I had an email from Kate Winslet this morning saying she would gladly swap her Oscar for a Shiny, but I had to let her down. Sorry Kate, unless The Reader is in fact a mashup tool for finding great quotes and blending them with socially constructed text, you can’t have one. Yes, Oscars, schmoscars, these are the awards that really count.
This month’s shinies go to:
OpenZine – let’s you create your own magazine, using a simple layout tool, and you can find shared content, subscribe to other magazines, etc. I have produced the first, and yes probably last, issue of The EdTechie, which looks at PLEs. It was quite fun, and there is a certain affordance to the magazine layout – I wrote in a certain style and to a certain length. See KryKey also, the educational importance (unless you’re teaching magazine layout) is in providing a socially accepted framework for students to work within. They know what magazines are like, and so no matter what your subject, they could work collaboratively to create one. It may not be grounded in deep pedagogy, but what I think this provides is both fun and an element of forced reflection, since they have to look at their topic in a different manner from the traditional essay.
aMap and Cohere – last time I mentioned DebateGraph and aMap is another mind-mapping tool. This allows you to easily create nice argument structures, starting with your position (“I think”), propositions (“because”), supporting arguments (“As”) and supporting evidence (“As supported by”). You can reply to other people’s aMaps, thus creating a kind of threaded forum structure in mind maps. It looks nice, but there are a few usability features, such as I found the argument structure limiting and when I responded to Matt Jukes‘ Superman vs Batman one, it overwrote his one and doesn’t seem to credit him at all. Still, could be quite useful:
Cohere is an Open University tool, developed by KMi. Similiar to aMap it allows users to structure arguments visually. It’s difficult for me to be objective in their comparison, but my feeling is that aMap is a bit easier to use initially, but Cohere allows you to go deeper. They have different functionality, so it’s probably a matter of playing with them and seeing what you like best.
From an educational perspective there is a lot of potential here for collaboratively really working through arguments. Here is the same argument in Cohere:
KryKey Personal Radio – with this still quite Beta site, you can create your own personal radio station. This involves uploading songs (copyright notice is no doubt on its way), promos, adverts, news, etc. You can then invite others to be a DJ, which means they can voice over the recordings. You can see how it could be fun, like with openzine you could set students to create a radio station around their subject. It asks for rather too much info on sign up I felt, and there are a few bugs – for instance I couldn’t change the order of my music, and I can’t find a way to give you a direct link to my radio station, so you’ll have to go there and search for EdTechie. Sadly you won’t get to hear me in cheesy DJ mode.
LovelyCharts – like Gliffy, LovelyGraphs lets you easily create graphs and network diagrams. I see an increasing need for applications like this – most drawing packages offer too much functionality so creating even the simplest diagram requires you to become a graphic designer. You can share your diagram so others can add to it. Unfortunately it’s a pay for service, you only get one free image, which will limit its uptake. Personally, I rarely need more than the wonderful crappy graphs for my work. Here’s something I created in LovelyCharts, when I was thinking about the justifications for revolution in higher ed: