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Here is my blog assignment: Explore multimedia sharing / mashup sites – and VoiceThread or Animoto.  

What is multimedia? What is a mashup? Heard of VoiceThread or Animoto?  Sound simple?  I thought not!

If you are like me, you may also not have heard of these terms in the context of Web 2.0.  I had heard of multimedia for classrooms through my work at the University over the past ten years and thought of an overhead projector and VCR or DVD machine, when I first glanced at the topic for this assignment. 

As for mashups, I instantly thought of music mashups and examples such as,

 The 1999 Eminem album The Slim Shady LP with a cappella vocals from the track “My Name Is” combined with the music of many other artists, including “Back in Black” by AC/DC, “Ice Ice Baby” by Vanilla Ice.”

I needed to rethink a few things and it has taken me a great effort, over several days, but I believe I am now ready to attempt to share my considerations on the topics of multimedia and mashups, and I will then move onto considering Voicethread and Animoto in the latter portion of this blog.  Join me and let’s learn what all this new lingo is about. 

What is a mashup?  Wikipedia has several mashup definitions but the one that is particularly important to consider for this Web 2.0 discussion is the wiki page titled, Mashup (web application hybrid).  This wiki distinguishes mashups that are created for use in terms of web development and it delineates a mashup as it is often used in a Web 2.0 context:

A mashup is a web page or application that combines data or functionality from two or more external sources to create a new service. The term mashup implies easy, fast integration, frequently using open APIs and data sources to produce results that were not the original reason for producing the raw source data. An example of a mashup is the use of cartographic data from Google Maps to add location information to real estate data, thereby creating a new and distinct Web service that was not originally provided by either source.”

If we are bringing Web 2.0 tools together to exhibit on our blogs, are we mashing? Who will mash the web?  We will!  We do!  

Thinking out loud: If you are you using a widget or embedding content from outside of your blog?  Then aren’t you creating a mashup? 

I believe, if we are blogging about Web 2.0 tools, we are likely making a mashup!  If we are bringing new applications into our blogs then we are likely mashing (making a mashup).  I am sure this may be seen as a stretch of the definition but if wikipedia’s definition of a music mashup is “a song or composition created by blending two or more songs” and mashup web applications occur by “creating a new and distinct” service that was not provided by either service when they were stand alone services, then I think we might just be doing a whole lot of mashing in our blogs, and in our social networks.  My blog is no longer just a stand alone application that exhibits my writing but it also shows off my blog tags with the addition of a tagging widget in my sidebar that is updated when I make each post.  When I am creating my blog at home I have an add-on, Zemanta, that recommends articles, tags, and other content as I create my blog.  I never really paid attention to it before now and only used it for the it’s feature of automatically generating additional resources at the end of each blog.  For this blog, I see there are mashup articles and so I have marked two that seem related to this topic and you should find the links to them in my blogpost; one is titled, “Mashups are groovy baby” and the other is “Best New Mashups: Guardian, Pandora, and Android.”

In the Web 2.0 realm then, I will define a mashup as a “composition created by blending two or more”  web tools, such as a blog with and some other online service, such as Zemanta and declare that when I am blogging and using another Web 2.0 tool/service with, in, on or through my blog, then I must be mashing and creating something new and distinct?  If my logic is not faulty, my classmates are mashing too becuase each one of them has some form of add-on that they have introduced into their blogs.  Their blogs, like mine, began as stand alone entities.  Most everyone who blogs is mashing.  We are all mashing the web! 

 Blog on, and mashup, fellow blogger mashers!

Next: what is multimedia? And what the heck is multimedia sharing?

It is what we are already doing in our blogs and in this course.  When we combine different forms of media and content we are defining multimedia!  We are combining content and looking at different forms of media.  Wikipedia defines multimedia as,

media and content that uses a combination of different content forms. The term [multimedia] can be used as a noun (a medium with multiple content forms) or as an adjective describing a medium as having multiple content forms. The term is used in contrast to media which only use traditional forms of printed or hand-produced material. Multimedia includes a combination of text, audio, still images, animation, video, and interactivity content forms.” 

Multimedia is what we are combining and bringing into our blogs. If you are blogging, I would bet you are using multimedia.

From Wikipedia here are some examples of individual content forms that might be combined in multimedia: 

Wikipedia’s definition of how multimedia usage is occurring in education is that

In Education, multimedia is used to produce computer-based trainingcourses (popularly called CBTs) and reference books like encyclopedia and almanacs. A CBT lets the user go through a series of presentations, text about a particular topic, and associated illustrations in various information formats. Edutainment is an informal term used to describe combining education with entertainment, especially multimedia entertainment.  Learning theory in the past decade has expanded dramatically because of the introduction of multimedia. Several lines of research have evolved (e.g. Cognitive load, Multimedia learning, and the list goes on). The possibilities for learning and instruction are nearly endless.”

What we are already creating and discussing multimedia  in our blogs and as I argued above, our blogs are also a mashup.  We are not just moving beyond “traditional” forms of hand produced media but we are moving beyond one medium when we provide links to follow, content that has or is taken up in multiple forms of media, and content that can be interacted with by people.  We are using multimedia and we mashups. 

We are mashing.

We are using multimedia,  just see my embedded videos below.  

We are actively creating Web 2.0! 

We are the web! 

We are multimedia mashing! 

Silly? Profound?  I say no; after all we are sharing, collaborating and mashing up the web!  Let’s move forward together and continue the positive relationship and knowledge building – let’s mash on!

When looking for research or resources on the topic of multimedia sharing I was not very successful in finding much material, and when I searched instead on the topic of multimedia and education most of the material was quite dated.  For instance, I found a site titled Suite 101 that has a list of “latest articles” on multimedia education with the most recent article listed being from 2005 and the discussions on this site are even more dated. I did come across one site that looks rather fruitful: an extensive resource list of multimedia resources for educators and students can be found at the Utah Education Network website.  This lengthy list of resources for use in multimedia presentations includes sections covering, multiple media, sounds, pictures, video, music and more.  The site also has several links to online powerpoint tutorials and I even found a link to thousands of free powerpoint presentations, on hundreds of topics for educators. I took a look at the free powerpoints on miscellaneous business topics and found that there are topics included that I might be able to examine when it comes time to review our Cooperative Education seminars and workshop topics, such as the presentation on the topic of networking. 

With one lucky multimedia sharing find, I decided to turn to the next segment of the assignment and started exploring both VoiceThread and Animoto to decide on the direction for the remainder of my blog.

We had a choice to explore Voicethread or Animoto and I started by taking a closer look at both.  VoiceThread is billed on its homepage as a “powerful new way to talk about and share your images, documents, and videos” and all you really need to get started using this Web 2.0 technology is to visit the site’s tutorial, What’s a Voice Thread Anyway.  The tutorial is a great link to this multimedia gem and it provides a very good overview of this easy to use program.  For practical examples from a post-secondary context, visit the Voicethread 4 Education wiki’s College page where you will find voicethreads that were created by students in distance learning, college courses, as part of an icebreaking activity to have the members of the course introduce themselves.  The VoiceThread webpage for higher education solutions suggests several uses for this tool, “Whether it’s Distance Learning or adjunct coursework, a VoiceThread allows educators to use a single tool to host secure conversations around almost any type of media, whether it’s videos, documents, images, or presentations. Present course materials within a rich, online environment that fosters a warmer and more engaging dialogue around ideas and concepts.”

It has been a pleasure considering and becoming familiar with Animoto.  

Brought to you by film & TV producers, Animoto turns your images into exquisite video pieces in just minutes.  You won’t believe it til you try it. Fast, easy, and free to sign up (from the homepage, http://animoto.com/).”

The application is gracefully simple to use and produces amazing results.  It has expertly created and packaged tools that make my picture slideshows look exceptionally professional, and with the ability to add music the application brings my amateur photography to life by turning photos into an action video – I love Animoto! Creating a video was quite simple and if you have photos stored somewhere online or on your computer, you can likely have a video up just as quickly as I did.  I used pictures from a facebook folder for 3 of the videos and pictures from my hardrive for another.

Animoto guides you along the way step-by-step and like so many of these web 2.0 technologies there is really no need for me to need to guide you or give you a detailed “how to” tutorial and instead I will give you my examples and set you loose!  Have fun and I am confident that you will master these programs in no time!  If you do want a quick tour and tutorial there is an Animoto tutorial on SchoolTube.

I created four videos so far, and posted them all to my YouTube channel (another Web 2.0 first for me – I now have a video channel, wild!).  I have also gone ahead and embedded two of the videos here for you so that you can readily see the possibilities:

This Animoto created video is compiled of photos I took around the University of Alberta campus when it was in full bloom.  I titled it, Take a walk in spring on campus, and used the export function in the toolbox to send it to my YouTube channel.  

Another video that I created is from images that I captured just this past May in Florence, when I had some free time to explore Tuscany before attending archaeological field school to take part in graduate coursework with the University of Alberta’s Cortona project and I explored Tuscany in my free time.

 

Florence is a must see location on any tour of Tuscany! Taste the gelato, mingle in the market crowds and enjoy the magnificent Italian arts and culture that surround you!

You can also view two other videos if you have the time, both are also only around 30 seconds in length each, Ossaia La Tufa  in the heart of Tuscany Italy is the place to be for all things archaeology! The Cortona field school through the University of Alberta rocks – dig it!  Florence, just the start of my time features more Florence moments.  

The Animoto toolbox allows you to share by multiple methods, including sharing your videos to your wordpress blog, facebook, twitter and more.  From the toolbox you can also edit or remix your video and I am thankful for this option since I made a spelling error in one of my first videos but was able to go in and edit the text before finalizing again and sharing to YouTube.  Not only can you edit but you can remix your professional looking Animoto videos until you are happy with your masterpiece. The toolbox export feature is great as is the sharing feature. You can post online, Youtube it, and share in multiple other ways.  There is an option to create a greeting card in your toolbox although currently the only choice, at least in the free account, is to make a Father’s Day greeting card, so I cannot really make further comment on this tool, it is too early to make a card for my father or husband; I would likely forget all about it by next June.  When preparing for a family wedding last summer, there was a powerpoint slideshow put together from pictures of the bride’s and groom’s childhood and at that time I was immensely impressed with how well it worked but now that I have discovered Animoto, going back to slideshows would be like returning to communicating with a fax machine after becoming proficient with email.  For personal use, there is no going back, I am an Animoto fan and supporter! 

Brisco (2009) included Animoto in the School Library Journal’s list of the 2008-2009 10 Best digital resources.  Brisco noted that with so many innovative products on the market this year it was a difficult task to narrow the list to the top 10 and here is why Brisco chose Animoto:

Animoto may have single-handedly resuscitated the art of booktalking. It allows users to quickly mix book-cover images, photos, text, and music to create a 30-second online video that will definitely grab the attention of most middle or high school students. Aside from the obvious uses of Animoto to create interest in books, library programs, or activities, this program can also be easily used with students without requiring instructors to have any previous experience with video-production software. While the cost is extremely low for individual accounts (free for a short 30-second video or $30 for a yearlong subscription, allowing for more creative expression and longer videos), educators can utilize the program free by creating classroom accounts, if they also provide Animoto creators with input into how the product is being used by their students. As one of the more eye-catching and easy-to-use programs available in this remixed 2.0 world, this is a definite must-have, must-share tool for every school librarian’s toolkit. (Reviewed July 2008, p. 64.)” 

A Learning & Leading with Technology article (2008) also raves about this recently created new Web 2.0 tool, and describes Animoto for Education as:

A new video-production tool just tor teachers.  It’s designed to allow K-12 teachers unlimited access to Animoto’s standard and premium services, including online tools to quickly and easily create exciting, dynamic videos for the classroom. The program is designed to “think” like an actual director and editor. It is designed to analyze and combine images and music with the same post-production techniques used in TV and film. Teachers can upload their images, pick a song, and Animoto produces the video in minutes (p. 45)”

In regards to how I might use Animoto for work, I can imagine using 30 second Animoto videos to include in power-point presentations.  They would be ideal for enhancing any power point presentation and could add both a professional and engaging dimension to any work related presentation.  With the easy and free access they could also be used as a tool for engaging students.  We could challenge students to create and submit either short promotional clips either about their workplace or about general Co-op topics that we could highlight in our presentations, seminars, workshops and of course, online.  One of the main limits I see with the free version of Animoto is that taking this tool much further forward for presentations seems very limited with only a minor ability to include text it would be difficult to bring much depth into presentations but that may not be the case in the Animoto for Education version or the Animoto Business versionand you could always include screenshots and turn them into jpeg’s for loading in place of photographs and hope that the mix comes out legible – hey, if it doesn’t at least you can remix until you find something you are happy with.  As well, in looking at the case studies there is also no capacity for introducing audio other than music for the videos.  

My Animoto account will be active for another 183 days and at that time or anytime before, I can purchase an all-access Pass, 1-year Subscription $30 which will allow me to create unlimited full-length video creations for one full year.  Once I am done my Master’s degree this summer, and work settles down after the beginning of fall term, I can see myself subscribing to explore the full potential of this program.  As mentioned, there is also the Animoto for Educationversion and I have completed the application for that access and eagerly wait for their response, after all I support their statement that with Animoto, “It takes just minutes to create a video which can bring your lessons to life.”  I will be sure to let you know the outcome and will also share about any costs that might be associated.

For a tool that can capture the attention of an audience, Animoto is a sure fired winner and once you have your students attention you can proceed to the meat of your message; you will have a captive audience!

References

Brisco, Shonda. School Library Journal, 10 Best Digital Resources. Jun2009, Vol. 55 Issue 6, pp. 36-37, (AN 41042200). Retrieved from Academic Search Complete July 29, 2009.

Learning & Leading with Technology, What’s New.  Nov2008, Vol. 36 Issue 3, p44-46, 3p, 8 color; (AN 35428095).  Retrieved from, Database: Education Research Complete July 29, 2009.

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Sharing photos with family and friends has never been easier than it is today.  With the advent of digital cameras and photo sharing sites it has also never been more cost effective to show off your photos to friends and family!  I  recall, not too long ago it was a time intensive and often a costly affair to process a role of film and it was also a gamble (at least for me) to know if there were photos that would be “share” worthy, until I picked them up from the photo shop. Now, I am able to delete bad photos immediately after capturing them and can upload the remaining desirable photos from my digital camera, in just a few short steps, to store them on my computer.  I can then use and share them in a multitude of ways, at my leisurely convenience, and since I have the computer and the camera there is no major cost involved with taking photos.  

According to Richardson (2009, p. 99), as far as creating, publishing and using images onlie, digital photographs are “the easiest place for teachers and students to begin experimenting with creating and publishing content other than text.”  There are so many options for photo sharing and I have considered just a few for this blog.  Further considerations will be shared in upcoming blogs, as I progress through the course and find further uses for photo-sharing. 

For my work we seek photo submissions from our students only once a year for our annual awards celebration where we honour all student and mentor of the year nominees and award winners.  We put the photos in a slide show presentation for the celebration and then that is it they are filed away for good.  Upon consideration, I can imagine many ways that photo sharing could be integrated with our teaching and learning though. How about as a tool for marketing students to create portfolio’s for which the link could be included in a resume or cover letter. Or we could create an account where all students with out of town placements could create an album introducing their new locations to current and future co-op students.  As well, it is not hard to imagine that if we find ways for students to create blogs for their assignments that they could find many creative ways to utilize photos and photo sharing sites in their blogs. 

Photo heaven here we come: I love taking photos and looking at pictures, mine and anyone else’s and so although researching photo sharing has been a lengthy task it has been enjoyable every step of the way.  While researching photo sharing I was sure to check out Joanne de Groot’s Trailfire recommendations on photo-sharing, http://www.trailfire.com/joannedegroot/trailview/61576?q=joannedegroot, and I must admit that she has an eye for good finds on all topics Web 2.0.  I too enjoy the Common Craft series “…In Plain English” and have found it simple and informative on every topic we have covered to date.  Joanne also recommends the Wiki on photo sharing and I agree that it too has a very thorough overview of photo sharing and provides users with many possible directions to begin photo sharing.  When I did the Wiki search specifically for Flickr, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flickr, I was patriotically pleased to learn that it was developed and originated from a Vancouver based company! Way to go Canadians on diversifying our economic base – I would love to see and hear about more Canadian technology start ups.  Just guess who they sold their wonderful product to (follow the wiki link above to find out). 

Here are my Flickr considerations, to date.  I signed up this week and loaded a few pictures to see what it is all about, since when it comes to photo sharing research Flickr almost always tops the search list.  I added their blog to my sidebar links and you can also see the Flickr WordPress Widget (reminder: widgets are the add-ons included with all Wordrpress blog accounts) in the sidebar.  If I wanted to, I could also load my flickr address into to the sidebar widget and you would then see my photos but I am going to leave it as it is because I like that it updates with 3 random Flickr photos every time you come back to my blog.  Flickr comes very highly recommended, from Richardson (2009), with all of chapter 7 dedicated to “Fun with Flickr” and of course, wiki on photo-sharing includes flickr on its list of photo sharing websites, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Photo_sharing.  Because I have a yahoo account it was easy to sign up.  I have only loaded six pictures to test it out and can share my flickr pix with you now so that you can check this application out for your consideration, http://www.flickr.com/photos/curlyspix/.

Picasa is another photo sharing website and is the way to go if you have a Google account and if you are using Google’s Blogger you’ll be on easy street for sharing your photos on your blog.  If you have loads of stored photos on your computer(s) hard drive(s), like I do, it is amazingly fast at searching your drives and organizing all of your photos on your computer with just the click of a button and as a result they are organized and ready to upload to your online account. WOW, this was an almost instantaneous process once the initial program install finished!  It is also exceptionally easy to upload your photos to your Picasa account so that they are there to share and use for all of your online purposes. Additionally, the computer application has many fun and easy to use features, including the ability to create photo collages, movie presentations and creating gift cd’s.  I chose to create a collage from a folder of pictures from my Italy trip to show you an example and I uploaded the collage to Picasa where you can now view it from this link, http://picasaweb.google.com/lh/photo/J4SZB7aRMYtZjm8nK0VDpQ?authkey=Gv1sRgCOyJ-L6q8_TuVg&feat=directlink.  So easy, so fun, and so cool! ~:)

Ossaia Collage Created with Picasa

Ossaia Collage Created with Picasa

Facebook is an alternative to share photos that is not commonly listed as an online photo sharing website.  I have been using it as my photo sharing site since I first started facebooking a couple of years ago.  I find it includes one of the simplest photo uploaders that I have come across and as a whole it is extremely easy to use to share photos. It is my preferred choice because as a facebook user who is connected to many friends and family members through this social website, most of the people that I would currently be interested in sharing my photos with are already listed as my facebook “friends” and I don’t have to send them links or individual messages to share my photos – they automatically see in their status feeds when I upload a new photo album.  I could share in a similar fashion on other photo sharing websites if I take the time to start adding/finding all the contacts I want to share my photos with but because I have such a head start on having my contacts already listed I can’t imagine switching quite yet.  My family and friends (as a side NOTE (oops – edit was required, my initial post said NOT instead of NOTE and that leads to the total opposite of what I was trying to say – family you are my friends!!~:)) many of my family are also really my friends but it just flows to delineate the two categories for some reason???) can view my albums if they choose and can post comments on the album and/or on individual photos.  I am notified when new comments are posted.  It is possible to share facebook albums with anyone, even those who do not have a facebook account.  You simply send non-facebookers the web address to the public link for your pictutres; it is located at the bottom of each album’s page and can be cut and pasted in order to forward or share in other formats.  To view a selection of my facebook albums simply follow the links below:

Florence, Italy: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2157236&id=120407175&l=bcf7334235

Cortona, Italy: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2157230&id=120407175&l=df705a6954

Photo Creation Fun: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?pid=34990425&l=16a95e91ea&id=120407175

University of Alberta Campus, Summer 2008: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2118637&id=120407175&l=d70037ca97

Sydney, Australia: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=2041154&id=120407175&l=1aa6aa37ed

Facebook photo albums allow some control over who can see your photos, for example, you can choose to have only friends be able to see the photos or you can choose to allow friends of friends, networks you belong to on facebook or everyone on facebook to be able to view your albums. You can set your privacy settings for each album so if there are albums that you are fine with everyone viewing you can leave them open for all to view or you can set them so only your “friends” can view certain albums.  

There are many other online photo sharing websites including: Photobucket, Smilebox, Smugmug, Atpic…….. you get the picture (lol)! ~:)

Looking back: I recall the first scanner we bought about ten years ago with all intensions of opening up the printed photos and scanning them to share with all of our family members.  The majority of my old, printed photos never even made it into an album, never mind to the scanner bed and in fact most currently rest in small boxes waiting to be seen again someday. Sometimes, I do choose to print a small selection of my digital photos from home, on my Canon colour printer for a mere cost of just cents per copy, so that I can include pictures with special occasion cards that I mail to family back in BC.  When needed, I upload my photos to London Drugs, and can even enlarge to poster size photos for very minimal and reasonable fees, https://www.londondrugs.com/LDPS/psLogin.htm.  When I first used 1-hour photo service back in the days of film and dark rooms, I felt as though I had come upon an amazing cutting edge technology. 

Do you remember the onset of 1-hour photo labs – so cutting edge!! For a blast from the past read about the 1 hour photo revolution from the London Drugs perspective and pause for a moment to recall your personal history with photography:  http://www.londondrugs.com/Cultures/en-US/Content/CorporateInfo/The+Story+of+London+Drugs/One+Hour+Revolution.htm. ~:)

 Over the past five or six years though, it is extremely rare that I print my photos but I can say with confidence that my photos are now viewed and shared more than ever.  It pleases me immensely to share my photos with the people in my life that matter to me, especially those who do not live close to us.  I do not really have a desire to put them out there for everyone to see but I do want those who are dear to us to share in the fun and creative things that are happening in our life and through photos, I feel I capture the special events and am able to share them with my uploaded albums.  ~:)

Reference:
Richardson, W. (2008). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. (Second Edition.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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