Tag Archives: audio

Crowdsourcing Meta-Resources

A Google Spreadsheet of TED Talks.

A Google Spreadsheet of TED Talks.

I came across a blog post on The History Teacher’s Attic which organized TED Talks by educational discipline and haven’t been able to stop thinking about it.  The interesting part is that the post is based on a Google Docs Spreadsheet containing information on every TED Talk through July 29, 2009.  The thing I like most about this post is the potential in this spreadsheet.

Johnny Lee's TED Talk introduces his $50 interactive whiteboard.

Johnny Lee's TED Talk.

First, most TED Talks are fascinating (Johnny Lee’s talk introduced the world to the Wii-based $50 interactive whiteboard) and authentic audio resources for advanced ESL students.  Having one central resource with overviews of all talks, is very useful for an ESL teacher.

Second, Google Docs can be very useful tools for collaboration.  Because they are cloud-based, anyone can access and edit documents via a web browser.  By opening up the document for anyone to edit, the work of compiling all of the information can be distributed to many people.  For example, this list of educators on Twitter spreadsheet was crowdsourced, meaning many people did a little bit of work to build what is a pretty extensive list.

The US Presidents mashup.

A mashup of US Presidents.

And once the spreadsheet has enough information, it can be mashed up in useful new ways.  For example, this mashup, created using MIT’s Exhibit, makes the information in the TED Talks Google Docs spreadsheet sortable and searchable.  Other examples include Flags of the World, which combines flag images from Wikipedia and a Google Map, and US presidents, which includes a timeline, map, images, and facts about each president such as religion and political party.

So, at this point, I’m ready to begin the new project of collecting and compiling some of my favorite resources into larger, crowdsourced, mashable meta-resources.  I’m going to start with a wide-open Google Docs spreadsheet, and then try my hand at different mashups.  But, before I begin, here are some questions I’m trying to answer.  (Feel free to supply your answers by commenting on this post.)

This American Life has great audio.

This American Life has great audio.

First, what resource(s) should be compiled?  TED Talks seem to be relatively well covered, but how about a similar resource for This American Life episodes, stories from The Moth live storytelling events, YouTube videos (EDU or otherwise), or other resources?  Should the meta-resource be targeted to ESL / EFL teachers or all educators?  And finally, what information should be included?  A link to the resource, the title, duration and a synopsis are obvious details, but what else?  Maybe keywords or tags as a way to organize them, the goegraphic location of where the story takes place, a warning system for language or content not appropriate for the classroom, and links to related resources in case students want to explore particular topics further.

So, consider this a call to action.  I’m going to solicit lots of feedback and then begin.  Once underway, I’m going to solicit more help.  With a little crowdsourcing, we can grow some really interesting and useful resources.

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The Smartest Pen Ever

I painted my living room and dining room over the winter break.  Both rooms required two coats.  Typically, I listen to audiobooks or This American Life podcasts while I do this kind of work.  I noticed that as I applied the second coat, I could remember vividly what I had been listening to the last time I had painted each part of the wall.  The Pulse Smartpen from Livescribe creates a similar effect for much better results — and no fumes!

The Pulse Smartpen from livescribe is amazing.

The Pulse Smartpen from Livescribe is amazing.

When using the Smartpen, you can record audio and / or the movements of the pen.  The audio can be played back with the pen or uploaded to your computer (where you’ll also find .pdf versions of the notes you wrote!)  When you use the Smartpen on Livescribe’s special dot paper, it indexes the audio you record to what you were writing when you recorded it.

This is a boon when you go to review your notes.  The same way I recalled each of the 20 acts in 60 minutes while rolling on the paint around each faceplate, a student can hear what her professor was saying while she was taking each line of notes.  She can literally click on a line of notes and the pen will play back that part of the audio.  When demonstrated, it almost seems like magic.

Some of the practical uses of this technology are obvious.  John, the undergraduate student who demostrated his Smartpen to me in the Digital Union, said he found it most helpful for taking notes in chemistry, where he was often too busy drawing chemical structures to also note everything the professor said.  (Incidentally, John bought his $200 Smartpen the day after he had to return his demo model.)  Would it work for ESL students?  Perhaps.  Obviously, the combination of input types can really help different learning styles, and being able to review notes in more than one media would be an advantage.

I’ve also been thinking about how this technology relates to my earlier post on captioning digital audio.  With both technologies, they key is indexing the graphic with the auditory because the former is easily searchable.  Once Livescribe adds some kind of optical character recognition, which would make the notes more easily editable, and once searchable captions become a standard component of digital video, we will have finally integrated all of this information in a truly useful way.  Can the Singularity be far behind?

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