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?