Cool websites for education- YT Time Machine. History research tool for students and schools?

October 16, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Digital Era, Product Reviews 

One of the websites I have recently come across is YTTMwhich stands for YouTube Time Machine. The idea was thought up early in 2010 as a way of organising video into selection by years. Having seen the site on BBC’s Click I took a look and could see the relevancy for people looking back nostalgically at past years or decades.

The interface is basic and the site is currently in Alpha so it is likely to see improvements over time. It is nice and simple to use but I was instantly frustrated by the random nature in which videos are served up. Even though 1969 only had 8 videos available I could not see what all 8 were I was just served up one at random (although there is an option for category filter). If I wanted to see another one I would then click for another random selection. I suspect this has much to do with the idea behind the site of just looking back and getting a lucky dip response rather than wanting to research a key event.

Despite this limitation in functionality I did find my self intrigued and continually clicking within years until I came across this video from 1969 called ‘The Internet in 1969′. What a great resource for a student to take a look at and see what people thought was likely to happen to technology in the near future. Turns out they were pretty close but it has taken a little longer than planned!

Delving further as an Historian I headed over to 1943 to see what sort of historical videos they had on the site from World War Two.

My overall view of the site? I think it is a lot of fun and would happily recommend people to visit it casually as a social history site which is what in essence it is. The functionality allows you to filter by categories including music, sport, movies, current events, television etc which is really useful for the purpose of social history. It is fair to say it was probably not built as a student research tool and so does not quite fit the bill but would certainly give them a good insight into some aspects of life in the 20th Century.

Camtasia Studio version 6 with High Definition

January 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Digital Era, Product Reviews 

Over the last week I have done a lot of video demonstrations covering the 8 basic features of SharePoint 2007 for end users. I really enjoyed making the series and know the demos have already proved very useful for many people but one thing has frustrated me- video quality. I use Camtasia for screen recording and love it but have often been frustrated by the output when recording a full screen. On Friday I managed to get round to something I should have done a while ago- upgrading our Camtasia version. Turns out we are using a version produced in 2006 and there have been 2 newer versions.

The Pepsi challenge

Having upgraded I decided to re-record a SharePoint basic features video so that I could see the difference. Being a child of the 80s I explained this to the team as ‘The Pepsi Challenge’. Blank faces ensued as my colleagues 10-12 years younger than me had no clue what I was talking about. Dave Coleman noded knowingly from the corner of the room and then started talking about Chorlton and the Wheelies which led to me producing a blank face. Here are the results and see if you can ‘taste the difference’ between Camtasia 4 and Camtasia 6 in HD. Obviously putting the videos into YouTube will play a factor but the difference is still clear.

SharePoint basic feature in Camtasia 4 (view in 420p)

SharePoint basic feature in Camtasia 6 HD (select 720 HD)

Microsoft Songsmith free for Education

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Digital Era, Product Reviews 

Last week I wrote an post about an innovate piece of software called AutoCollage. This photo montage tool came out of Microsoft Research Cambridge and is an excellent piece of software which is free to all schools. Well it seems that the educational giveaways just keep on coming from Microsoft with another of their research products, Songsmith which has been made available to education for free from this morning.

Microsoft Songsmith lets you create a complete song without any knowledge of music. You don’t need to know any of the complexities of chords or melodies, you simply sing into your computer and Songsmith will work out the musical background. Sound interesting? Take a look at this demo which shows how Songsmith works.

As the officially least musical person in the world I showed this product to two people who I consider experts. One is my wife who has a music degree and thought the tool would be pretty good in a school environment for  quick compositions. The other is @steveturner93 a Generation Y wanna be musical guru who has just started at our Sixth Form. In typical teenager fashion he went straight to the real demo site- YouTube- and watched 6 or 7 videos on Songsmith. He then had a go on the demo site which can be found here. In his own blog he has just done a review in which he says ‘from ages 5 to 14, this could be a great part of music lessons, teaching students how to use: Tempo, bass, beats, layering techniques and quality finishing.’  You can read his full review here

Songsmith now available free to education on the Innovative Teachers Network

If you work in education and want to use Songsmith it is absolutely free. You can get a copy by joining the Innovative Teacher Network. This site is a great resource in itself for teachers and highly recommend joining. You can also get a free copy of AutoCollage from there which is well worth trying.


AutoCollage for school events-parental engagement

September 2, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Digital Era, Product Reviews 

One of the Microsoft tools which I have been wanting to test drive for a few months is AutoCollage. This product came directly out of one of the Microsoft Research Labs in Cambridge and uses a range of sophisticated technology to recognise faces and pick out the most interesting bits out of a collection of photos before blending them into a photo collage. Clearly this has huge potential in education with schools taking hundreds if not thousands of photos a year from trips, extra curricular activities and special days which then need organising in some way to be displayed.

This Bank Holiday weekend was a perfect opportunity to test AutoCollage with a group of photos. The Bisterne Scarecrow Festival was starting and when my nephew and niece found out there was a Peppa Pig Scarecrow there was no stopping them. Off we went on an 4 mile tour of 28 scarecrows sites taking photos of each one, most with my nephew in. When I returned home I downloaded the trial version of AutoCollage and pressed a button with the following result.

Click to enlarge

The image above was my first attempt with AutoCollage and in only one click I had a great result. When I looked there were actually 44 photos so a quick tweak on the AutoCollage interface to specify the number of photos you want involved produced this:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

AutoCollage looks like a fantastic product and I am planning to use this on our SharePoint site alongside the picture gallery. I think it will be particulalry useful on the Parent Gateway to keep parents engaged in the many activities and events a large secondary school runs. The really good news is AutoCollage is absolutely free if you are using it for an educational purpose. You can go to the Innovate Teachers Network to download it now.

Edit your SharePoint content Offline with ease

August 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Product Reviews, SharePoint 

Earlier in the day I wrote about the free product Colligio SharePoint Reader which allows you to access your SharePoint sites when away from Internet access. This is a fantastic resource and you can download it from here at no cost. At the same time you may be looking for a product which not only allows you to access your SharePoint sites but also enables you to edit them offline and then sync back to the server. Colligo has covered this with their product Colligio Contributor

Colligio Contributor is a fully featured product which has a rich user interface allowing you to continue working with SharePoint in an Offline environment. Two way syncing and a drag and drop interface make this a highly intuitive piece of software which will have a dramatic impact on the productivity of teachers who can update their subject sites at home without the internet and update them on arrival in the school the next day. This product is available from the Colligio site on a trial basis and is well worth looking at for key staff who are power users of SharePoint.

Connecting effectively with SharePoint Offline

August 26, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Product Reviews, SharePoint 

Yesterday I started a new series of product reviews by looking at the excellent RSSbus SharePoint Web Part which helps you to connect to hundreds of sources of data and place them in your SharePoint environment. Continuing with the theme of SharePoint Product Reviews I wanted to look at the issue of access to SharePoint 24/7 and anytime/anywhere. One of the biggest issues here is how do you stay connected with your SharePoint environment without Internet access. The increasing availability of public wireless and the emergence of 3G has in some ways helped to reduce this issue. At the same time the move towards paid for public wireless and the huge number of 3G black spots means that more than ever having access to SharePoint withouht the internet is essential. One of the excellent tools you can use to help you do this is Colligio Reader for SharePoint.

Colligio Reader for SharePoint is a free product which allows you to sync your SharePoint to your laptop to view in read only mode. This is a fully fledged product which takes all the SharePoint libraries and picture galleries along with all your meta data into the offline environment. The reader works straight off your laptop with no server based installation so you can download it here and start using straight away. As with the RSSbus Web Part we will be producing a range of full product reviews with screenshots examining the functionality in the Autumn Term so look out for this.

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