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Most Popular Smartphones and PDAs

My friend Frances has set up her own blog “My Mobile Technology Addictions“; personally I think her site should be called “My Technology Addictions” because she is fairly addicted to it all. While I commented that Sue was not even in the competition, when it comes to me and Frances, I am not in the competition.

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Frances is a brilliant PDA programmer, she has developed excellent software for PDA and is fantastic at teaching people how to use PDAs. Unfortunately she is not recognised for her great work and people perceive her, compared to me, as just starting out in mobile technology. Which is totally the wrong assumption; important not to confuse web presence with ability.

I gain so much from my relationship with Frances (yes Sue – you too); I believe that my relationships and networking with others is mutually beneficial. For example; Frances has helped me out of many at tricky situation (like the “I most almost destroyed my video ipod‘) or simple and obvious tricks (saving PowerPoints as jpg) and I have fed her technology addiction by challenging her thoughts on using e-learning strategies with IT students (she is now setting up a wiki for her students).

Back to work – Frances posted Mobile Software Top Sellers which is cool because it gives you an update on the sales on software from Handango Yardstick – lets you know what software people are buying for their PDAs, which is great because there are so many software and freeware options that it can be overwhelming.

Also got me thinking that I am often asked for advice on which PDA or smartphone is worth purchasing. I think it is always a good idea to check out what is popular. I suggest you look at Brighthand “Most Popular PDA and Smartphones” and Consumer Search Best PDAs then ask advice from people who use them; because ultimately there is a lot of individuality with mobile devices (I personally would not like a large PDA with keyboard; and while my current model does not have a keyboard – which is not an issue- I would be happy with a keyboard only if it slide in and out). If you want an inbuilt phone make sure you buy 3G, or you will be playing a lot more to access the Internet.


You say widgets, I say gadgets….we might as well call the whole thing off!

The pressure is on – two on my friends – Evil Sue and Frances – have both got into blogging at the same time…which I am really pleased about…:( but it’s like double trouble.

As Evil Sue post grab my attention first lets start with her. She ended her first post with “Good Sue said to use the easier blogger. But buggar that, what she can do, I can do better! Muwhahahahahah – bring it on!” Honestly at this point, I had thought she had finally lost it because “Girlfriend you are not even in the competition!“:) (If you have been following Sue and my exploits on my podcast site you will be aware that we are a bit competitive! – in a nice way).

So Evil Sue, over the past few days, has been struggling to learning how to use her edublog blog (I did warn her!) and is feeling very old at 34 as she realised the world has changed while her head was buried in work! However she has risen to the challenge and posted an excellent read on “Widgets, Widgets, Widgets” which made me investigate widgets more.

Poor Evil Sue, like most of us, is struggling to keep up-to-date with all this web terminology and widgets is a classic example. In simple terms widgets are mini web applications that you can put onto your website (i.e. blog, wiki, homepage). For example, the feed from my del.icio.us account in my sidebar is a widget. The following pictures are examples of widgets you can get for your site from Widgetbox (unfortunately I am unable to install any at the moment as most run on javascript and it has been disabled on WordPress blogs at the moment due to security issues – however these widgets will embed okay within wikis).

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What makes matters confusing is that there are alternative names for Widgets (Other terms used to describe a Web Widget include Gadget, Badge, Module, Capsule, Snippet, Mini and Flake). Google is a classic example of this, they call their widgets gadgets, when you add stuff to your personalized Google homepage Google says you are adding gadgets. While as an end user, a names does not mean much to us (we just want to put cool things on our site that will interest people that visit our site), for a developer gadgets and widgets imply two different types of applications.

If you want to enhance your website then I suggest you check out the great selection of widgets at Widgetbox, with so many to choose from there is no way you will not fail to bling up your site. Interesting post on the Widgetbox Blog about what make a widget popular – social (built around what you want to share with your friends); personalized (it is your baby’s due date, your website or your blog, your videos, your playlist); simple and catchy.

From my point of view, the only problem with widgets, is I can not always embed the one I want in an edublog blog. Check out my cool animated glitter art on my wiki. So I have had to go with glitter words here instead!

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While Evil Sue has an issue with the idea of a “widget week” because she is feeling overwhelm by all this technology. I think what a cool idea! I think it is time we all started blinging up our sites with cool widgets! Frances I will talk about in my next post (sorry Frances but this post is already too long!)

Open source software (community developed software) – What’s it all about and how does it impact on me?

Proprietary software (e.g. Windows XP) is own by a company, they own the source code (i.e. basic foundation of a program) and the code is built in isolation by their developers. Whereas the principal of open source software is based on the fact that the source code is freely available online and anyone can use it for their own use (without paying to use). Most importantly often a community of developers contribute to the the development of the software. This model works for the same reason that Wikipedia works; based on the Wisdom of Crowds – increasing the number of individuals working together collaboratively increases exchanging of ideas.

To me Firefox is a classic example of the potential impact open source software. Firefox is an open source web browser which many people are starting to use as an alternative to Internet Explorer. Since it’s release on November, 2004 its usage as a web browser has risen from 4.64 % (Dec, 2004) to 15.10 % (Mar, 2007) compared to Internet Explorer that decreased from 90.31 % (Dec, 2004) to 78.57 % (Mar, 2007) (data from Market Share by Net Applications). I, like many others, use Firefox as my preferred browser because I find it has more functionality compared to Internet Explorer. I originally installed Firefox because Internet Explorer kept crashing when I was using WebCT 6.0, and I do not have any problems with this happening with Firefox. Also Firefox has some great add-ons that make it such an excellent web browser.

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Currently the biggest reason why more people do not download open source software is that they do not feel comfortable with the idea of installing software on their computer (in case it damages their computer). Increased user confidence over time will, I believe, lead to increased usage of open source software.

Never work with kids…. or husband!

Absolutely unbelievable. First my son Liam’s ToonDoo comic is more popular than mine (238 views as well as making Editor’s pick) and now my husband, who has only posted once on his site, “The blog of a technology widower” has been written about on another person’s site. What can I say, speechless, luckily I can still type!

Letting it all go…..Gabriella after reading my post on ToonDoo checked it out and obviously had some fun as she made her own comic. I believe she has written that ToonDoo is really easy to use! And she has yet again given me a fabulous link to a site, Comeeko, where you can make comics from your photos. Absolutely brilliant, this means I can now easily create comics from characters, using ToonDoo, or if I want to use my own photos I can use Comeeko.

ToonDoo is a lot easier to use than Comeeko. I love the fact that when they designed ToonDoo software they created it so that kids could easily use – these means that it works so easily and well for anyone. However I like the fact that you can use your own photos with Comeeko and you can download your finished comic onto your computer then easily insert your comic into your blog without having to mess around with code.

From my point of view they are both excellent free online comic creators. Definitely you should give both a try – lots of fun!

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How will organisations meet “Mobility: the next big thing”

Contrary to popular belief I do actually go out. Today I had to take the kids to swimming lessons, which goes for 45 minutes, so it is a good opportunity to catch up on some reading, so I bought myself a Smartphone and Pocket PC magazine to read while I watched them swim (oops was I meant to watch?). Yes I know, probably not the normal magazine a mother would read while her kids do swimming lessons but it really does have excellent articles on PDAs and was well worth the read.

Their article on “The 4 Most Common Mobility Myths” really made me think because mobilising and equipping our vocational and educational training workforce to meet training needs is an important issue in Australia. There is a strong emphasis in Australia to de-institutionalise VET training (move from solely campus based delivery and embrace workplace training as well as industry and community workplace planning & development). Lecturing staff will need to be equipped with mobile devices that both increase their mobility plus enhance their work practices. There will be increased need for training to include e- & m-learning solutions for this transformation of TAFE colleges to occur.

Read what Smartphone and Pocket PC magazine (Feb/Mar 2007 Vol 10, No 1) says about the future of Mobility:

“Corporation limit mobile deployments due to a lack of imagination. They’ve become too focused on the components and are missing the bigger picture. Mobility right now is like the Internet was in 1996; then everyone discounted the Internet, or worried that it would just encourage employees to play games.

Now, companies understand that the Internet is a tremendous resource for accessing and exchanging information, and a powerful platform for commerce. Likewise, companies need to embrace mobility instead of being afraid of it.”

My thoughts on implementing mobility in the TAFE sector:

  1. Focus on the desired outcome before focusing on the technology - Consider what we are really trying to achieve. For example; a workplace assessor who has 50 trainees (able to select from 50 units). This person is going to have to assess and visit lots of trainees in the workplace plus record lots of evidence of these visits and any assessments. If they need the mobility to assess the trainee while the trainee is doing the task in the workplace will a laptop give them adequate mobility while they are conducting the assessment. Unlikely – a PDA may be a better option.
  2. Recognise there is a level of individuality – Individuals will have different personal preferences for which mobile device ends up suiting their needs. For example, some people love the idea of a PDA with inbuilt phone, others prefer separate phone and PDA, and others will not like to use a PDA (e.g. small screen size) and prefer to use a small Tablet PC. We can not nor should not expect one solution to fit all scenarios and all individuals.
  3. Realise that individuals will not know their needs until they actually trial possible solutions – If you asked a person before they ever used a PDA what features they needed, undoubtedly they would choose a model with a large screen, keyboard and phone enabled (and most likely when they get it they will find it is less mobile/desirable than a smaller device). They will have based their decision on their knowledge of PCs because most of them probably have no idea of what a PDA is. Far better to trial a few different types of mobile devices based on advice from people (even if it is outside the organisation) who have had a reasonable amount of experience with a range of mobile devices.
  4. Back up implementation of mobile technology with adequate professional development to ensure the devices will be used effectively – without adequate professional development the full potential of these devices will not be recognised (may become good for playing games or packed away in the cupboard). For most of these devices, extensive PD is necessary and should include not one but several PD workshops (with adequate time between workshops to practice skills).

Why having responsibilities suck (sometimes)!

On Tuesday, Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, is coming to Perth; which is amazing because Perth is often referred to as the most isolated city in the World. Yet when I check out the facts on Perth in Wikipedia I am soon set straight by the fact that I live in the second most isolated city in the World, Honolulu is actually the most isolated place (although in my mind there is no comparison).

Besides our isolation we are very lucky to have Jimmy visit Perth for Education.au first seminar for 2007 to present on “Challenging how Knowledge is created” because this is an important event.

Who would have thought that encouraging everyone to collaboratively write information, in the form of a free content encyclopedia, using a wiki, would result in a website that ranks in the top ten most visited websites. Considering Wikipedia has only been going since 2001 and studies have shown that Wikipedia has comparable accuracy to other modern encyclopedias it is an amazing accomplishment. From my point of view, Jimmy’s seminar is a must, because there is obviously so much we can learn from his achievements and his knowledge of collaborative learning using social computing technology.

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But – while it is a must – I can not be for me. He is doing his seminar on Tuesday, the only day of the week that I can not change my work commitments. I have teaching all day for aquaculture and am unable to amend my teaching schedule because my classes are already too disrupted this year due to my heavy e- and m-learning obligations. Perhaps I should send my technophobic husband (to the seminar not my teaching)?

Jimmy Wales presenting for Education.au on “Challenging how Knowledge is created”on the following dates:

  • 23 April Adelaide Hilton Hotel, 9:30am – 4:00pm
  • 24 April Perth Burswood Entertainment Complex, – 9:30am – 4:00pm
  • 26 April Sydney Hilton Hotel, 9:30am – 4pm
  • 27 April Melbourne ZINC at Federation Square, 9:30am – 4:00pm

You can book online!

Please let me know all the wonderful things you learnt from his seminar!

The world has changed….social networking

Michael Coghlan is right “the world has changed…”; it is amazing to consider how the evolution of the World Wide Web and technology has enabled us to network with others using social computing plus maintain these connections and networks with each other regardless of where we are (e.g. sitting on the beach connecting via our mobile phone, PDA or wireless computer). If we reflect back in time, back to the introduction of the World Wide Web, there is no way we would anticipate this would be one of the outcomes. It still amazes me to realise that there are so many people online that I network with, who help and assist me and yet I have never meet.

More amazingly are the different forms of networking involved; and the fact that not all of the networking involves formal contact or communication and yet you gain from the networking. Take for example, Gabriela Grosseck. I came across her blog when I noticed that people were visiting my podcast site as a result of her post on wikispaces which included my interview with Adam Frey, co-founder of wikispaces. Not sure exactly how she came across my podcast site, possibly as a result of post on wikispaces blog.

I now subscribe to Gabriela’s blog because she post excellent information with lots of fantastic links to resources and information that have been of great value to me. She obviously values what I do because she posts about my blog, del.icio.us and wiki site as well now. And the only problem is I don’t read Romanian – well who cares (although I would like to read what she says about me) – doesn’t matter because I follow her links and guess the meanings she is saying. To me that is an amazing example of social networking, to be mutually assisting one another, globally dispersed, and one not able to speak the others language, and yet be able to connect on some level.

To highlight this connection, let me share what I learnt from Gabriela’s post today. I have been putting together tips for using del.icio.us on my wiki because it has taken me awhile to realise the true value of del.icio.us and I meet many people who have the same problem which I think relates to not using it effectively. Today Gabriela introduced me to del.icio.us Network Explorer . This cool application lets you check out yours and other peoples del.icio.us networks. Which is amazing when you start seeing, without realising it, there are many connections between the different individuals within each network. More importantly I then checked her recent bookmarking in her del.cio.us account which gave me additional web sites to more information that help me add to my tips for using del.icio.us on my wiki and I realised the benefits of using networks in del.icio.us and how you can share links with people in your network.

Look at my screenshot below from del.icio.us Network Explorer. Each dot represents a person’s del.icio.us account (191 people shown – if I kept pressing each dot there would have been more people with more connections). Each line shows a connection to another. Amazing to realise that some people you networking with more formally, have network members who connect with people that you informally network with. For example, Graham Wegner I know networks closely with Alex Hayes, and I have spoken a bit with Graham through my connections with Alex and would not know him without this connection. Yet Graham subscribe to many of the same blogs as me.

Yes Michael the “world is definitely changed….”, there is no way that I would have so many social networks that help me with my work and as Thomas Friedman says “The World is Flat“. Thanks Vicki Davis for putting me onto this great book.
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SWAN TAFE PD day

I am part of the Fresh Thinking Program 2006/07 which is funded by the WA Department of Education and Training. Each year a few lecturers from each of the different TAFEWA colleges are selected for the program, to run workshops, on request from other Colleges, on their area of specialty, and the Department covers the cost of the workshops. I was selected to be part of this program as a result of my m-learning work in 2006.

Today was my first workshop commitment as part of this program and I had to present two 1hr 20 min workshops on “E-learning’s evolution into m-learning” at two of SWAN TAFE campuses (Midland and Thornlie). Participants were from a wide range of industry areas (e.g. building and construction, horticulture, aviation) and had differing levels of exposure to e-learning. However most do not use e-learning with their students and were interested to learn more about e-learning. Bit of a problem as the workshop’s focus is meant to be on m-learning.

All was good though, because my presentation started by first looking at how technology has changed dramatically since 1991 and how this has resulted in the evolution of e-learning. As I worked through some of the key dates, in terms of e-learning, in the evolution of the World Wide Web (e.g. World Wide Web; WebCT; Elluminate; Wikipedia; blogs; wikis; Youtube) I was able highlight different types of e-learning that they could use with their students. I then moved onto m-learning and they each got to use a PDA (to see how they work and to check out some of the student resources); try out the spyglasses and some checked out the video ipod. End result I certainly had a good time and I hope they all did as well.

Probably for many of participants the major issue is time; most lecturers, especially those in trade areas, are struggling to keep up with training demands. Western Australia currently has an unemployment rate of 2.7 % (which is the lowest in Australia). So while e-learning can assist their programs they do not necessary have the time to learn the skills to use it effectively.

My suggestion to lecturers new to e- or m-learning is to focus on learning one main skill so they do not feel overwhelmed. There are some many possible starting points – probably the best idea is to first think about what you are trying to achieve and then consider the possible e- or m-learning solutions. For example with remote students, loss of face-to-face student interaction is an issue, and Elluminate (using web conferencing technology) is an excellent e-learning solution for enhancing the program and it is very easy to use (TAFEWA has the licence for Elluminate which means all TAFEWA lecturers have access to it).

This has been a very hard post to write. Not because it was hard to think of what to write but because tonight my girlfriend came to visit. She convinced my husband that he has to set up his own blog (I would not exactly say he is into technology – for example – insists always on spending days reading instruction manuals and then still have to ask me for help) and then proceeded to help him set it up (they have been sitting next to me all night chatting – very hard to concentrate). If you would like to check out his progress with technology, marriage to an Internet addict and kids who are almost as addicted as their mother you can find his blog at The Blog of a Technology Widower. Please, I beg you, do not subscribe to his blog or post comments, the family has too many people into the Internet (and I do not want to share my computer!).

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Image editing software

After reading the latest blogs I thought it was time to read some articles from my technology news feeds; one of which is PCWorld.com “Most popular downloads of the week”. Dare I say it; Google Picasa is one of the top ten downloads for the week. While I had read an article posted by Phillip Nichols on “How to do simple graphics editing with Picasa” back in February I had not got around to giving it a go. So when I saw the PC World article it reminded me that Phillip said it was a great program and I decided to give it a try.

Unlike a lot of Google applications this one you actually download and use on your computer. It is definitely cool. Goes through and scans your hard drive then places all the images and videos from all your different folders (not just My Pictures) into folders that are easy to access from its library. Their library is so easy and nice to scroll through.

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There are lots of photo editing options as well.

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Definitely an excellent option for fast editing of photos. The only feature I would like to see improved is picture resizing. Here is a collage I made quickly using it. Refer to their information on “How do I create a collage” to see how I did this.

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My final thoughts:

  1. Google Picasa is definitely fantastic free software that organises all the photos and videos on your computer into one library and lets you locate and edit them much easier than any other program I use. Much easier than using Windows Explorer and trying to remember which folders pictures are in. Definitely give it a try!
  2. SnagIT - while it is not free – is great for screen capture, editing and adding call outs. Thanks to Sue Hickton for putting me onto this program
  3. Picture Manager is great for resizing photos

Google Personalized Home Page

What I can not believe is that it has taken me so long to realise that I can set up my own personalized Google home page which I can view from any computer I am on. I feel a bit better in the knowledge that when I tell my friend about it, they also did not realise. Amazing something that was sitting right in front of me – and I did not see it.

So I googled this morning information on Google Home Page – shame on you Sue – it has been around for 2 years. You have been missing out for 2 years.

With my personalized Google home page I can add whatever Gadgets on my home page – there is too many to choose from. If I run out of space I can add more tabs for more Gadgets (this girl has become gadget crazy). I have a Google Reader gadget that feeds the latest posts directly onto my home page (regretfully this is how I learnt about the shootings at Virginia Tech). Local weather (I should have looked at it rather than the newspaper because I did not wash clothes on Tuesday because the newspaper said rain – Google said fine). News feeds – you name it is there!

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And they are coming out with new features for your Google home page all the time – you just have to look more closely at the page. For example – I can access it on my PDA (it is mobile) and they have now just introduced themes. These themes change with the time of the day – mmmm – wonder if they will also show my mood? Read more about themes at internetnews.com.

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If you have not set up your own Google personalized home – do it well worth it. Just click on “Personalize this page” at the top of the Google page.

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