads me to the latest internet buzz over the development of a “Google phone“. Among Google’s 20-odd research projects, they’ve confirmed they are working on an informationally-connected handheld device:

Isabel Aguilera, head of Google’s Iberian operations, was quoted last week in Spanish news site Noticias.com as acknowledging the existence of a part-time project by some Google engineers to develop a mobile phone.

In her interview at http://tinyurl.com/2feypv/, translated from Spanish, the Google executive said her company “has been investigating” developing a mobile phone that works both as an internet access device and as a way to extend internet use to emerging markets customers.

A handheld internet access device? From the world’s current leader in information access and connectivity? Designed for emerging market cutomers (i.e. low cost)? From an educator’s perspective, this sounds like an exciting prospect, and should investigation lead Google to actual design and implementation, I’ll certainly be following any news keenly. Google have been making it abundantly clear that mobile technology is their current priority for continued growth, and have proven it through their creation of mobile widgets for mail, maps, news, and searching; their recent purchase of Neven Vision also hints at their interest in creating new tools that will enable the use of image recognition to perform “visual searches” and discover information about objects using a camera phone.

It’s all very interesting to think about. I’m mulling Dr. Trafford’s ideas around in my head, and I’ll certainly blog some ideas of my own as they synthesise more substantially.

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A Mobile Learning Bargain?

14 03 2007

O2 XDA II Mini Smart PhoneOfficeworks in Australia is currently selling the O2 XDA II Mini Smartphone/PDA for half price (on sale) at just A$499. We at CIT bought about 40 of these just last October for about A$700 each (bulk/education discount), branded as the HP iPAQ RW6828 (although ours have the more up-to-date Windows 5 Mobile OS)… so this is pretty good value.

It’s a fully featured Smartphone running Windows Mobile 2003 Smartphone Edition, and having used one for the last few months, I can attest that it’s a pretty good bit of m-learning kit.

Officeworks is even throwing in 2 spare styluses and a 256MB Mini SD card into the bargain. If you’re interested in getting a fully featured telephony and wireless capable smartphone/PDA (or even a set) for trying out or delivering m-learning – check this out.

(via Bargain Blog)

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S-XGen PDA supports social, mobile learning

5 03 2007

RemTech have announced an innovative new product aimed squarely at supporting mobile learning activities – with particular attention to support for socially constructivist/connectivist pedagogical approaches.

The S-XGen (which is unfortunately mis-labelled a UMPC on its product page when it’s really a PDA) includes a big 20GB hard drive, an integrated fold-out QWERTY keyboard, and wireless connectivity via Bluetooth, Wi-Fi (802.11b), and GSM/GPRS telephony. Education essentials such as audio recording and an integrated camera are there (albeit at a lowly 1.3 megapixels), and a big 8-hour battery (though this estimate probably doesn’t include continuous wireless use).

All of this functionality makes the S-XGen a bit on the bulky side.  It also strikes me as a little strange that the device includes a 10/100 CAT-5 Ethernet port, but apparently only supports the slower 802.11b wireless specification rather than the faster 802.11g specification – particularly when it’s touted as including 4-way video teleconferencing capability.

Even so, if this video conferencing capability is up to scratch, it’s one aspect of this device that seems to strive for good support for social and connected educational activities, which are widely upheld by educators as vital to the learning process and the “construction” of knowledge.

The other new feature that supports this social, connected learning is the device’s apparent support for encrypted, peer-to-peer connectivity (specified on this page which contains more information and commentary).  Having the ability to easily share resources and ideas between handheld devices using a wireless peer-to-peer approach would be a big winner for a mobile learning device, as this could facilitate better communication, social interaction and knowledge sharing.

It’s got pros and cons, to be sure; but if you’re considering a set of mobile learning devices, this one is certainly worth a look into.

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