Tag Archives: cloud computing

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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Simplification now includes Photoshop

We bought a Wii this weekend.  Yes, I purchased 5 Wiimotes months before actually buying the machine they were designed for.  The Wii is a brilliantly simple device.  So much easier (and more fun) to use than the button-riddled controllers of its chief rivals, which explains why Wiis are still sold out at many retailers.

As the Wii has proven, a simple, usable design is the best design.  Most users of most technologies don’t need every possible feature.  And, increasingly, they are choosing to not pay a premium for them.  Other examples of this trend include netbooks (simple laptops that rely on cloud computing power — see Clive Thompson’s excellent article in Wired 17.03), the XO Laptop (the netbook for the One Laptop Per Child project), Apple’s iPhone (just a touch screen), the Siftables I posted about previously, and now desktop applications themselves.

What gradient map would you choose for your new adjustment layer?

What gradient map would you choose for your new adjustment layer?

Photoshop used to be a big, expensive application that put a professional photography studio on your desktop.  Come to think of it, it still is.  But as features multiplied, it became harder and harder to use for simple operations.  (Should I adjust the CMYK or RBG levels in this mask layer to reduce red eye?)  Enter online photo editors.

cnet recently reviewed 15 of them and I was impressed.  All of the basic features I have turned to Photoshop for (waiting 3-4 minutes each time as it boots up) are available, even including layers, masking, and plenty of effects.  Most are free and work as simply as attaching a photo to your email message.  So, if I need a quick picture for a blog post or my Facebook page, I can turn to one of these sites in a pinch and get some editing done quickly and efficiently.  Simpler is better, and now simpler doesn’t have to be bad.

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