Tuesday, November 15, 2011

New IT Interest Group Meeting Notes – November 4, 2011

Ian, Jim, and Tom made their way to Milwaukee for the 2011 WLA Conference. We held a classic IT Interest Group meeting! It went great and we heard lots of really good ideas from everyone who came to see what we are up to...

We started with a discussion of the principles of the group:

  1. We stick to discussing "technology" issues.
  2. We all explore as newbies.
  3. We stay focused on the goal of "producing creative thought."
  4. Attendance is not required.

NOW, on to the fun part...!

Ian got us started by looking at Photosynth http://photosynth.net/ This is an amazing application that you can use to merge photos in order to create panoramas or 3D views of objects. Ian showed us how to use a mobile device such as an iPhone to take pictures from a central point (such as where you are standing at the moment) and then use Photosynth to stitch the images together. Really amazing! Ian notes that this is useful for making library tours, and mobile games.

Karla (Lakeshore Tech) shared her experience with circulating iPads. She explained that they were trying a variety of mechanisms (including giving users a budget) for allowing users to add apps to the iPads. It was mentioned by another participant that they had circulated the iPod Touch and had used “app vouchers” as the way to grant users the ability to add apps. http://www.apple.com/itunes/education/ Two very interesting ideas!

Amber introduced us to the free TextPad application http://www.textpad.com/ It is useful for manual coding because it uses color to identify tags. It costs $27, but you can use it for free for a while as a demo copy! CNET has a good review here.

Amber also told us about the very handy FireFTP FireFox add-on https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/fireftp/ This effective FTP client operates within the FireFox browser.

Speaking of fires, Jim fired up an in-session instance of TodaysMeet http://todaysmeet.com/ This really useful web-based application makes creating a participatory backchannel conversation fast, easy, and effective. Our instance from the session is now expired (because you can set the expiration for a very short time - so, sorry, no link) but we did have a good backchannel discussion in our session!

Nancy showed us her LightWedge book reading light: http://www.lightwedge.com/ She mentioned that they illuminate well and also create very little extra light that may bother other people when you use it on a plane, or in a dark conference room! They cost about $35, and look very nice.

Cynthia (Globe University) explained for us her past predicament when helping students that were using Microsoft Works http://www.microsoft.com/products/works/ as their primary way to type their papers. The students were having difficulty printing out their documents. Luckily, she discovered ZamZar http://www.zamzar.com/ which can be used to convert documents from one type into another, and ultimately helped the students to print. This looks very useful!

Marta (Carthage College) explained how she had been using Glogster http://www.glogster.com/ to assist students with creating posters. This fascinating web-application allows you to add text, images, and media into an online “poster” which you can use to demonstrate class projects and presentations in a very engaging way. Cool!

Beth mentioned the helpful GoogleGoggles http://www.google.com/mobile/goggles/ application. It allows you to use your mobile device’s camera to capture an image and then use that image as a way to search for information about the object. For example, an image of a book cover can be used to locate the Google Books object. In addition, this app can be used to translate text on the fly from one language to another. That is amazing!

Beth followed up with another useful tool: the Free Technology for Teachers blog: http://www.freetech4teachers.com/ She mentioned that it is a really useful place to learn about new technology. Thanks Beth!

The assembled participants then began a short discussion about (short) battery life for mobile devices. Jim helpfully suggested the Android app JuiceDefender http://www.juicedefender.com/ which “improves battery life behind the scenes by intelligently managing the battery-draining components of your phone.” Ian mentioned the cool Minty Boost project http://www.ladyada.net/make/mintyboost/ You may not be able to purchase one of these but you can make one! How does Ian learn about this cool stuff?!? Try out the LifeHacker site: http://lifehacker.com/ Another participant suggested using one of the (many) helpful USB adaptors out there. Handy!

Jim showed us the very cool web-based application Topicmarks http://topicmarks.com/ The site allows you to upload PDFs of readings and articles, and then the site then runs a variety of algorithms on the PDF to analyze the text in order to 1) index the article, 2) auto-generate a summary of the article, 3) list the important facts stated in the article. That really is AMAZING!

Jan mentioned the EarthPoint tool http://www.earthpoint.us/ It has many facets and uses, but one helpful application is for converting township/range information into coordinates in Google Earth.

Sarah mentioned the helpful InstaPaper http://www.instapaper.com/ “a simple tool to save web pages for reading later.” She let us know that it will strip the pages (that you save in your account) of all extra content and will keep the article text. This text can later be reassembled into a personal newspaper for you!

Amber finished up the session by mentioning the TechRepublic http://www.techrepublic.com/ site that aggregates many different types and sources of IT information, and is very useful for staying up to date.

We had a GREAT IT Interest Meeting! Thank you to all of the participants. Please start your own group! We would love to meet with you all at WAAL and WLA in 2012.

[To All Participants: If I have your name wrong or if I omitted your institution and you would like to see it listed (or maybe even removed), please let me know. I can edit the post, no problem.]

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