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New tools…a new series. Alltop

Over in academia-land (also known as Learn, Do, Teach…) I’m writing a series of blogposts for my current subject about my experiences trying out some new tools for connecting and sharing. I figured they are worth sharing here too, so here is number one – Alltop.


When I first read that I had to “identify six (6) digital tools that are: (a) new to you, i.e., they were not already part of your PLN before you began this subject; and (b) of particular interest to you in developing your PLN, or introducing knowledge networking into the curriculum” in order to “record the process of selecting, testing/trialling and evaluating of each tool as entries on your blog throughout the session” I was a little worried. I’m a serial signer-upper – pretty much everything that had been mentioned I’d already signed up for, tried out and either continued with or rejected and moved on. This was going to require a bit more digging. I’ve come up with three that I already knew a bit about (and had accounts for) but really had done nothing with – Quora, Pearltrees and Tumblr – posts on these will appear soon. Then, on my daily Medium email, I saw an article about Meerkat, a new live-streaming app for Twitter – yay! a new tool to try. I’m still looking for number 6 – all suggestions gratefully received – but luckily I chanced upon Alltop from Guy Kawasaki’s LinkedIn Behind the Scenes post on how he posts on social media. So here we go, new tool no. 1:

Alltop

Alltop is not new, apparently it’s been around since 2008 but one way and another I hadn’t come across it until recently.

Alltop describes itself as providing “aggregation without aggravation”. The creators of Alltop have set about providing an answer to “What’s happening” in a topic by providing links to the five most recent articles from selected websites, blogs and other RSS feeds (such as searches). You can search for topics, browse from categories on the header or browse alphabetically. On a topic if you see a headline that interests you, hovering over it displays the first paragraph. If you want to read more simply click the link to be taken to the site.

Alltop Digital Media News
Aggregated sites are selected by people, not algorithms, and they are open to suggestions.

You can create your own page of links from selected sites and interests. For this you need to create an account and log in. Now, next to each feeds header you will see a plus sign which is clicked to add that feed to your own page.

Once you’ve curated your own collection you can share it with others – it will have a URL similar to http://my.alltop.com/hbailie. Alltop has gathered together My Alltop pages of “famous/cool friends“. I didn’t recognise many but was interested to see Rohit Bhargava who I referenced in my digital essay on curation last year.

Alltop has a free iPad app as well as the website. The app includes images for the five Hot Topics from any topic page and an annoying banner advertisement at the bottom (Adblock Plus Chrome extension takes care of the ads for me on my computer). Entering your username allows you to see your My Alltop on the app but you can’t add new content to it there.

Signing up

There is no option to sign in with Google, Facebook or other open ID. Simply select a username (lucky for me my favourite, hbailie, was available), enter a password and your email for verification purposes.

Evaluation

Alltop is a very clean looking way to view recent content on a broad range of topics. The capacity to select what you want to see on you own page is useful. I particularly like the way that hovering on a link gives the first paragraph, it makes it very easy to decide whether to view the full story or not and allows me to look over a lot of content in a short time.

Alltop would be very useful for people who have never used an RSS reader before as it makes the process of finding and adding content very simple.

Not being able to edit your content on the iPad app makes it less useful to me as I’m most likely to use it on my iPad on my daily commute.

Not all topics I’m interested in have their own page and some of the search results seem a bit random. A search for “teachers” found “Christian Church” (!); Education; English Language Teaching”; Gambling” (!?!); “Homeschooling”; “India” (?), and “Inspiration”. Hmmm.

Will I keep using it?

Probably, a bit. I have My Alltop paged linked on my Chrome bookmark bar and the app on my iPad. When I have an idle moment I might well open them up. But it won’t be every day.

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My year on Twitter

I have created a graphical biography using a site called Vizify – it’s a fun way to gather CV and social media information about yourself in an attractive format. Heather Bailie’s Visify Bio

This year they’ve added a new service to create your year in Twitter as an animated video – here’s mine: Heather Bailie on Twitter 2013. At the end you will see a link to create your own if you wish.

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Thing 7: communicate

I haven’t had much to do with Google hangouts although I participated in the EdTech Crew end of year podcast hangout at the end of last year.
I hadn’t realised, till I started reading the post for this topic and exploring some of the links, that you could broadcast the hangout live, that you don’t actually have to be a participant to view. This opens up lots of possibilities I think, particularly for presentations to large distributed groups where several people need to interact while others just listen (or participate via backchannels perhaps). Hangouts in general would be amazing at the organisation where I work as there are 3000 employees and many volunteers spread across the country. There are teleconferences held all the time but how much better would it be to see who you’re talking to, and to be able to record the conversation for anyone who missed out live. Even on a smaller scale it would be fabulous. My manager is in Brisbane and our partner from another organisation is in Macedon. Unfortunately the computer system doesn’t currently allow the use of Skype and the only browser is an old version of IE! Oh yeah, and we don’t have audio!
Skype I’ve used more. I once had a job interview on Skype; my husband has travelled a bit for work so we’ve caught up on Skype (much nicer than a phone call but it confuses the dogs no end), and I’ve attended several conferences where keynote speakers have presented virtually through Skype. The most recent was at EduTech in Brisbane in June. Sir Ken Robinson lost none of his charisma or impact even though he was thousands of miles away and it was 2am where he was.
The Skype an author wiki is a great resource and well worth checking out for schools and libraries alike. In my current job I have suggested that a similar central listing of emergency management personnel could be a useful addition to existing disaster resilience education resources.

Postscript 21 July

I just came across this fantastic list of 50 Ideas for using G+ Hangouts in Learning by Category from Teachthought Can’t wait to try some of them out!

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Thing 6: video

So, the limitations of completing the challenge only using mobile devices are starting to appear. I can’t find any way of grabbing YouTube code to embed here. It seems the best I can do is get the link. Well, I’d rather embed so even though that goes against the spirit of what I’m trying to achieve, so be it. I’ll publish this now ( from my phone, on the train ) but I’ll come back and edit next time I’m on my PC.


I’ve used video in a number of ways, both in the library and as part of my ICT coaching role. I’ve used both YouTube and Vimeo for uploading video; Jing, Debut and Screencast-o-matic for screencasting, and I’ve played around with various phone and iPad apps for video.

Talking Tom library welcome from Heather Bailie on Vimeo.

Some examples: as part of library orientation we made some short videos to incorporate in an online quiz; for book week I made a quiz for teachers and had some people read famous passages from books for the participants to identify author and title;

Nette1 from Heather Bailie on Vimeo.

I’ve videoed guest speakers and uploaded the videos to YouTube and then embedded the video in a Ning network. I regularly make screencasts for quick “how-to’s” – it’s so much simpler and more efficient to “show” rather than tell. My favourite tool for screencasting on a computer is screencast-o-matic – it’s great because you don’t need to download any software and it is very easy to share your video using YouTube or Google docs and you can save to your computer as well.

Creating instructional videos using an iPad is also quite easy and very effective using apps like Explain everything. Here’s one I made about the Flipboard app as part of a workshop at Slide2learn last year.

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Thing 5 – photos + maps + apps

Wow, where did the last 4 weeks go? I’ve got some catching up to do.
I think History pin has great potential as a local history resource. I can see great use for it in the classroom obviously for history but also geography, literature, outdoor ed and more. It would be great to use in literature where real places are the settings – you could set up a tour showing the significant places of a novel.
Personally I haven’t had a lot of success. I have taken and uploaded a photo, it appears on my account but not on the map. Sometime when I’ve got more time I’ll try again.
I am looking forward to using history pin when I’m travelling in Europe later this year, I think it will offer some interesting insight into the places we visit.
Short and sweet but sometimes that’s how it has to be. What’s next?

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Thing 4 : Maps and checking in

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So this is new. Instead of my usual blogging on the train on my phone I’m at Adelaide airport, waiting to catch my flight home, using my ipad.
GPS and maps on mobile devices, how could you travel without them these days. From making sure the taxi driver is on the straight and narrow to negotiating an unfamiliar public transport system to locating places of interest…it’s all good.
Geo caching is another fun use for your mobile’s GPS, as are apps like Walk watch and Map my run so you can record how far you’ve walked/cycled/run, where you went and elevation climbed. I hadn’t considered setting up geo caches in the library but it could be part of a special event like book week.
Checking in…hmmm not so much.
It has disturbed me the frequency which some people check in their every movement and report this for all the world to see on Twitter. To the point I know where they live and whether or not they are at home. Now I’m an honest, law-abiding citizen but not everyone is. Just sayin’.

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Thing One: Twitter

I’ve been using Twitter since October 2008. Seems like a long time now but at the time I felt like a late-adopter. Earlier in 2008 I’d completed SLAV’s original 23 things course and started this amazing personal/professional learning roller coaster that hasn’t shown signs of slowing yet. At that time Twitter wasn’t part of 23 Things. I know, hard to believe now! But it was definitely growing in use and was being written about regularly in the blogs I was reading voraciously at the time. I wrote about my reluctance to join in and the adventure I had when I finally jumped here and here. Safe to say I’ve been a convert ever since.
I love Twitter for lots of reasons: keeping in touch with colleagues and friends, learning about new resources, finding great stuff to read, sharing resources I’ve found, getting help, keeping up with the latest news, and having a laugh. I’m by no means a prolific twitterer, my 5700 tweets in 4 1/2 years is modest compared to many. I find I go in fits and starts of actually tweeting. That said, I check my twitter feed several times most days. I’m following about 1200 people and I have1600 followers. My Twitter ‘claim to fame’ is that @stephenfry follows me!
I use the Tweetdeck app on Chrome on my laptop although for some reason that doesn’t work on the school network so when I’m there I use the Hootsuite website.
Like Facebook, Twitter really becomes useful and fun on a mobile device, I haven’t found anything better than the native Twitter app on my phone but on my iPad I’ve just started using Twitterific after Osfoora stopped working properly for search and lists. I also use Flipboard, it’s great for #tag searches and the presentation is really nice.
I mostly follow # tags related to conferences and events – they are a great way of finding like-minded people to follow. I’ve only set up one list of my own, to follow emergency management agencies as part of my current job. I follow a few lists, a great way to keep up with a group, especially if you follow a lot of people. On that, whenever someone new follows me I check out their profile and make a decision whether or not to follow back. I almost always follow teachers and librarians or anyone with an interest in ICT. I’ll follow anyone from Melbourne and anyone I know in real life. I never follow back people who protect their updates – I’m not sure why they are on Twitter in the first place.
I have set up a Twitter account for my library. Initially it was just to use to set up a paper.li daily to embed on our website. It also tweets a link to anything we put on our Facebook page. If I was at school this year, developing the library’s social media presence would have been a focus. As it is that will have to wait till next year.
Right now I’m involved in applying to set up a Twitter account for the project I’m working on. That is far more involved than I would have thought necessary and just drives home the difference between this job and working in a school (not that that is necessarily a bad thing).
So that’s me and Twitter – to anyone out there who hasn’t had a go I say just do it, get into the conversation. Don’t think you have to read every tweet – someone likened it to the radio, it’s broadcasting 24/7 but you only listen when you choose and you only listen closely when it really interests you. You’ll learn to express yourself very concisely and you’ll find all kinds of things that you never even knew existed.

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23 Mobile Things

I just happened upon the 23 Mobile Things website this afternoon and I’ve quickly decided its just the impetus I need to get back to blogging regularly.
But this won’t be ordinary blogging, this will be mobile blogging. I’ve downloaded the Edublogs app onto my phone, connected my blog and I’m composing this post on it as we speak (so to speak)! In fact I’m very mobile, this is being written as I wait for my train home to arrive.
A quick glance over the scope of 23 Mobile Things shows that there’s lots of stuff I’m already familiar with but I’m really looking forward to looking at these apps and sites with a more reflective eye via the structure of the course and the questions it poses.
Let the fun begin!

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Second Melbourne TeachMeet

I’m off to the second Melbourne TeachMeet this afternoon.  I’ve got a 2 minute presentation spot and I’ll be speaking about scoop.it.

Here’s my presentation, I’m very pleased to say I was able to create it entirely using the iPad although I had to email it to myself as a powerpoint in order to upload it to Slideshare…anyone know if there is a more direct way?

 

 

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Embedding in the Ultranet – ProProfs Quiz

ProProfs Quiz maker is an easy way of making quizzes and tests for students.  I have used it for library orientation, for Book Week quizzes and for tests.  Here is one I did for Book Week this year that was designed to get students to look at our library Ultranet space:

Unfortunately I couldn’t actually embed the quiz in the library collaborative space because the code is of the “iframe” type.  I did put it into the space in its own iframe application but that’s not my preferred option as the students then see advertisements as they are not premium members like me.

Cheered by recent successes using “iframe” embed code in Learning Tasks, this week I put my year 10’s IT test into a Learning Task.  I checked out the task as a preview and from my perspective it was working perfectly.

I really shouldn’t be surprised when things go wrong but I was caught out again!

When the students opened the Learning Task there was just a great big white space where the test should have been.  Luckily I had also placed a link on our class collaborative space which was the way most of the students ended up accessing the test.

I also got some of them to try using Firefox and guess what? – worked perfectly.

So, in short, ProProfs quizzes will embed in a Learning Task but not a Collaborative Space; they will display in Firefox but not in IE9.