Monday, March 30, 2009

How to annotate a student's digital file?

As an online teacher I have been exploring ways teachers could comment on students work to give them feedback.  Here is one proposed method?


  1. Teacher, or have the students, convert the student's file into a PDF using  the Free Web-Based PDF Conversion Tools 
  1. Use the  FOSS: Best PDF Reader and Annotator  (PDF Exchange Viewer) software to read and annotate through writing with a tablet or sticky notes
  2. Save the file and send back to the students.


Have another method? I would like to hear your solution.

Free Web-Based PDF Conversion Tools

Ever wonder how to convert a word document into PDF? 

PDF Online  converts pdf <--> word online and emails it to you

Ever want to combine different pdf files into on?

MergePDF merges multiple pdf into one

FOSS: Best PDF Reader and Annotator

PDF Exchange Viewer is a Free Open Source Software (FOSS) that allows users to not only read PDF (like Adobe) but allows you to highlight, put sticky notes, and even write/draw on your files.

For someone like me, who can't read without writing all over my text, this is the solution and that finally allowed me to stop printing my journal articles and start reading and annotating them digitally. 

Gmail Vs. Yahoo Email

Rules: Using Jakob Nielsen 10 Usability Heuristics

1. Visibility of system status

Winner: Gmail has a much quicker response time and has and offline/online status indicator.

Looser: Yahoo is slow and clunky and does not have an offline feature

2. Match between system and the real world


Gmail left the hierarchical folders and uses labels instead which allow you to file one email with multiple labels rather than moving to one place in a sub folder. This matches the way humans categorize but requires all users to shift paradigms which can be confusing at first.

Yahoo uses the familiar folders systems which are easy and simple

3. User control and freedom

Winner: Gmail has a "back to inbox" and an "undo" button that take the fear out of making mistakes or getting lost

Looser: Yahoo doesn't have either

4. Consistency and standards

Winner: Gmail has the same user-interface for all of its different services and simple is their design standard.

Looser: There is no Yahoo theme

5. Error prevention

Winner: Gmail saves deleted email until you empty the recycle bin for extra redundancy

Looser: Yahoo has slyly placed adds throughout the user interface to trick users to click on them

6. Recognition rather than recall

Winner: Gmail provides several effective ways to retrieve your email, multiple labels (as discussed above) and Google's powerful search applied to your inbox

Looser: Yahoo's search is no where near as effective and with folders there is only one place the email could be.

7. Flexibility and efficiency of use

Winner: Hit the ? key any time and a transparent shortcut menu will overlay to promote shortcut use. Also with Google labs you can customize and tailor your layout and your shortcuts.

Looser: Although they both have shortcuts, Yahoo doesn't have the quick cheat sheet and you can't customize.

8. Aesthetic and minimalist design

Winner: Google's brand and logo is based on being elegantly simple or you could change your theme.

Looser: Again the desperate and annoying advertisement ruin it.

9. Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

Winner: Google won't allow you to make a mistake, if you can’t use the button it grays out

Looser: Yahoo

10. Help and documentation

Winner: Google has outsourced their help to it's "prosumers" (producer+consumers since they have a big stake in feedback and the perpetual beta). The discussion boards are very active.

Looser: Yahoo


Usability Hall of Fame Website = Gmail

Usability Hall of Shame Website = Yahoo

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Web 2.0 Directories & Ranking is the one of the biggest web2.0 directories to keep track of all the emerging web2.0 applications and services out there. Start on the right hand side to see all the different categories of web2.0 solutions, you will be amazed.

Movers2.0 is a list of the latest ranking of the most popular web 2.0 sites on the web.

See Also:
All Things Web2.0

Friday, March 20, 2009

Connectivism Learning Theory

Click on the picture for a larger view

Click through the presentation below:

Read Siemen's 2004 piece Connectivism:
Learning Theory for the Digital Age where he first introduced this new theory

Visualization of Learning Theories

See 3D Visualization of Learning Theory Space | EDUCAUSE CONNECT to see the grouping and classification of the major theories

For an explanation of each of the theories above click here

Creative Web 2.0 Learning Presentation

Thursday, March 19, 2009

My Search for Usability Design

Is Design = Usability?
Design --> Usability?
Design=Form and Usability=Function?
Are there any models for social usability?

I have been twisting my brain searching for the answer to the question "What is usability?" In this philosophical search I am reminded of the quest to define "What is quality?" in the book Zen & The Art of Motorcyle Maintenantance. Is there "a" answer?

I have been searching the research literature to find what the scholars say. In the Human Computer Interaction field Jacob Nelisen system acceptability model (see fig below) and Ben Schneirdman's universal usability are the recent experts on the topic.

Here is a concept map of Nielsen's framework

Jeng's What Is Usability in the Context of the Digital Library and How Can It Be Measured? (2005) prepared this literature review chart of the what others name as the attributes to usability.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Bloom's Taxonomy Visualizations Cheat Sheet

Almost 10 years ago, when I was first exposed in my teacher training, I still find myself refering back to Bloom's Taxonomy when ever I create course goals, assignments, exams, and ask discussion questions. I have put together a best of collection to act as a cheat sheet reference for educators. Click here for a great overview and history of the Bloom's Taxonomy.

The Evolution
Benjamin Bloom 1956 original version


In 199o one of Bloom's student's revised his earlier model and turned the nouns into verbs.


Recently, there has been some adapting for the digital ag. Check out Bloom's Digital Taxonomy

Here are some handy visualizations with some good keyword language.




Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Free Podcasting Webware Tools

Free Open Source Software:
Audacity one of open source's most famous and popular free software. Very powerful and easy to use. Don't forget about screencasts. To learn this software just type in "How to audacity" into Youtube and you have a bunch of great free tutorials to quickly learn the tool.

Web Apps:

I have been looking for a web service similar to youtube for audio as an easy way to upload, link, embed, and share. Houndbite appears to be a very simple way for beginner to tryout podcasting.

Create Find and Share Podcasts. You upload and they take care of the rest, the hosting, iTunes subscription. These types of services give you a decent size to start up but once you start building up the space there are premium upgrades.

Web App + Cell Phone:

No equipment needed. Simple and Fast.

Gcast is an incrediblly easy way to start up a free podcast.

1) Sign up for an account

2) Call toll-free anytime at 1-888-65-GCAST (888-654-2278) If outside USA: +1-305-437-8719

Type in primary phone number

4) Enter 4 digit pin

5) Record your message, and either:

6) Save and Publish

7) Link or Embed your podcast and player

See Our 5th Grade Podcast for an example.

Free Video Editing Tools

Windows Movie Maker (already installed with windows)

Web Apps (Webware):
Video Editing 2.0: 8 Ways to Remix Online Videos

Free Open Source Software (FOSS):
Some open source alternatives to Windows Movie Maker

Video: How to Use Windows Movie Maker