Friday, January 22, 2010

My Collection of iPod Touch Apps

iPod touch sales skyrocketed the last quarter of 2009, far surpassing the iPhone in sales towards the end of the year. Except for the iPhone's built-in camera and the obvious advantage that it is a cell phone (and therefore always connected to a network), an iPod touch 2G or 3G connected to a Wi-Fi network and equipped with an optional microphone is closely functional to its more expensive cousin.

There are a number of iPod touch microphones available, varying in quality and price - some up to $40 each. I have tried these low-cost mics with good success.
  • For under $2.00 price on Amazon the Mini Capsule Microphone is of surprisingly high quality, although its really small and easy to misplace. Buy more than one.
  • The $8.00 Headset Adapter + Microphone includes a 30" cable and clip-on mic that claims to work with the 1G iPod Touch in addition to the newer 2G-3G models. Plug in a stereo headset and you have a hands-free speaking and listening device - really handy when carrying on phone conversations with Skype.
Additionally, strategies and features that allow off-line reading and browsing of documents that typically require a network connection. And let's not forget that iPod touch users do not have to pay a monthly $100 wireless carrier fee.

Dragon Dictation - Converts what you speak into surprisingly accurate text. You will need a microphone for your iPod Touch of course. The process is simple: press Tap and dictate and start speaking - slowly and distinctly with minimal background noise works best. After 30 seconds Dragon Dictation will process your speech through online servers and display the converted text on your iPod screen, which you can either edit, copy, or e-mail. Although a bit cumbersome you can speak in segments of 30 seconds, appending your text each time so you can dictate for longer periods of time. Although the app is free for now, there is bound to be a paid version with more features.

Dragon Search - Processes search results based spoken text with impressive accuracy, although certainly not perfect. As with Dragon Dictate you will need a microphone for your iPod. The process is simple: press Tap and Speak and say your search phrase distinctly with minimal background noise for the best results. Press the Done button and your phrase will be searched by Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, iTunes, and Twitter. For example, I spoke "Marcellus Shale" and Dragon Search found my tweet sent only minutes before - amazing.

You can edit spoken text in the search box if Dragon Search does not interpret the search phrase as you expect. For instant answers dictate terms according to Google Search features http://www.google.com/intl/en/help/features.html, although the results are mixed depending on phrase syntax. For example say "72 inches in centimeters" or "2 tablespoons in ounces" triggers Google Calculator, which immediately calculates the results. However Google Calculator does not recognize terms such as "square root of 987", although other web sites such as WikiAnswers will provide the answer once you open the page.

Voice Memos – Apple provided this app as part of iPod Software Update version 3.0, which requires a 2nd or 3rd Generation iPod and a microphone with a 3-ring 3.5mm connector. Voice Memos allows recording, trimming, saving as a voice memo, and sharing as an e-mail MPEG-4 (.m4a) audio attachment.

Urbanspoon - Look up area restaurants based on location, type of food, and cost. Selection of restaurants is better than most apps and includes reviews, maps, pricing, and time of day menu offerings. Although Urbanspoon is most effective when searching ethnic cuisines in college communities or larger cities. If you sign up for an Urbanspoon account you can add restaurants and reviews.


Skype – Assuming that you have a Skype account you can use the iPod touch with an external microphone to talk to other Skype users. Although a microphone inserted in the iPod's audio port shuts off the internal speaker, Skype's Speaker button allows you to re-enable the speaker, which obviously is required for two-way voice communication! If you use the "Headset hands free 3.5mm adapter + microphone for Apple iPod Touch" with headphones, then you can communicate hands-free because the adapter includes audio pass-through. The adapter is currently available on Amazon for $7.00.


USAToday Reader. USAToday Reader is specially designed browser that allows you to easily read the latest in USA News, Sports, Money, Technology, Life, and Travel. When you open each category Reader, the information is updated locally on your iPod. You can then take these stories with you to read off-line - simply ignore any not-connected error and continue reading.


Stanza - An electronic reader that has access to a library of more than 100,000 free and commercial book, periodicals, and newspapers that you can read directly on your iPod. Using the Windows or Mac desktop application you can convert PDF, Word, and HTML text into eReader format and share the document with your iPod. The Stanza app allows you customize the fonts, color, layout, and brightness of your books for a decent reading experience on a small screen. You can search, bookmark, and organize your books by category for quick retrieval.

Phone Flicks If you have a NetFlix account, then you can manage your NetFlix DVD and Instant queues, view Recent activity such as when your next DVD's will ship, Recommended movies based on your viewing and rating preferences, and reviews that you may have added. A handy tool to build your queue on the fly!

Photoshop.com Mobile. Open iPod photos into Photoshop Mobile with this simple and easy-to-use app. You can crop, adjust hue, exposure, and saturation, apply a number of effects, and undo-redo changes. The edited photo can be saved to your iPod's Save Photos Library or uploaded to an account space on Photoshop.com.

Epicurious – This beautifully designed app allows you to search and browse by category through 25,000 professionally tested and reviewed recipes. Reviews are useful because they not only rate the recipe but provide useful suggestions for improvement. You can mark favorite recipes for easy retrieval and add ingredients to a shopping list. I can't wait to try out the apple crisp recipe with dried cranberries!

NPR News – The recently recently NPR News app allows you to browse the latest news in text format, many of which are recorded from recent radio broadcast, and share them through e-mail, Facebook, or Twitter. At any time you can search through NPR radio stations by region and play them live if marked on air. Stations also provide a recent archive of recent on demand local performances. Browse through selected NPR Programs by such as All Things Considered and play recent broadcasts or subscribe to the iTunes podcast.

Flixster - Search for box office flicks, movies on DVD, and upcoming films that are still in production. The movies are rated and include a QuickTime video trailer, PG rating, length, and theatre show times in your area. Flixster is well-designed and integrates nicely with other apps. For example, movies are released as DVD's you can rent or purchase them from iTunes or add the DVD automatically to your NetFlix queue.

Mint - Sign up for an account on Mint.com and connect to your online banking, investment, loans and credit card accounts for a quick check of recent transactions and balances. You authenticate through secure login credentials and then establish read-only access to transactions - money cannot be moved or transferred. Mint provides optional online money-management tools and options to send alerts based on transactions and status such as an account that is running low.

Evernote If you have not already done so create a free Evernote.com account and download the Windows or Mac desktop application. (The web browser works well enough when the full application is not available.) Use Evernote to create notebooks of just about anything digital that you can imagine: images, audio uploads, PDF's, web clippings, and of course your text formatted notes. The Evernote apps allows you to access your notes online and add text, voice notes, and images from your iPod Photo library.


Who is Hot - With this app I can quickly look up friends and family and determine how far away they live and what the current weather is. It's January and at over 2,300 miles away my son is enjoying California weather that is 70 degrees warmer that where I am at! Maybe I don't like this app after all.


Pandora - Most likely you have an Internet radio account such as Pandora so this app will be familiar to you. You can browse through current stations, create new stations, and bookmark your favorites.


Dictionary
accesses the Random House Unabridged Dictionary online providing basic definitions with sentence example and word origin. The audio pronunciation tool is embedded in the definition and plays in the background while you read. Dictionary includes a Thesaurus and the Word of the Day.


Google Mobile App for iPhone – Blue icon with small g – This gives you
access to all of your Google apps such as Mail (although the ActiveSync for Gmail is more efficient for mail and calendar), Google Apps, Google Reader, and Latitude (http://www.google.com/latitude/intro.html).


Lose-It! Expert will tell you that keeping track of your calories consumed and burned is a useful strategy for losing or controlling your weight. COMPLETE THIS.

DropBox
– Go to http://dropbox.com and create an account. Install the software on your PC or Mac and place documents that you want to sync to your server account (2GB) into the Dropbox folder. When you edit a file locally it syncs to the server. If you install DB on another personal computer, then it will sync from server to the DropBox folder on that computer. Use the App to read your files off the server. One of my favorite apps! Read these top five uses of Dropbox including copying PDF documents to a special folder (e.g. ebooks) and then marking them as favorites for off-line reading.


Super Search – You can search items quickly by categories such as IMDb, Google Images, Twitter, Snopes, and WebMD without the fuss of starting up the Safari iPhone browser.

Walk Score – Click the Location icon so the app can map where you your iPhone (anywhere) or iPod Touch (has to be on a WiFi network) is located currently. Click the List tab to get a listing of area businesses. You can a walk score based on density of businesses.

Yelp – Something like Walk Score but slicker and a far larger database. Includes reviews for restaurants and if you have an iPhone can automatically call the number in the business’s contact.Something like Walk Score but slicker and a far larger database. Includes reviews for restaurants and if you have an iPhone can automatically call the number in the business’s contact.

For Twitter folks there are the free Twitterific, Tweetdeck, and Tweetie ($2.99) apps.

Speak-It! Type or copy and paste text in the "text to say" window and have a synthesized voice speak back to you. You can choose from two American voices (good quality) and two British voices (better quality), increase or lower the volume, and adjust the playback speed. There are a number of application for Speak It! including hands-free listening of online news, playing back text for those who are unable to speak, and assisting auditory learnings with reading text. The app currently cannot upload files nor export spoken text as mp3 files. Speak It! lacks the ability to remember current playback position and does not allow scrolling of recorded spoken text. For long text such as chapters and books, I recommend a solution such as iSpeak It and iTunes.

WordRefer – Web app that accesses the http://wordreference.com web site. Excellent resource for translating words between languages (e.g. English, French, Italian, Greek, Spanish, and Japanese), providing many example idiomatic expressions based on the word, and conjugating verbs. Users can also join a Discussion forum to pose questions about word usage in a given language. The app's design is mediocre but still provides an excellent reference and communication tool for language learners.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wordling conference and chat tweets

When I was browsing through Twitter the weekend before Thanksgiving, I was surprised at how quickly Gardner Campbell summarized key points in presentations at the 2009 Lilly International Conference into a steady stream of meaningful tweets. Relatively new to Wordle, (but not to word frequency analyses, which have fascinated me ever since my students used statistical tests of authorship in determining whether Quintus Curtius Snodgrass was really Mark Twain - he almost certainly was not) I decided to create a word cloud of his tweets based on the hashtag #lilly09. The process involved:
  • Copying all the tweets from Gardner's Twitter page during the time period of the conference

  • Pasting the results into Word and applying a find-replace to surround #lilly09 with tab characters

  • Copying and pasting the Word text into Excel for quick column manipulation, including sorting and removing the conference hashtag and unrelated tweets

  • Copying the text-only results into Wordle and creating the final word cloud, which is posted on Gardner's blog post: Extreme Tweeting Yields Wordle: More on Lilly 2009
The algorithm was relatively straightforward but there were too many steps to generate the final results. Hopefully tools such as Wordle and Tweet Cloud will evolve by providing options to generate word clouds from filtered tweets using search terms such as hashtags.

I applied a similar technique to create a word cloud of the December 16 Edchat session on assessment and sent this tweet: "http://twitpic.com/ttvn2 - Wordle of Formative and Summative Assessments transcript #edchat". Almost immediately a response tweet correctly pointed out that the Wordle missed the conversation (and follow-up reflections such as Greg Thompson Thoughts on Assessment: A Conversation). A quick look at the cloud shows RT as the "word" most often used and a LOT of @user replies. There were approximately 1068 replies and 699 retweets in the session's 1181 tweets - that is indeed conversation!



Created with http://wordle.net

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Practical and Educational Uses of Wordle

Since Wordle was introduced in 2008, there has been no shortage of educational uses of creating word clouds. Below is a list of recent and popular blogs that have published their favorite uses of Wordle in the classroom. If you are new to Wordle, refer to the section below "What is Wordle?" and the useful frequently asked questions page maintained by creator Jonathan Feinberg.

Wordle Nonsense
Despite many possible educational uses, it is still important to ask why Wordle should be used in the classroom and what are the expected goals for students. Without carefully defining these expectations, Wordle can end up being a new technology toy, resulting in generating nonsensical data without a purpose. What better way to demonstrate Wordle nonsense than creating a word cloud of a passage generated with a Lorem Ipsum generator as shown below?!
Created with Wordle.net

What is Wordle?
With Wordle you can easily create a visual word-frequency cloud of any copied text, blog site, or tags from a Delicious site. In a matter of seconds your beautiful graph can provide information that is educational or useless, but regardless of the result it is fun and quite stunning to look at. Below is a Wordle of President Obama's speech on racism.

Created with http://wordle.net

Friday, January 1, 2010

Speech Recognition with Mobile Devices

Scenario – Speech Recognition with Mobile Devices

The potential for speech recognition on mobile devices is significant and already practical with new apps such as Dragon Dictation and Dragon Search despite limitations with the current free version. Human speech is processed and recognized through online servers that provide opportunities for inputting text without having to type. Learners who have difficulty typing (or cannot type at all) with the on-screen keyboard can quickly convert their speech into text for applications such as e-mail, taking notes, creating blogs, and searching information on the Internet. Currently the Dictation app is limited to 30 seconds, although it is possible to append the text for each 30 seconds until you have completed your dictation.

Software: Dragon Dictation and Dragon Search

Hardware: iPod Touch with external microphone; Wi-Fi access required (or iPhone)

Process
  • Attach an external microphone to the iPod touch.
  • Open the Dragon Dictation App
  • Press Tap and Dictate and speak slowly and distinctly with minimal background voice.
  • What you say up to 30 seconds will be processed and displayed on your iPod screen.
  • You can either edit, copy, or e-mail the text.
  • For Dragon Search say your search terms, which will be converted into text and then submitted simultaneously to YouTube, iTunes, Wikipedia, Twitter, and Google.
Dragon Dictation - Converts what you speak into surprisingly accurate text. You will need a microphone for your iPod Touch of course. The process is simple: press Tap and dictate and start speaking - slowly and distinctly with minimal background noise works best. After 30 seconds Dragon Dictation will process your speech through online servers and display the converted text on your iPod screen, which you can either edit, copy, or e-mail. Although a bit cumbersome you can speak in segments of 30 seconds, appending your text each time so you can dictate for longer periods of time. Although the app is free for now, there is bound to be a paid version with more features.

Dragon Search - Processes search results based spoken text with impressive accuracy, although certainly not perfect. As with Dragon Dictate you will need a microphone for your iPod. The process is simple: press Tap and Speak and say your search phrase distinctly with minimal background noise for the best results. Press the Done button and your phrase will be searched by Google, Wikipedia, YouTube, iTunes, and Twitter. For example, I spoke "Marcellus Shale" and Dragon Search found my tweet sent only minutes before - amazing.

Instant Answers

You can edit spoken text in the search box if Dragon Search does not interpret the search phrase as you expect. For instant answers dictate terms according to Google Search features http://www.google.com/intl/en/help/features.html . Try this example: say "How many inches in a mile", "72 inches in centimeters" or "2 tablespoons in ounces" to trigger Google Calculator, which immediately calculates and displays the results as shown below. Google Calculator does not recognize terms such as "square root of 987", although other web sites such as WikiAnswers will provide the answer once you open the page.

Reading ebooks

Scenario – Reading E-books
Electronic readers provide students access to an enormous library of free and electronic books, periodicals, and newspapers that can be directly read on an iPod. Although the use of e-books is already growing, there is expected to be a substantial impact when the iPad and other touch screen tablets reach the market in early spring. All students benefit from reading electronic materials on mobile devices and avoiding having to lug around heavy books. iPod e-readers such as Stanza provide a number of benefits for students with assistive needs. Although the screen is small, students with visual disabilities can change the font, color, background, margins and brightness of the screen to improve visibility. In addition students prefer to read books on an iPod rather than drawing attention to a special-purpose device.

Software: Stanza Desktop for Windows or Mac; Stanza App for iPhone

Hardware: iPod Touch; Wi-Fi access required

Process
  • Download the free Stanza iPod app.
  • Run the Stanza iPhone app and use Catalog to Get Books or Downloads to download books in ePub/eReader format from a URL (e.g. http://www.epubbooks.com/book/312/hugo-hunchback-of-notre-dame.epub)
  • Download the desktop app from http://www.lexcycle.com/stanza and open a PDF, text, HTML, or Word document. Choose Tools > Enable Sharing and choose Shared then Books on your computer to download the open document.
  • Choose Catalog to open your downloaded and converted e-books ready for online reading! In Stanza there options to annotate text, look up word definitions, and customize the fonts, color, layout, and brightness of the text.

Mobile Text to Speech

Scenario – Mobile Text-to-Speech

Although desktop software such as Flame Reader and iSpeak It! provide more features, control, and organization of text-to-speech recordings, they typically require a three-step process: convert text to speech, copy the recording to iTunes, and copy the spoken text to an iPod touch. Apps that directly convert text to speech as it appears on the iPod screen can provide advantages over desktop conversion and copying depending on how they are used. In addition to enhancing comprehension and listening at the same time, mobile text-to-speech also enables people who are unable to speak to communicate in person or by phone (iPod users can play the audio over a telephone handset).

Software: iPod touch Apps such as Speak It, Web Talk, and Read 2 Me

Hardware: iPod Touch

Resources: http://teachlearntechblog.blogspot.com - under Menu click Assistive Mobile Technology to Help Students Succeed.

Process
  • Run the app Web Talk, which has a built in browser and open the web page you want to read.
  • In preferences adjust the voice, volume, and speed controls.
  • Press the Play button to listen to page's spoken text.
  • Use the app Speak-It! to read typed or copied text in the text to say window. Two American and two British voices. Spoken text can be saved but not exported.
  • Read 2 Me allows importing of text files, although they must be in URL format.
Description of Speak-It!
Type or copy and paste text in the "text to say" window and have a synthesized voice speak back to you. You can choose from two American voices (good quality) and two British voices (better quality), increase or lower the volume, and adjust the playback speed. There are a number of application for Speak It! including hands-free listening of online news, playing back text for those who are unable to speak, and assisting auditory learning with reading text. The app currently cannot upload files nor export spoken text as mp3 files. Speak It! lacks the ability to remember current playback position and does not allow scrolling of recorded spoken text. For long text such as chapters and books, I recommend a solution such as iSpeak It and iTunes.

Listening to Blogs

Scenario - Listening to Blogs

Blogs provide opportunities for students to read, reflect, and write in an open environment for learning through feedback, revision, and sharing. Converting them to spoken text enhances learning opportunities in different ways by empowering students to:

  • Listen to blogs if they have a visual impairment.
  • Read and listen to blogs at the same time to help improve their reading comprehension.
  • Listen to their writing as a tool to spot repetitions, choppy phrases, awkward sentences, and misspelled words. Listening to spoken text can help students detect lack of rhythm and sentence variation in their writing.
Students can subscribe to the spoken text in each blog post as podcasts, which can synced to an iPod touch for mobile listening, although the text is not copied.

Click the Listen Now button at the top of this post to evaluate the quality of spoken text.

Software: Blogger, WordPress, or TypePad; http://odiogo.com

Hardware: iPod Touch (or iPhone)

Process for Blogger (works similarly with WordPress and TypePad)

  • Go to http://odiogo.com and submit your Blog URL and e-mail address.
  • Click the Add Odiogo Listen Button Widget
  • Log on to your Blogger account
  • Select the blog that you want to convert to audio.
  • Click the Add Widget button.
  • Rearrange the Subscribe to My Podcast Gadget in the Layout menu.
  • Click the Save button.
  • Click the Listen Now to hear your blog!
  • Click the Subscribe to My Podcasts button.
  • Click to Subscribe to the blog's podcast in iTunes. (audio-only)
  • Copy the blog Podcast to an iPod touch and listen to the posts!

Recording Class Lectures

Scenario – Recording Class Lectures

A number of instructors are recording their lectures for course casting that provides opportunities for students to review materials for reinforcement or that they missed. If course podcasts are not available, then students can request permission from their instructor, especially if they are registered through their College's office of Accessibility Services. Equipped with an inexpensive microphone an iPod touch can be used for recording lectures, which can then be transferred to iTunes for conversion and tagging. Lectures can be organized by playlist, topic, instructors, and date to help students find materials for repeat listening and review. The recordings in turn can be copied to an iPod Touch to allow mobile playback using the same method of organization.

Software: Apple's Voice Memos app, iTunes for Macintosh or Windows http://www.apple.com/itunes

Hardware: iPod Touch Gen 2 or Gen 3 (has volume slider bar on side) for recording; external microphone

Process
  • Attach an external microphone to the iPod touch audio port.
  • Open the Voice Memos app and start the recording.
  • Stop the recording, trim start and end as necessary.
  • Connect iPod to your computer and copy recordings to iTunes.
  • Tag the recordings.
  • Copy the recorded chapters to the iPod Touch. Students can read and listen at the same time or listen only.
View PDF Tutorial (opens in new window)

Voice Memos – Apple provided this app as part of iPod Software Update version 3.0, which requires a 2nd or 3rd Generation iPod and a microphone with a 3-ring 3.5mm connector. Voice Memos allows recording, trimming, saving as a voice memo, and sharing as an e-mail MPEG-4 (.m4a) audio attachment.

Feminist Agency

The Women’s Studies Program Presents: The 16th Annual Julia Reinstein Symposium "Celebrating International Women"

Keynote Address by Dr. Jessie Kabwila Kapasula

“Feminist Agency in the Age of Beyonce's 'Single Ladies':Faces of International Feminism in Transnational Popular Songs”

The keynote address refers to three music videos, which can be played by clicking the links below. The referral times in the address are in parentheses.

Keynote address

Music Videos

Beyonce All the single ladies (16 min. 12 sec.)

Music Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4m1EFMoRFvY

Lyrics: http://www.metrolyrics.com/single-ladies-lyrics-beyonce-knowles.html

Neyo Miss Independent (38 min. 51 sec.)

Music Video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6M5C-oKw9k

Lyrics -http://www.metrolyrics.com/miss-independent-lyrics-neyo.html

Nalu House Money and Car (42 min. 1 sec.)

Music video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=moex19whag8

Converting PDF's to Audiobooks

Scenario - PDF's to Audiobooks

For many students comprehension of printed text materials depends on reading and listening to the text at the same time. Although it is possible to scan printed materials into electronic format the process is tedious and inaccurate. Some publishers will provide audio materials in a format that requires a special player such as a Victor Reader. Typically these players are cumbersome to use, bulky, and are not integrated within a student's learning environment. There is also the stigma of having to carry around the device. In this scenario publishers provide searchable PDF files usually by chapter.

Attention! Conversion of copyrighted materials can only be used by students who have purchased the textbook and are registered with the office of accessibility services. The PDF’s and converted spoken text cannot be distributed.

Software: PDF to text converter; iSpeak It! for Macintosh or Flame Reader (Windows); iTunes for Macintosh or Windows http://www.apple.com/itunes

Hardware: iPod Touch for reading and listening; portable media for audio only.

Process
  • Open the PDF document - typically a chapter file - and convert it to text (Macintosh Preview, Adobe Acrobat, CutePDF for Windows, or http://zamzar.com).
  • Copy and paste the text into FlameReader for Windows or iSpeak It! for Macintosh
  • Convert text into MP3 or AAC audio format.
  • Add the recording to iTunes and then tag the audio recording.
  • iSpeak It for Macintosh provides options to facilitate tagging, bookmarking, and categorizing the spoken text as an iTunes audiobook. In addition the text is copied to the Lyrics tab.
  • Copy the recorded chapters to the iPod Touch. Students can read and listen at the same time or listen only.
Converting Text-to-Speech for iTunes and Mobile Playback

View PDF document (opens in new window)
 
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