Skype and Gizmo

I have been looking at VoIP technology and the associated tools (Gizmo and Skype) for the last few months to see how it can be used in (and outside) the classroom to enable communication … both tools are very cool. Although I believe Skype is more of a peer to peer model, while Gizmo is a real VoIP application. I even switched to Vonage for my home phone — and it is great! I save a bunch of money every month and there isn’t any difference in service. Might be worth a look. At any rate, some people from my new group gave a talk last week about SecondLife — the virtual world software. It was cool that they didn’t all physically show up for the talk, they used the SL space and Gizmo to give the presentation. They even went so far to build a virtual conference room that they all met in and projected that in front of the real room. I think it made an impact — as in, people started to see some interesting application of the whole thing … I wonder if you’d count that as a mash up?

Oh, and speaking of Skype here is a great resource if you like to integrate a “call me” link on your site.

Podcasting with the Samson C01U & Audio Hijack Pro

I can’t believe I am back to figuring out podcasting setups. When I started podcasting over a year ago with the From the Basement series, we had a great setup going. It was essentially a Radio Shack 7 Band DJ Mixer, a couple of PowerBooks, and a couple of microphones. What was great about it was how easy it was to setup and use — because we were using a mixer and a dedicated recording machine all the mixes could happen without issue. If you wanted to play iTunes, use iChat and Skype to talk to remote guests, and record the people in the room it wasn’t a challenge. The big issue was that it was a big setup — and forget about moving it around to do podcasts anywhere but From the Basement.

I recently got a new Samson C01U USB microphone and have tried a couple of times to get a decent podcast going with it. It is a great mic, but I haven’t been able to get my whole mix thing going. My big goal is to not use a bunch of goofy system settings to make it happen … I just want to be able to turn on my Mac, plug in my mic, open an application, and start recording … I don’t want to use SoundFlower or anything else — simple is the solution I am after. If this is going to make it to the classroom, it has to be easy. At any rate, here is a sample podcast that sort of talks about this post and some of the history and thinking behind it all.

This morning I am sitting down at my G5 and Samson to run some tests. I thought I’d report my findings here. The software and hardware I am using are as follows:

  • PowerMac G5 DP 2 GHz with 1 GB SDRAM (I gotta get more memory)
  • Samson C01U USB Microphone
  • Samson C01U software applet
  • Audio Hijack Pro
  • iTunes
  • iChat AV

What I want to do is have the mic and the additional software produce a single mix that is of good quality. The screen shot below shows the setup in action. You’ll notice that the Samson C01U software has the gain set to +26dB and that input on the Sound control panel is set to just above half. These are settings that I seem to have to play with quite a bit, but this seems to yield good results. In AHP, I have the microphone set to be hijacked and in the Effects pane I’ve added the “Application Mixer” effect for both iTunes and iChat … those are then turned to “Hijacker on” mode. You can then start recording and the audio from each of the external applications are mixed in with the audio coming from the microphone (my voice). I haven’t tried it yet, but I assume you could add as many applications you want by adding more Application Mixer effects. We’ll have to play with that as well.

Podcast Setup

Wireless … In the Car?

Yep, it works like a charm. I got a cellular wireless card the other day and got to use it today. Driving from State College to Philadelphia today my wife pulled out my PowerBook, slid the card in, connected to Verizon and spent the last two hours of trip on the Internet. This is a very good thing. Opens up a whole host of opportunities. The speed of the card isn’t what we are used to in the broadband world we live in, but being able to get online while driving is amazing … pages loaded just fine, we didn’t drop a connection once. It was great being able to keep up on the Nittany Lions while she read the news and browsed blogs. As a matter of fact I am using it now that I am sitting in a sports bar watching the second half to write this post, catch up on email, and do a little research for class this week. I hate to beat a dead horse with this, but I am amazed.

iTunes in Education

I am really starting to enjoy seeing things like this. Stanford has joined the party and started using iTunes for content distribution. It is a very cool project … there are several of these out there. I spent an hour or so talking with some of the folks from U Mich during Educause — specifically in one of the Apple Digital Campus Podcasts (Subscribe via iTunes) — about how they are using it as well. What blows my mind is how this product (iTunes) wasn’t really built for this, but over time Apple has really listened to its education customers and realized just how powerful the iTunes environment really is. I mean, if you get right down to it, eEducation is a whole hell of a lot like eBusiness — transactional, relies on scalable infrastructure, and the notions of community. At any rate, these are good stories.

Social Bookmarking … In Courseware?

I was spending some time with one of my colleagues here today, Bill Rose, discussing social bookmarking. He hadn’t heard of the concept and we were just discussing the basics … I showed him how works and he got excited … we kept talking and we started to wonder if we could really put it into place for our Online IST courses. If we could add an open source social bookmarking tool (know any good ones?) as service within our Edison Services toolset and let students click a simple “remember this” link on any page of a course and bookmark it. From there, they could do the simple tagging that goes along with this stuff — that makes sense to them. That could lead to all sorts of good things — shared resources, note-taking capabilities, and so much more.

After doing some quick google work I did find one open source tool, based on the Rubric framework. I can’t figure out how to get it running, but when Millet gets back from the Gathering of the Vibes festival his non-profit, is assisting with this will be sitting on his plate. Does anyone out there have any ideas on how we could make this work? And any good ideas for lessons built around a semester long tagging exercise? One thing I was thinking at the minimum was having all my students this fall get an account and tag resources with the course number (110) and do weekly peer reviews of each other’s links. Just some thoughts I didn’t want to misplace. Any other ideas or pointers for me?

Update: I got an open source tool, scuttle running. Take a look, create, an account, and drop a few bookmarks (with tags) in so I can see how this will play out. Jump over. Thanks!

A Little H2O …

I’m not sure what to make of this quite yet, but from what I have seen (and understood) this could be quite interesting. Its out of the Berkman Center at Harvard Law, so I gotta figure there is something to it … the H2O Playlist site … it lets you make playlists of interesting topics that can be shared. I like the concept … If I get around to it, I’ll post more after I’ve had a chance to bang on it a little longer.

AJAX … Nice.

I’ve been tracking this for a while now, but I am becoming more and more interested in this AJAX stuff, AKA Asynchronous JavaScript and XML. I am really seeing it as a major piece to the web 2.0 puzzle — I know, duh. If you couple that with the whole Ruby on Rails stuff that is going on, you have the building blocks of the new read/write web interfaces. Just thought I’d write that down … sorry if its old news. I can see how we can use this to change quite a bit in education.

Podcasting Event at NECC

I went to the podcasting event at NECC last night. I was blown away by the number of people that showed up — they had to do a second session to get most of them in. Really sort of makes you think there is somthing big to this podcasting thing … at any rate, I had a chance to talk with the speaker, Barnaby Wasson afterwards and I captured it as, you guessed it, a podcast. Barnaby talked about what podcasting is and some interesting and novel uses for it. I am still just blown away by how packed the room was. Apple demonstrated, in a very complete way, how podcasting works in iTunes 4.9 … what was even more impressive was how it works with the iPod — in a word, wow! The bookmarks, with the ability to change and annotate images is just amazing. I downloaded the tool that lets you do that (still in beta), but it a terminal app at the moment. All in all, well done Apple! My little iTunes problems aside, this is an amazing point upgrade.

The other thing that really impresses me about the whole iPod/iTunes space is the team that Apple has pushing it. They really believe they have a device that can change what we do in and out of the classroom. Its always great to see smart people with passion talking about what they are doing. Nice job! Also, Barnaby is a great speaker and I can see why he is an Apple Distinguished Educator. At any rate, listen to the Podcast … sorry its a little big … I’m in a hurry to get it out there.