Thursday, December 28, 2006

Google Calendar Tool

I have been using the Google Calendar tool for a while now but just discovered some advanced things that I (and you) can do with it:
  • It is free, fast and very easy to use. You can add events to it in a snap and easily move it later. It has one of the best set of tools for repeat events also.
  • It is web-based so I can access it from anywhere and any time, that I have Internet access. I can print it out for reference.
  • It shows my schedule is several useful views including agenda, monthly, weekly and daily.
  • I have my calendar embedded as a gadget in my Personalized Google Homepage. Have you seen all of the cool gadgets you can add?
  • You can share your calendar with others. Either on an individual basis or to publish it to a Website as an embedded object. Click here to see an example.
  • I can have multiple calendars. I have four calendars each with a different colour that I can hide, copy from one to another or merge. I use one for appointments and one for planning time blocks for doing tasks. You can copy events from one calendar to another.
  • I also have calendars for organizations that I can managing events for and posting on their websites.
  • I have the weather in Calgary on my calendar. I could put the moon phases also.
  • My wife and I share each others calendar so that we can see each others schedule at anytime.
  • You can set up shared calendars for your workgroup or organization with Google Calendar. This is very useful if you don't have access to another online calendar.
  • Your group can post comments on events and discuss them.
  • You can invite others to a meeting with invitation going out through email.
  • You can also set reminders that can either popup in a window, send you an email, or call your cell phone number. It can even email you an agenda for the day each morning.
  • And you can search your calendars for any text string to help to locate an event, even old ones.

This is a great free online calendar. I am still looking for a way to synchronize it with my PDA calendar though.

Click here to access Google Calendar.

Inventing the Future by Patrick Perri

Patrick Perri is a computer science instructor at Mount Royal College and he has recorded a very interesting presentation about the future of computer and information technologies. The presentation is just under 57 minutes in length but is in Breeze so you just
Click here is access Inventing the Future

Post a comment to give feedback on Patrick's view into the future. Do you agree or disagree? What is you view of the future.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Finally! A complete Web Authoring System for Microsoft Windows, Macintosh and Linux users to rival programs like FrontPage and Dreamweaver. Nvu (which stands for "new view") makes managing a web site a snap. Now anyone can create web pages and manage a website with no technical expertise or knowledge of HTML. And it is 100% open source or free.

Click here to download NVU.

Click here to access a tutorial on Learn How To Build Your Web Site Using Nvu


A few days ago, Google brought Blogger out of beta release and with it some features that I was waiting for so now I have moved my two blogs over to Blogger. The one feature that prevented me from using Blogger before is the Labels feature so that I can organize the postings into topics instead of just in a chronological archive.

Other features that I like:
  • Blogger now uses the Google user accounts so I don't have to log into Blogger separately.
  • Blogger's dashboard is better than other blogging tools for monitoring multiple blogs
  • The template is now much easier to manipulate and customize.
  • The Feed Tool will allow a reader to filter for selected labeled postings.
  • It is very easy to use.
  • Blogger is tied in closer to other related Google tools like Google Reader, Adsense and Blog Search.
  • I can set up an RSS Feed link into my blog.
  • Blogger support Mobile Blogging.
Features that are still missing:
  • I can't seem to attach a document file to a posting
  • There is no import feature so I copied and pasted my old blog entries over. I was able to back-date the posting dates.
Blogger is free, easy to use and works well for teachers and students to blog with. Got to to get started.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Selecting an Open-Source Online Course Development and Delivery Platform: An Academic Perspective

Clayton R. Wright, a long time member of ADETA shared this attached article that he authored with me and gave me permission to share it here. He presented it at the Pan-Commonwealth Forum in Jamaica in October 2007. You can reach Clayton at

Click here to access the PDF file of Selecting an Open-Source Online Course Development and Delivery Platform: An Academic Perspective by Clayton R. Wright

The Useful Web - Bonus Edition! by Russ Wilde

Russ Wilde publishes a TechNotesRuss Wilde newsletter for Bow Valley College and has generously giving me permission to share highlights of it. Below is an exerts that I think you will find very interesting about more new tools. Some of which I have already reviewed here.

The Useful Web—Bonus Edition!
The past six weeks has seen an absolute blizzard of new and innovative tools released on the Web. I’ve been collecting links and trying to decide which ones to share with you, but there are just so many and they are all so good—I couldn’t handle the pressure of these weighty decisions anymore! So, dear readers, I present here a special, giant-sized bonus issue of “The Useful Web.”
A quick note: Web tools are great, but remem­ber that some people use them to create content that can be objectionable to other users. Be sure to think critically when you evaluate any Web tool or resource for use in your practice.
Tools for Collaborating and Sharing
The best part of Web 2.0 for educators is the em­phasis on sharing and collaborating. Everything from documents, spreadsheet, presentation slides, music, video, and lecture notes can be created, ed­ited, and shared by online groups. The sites pre­sented below are some of my favorites, but there are many more available.
Zoho Show - The site’s home page says it all, “Create presentations from anywhere, present it remotely. Export it offline - it’s simple & free.” This tool works well and lets you import existing Power­Point presentations. Also check out Zoho Writer and Zoho Sheet for more document collaboration fun.
Google Documents and Spreadsheets - Office-style documents right on the Web and integrated with your existing Google account. Hard not to like this one.
Thumbstacks - A lot like Zoho Show, this tool lets you create and present PowerPoint-style shows right on the Web without any additional software. Check out the demo presentation.
Slideshare - OK, this is another Web presentation tool, much like Zoho and Thumbstacks. But it has a great interface and really deserves a look before you choose the service you want to start a relation­ship with.
NoteMesh - This site is designed to allow students to share their class notes. From the site:
“NoteMesh is a free service that allows college students in the same classes to share notes with each other. It works by creating a wiki for individual classes that users can edit. Users are free to post their own lecture notes or contribute to existing lecture notes. The idea is that users in the same class can collaboratively create a de­finitive source for lecture notes.”
I know this might make some people cringe as it seems to make it easier to skip classes. But I see it as a great tool for our busy learners to help each other succeed by working together, despite the many other responsibilities that fill their lives.
NoteCentric - Similar to NoteMesh, but with a bit more emphasis on storing personal class notes rather than sharing. It includes great WYSIWYG test editing tools and I suspect this could be a nice tool for instructor’s and students alike.
Tools for Creating Media
Splice - Need to record some audio or even mix music and commentary for a presentation? This tool allows you to make custom mixes right on the Web using either live or pre-recorded audio. The emphasis is definitely on creating and shar­ing music, but the tools will work for any audio project.
Jumpcut - Hey, if we’re going to edit our audio online, why not do video as well? This service—now part of the Yahoo! family—allows you to up­load and modify video clips, then mix them with audio to make movies. Amazingly easy to use.
MapLib - This is a bit primitive looking but could be quite useful. It allows you to upload any pic­ture and then use the tools from Google Maps to explore by moving around and zooming in and out. This would be a great way to present a large or highly detailed diagram that can’t be properly viewed when reduced to fit on the screen.

Russ is a member of ADETA and can be emailed at

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Synergize and Energize Conference

Mount Royal College, ADETA and McGraw-Hill Ryerson will be hosting the next National Teaching Learning and Technologies conference in Calgary on February 21 to 23, 2007. Early bird registration fees will be $245 before January 19th, I believe. This conference will have many presentations and discussions about Ed Technologies and how best to apply them into our classrooms.

The Synergize and Energize: Exploring the Dynamics of Teaching and Learning conference will be a great Professional Development event and will replace the Interface conference ADETA normally holds in the Spring. There is an entire stream of presentations devoted to making technologies transparent yet effective in learning.

We also have some great keynote speakers lined up. Click here to check them out.

Look for a preconference workshop that Jeff Hamilton and I are facilitating on how 25 Google tools can be used to enhance learning. You can actually participate in the workshop online if you can’t make it to Calgary. This will be fun as using the Google platform may leave you wondering why would you use your institutions LMS for your online or blended courses.

mLearning 2006 Conference

Back in October, I attended a very interesting conference in Banff all about mLearning. This was the 5th annual world conference about mLearning. If you are not familiar with mLearning this is Mobile Learning, so like eLearning but with the focus on using Cell Phones, PDA, Tablet PCS and other wireless devices for learning.

There were many very interesting presentations at the conference and the organizers have just posted most of the presentation PowerPoint slides up onto their website at

I observed that the number of Canadians at the conference was low compared to the delegates from other countries. This may be due to that apparent lead that countries other than the USA and Canada seem to be ahead of North America when it comes to mLearning.

Ray Kurzweil: The Future of Technology

Ray Kurzweil is an inventor and futurist that has some very interesting views of the future of technology. Click here to view a 23 minute online presentation of Ray’s view of the future of technology and where this is all going in the next 10 years.

I found his predictions very interesting, especially as it will impact on educational technologies. Check it out and post a comment. is a site the I recently found that allows anyone with PowerPoint or OpenOffice Impress to post a slide show on the web and share it with the world. It is kind of like YouTube for Slideshows. It is free and easy to use. Instructors can use this to post their presentations on a public website. Conference Speakers can post their slides after their presentation to their audience. And this is a better way to distribute your presentations without giving away your PPT files.

Students can also use this sharing their presentations with the class or the world.

Other features allow you to receive comments on your slideshows and embed them into other websites or blogs. It is kind of like having a free Breeze Presenter server available only without the audio. But will that be the next new feature?

Click here to access this site.

Another similar site that allows you to build your presentations online is

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Google Groups 2

Google Groups has been around for awhile but there is a new version out in beta that I have been playing with and it looks very good. Of course it is still free and only requires a google account to access. Here are some of the features I liked:

  • You can have as many groups as you like.
  • Each group has a threaded discussion board, Wiki tool, File Exchange tool and a way to email the members of your group.
  • Each group can post up to 100 MB of stuff in the group and that is a lot considering you will mostly be posting text messages.
  • There is a great management tool for tracking several groups and the activities in them.
  • You can elect if you want notifications email to you in various levels of digest.
  • I like how it integrates into Google Personalize Homepage as a gadget and connects with my Gmail contact list.
  • You can customize the look of the group area.
  • You can join hundreds of existing groups or set your up to be by invitation only.

I was disappointed to not be able to edit a discussion posting after I posted it but I can remove and replace it.

Check it out at

Friday, December 01, 2006

e-Learning Environmental Scan

I was just sent the URL to this document. It is an e-Learning Environmental Scan that had been prepared for Alberta Education in March 2006.

The report addresses the following:

  • needs and preferences of today’s students
  • needs and preferences of today’s employers
  • issues in e-Learning
  • trends and promising practices in e-Learning

You can access the report from

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Freemind - Mind Mapping Tool

Freemind is a free mind mapping computer tool that is very easy to use. I found this tool very valuable for brain storming, creating lists and outlines. I used it for my list of 80 free computer tools for learners that I blogged about earlier. Freemind is not the same as concept-mapping tools that tend to by more visual, where Freemind is more based on a text outliner. What is really great about Freemind is that you and your students can download it easily and use it on computers without installing it if that if a challenge. I have used it to create an outline of notes with my learners and then posting it to the web right afterwards. I also used it as a presentation tool instead of PowerPoint to teach complicate principles and relationships.

Your students could use this tool to make and organize their notes and for developing assignments and presentations.

Go to to learn more and download the tool.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I have been playing with YackPack ( and it is great. YackPack is one of the few asynchronous audio conferencing tools that I have seen and this one is Free. Wimba Voice Tools is another such tool but it is not free.

YackPack let’s you set up “packs” where you can invite friends, associates or your students to meet you in the online pack where voice messages and emails can be exchanged in non-real time. So you can access the pack at any time and listen to messages, reply or post your own. You can send voice messages to the whole group or just selected participants. And email is automatically sent out to alert the participants that a message is waiting for them. And it is very easy to use. Did I mention it is Free?

You can even have several yackpacks and tracking activity in various packs is easy. You can also embed the packs into your website or course sites. There are also great tutorials and help support.

I am going to use this for my next online class and perhaps a committee or two. If you are using this in a class, let us know how it is working for you.

P.S. YackPack has just recently added a synchronous chatting component.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Over 90 Free Computer Tools for Learners

I made a presentation at the AOC Online Learning Symposium last week about 50 Free Computer Tools for Learners. By the time I got the presentation ready, the count was over 90. I have post the list of tool to my portfolio site so click here to access it.

I put this list together is order to inventory all of the useful and free computer tools I have been finding that would be useful to students if we put them into their hands. I realized that most of the Ed Technologies that we focus on are not really that useful to learners. Tools like Blackboard, WebCT, Breeze Presenter and others are more for supporting teachers and administration then to actually have learners learn. The list is organized by typical functions that student perform in order to learn.

So here is my list. Let me know what you think of it.

I have already had feedback on tools that I could add to the list so I will continue to add them but you can add them too but adding a comment below.

BTW, the list was created in FreeMind, a very cool and free mindmapping tool.

I am working on a similar list the would focus on tools to support teachers. I will post it here when it is ready.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Are you feedback with fighting with your email software? I was and tired of checking multiple accounts and deleting spam. I was especially frustrated with the email server managers emailing me warnings that my inbox is getting full and that I need to remove message. I hate doing that when I don’t have time to carefully consider that I need to keep. Actually, I just hate deleting anything because I just know I will need it late. Not that I can find old important messages in my email anyway.

Okay, then a friend invited me to try Gmail or Google Mail and it is by fair the BEST email tool on this planet. And if you ask other Gmail users, they will say the same thing. And it is free. Why do I like it?

  • I moved all of my other email accounts (save my to it very easily and now I just need to check in one place.
  • It is webbased so I can access it anywhere.
  • I have almost 3 Giga Bytes of storage so no one bugs me to clean up my inbox. I have been using it for 6 months and I am still under 10% used.
  • I can attach files to a message to myself and use it as web storage. Max file size per message is 10 MB.
  • I can use the Google Search engine to fine the email messages I need.
  • It automatically add any email address I send to or recieve from into the contacts list.
  • It clusters messages into conversations.
  • It supports labels instead of folders. Messages can essentially be in more than one folder/label at a time.
  • It has a star flagging tool for flagging messages that require my attending. I can quickly list all messages starred.
  • It has great spam controls.
  • Gmail is also integrated with Google Talk an easy to use Instant Messaging tool that stores your transcripts into your Gmail box.
  • It has a great spell checker and rich formatting tool that appears just like Word.
  • It is fast and reliable. It saves to draft automatically so you don’t lose your message with a network disruption.
  • It is just way too easy to use and it is free.

I highly recommend this as a replacement email system to teachers and students. To get signed up you need to have a current gmail user invite but that is not difficult, just look for a message in your inbox from a email address and ask them to invite you.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Teaching Teaching & Understanding Understanding

Here is a very interest short film about teaching and understanding. It is in the context of Universitys but can be applied to most other learning contexts. This film is being shared freely on the Internet and can be accessed at

I think the message in the presentation is great and well presented. We talk a lot about these ideas with instructors but this film really illustrates what we need to do to help students learn more effectively. Please post your comments on how you found the film.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Audacity is a very good sound recording and editing application that is open source and free. It is available for Macs, Windows, Linux and other OS from Audacity is easy to use to record presentations, interviews, sounds or music. You can see a visual representation of the sampling and edit the sound kind of like a word processor, you can select a segment, delete, copy or move it. You can also record or mix several tracks and save to MP3 format for podcasting.

I have used Audacity for recording guest speakers, myself and presentations over the Internet that I was not able to attend. There are many advanced features but they are optional. The one I have found very handy is the Noise Removal effect that can clean up the buzz.

Both teachers and students will find this tool handy.

If you are interested in acquiring music for presentations, you may want to check out Finale Notepad. With this free program you can select and download from thousands of legal music pieces and record them to Audacity and put them into presentations, legally.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

In looking for a useful free and hosted wiki tool, I have come across It have a very easy interface and claims to have the functions of a wiki, blog and online discussion forum. You can access it at

Features that I like are:

  • Many templates to choose from
  • Comments and discussions are right on the page
  • Very easy to work with
  • You can attach files to pages
  • You can add RSS Feeds directly in the pages

There are many of these out there but I am looking for the best one. If you know of others that work for you, please comments and share it.
Like all wikis, you use this for many collaboration activities. What activities do you use Wikis for?

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Google Docs & Spreadsheets

Google a fairly new tool available that allows you to create, open, print, share and collaborative edit word processor documents and spreadsheets. The word processor tool appears to be a cross between MS Word and a Wiki. Actually it is the Writely tool that Google acquired not too long ago. The spreadsheet tool appears like MS Excel. Both allow you to do the following:

  • Open documents and save them as PDF files.
  • Store documents online and access them from anywhere. No storage limit apparently.
  • Collaborative create documents like meeting agendas, lists and tables.
  • Draws email address from my gmail contact list.

Although you just need email addresses of the people you want to share or collaborate with, they will need a Google account, which is free.

You can access this tool at

I have also run across a couple of similar tools at are also free and have more tools, like presentation, planner and database tools.

Are tools like this going to be a threat to the MS Office Monopoly?

Tuesday, October 31, 2006 is one of the several social bookmarking tools available on the Web. I have been using it for about a year now and find it very easy to use, useful and it is free. The features I like about it is that when you save a Web-based document or site to your furl archive, it saves a snap shot of the web-page. This is great for articles and news items that may go off-line later on and I still want to be able to access it. has some great plug-ins that place quick save and access buttons in your favourite browser. It also lets you know if any other furl users have archived the resources you have. If anyone has you can look at their archive. Yes, you can make your archive public and share it with colleagues or students. There are tools to help you embed your listings into other web-pages. I have managed to embed portions of my list into my Blackboard courses. also have a full suite of tagging and labelling tools for your items, including a tool for converting your referencing into common citation formats like APA and Chicago. Check it out at

Feel free to browse my archive at

ScreenHunter 4.0 Free

One of the most useful utilities that I have been using for a couple year is ScreenHunter 4.0 Free. This tool installs easily and doesn’t require admin privileges to install. ScreenHunter is very easy to use and it allows to you create image files from any portion of your computer screen. I find it most useful for capturing regions of the screen and saving them directly to the clipboard to my choice of file formats.

Go to

Although it is free, watch out as you follow the links to download it. You don’t need to subscribe to the newsletter or give any information. If you have trouble getting to the Download site click here to go to it directly. Scroll down past the versions that cost to the free version.

In Defense of Cheating

In Defense of Cheating by Don Norman

Don Norman’s essay on “cheating” is actually a very thought provoking reflection on our learning assessment practices and why cheating shouldn’t matter. Essentially, the message I took away from reading this is that we need to make our learning assessments more collaborative because those of the skills required in today’s workplace. If we design our assessment to be more project based, personalizable and collaborative then cheating becomes a non-issue.

In courses that I teach for the University of Calgary, I have design all of my assessments to be project based that require the students to complete projects to solve needs from their own life contexts. I encourage them to collaborate and even have them post their assignments to the class for peer feedback before I grade them. I also give a large portion of the grade to their own analysis and reflection about their work and conclusions.

I feel this gives them a stronger learning experience as they need to look at how their peers have applied the concepts and principles under study to a variety of different contexts and they most critic their own work, demonstrating their own thoughts and abilities of perform the objectives I hope their are learning. This is especially true in my online classes where I never meet my students face-to-face.

Read the essay and leave comments.

Saturday, October 28, 2006


YouTube is not just a website that allows video makers to share their programs with the world but as teachers we can find serveral very useful video clips that we can use in our classes, legally, but just linking to them on this site or using the Embedded HTML codes available.

You can find the famous Herding Cats clip, 5 minute University, Clips from the Movie “Ferrus Beuller’s Day Off” and many move.

You can also set up an account and create a list of favourites. Check it out at

And since Google just bought them, you should see a convergence between Google Video and YouTube.

I also like to use the funny clips as reward easter eggs in my online classes but you need to watch out for offensive materials here.

Google Reader

Google has a new RSS Feed Reader in its toolbox. It has many of the features of other Feed Readers but it is Web based so you can access it from multiple computers. I use it at work and at home and that way I can track what I have read. It can also be a gadget in my personlized Google home page so I can track it along with my Google mail. I can also make readings with stars like in Google mail as well as share items with others.
You can find it at

The New version of Wink

Wink 2 is the latest version of Wink. This version is much more useful because you can now add audio and voice narrations to your slide shows. And it can publish to SWF format for online delivery. Oh, and it is free.

Wink can capture screen shots and actions to create flash based tutorials, without Flash or Captivate. And the presentations are editable.

Download it from

Teachers can use this for building online flash movie tutorials or virtual tours. Students could use it for building online presentations, or to build virtual tours of they project work.

And it is very easy to use.


I found this tool a month or so ago and have been using it all the time to create PDF files of all kinds of things, including preparing a postcard for a print shop and posters for a plotter.

It is free and legal to download. It installs easily and doesn’t need admin privileges. It installs itself as a printer so you can use it from any Windows application by using the print command and selecting PDFCreator as the printer and tell it where to save the PDF file. You will have some options to tweak if you wish but it works great with all of the defaults.

Download this tool from

The $100 Laptop

There is a great initiative taking place in the world that plans to create$100 laptop millions of specially design laptop computers for the children of the world. The computer is designed to cost $100 each. The mandate is to put one of these laptops into the hands of each child to enable them to get an enhanced education.

For all of the details about these units go to

Unfortunately, these units will not be available to purchase in our favourite computer stores but I believe the break-through design strategies will put more pressure on all laptop vendors to design more cost-effective units.