I was getting ready to post on the many uses people have found for DropBox – and realized that I had not yet discussed it. Dropbox is one piece of software that I use daily – virtually without thinking about it. How it works is that you set up an account with DropBox and install the application. This creates a folder on your machine which synchronizes everything in it to the DropBox servers. At it’s most basic, that’s all there is to it. You drag in a file, and it backs it up to the cloud. It gets more interesting when you install the application on another PC or Mac – and voila! – your file is now on your other machine – automatically. Want to share a handout with your students? Create a shared folder within your DropBox folder and email them all the link. Now, whenever you put something new into that folder, they will have access to it. Do you have an iPad or an iPhone? Download the DropBox App and now your iPad has access to all your files, assuming they are readable by the iPad/iPhone (text files work well). Or, are you looking for an easy way for your students to submit assignments? Have all your students create DropBox accounts and drop their files into your shared folder. In fact, once you start thinking 0f how this could be used, the list gets pretty long. There was recently a call for readers of an online magazine to submit their favorite uses for the tool, and these were published as 62 things you can do with Dropbox. Some of the uses are fairly arcane, but most are immediately useful for a teacher or student – especially for a teacher or student at a boarding school. If you’re looking for more information on using DropBox, there is an informative video on the main DropBox website and I posted earlier on a way to have access to all your passwords on all your machines. DropBox is simple to use, simple to understand and extremely powerful.
As it has for the past 19 years, the annual Jefferson Overseas Schools Technology Institute (JOSTI) conference will be taking place from June 25 through June 29, 2012 at the Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology. This is a week-long educational technology conference with two main strands. The first strand is for teachers who want to add technology into their curriculum, and the second strand is for educational technologists who deploy and support the school IT infrastructure. One unique feature of this conference is that it is completely free (once you get there) with the tab being picked up by the U.S. Department of State, Office of Overseas Schools. Gauging from last year’s program, the topics covered look very informative and geared specifically to meeting the needs of the international educator. The registration form must be submitted by March 16, and you’ll need your school director’s signature on the form. Lastly, there are a number of other training conferences offered by the OOS that could also pique your interest.
John Gage got one thing dead on. Connectivity to the network is what makes modern computing experiences so powerful. Be it creating content through Google Apps, collaborating on a Prezi, syncing through DropBox, video Skype, Siri, backing up your tablet to the cloud or even talking on a telephone, the network is what makes all this sing. In years past, one could plug their computer into a network jack and get plenty of local throughput. Things have changed. The explosion of WiFi-only devices that are excellent at content consumption (ie. needing lots of bandwidth) have increased to the point where in some school environments there are an average of three devices per person. And, boarding schools have an even more difficult situation on their hands with heavy network usage migrating throughout the campus at all hours of the day and night with highly localized needs – although preferably not too late at night.
With these usage patterns in mind, Cisco has just released their Aironet 3600 Series Access Point (AP) antenna. The AP has four physical antennas which use a MIMO (multiple-in, multiple-out) configuration allowing for increased throughput. Additionally, the antenna and software configuration allows for dynamically beamshaping the stream of data to extend the range of the network. Clients with MIMO capabilities (laptops, etc.) can take full advantage of the increased throughput, but even clients with single antennas (smartphones, etc.) will benefit from the shaped beams for extended range. The antennas aren’t IEEE 802.11ac compliant (the standard hasn’t even been ratified yet) but as these antennas are also designed to be field upgradable with expansion cards, they will theoretically be able to take advantage of the new standard when it becomes available. Naturally, these antennas are not cheap (about USD 1,600 per antenna), but for schools struggling under a profusion of mobile devices, these might just help ease their current connectivity problems.
- Cisco aims Wi-Fi enterprise access point at BYOD profusion (infoworld.com)
- Cisco Aims Wi-Fi Access Point at iPad Profusion (pcworld.com)
- Cisco launches new Aironet wireless access points; Eyes more spatial streams (zdnet.com)
- Cisco aims Wi-Fi access point at iPad profusion (macworld.com)
If you’ve ever wondered how to cite a peer-reviewed journal article, a blog, an iPad publication, a performance, a brochure or 53 other types of sources using the MLA 7 format, you are now in luck. EasyBib takes what information you have and directs you to were to find the rest of what you need. The free version is limited to MLA 7, but the paid version will also format your citation in APA or Chicago/Turabian formats. There is a personal version and versions designed for Schools and Libraries which can include full Google Apps integration as well as iPhone and Android Apps. If you’re struggling to manage dozens of different citations, EasyBib might be exactly what you’re after.
Yesterday, a colleague and I were discussing some of the topics in this blog, and she said that she felt that Google Goggles was better than WordLens for translating text on a mobile device. I was sure that I had heard of Google Goggles, but couldn’t find it on the App Store. As it turns out Goggles is not an App by itself – it has been incorporated into Google Mobile, and I have been using this application for months. Goggles is a much more developed technology than WordLens that is able to recognize text, book covers, landmarks, logos, bar-codes and understand a variety of other image types. However, it’s not a dedicated translation app, and if you’re trying to translate the Russian text on a box of cereal, it might recognize what kind of cereal it is, and try to take you to the company website instead of translate the text – but you can override this. For a dedicated translation app, Google Translate is hard to beat. It can translate back and forth between 50 different languages and leverages the full power of Google translation technology. The app is able to take spoken phrases or words, translate them and then even speak them back to you in the target language. For some language pairs, it has a “Conversation Mode” whereby it acts as a semi-simultaneous translator. However, unlike WordLens, the app only works if you have a network connection, and doesn’t translate in an augmented reality mode. That said, if you’re after a translation, you can probably take the time to snap a picture and process it through the network – assuming you are spending money while “data roaming” in the foreign country you are visiting.
It seems like everyone these days is discussing how Web applications will be replacing the software applications that run on your computer. There are a number of different ways of doing this, but probably the most common way is by using Google Docs. Google Docs is designed for individual users and offers reasonably full-featured applications for creating Documents, Spreadsheets, Presentations, Drawings and Forms. Because these applications are on the internet, they are constantly getting improved and features added to them as reviewed HERE. Unfortunately, however, because they’re on the internet, you need an internet connection to use them. The people at Google are well aware that offline access is important, and they are working on a replacement for what was known as Google Gears – which allowed just that.
There is also a product known as Google Apps – which many schools are adopting, and it is just like Google Docs – but for schools and institutions. It offers a few more bells and whistles than Google Docs like simplified shared document editing, forcing SSL security, 99.9% guaranteed uptime, access to the Google Marketplace and generally things that business and school IT departments care desperately about.
I’ve been using both Docs and Apps extensively now for a few months, and I’m impressed. Some of the more advanced features of MS Word aren’t there – like creating a Table of Contents or Index dynamically or very fine control of kerning – but for basic word processing or spreadsheet work, it is perfectly acceptable.
Lastly, as of last November, it is now possible to natively edit your Google Docs on an iPhone or iPad (of course).
Feel free to sign up for a personal Google Docs account and put the platform through it’s paces. However, if you’d like to try Google Apps, come find me in the library and I’ll give you your very own Apps account – for free!
Google has recently enabled some new features for document creation and sharing on it’s website. This is Google Docs. The features aren’t quite as rich as Microsoft Office, but if all you need is basic word processing and a spread sheet, this might be a way for you to save 400 bucks – and have access to your files anywhere you’re online. In fact, if you need to collaborate on a project with other users (think group projects) the documents can be shared and edited simultaneously. (Here is a preliminary review)
Now, in our setting, up on a mountain with limited bandwidth, there might be a few issues. One is that you must have a fast connection to the internet (although this might change) and, at 11 pm when the network shuts off in the dorms, students won’t be able to continue working. Although I don’t know if this is a bad thing.
One key item that’s missing from the package is a presentation piece (like PowerPoint) – although I’ve heard rumors that this might be available sooner than we think. What I would like to see is Zimbra to fully fold in a product similar to this (see my earlier post on Zimbra and MashUps) so that we wouldn’t be limited by the speed of our pipe to the internet to do our work.
I think that this upcoming academic year will be a year of testing and evaluating for us – especially of our wireless network to see if it can handle this kind of traffic.