Monday, March 29, 2010

Where would you put this on a keyboard?

Just when you thought the punctuation canon was closed, it appears we have a new symbol!

Called the 'SarcMark', it has been designed by an American firm to indicate sarcasm. Check out the ad below:

As this article in the Telegraph points out, without the benefit of tone of voice, expression sarcasm in print can be fraught with risk. But alas, we now have something which will make explicit that which may have been intended to be subtle!

I'm just itching with ideas about how I can teach this new one to my students! Free download here.
(Hat tip: Kathryn EDEM629 for this!)

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Loving Mindmeister

When it comes to Web 2.0 tools, it seems so many come my way through Google Reader and other sources that it's almost inevitable that most of these remain unexplored. For me to really go and have a sniff I might need to hear about 4 or 5 times from different sources to be convinced that it is worth exploring.

Various concept-mapping tools are very similar. Where do you start? With so many options out there, all of which look worthy of investigation, which to choose? Until now I have used with my classes, largely because it is so easy to use. It is a simple concept mapping tool, it allows collaboration, is fun, but on the whole has fairly limited functionality.

But now I have been introduced to Mindmeister and I think there is no going back! Visually it is impressive, functionally it is easy to use, and it has a lot of extras that leave me wishing I had started using it a long time ago. One of my favourite features is the ability to playback the creation of the mindmap at a speed of your choosing, and as it does so it tells you who added what, and when:

You are also able to add notes to your ideas, plenty of space for this. In addition, there is the Wundernote button which will automatically add a note about that topic (for example, a definition of a word).

The downside? Well, it comes down to money... I have been using the Basic plan, which I am sad to learn only offers three mindmaps, and does not offer the ability to upload images or attachments as is possible on the other plans. Isn't it interesting that these days we (unfairly) expect everything to be free? Outrageous really.

The good-ish news is that Mindmeister have an Academic plan, which although not free, can get your class brainstorming for a year for $US18. I haven't signed up for this yet, and am still weighing up whether I should. Afterall, my students have got Inspiration software on their computers. This is very good, but I'll always prefer a Web 2.0 tool as it allows more continuity between home and school. And for my age level (8-9 year olds) maybe is sufficient. Hmmm. And I have to pay in $NZ, which makes it a bit more pricey!

Anyway, it is definitely worth having a look at their 4 minute intro video below:

If you have found any other concept mapping tool in the classroom, please tell leave a comment and tell us what you thought of it.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Back to the Future?

This is great. When thinking about the challenges of introducing technology into developing countries (such as access to internet/electricity), we tend to think the answer will lie in the technology of the future rather than the past.

A group of undergraduates, calling themselves Team One Beep at the University of Auckland have developed a new kind of software which can get data to laptops without using the internet. Instead, they are using the am/fm radio network that already exists widely in many parts of Africa and South America, to transfer data on to OLPC laptops.

It does this by converting text and images into sound, broadcasting over am or fm, and the signal is then picked up by any old am/fm radio, and by means of a headphone cord into the laptop microphone, the data is reconverted back into text/image.

Many of the places where OLPC laptops are deployed have no internet access, often no electricity or even running water, which makes this seemingly simple solution all the more impressive. We are not yet talking about the data quantities that would allow the likes of Youtube and so forth, but this is a step in the right direction.

The next question is whether it is possible to work the system backwards, creating text/images and sending them out using this technology, the very thing which distinguishes Web 1.0 from Web 2.0. Jeet admits they are not quite at that stage yet, but they are working on this capability. Here is a link to an audio interview with Vinny Jeet (13 minutes) from Radio New Zealand's 'This Way Up' programme with Simon Morton.

So here's to using 'old' technology to solve the problems of the new!

(Image from 'My Friends Call Me Jack' on Flickr)