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Thursday, June 30, 2005

Searching podcasts: podscope

Podscope is a search site for words spoken inside of podcasts. I had submitted my Drexel CoAS E-Learning podcast a few weeks ago and some searches are starting to pop up. For example, a search for "Drexel" pops up Laura Blankenship's talk where she mentions Drexel 3 time. All 3 occurrences are found and Podscope make it easy to listen to each one directly.

Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Special RSS Club/Games in Education Meeting Friday July 1

The RSS club meeting will resume Friday July 1, 2005 at noon in 4020 MacAlister.

In this special meeting we will also discuss the use of games like Unreal Tournament in teaching. Students with an interest are particularly welcome to attend.

Are you interested in learning or sharing your knowledge about RSS (Really Simple Syndication)?
This includes subscribing to or creating
-podcasts (automatic mp3 distribution)
-screencasts (distribution of video)
-Flickr (share pictures)
-Bloglines (subscribe to RSS feeds)
-Blogger (easily create blogs)

There are now some classes at Drexel providing podcast and screencast feeds of recorded lectures so this might be useful to learn. If interested RSVP Jean-Claude.Bradley@drexel.edu

Monday, June 27, 2005

cool trick to distribute pdfs using podcasting

Ken Tompkins alerted me to a neat little trick to distribute mp3's that he came across here. I think that this would be useful to distribute other files, especially pdfs.

It works like this:
1) Find a pdf on a publisher's site that is open acess. For example
2) Tag it with a unique identifier in del.icio.us For example I used jcbpdfcast
3) Burn the del.icio.us RSS feed in FeedBurner with the SmartCast option and you end up with a podcast feed like this: http://feeds.feedburner.com/Delicious/tag/jcbpdfcast

Anyone who puts that podcast feed in their podcast client will automatically get the pdf files you tagged downloaded onto their computer. In this case I am tagging my publications.

What makes this cool is that this is a way to podcast without creating a blog and with minimal effort. Just tag files as you come across them.

The one limitation is that the files have to be open access. If you try to tag a file that ip sensitive, FeedBurner will fail to insert the enclosure tag when it queries the file for metadata.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

NECC conf in Philly this week

Short notice but the on-site registration is pretty reasonable so check out NECC (National Educational Computation Conference) in Philly if you can Monday-Thursday starting June 27, 2005. There is a podcasting in education session on Wednesday afternoon.

Friday, June 24, 2005

OrgoFrag Demo

Inspired by Amy Bellinger's post on the use of games for education (with links to Steven Bell and Rodney Riegel), I converted a small portion of my organic chemistry quizzes to a map in Unreal Tournament (Game of the Year Edition).

The player navigates through a map with organic chemistry reactions on the walls. Walking through a correct reaction leads to more exploration of the map and goodies like weapons, ammo or health. Walking through an incorrect reaction leads to death by falling into a deep dark pit.

I recorded a brief demo (using Camtasia) as a Flash screencast. The player first looks around and goes through a wall with a correct reaction. This leads to a sniper rifle, which is then used to blow up a few sludge barrels. At the end, the player walks through an incorrect reaction and falls into the abyss. It was somewhat taxing on the processor to run the game at the same time as Camtasia so the video and the sound are a bit choppy but you should get the idea.

There are many ways to play in Unreal Tournament: in teams or alone, capture the flag or death match, with bots or simply alone (as done in the demo). The best organic students should do better since they would have access to more of the map and every time the player dies by falling in a pit, they lose a frag.

This is a pretty general way to convert a multiple choice test into a map and I would like to hear from other educators who have done similar things or anyone who would be interested in collaborating.

I'll see about putting this up on a server to further demonstrate.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Open Source Content: Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry

From Eurekalert:
"The Beilstein Journal of Organic Chemistry is a new peer-reviewed online journal published by the Beilstein-Institut in co-operation with BioMed Central. The journal is now ready to accept articles for publication..."

And very importantly:
" it has no publication charges and authors retain copyright"

As I mentioned previously, many journals are listed as "Open Source" but in reading the fine print authors do not maintain full copyright control.

Very nice.

student blog experiment in organic chemistry

The term is over and I am following up on the extra credit project I gave to students at the start. Students had to draw chemical reaction examples in a blog and link to peer-reviewed references.

Here is the list of blogs.

These are my findings:

1) Out of 60 students in CHEM 243 10 attempted the project, which is more than I expected since it was only worth 1% extra credit.
2) The use of screencasting to demonstrate how to use all the required software was pretty effective.
3) Most students submitted right before the deadline, preventing a suitable time for feedback and corrections. Next time, I will spread out the work over several deadlines earlier in the term.
4) Instead of having students create multiple blogs, I will simply give them access to the class blog in Blogger. It will save them a step and will make it easier to keep track of new posts. It will also enable other students to make comments more easily. If they wish to have their own blog, they can simply copy their post.
5) Finding peer-reviewed reference was problematic for most students. I think next time I will have them use CiteULike to force that issue. Another advantage of CiteULike is that we can easily tag all the articles for the class.
6) Students showed a lot of originality and used other blogs (like Xanga), other image repositories and other ways of drawing molecules. I actually like that for the most part, except when the deviated from the core requirements of the project (like only using online peer-reviewed references).
7) There were problems with the version of ChemSketch hosted by Drexel. We discovered that the free online version worked very well for our purposes.
8) I was impressed with the conversation that this project elicited as the students went through the exercise of applying the class material to something they could relate to (like the synthesis of a pharmaceutical). Constructivism works.
9) The students who did the project now have a link that they can use any time as part of an ad-hoc learning portfolio. And the skills they learned (creating a blog, using Flickr, Chemsketch, searching the literature, etc.) are definitely transferable.

Friday, June 03, 2005

RSS chicken and egg

There is a common problem with people starting out with RSS.

If you only have one feed to track, why not just keep checking the blog website instead of going through the hassle of learning how to use an RSS reader?

But if you don't use an RSS reader it makes it far less likely that you will find and add additional feeds.

A solution that might work for a lot of people is to use a service that sends out emails in response to new posts from RSS feeds. An example of this is blo.gs - I have found that there can be a delay of a day or two in getting the email notice from blo.gs but this is still better than having to remember to check the feed for new posts.

I would like to hear from people who have used something like blo.gs as a bridge from email to an RSS reader.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

World Lecture Hall

The World Lecture Hall keeps an archive of online courses that can be searched by category or modalities available (course notes, audio, video, tests, etc.). I encourage you to submit your online course here. It looks like it takes a few days to show up after submission.

Thanks to Jorge Gonçalves for the link. Jorge has a great blog Quick Picks that usually reports on interesting news in chemistry.

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