Category Archives: web 2.0

Top Ten Web Tools of 2013

oldtools

This is the sixth time I have compiled a list of the top ten web tools I have used during the year. I am finding it interesting looking back over 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 and 2012 which tools I still use and which have fallen by the wayside. My 11th tool would be Delicious, which I have started using more, but certainly not as much as the other tools listed below.

10. Dropping one place to number ten is Speakerdeck. I replaced my usage of Slideshare with Speakerdeck in 2012, and in 2013 I continued to use Speakerdeck as a platform for sharing my presentations. It drops a place, mainly as I did fewer presentations in 2013, so as a result used the service less than I did in 2012

9. Dropping one place from 2012 is WordPress which is number nine. I still use the blogging software for my blogs. I like the flexibility it offers and it certainly works for me. However as I did less blogging in 2013 than in did in 2012, though still a useful tool, I was using it less. I still think the only thing that is missing for me is a decent mobile client or iPad app.

8. Flipboard falls a couple of places to number eight. The main reason it falls is more down to Google than Flipboard. Google retired Google Reader and I was using that service to feed Flipboard. Though I did manage to import my Google Reader subscription into Flipboard, I am finding it slow to refresh and of course much more difficult to add new sites to the feed. I do need to spend some time working out how to maximise my use of Flipboard as a news reading tool, as when it works well, it works really well.

7. Climbing three places to number seven is Evernote, the online note taking tool. Since changing jobs in the Autumn, I am using Evernote more than ever. A really useful tool for making notes and syncing them across devices.

6. Instagram drops three places back to number six and I know that part of the reason was that in 2012 I used Instagram everyday as the main way of posting a photograph a day. I didn’t do that in 2013, so used Instagram less. I did try though and improve the quality of my images in 2013. I have decided to return to the photo a day thing in 2014, so will now be using Instagram much more than I did last year.

5. Dropping three places to number five is Flickr. Whereas in 2012 I added 1300 photographs to Flickr, in 2013 it was a measly 635. I also used Flickr extensively for finding photographs for the blog and for many of the presentations I gave this year.

4. Climbing three places is Chrome, which is now my default browser on my main computers. Even though I use it a lot, I do use it alongside other browsers such as Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer. What I do like is that I can now sync my browsers across different computers and different devices. Using the Google Nexus 7 I can now see and open the tabs I was using on the iMac or the laptop. I also like how I can do the same with Chrome on the iPad. Great when you want to refer to a site, but either can’t remember the URL or how you got there.

3. Climbing one place to number three is the Twitter. I use Twitter almost every day for checking out news, links, travel reports and interesting stuff. I certainly don’t have the conversations on there that I have on Google+, but when they do happen they are useful and interesting.

2. Dropping one place to number two is Dropbox. It isn’t social, but I use it every day and in some cases all day. Dropbox is a fantastic tool, in the main because it works! It was interesting switching to a Windows PC for a few months in the new job how my usage of Dropbox stopped and I was using an USB stick of all things! In the previous nine months though I did use Dropbox extensively and it was a really useful tool. It just works, to the point it is transparent and it never gets in the way of me doing my stuff, which is as it should be.

1. In the top spot for 2013 is Google+ climbing four places from number five. There are two core reasons for the rise of Google+, mainly more people used in in 2013 than they did in 2012, but in my new job it’s an integral communication tool for sharing links, news and views across the group.

So that’s my top ten web tools for 2013, what were yours?

Textual Animation

GoAnimate Screenshot

I use to really like Xtranormal and in many ways I still do… however though I like Xtranormal and am willing now and again to open the coffers to basically pay to use it, it’s not a tool that I can recommend to practitioners. I will show them, I do like it, but it costs money and it isn’t simple to get a site licence for a site as big as ours and as diverse as ours.

I sometimes find that though I like a particular tool or service, finding a way to allow access for all our staff and learners, on the assumption that only a few would actually use it to begin with, is quite challenging. This isn’t just an issue with small companies such as Xtranormal, but also with software providers as big as Adobe. We now have a site licence for Adobe CS6, in the past we were quite restricted on how we could use other versions of Adobe Creative Suite as it was on a per machine basis.

So what am I recommending now?

Well it’s GoAnimate.

It’s a simple text to animation tool. You choose a setting, choose a couple of characters and then type in the dialogue and then preview the resulting animation. The characters will speak the typed text.

Really by James Clay on GoAnimate

Animated Presentations – Powered by GoAnimate.

It’s a simple way for learners (and staff) to create animations. The limitation of ten lines of dialogue (180 characters per line) can be a constraint, but from a literacy perspective working out a dialogue of text is a good way of improving vocabulary and writing skills.

Web 2.0 Tools

One of the many presentations I enjoyed at the RSC SW Turbo TEL event was from Bex from Cornwall College.

A showcase of some of the web 2.0 tools she uses in FE and HE Teacher Education. Click on the orange information squares on each page to visit each tool’s website.

You can also watch her in action delivering the presentation in just six minutes.

Oh yes that is me in the background…. 🙂


Churning and Waving

At a recent presentation by Dave White, he used the word churning to describe the rapid pace of change we went through around 2007. That was the year most people joined Twitter, it was the year that Facebook became mainstream, YouTube was starting to hit the big time. There were all these new services and tools, some of which are still with us, some of which have disappeared, Jaiku anyone?

There was a lot of excitement at that time about new services and whenever new services were announced we all went and signed up for it. Did you sign up to Plurk and so on?

These services were so popular that in the end the only way that they could work sometimes was by restricting access to invite only.

Google Wave for me was a turning point, a really great idea, that everyone wanted to be part of…. however it didn’t quite turn out as expected.

It was invite only and as a result, individuals got access and not communities, so even though it took me a while to get an invite for Wave when I did, very few people I knew had access. You can’t really use Wave on your own, so I didn’t use it, by the time access was opened, it was too late, people like me had moved on, well more moved back to Twitter.

I felt at this point that the constant excitement of the new was over. We had moved from a time of “churning” or flux to a time of consolidation. It was now less about finding new, more about using what we had.

That’s not to say new services don’t come along, I for example am really liking Instagram. But the rush for the new is no longer the driver. For some though they are still churning, they are still looking for the new. I just don’t think it’s there.

We may in the future go through another churning phase, but until that time, it’s now the time to use the services for stuff, rather than the time of finding new services.

Web 2.210.07⅝ SP1

The first incarnation of the web as was used back in the 1990s is often referred to the web, the plain web. With the increase of social networking, user generated content and the Twitter in the last years, the term Web 2.0 has been used to describe how the web has evolved.

However the web has continued to evolve and in a similar way that we describe software the time has come to add a few numbers onto the end of the 2.

You will read about Web 3.0, but this would indicate a major shift change in how we use the web and to be honest Facebook isn’t some incredible seismic shift in how we use the web, it’s basically a cleaner better looking MySpace! Even though we all use Facebook, the fact that there are still people using MySpace (and even Friends Reunited, according to the e-mails I get from them) has Web 2.0 really evolved into 3.0? I think not.

Likewise though The Twitter is now five years old, the concept is still pretty much the same, make a posting of 140 characters and hope for the best that not only does it make it through to Twitter, but that The Twitter remains up long enough so that your 14 followers can read it.

If you think Twitter is a newcomer to the web, remember it is only one month younger than the other stalwart of Web 2.0 YouTube which is also only five years old.

Facebook is in fact older at seven year, but was only really open to everyone just five years ago…

So in the last five years, the key services that we have been using for social networking and user generated content haven’t really changed, so how on earth can we talk about Web 3.0 when actually very little is different now to what it was five years ago when all we talked about was Web 2.0.

Of course the key difference is the number of users using these services, but I do wonder if that should be a measure of the web? When Windows 95 became really popular, did Microsoft suddenly decide to change the name to Windows 96 or 97?

Success doesn’t define the evolvement of a numbering system.

However we have had a fair few changes in the web, so to leave it at Web 2.0 isn’t quite right. We have Foursquare for example, the stalking service that is akin to collecting Pokemon cards or Scout badges. Instagram, a way to share really bad photographs with other bad photographers. Audioboo, a way of sharing drunken conversations and ensuring you can let people know your home is empty.

So with these little improvements, I think we can say that Web 2.0 has evolved, but these are like security patches, updates, maybe even a service pack.

Web 2.0 has evolved, Web 2.0 is now Web 2.210.07⅝ SP1

So what of the future?

Can you predict the future?

Do you know what life will be like next year, in five years, in ten years?

Over the last year or so I have been doing a few keynotes and presentations entitled the future of learning. I do start with a caveat that I don’t know the future for sure and that no one can really predict the future…

Though as a reflective person I do look back at the work I have been doing on mobile learning and I think there are lessons to be learned about the journey I have travelled.

This is me in 2006 based on work I was doing in 2004 and 2005.


This work came from mobile stuff I was doing back in the late 1990s. Back then I worked for an organisation called at-Bristol, a hands-on science centre in the middle of Bristol.

One of the projects we started working on was with HP looking at how we could use an HP Jornada on our then fledgingly wireless network to allow visitors additional and enhanced information on webpages about the exhibits. One of the key questions at the time was how we got the URLs into the devices at the right place. Then we decided to use HP’s Jetsend IR technology to “squirt” the URL to the Jornada. Of course since then the technologies have moved on and importantly so have the public. Today you would probably let the visitors use their own devices and smartphones. You would use QR codes, Bluetooth or more probably in the future RFID to find out where the visitor was before sending them the information (or letting them access the information via QR codes). If the attraction was outside then GPS could be used. The key though was not the technology but the concept of enhancing a visitor’s experience with additional content through a mobile device.

After leaving at-Bristol and joining the Western Colleges Consortium, I continued to work on mobile learning; at that time there was no funding available.

When I was working on mobile learning all those years ago, the reason was that mobile phones and mobile devices were becoming more sophisticated and more useful to consumers and business. I knew then it would only be a matter of time before they become useful to education and importantly a focus for policy and funding.

And in 2007 along came MoLeNET, millions of pounds of capital funding with a focus on mobile learning in FE.

There is no way that I would call myself a futureologist, but from an FE perspective I am looking at how new technologies can enhance and enrich everyday life, as before long these technologies will enter education.

So the big question is what am I working on now? What do I think will have a real impact in education, not just for learners, but also for funding and projects.

Well I am not working on Second Life or MUVEs. These do have some great application to learning, however until consumers start to use these technologies a lot more, than we won’t see a big change in their use in education.

Social networking and Web 2.0 are very big in the consumer field at the moment, Facebook is everywhere and corporate and entertainment use of these tools is now much more widespread than it was just a year or two ago.

As a result policymakers will start to think about how these tools and services can be used in education. And where thinking starts, funding usually follows…

So what about next year or the year after?

Well for me the “next big thing” is e-Books and e-Book Readers. These will hit the consumer market big time over the next three years. We will see many more people reading books, magazines and newspapers via devices such as the Apple iPad, Microsoft Courier and other devices not yet on the market. More publishers and broadcasters will start to think about how they are going to use these devices and start offering content on them, think of BBC iPlayer and its availability on the iPhone.

As a result policymakers will start to think about how these new technologies can be used in education. And where thinking starts, funding usually follows…

You see at the end of the day, it will not be how these products are used by educators, it’s how they are taken up and used by consumers and business. Whether that is right or wrong, is not really the case, as more often this is how it happens now, and has happened over the last twenty to thirty years, with most technologies.

ALT-C Reflections Part One

I really enjoyed ALT-C last week and not just because I won an award. It was an excellent conference and I found it a very rewarding experince from both a delegate’s perspective and as a presenter.

It was really nice to meet up with a lot of different people, some I knew, some I knew only from the web, some I had never met and those that knew me though I didn’t know them.

There was some great presentations, workshops, keynotes and debates and I felt I learnt a lot and was given a lot to think about.

I had a reasonable journey up to Manchester (no connectivity on the train) and having arrived, caught a taxi to the venue. I was relieved to see that my Glossy Poster had safely arrived though for some unknown reason at that time my flyers for my workshops and that symposium had failed to arrive.

I bumped into a few people I knew and then someone came up to me and said hello. I recognised him, but couldn’t name the face… I hate it when that happens, and after turning over their name badge (why do they always flip the wrong way at the wrong moments) I saw it was Richard Elliot from New Zealand. I am doing the keynote at ASCILITE 2009 conference so it was good to meet one of the organisers to chat and discuss the conference.

After the pre-conference buffet and chatting I headed up to the F-ALT event on post digital and managed to catch the last bit and added a little to the discussion.

altc09001

These fringe events add a lot to the conference, they’re not competing with the conference, but adding a social, informal side to the conference that allows delegates to add a social learning element to the conference. It also allows delegates to discuss and present issues on stuff and technologies which at the time of the abstract submission deadline maybe wasn’t available or didn’t even exist.

Tuesday morning, saw a bright and early start with the conference kicking off proper at 9.00am. After the conference introductions we moved onto the conference keynote from Michael Wesch.

It took tens of thousands of years for writing to emerge after humans spoke their first words. It took thousands more before the printing press and a few hundred again before the telegraph. Today a new medium of communication emerges every time somebody creates a new web application. A Flickr here, a Twitter there, and a new way of relating to others emerges. New types of conversation, argumentation, and collaboration are realized. Using examples from anthropological fieldwork in Papua New Guinea, YouTube, classrooms, and “the future,” this presentation will demonstrate the profound yet often unnoticed ways in which media “mediate” our conversations, classrooms, and institutions. We will then apply these insights to an exploration of the implications for how we may need to rethink how we teach, what we teach, and who we think we are teaching.

Don’t get me wrong, I really enjoyed his presentation and presentational approach, however I do wonder and still wonder if all our learners are like his students? Are all our learners using Facebook and other Web 2.0 tools and services on a regular basis and importantly are they using them for learning?

I don’t see a Google Generation or Digital Natives in the learners I work with. Some are using Facebook and other tools, many are not. Those that are, not all are using these tools for learning.

See what you think from the recording.

I enjoyed the short papers on staff skills, some of the work that Alan Cann is doing at Leicester is very illuminating and interesting.

Then lunch and I won’t dwell on the conference catering, all I will say how much I enjoyed the coffee from the Museum Cafe across the road from the conference venue.

After sustenance we had the big debate, you know, the one about how the VLE is Dead! The debate was a lot of fun and it would appear that the delegates who attended enjoyed the debate. In a room with space for eighty, we had nearly a hundred and fifty people, many sitting and standing. We also had about two hundred people online following the live stream.

vleideadterrywassal

Photo source

The debate was based on the following proposition.

The future success of e-learning depends on appropriate selection of tools and services. This symposium will propose that the Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) as an institutional tool is dead, no more, defunct, expired.

I know that most people realised that the debate (and especially the title) was provocative and that the aim was for a fun debate as well as looking at the issues. You are not going to be able to give serious academic consideration to the issues in an eighty minute debate.

I was pleased with the interest shown, not just at the conference, but also online on Twitter and on various blogs. Cloudworks has a list of the blogs that have discussed the issue. The “marketing” for the debate worked well (probably better than expected) with the trailer, the flyer and the numerous blog posts by me, Steve and many others…

As expected, I didn’t get to the next session, but did make Steve Wheeler’s Twitter session. A very popular session with lots of different people attending, some like me who are immersed in Twitter to people who had never used it.

After all that I missed the new ALT Members Reception, and as Gloucestershire College joined ALT this year I should have been attending. Ah well.

In the evening I went to a nice Tapas bar with Ron, Lilian and David.

More later…

ALT-C 2009 Day #2

It’s Wednesday and it’s day two of the ALT Conference 2009 here in Manchester.

An early start for me as I am running my Hood 2.1 workshop on Web 2.0. We had fun last year, I am hoping to have a similarily good session this morning.

Due to a scheduling clash, it does mean I will miss David Sugden and Lilian Soon’s excellent Active learning with Mobile and Web 2.0 technologies workshop.

After the Wednesday keynote, over lunch is the poster session, and I shall be showing off my Glossy poster.

glossyposter450

After the poster session I am hoping to attend the demonstrations looking at Xerte and Mindstorms Communication in Second Life.

After the ALT AGM I will be going to Learning Innovation which has two short papers, 240 Students’ experiences of wikis for a collaborative project: technology choice, evidence and change and 167 Enhancing University Curricula via Adventure Learning.

Final session of the day will be the Epigeum Award for Most Effective Use of Video Presentations. I was one of the judges so will be at this session.

In the evening is the ALT Gala Conference Dinner. Last year’s conference dinner was really good and some of you may remember this video I made of last year’s dinner.

Should be good, long and busy day.

e-Learning Stuff Podcast #027: It’s conference time…

altc2008

James discusses what he will be doing at the ALT Conference in Manchester from the 7th-10th September 2009.

This is the twenty seventh e-Learning Stuff Podcast, It’s conference time…

Download the podcast in mp3 format: It’s conference time…

Subscribe to the podcast in iTunes.

Shownotes