Hopeful Harmonies


If you're in the mood for musical harmonies, there's no place better than YouTube to find them. A few days ago I searched YouTube for the word “duet” and then refined the search by clicking on the drop-down menu Uploaded and selecting Today. A few seconds later this jewel of a video was playing on my screen.

The guitar playing in this video is so clean--so crisp. The vocal harmonies in this video are chilling in beauty. And then I learned how this video was made. Paul Larson lives in Michigan, Kappa Danielson in Maryland. Paul was on the lookout for a female vocalist on YouTube to create duets with. Their early experiment with a duet of the song "How's the World Treating You" was very well received.

Emboldened, these musical explorers on the YouTube frontier sought to go further. Paul videotaped himself singing his part and used a Web file transfer service to send his video to Kappa. Kappa downloaded the video and sang her part while listening to Paul's video using the earbud from her daughter's iPod. Kappa recorded her audio through a condenser mic and a USB mixer feeding straight into the Magix Movie Pro video editing software.

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Video Book Reviews on Amazon.com


Remember when Amazon.com was new and the most interesting thing about visiting its Web site was reading customer reviews of books? Well, not everyone loves sharing their book impressions in text form. A short video commentary about a book can be entertaining to make and to view.

So when I recently purchased The Twitter Book by Tim O'Reilly and Sarah Milstein, in the back of my mind I knew that I ought to create a short video review for Amazon.com. Not every book sparks a desire to create a video review, but this one did.

You can view my 3-minute video-book-review here.

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DigiYumi: Interview with Working Daze Author John Zakour

Working Daze is a comic distributed by United Media. Working Daze is currently written by John Zakour and illustrated by Scott Roberts. John Zakour is also a writer for Bongo's Simpson's Comics, and has written a series of humorous sci-fi novels for Daw books that he calls "bubblegum for the brain." Zakour has a master's degree in human behavior and undergrad degrees in computer science, eco, and bio.

Working Daze character Roy (@WorkingDaze_Roy), who twitters in character, is trying to get 1K (1000) followers. If he gets 1K twitter followers by June 10, John Zakour will be giving away free copies of his books to five random people. Working Daze follows the daily happenings of an office filled with a ruthless manager, plenty of geeks, and others who are not so geeky. Technology, office humor, and geek talk abound in Working Daze, which you can follow at the comics.com site.

John Zakour's Working Daze Blog lists four reasons why people should follow Roy:

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In Your Twitter Profile, Leave Out the Punctuation


I recently signed up for an account on Twitter and decided to proceed carefully when filling in my Twitter profile. Twitter is a place for people to listen to one another. That listening often starts with a Twitter profile. So I examined other profiles and was surprised to find a lot of people using commas in a string of words describing themselves.

Folks, we can't afford to be using commas. We're in a recession. Commas are extravagant and unneeded. Sure, I'd love to use commas in my Twitter profile, but I just can't afford to do so--certainly not on the salary I currently make. You don't need to be an economist to understand the price of a comma. Commas are expensive. They cost almost as much as a dash.

Keep in mind that your Twitter profile is a chance for you to paint a brief portrait of who you are and what you care about. It's not as difficult as it sounds to describe yourself in 160 characters. It's a whole lot easier without wasting characters on commas or other punctuation.

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Students Adore Moodle

Many great inventions come to life because an inventor somewhere became frustrated. In the late 1990s Martin Dougiamas became frustrated with a learning management system (LMS) he was supporting at a college in Australia. Students and professors at that college kept asking him if the LMS they were using could include certain features they needed. While the LMS could support those features, its developers were slow in bringing them to life. So Dougiamas said: "Well, to meet these learners' needs, I'm going to have to do it myself."

And that was how Moodle was born. Soon after it was invented, Moodle's popularity grew rapidly in schools and colleges around the world. The stories I hear from teachers who are using Moodle are deeply intriguing. Moodle works, and it works very well.

One of the most interesting stories I've heard comes from Sheila Gatling, a now-retired middle school teacher from Brooklyn, New York. With the help of her brother, Gatling set up several Linux computers for her students to use Moodle. Her students took to this LMS so well that they begged for more class time to spend on it. Meanwhile, she observed how Moodle improved their writing and other skills. Here is where the story gets interesting. One of her students moved several hundred miles away from Brooklyn -- to another state. This student continued participating in the Moodle activities in Sheila's classroom, even handing in assignments.

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Cooked Rice Vocabulary Project


At my public library job I've been talking up the Freerice.com Web site to many elementary school and middle school students who visit the computer center where I work. The site donates rice to a United Nations food program when students click on the correct answers to multiple-choice vocabulary questions. I've been fascinated to see the different reactions students have to using this Web site. One second-grade girl loves Freerice.com, even though many of the vocabulary words are beyond a second-grade reading level. Some fourth-grade boys cannot get any questions correct at the easiest level of Freerice.com.

It occurred to me that without too much effort I could build some free multimedia learning materials that could help those fourth-grade boys have a positive experience with Freerice.com. I was sitting there at my job pondering this question when I received a phone call from a friend of mine, the mother of a twelfth-grade student here in Maryland. Maryland requires all graduating students to perform 75 hours of community service. This is a fabulous law that was put into effect in the early 1990s.

My friend's daughter, Sarah Behnia, was in need of 30 hours of volunteer work by the end of March, 2009, or she would not graduate high school. My friend asked me if I could help her daughter acquire those volunteer hours. As it happens, the Takoma Park Maryland Library, where I work, is qualified to give volunteer work hours for students who perform community service work at the library. So I told my friend, “Send your daughter down to the library. I'm going to put her to work on a free educational learning materials project. I can guarantee you that your daughter will have some fun working on this project, will learn new skills and will create something very useful for our community.”

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Moodle Used by Cub Scout Pack in Ohio

Moodle is a free and very useful course management system that facilitates the teaching of online classes to all age groups--elementary, middle, high school, and college--as well as organizations and corporations. A few years ago, Gina Russell Stevens, one of the founders of Moodlerooms, a Moodle service provider, told me that Moodle is so powerful it can be used as a general community organizing tool. Upon hearing that comment, I set up a Google Alert for Moodle and have been monitoring the ways in which Moodle is used beyond the teaching of classes.

I recently came across an exemplary use by Cub Scout Pack 3387 in Richfield, Ohio. I asked Webmaster Stephen Morris some questions on how this cub scout pack chose Moodle for their Web site. Morris shared the following answers:

How did decide on Moodle for your Cub Scout pack's online Web site?

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