British Library Sound Map – Sheffield

The British Library has a project just started where the general public can record short soundscapes to be kept and archived for posterity. The pilot phase is happening right in the gorgeous city of Sheffield.

There was an article about it on BBC Radio 4’s World Tonight yesterday (listen via iPlayer from 39min42sec to 44mins) plus an article in the Sheffield Telegraph.

I spent my lunchtime recording some soundscapes in town, geo tagging and uploading them. By the time I got back to my desk they had already made it onto the British Library Sound Map.

Here’s my tweet about it. Follow the #uksm on Twitter.

Application of this concept has some great potential for education. It also shows what a multi-tool the smart phone has become.

So if you want to be a little part of history, get recording sounds to Audioboo. More details are on my previous blog post about Audioboo.

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Audioboo – podcasting has never been so easy

Here’s the history part: I started creating podcasts over half a decade ago. I created and ran courses about podcasting when no one else was interested. I even ran them locally for the community in conjunction with the local BBC centre. Initially it was reasonably technical to create podcasts. There was all the teaching of how to use Audacity, uploading the files somewhere, and to make an enhanced podcast you had to turn to a Mac and use three line-code programmes (pre-Garageband I’m talking here).

More recently running parallel to this we’ve seen the ever simplification of video production and upload, particularly to YouTube via Flip cameras, etc. I remember a couple of years ago working with Qik on a smart phone when it was in private alpha testing and then with Flixwagon as well with the idea of creating and streaming video from a mobile to such a site and then automatically squirting it out to YouTube and creating a vblog or video podcast. (I might revisit this idea with different hardware.) But there are still some things were video isn’t really necessary. If I just want to make some notes or regular comments to myself and/or others then my ‘talking head’ is surplus to requirements and just eats up bandwidth unnecessarily.

Well I’ve just found the easiest of podcasting solution and it’s Audioboo. This is an audio recording site that enables you to create high quality audio recordings direct from an iPhone or Android phone via some apps, or you can use the website if you don’t have one of those phone times, and before it’s rolled out to other phones.

There’s an editor built into the site, so you can cut out the bad bits from your recordings. Use the embed code to stick your ‘boos’ into a blog or elsewhere. However, it goes on from there, because it makes it easy to syndicate your feed via iTunes or via the ‘RSS’ (Atom) feed. And there’s more, there is also a social element to Audioboo where you follow and have followers – Twitter stylee. You can also link in with your Twitter account.

Here’s the 2min vid:

The British Library are using public uploads to Audioboo to create a soundscape map of the UK; simply tag your uploads uksm for possible inclusion.

I’ve set up an account that I’m going to use as an impromptu, quick and convenient podcasting platform for notes on new tech for education. Check me out at Minimarkuos.

Apps Inventor

Back in March I wrote about PhoneGap the JavaScript programming app which could be used to create Android and iPhone Apps. Well earlier this month on the Google Blog was a post about App Inventor;

a new tool in Google Labs that makes it easy for anyone—programmers and non-programmers, professionals and students—to create mobile applications for Android-powered devices.

Importantly, it’s now available for anyone to use, after a year of testing.

Here’s the vid:

Multiphysics simulation – Physics engine

I’ve seen a fair bit of discussion relating to the Lagoa Technology Inc.’s video since it was posted three days ago, mostly relating to how we are going to see advances in gaming technology as a result. But it occurs to me that the potential of such a high definition physics engine for teaching principles of Physics or modelling in a Physics, Material Sciences or Engineering research environment is substantial.

You can see the action of granular material, deformation of structures, elasticity, and more. Anyway, take a look at the video:

The programmer, Thiago Costa, is obviously very talented. He also created this smoke simulation.

Socialwok via Google Apps

I’m currently looking into the Apps available from the Marketplace for a Google Apps for Education installation. One area of particular interest is social collaboration. If, for example, you are running a dedicated social collaboration enterprise solution that is good but expensive, is there a viable cheaper alternative through Google Apps?

Well, I think there is a serious contender and it’s called Socialwok.

Some people call Socialwok – Facebook for business on Google Apps

If you think about it, Google Apps is a loose collection of Apps. Socialwok does an amazing job of tying this collection together and enables you to see all the activity across the Apps, be that Calendar, Google Docs, Activities, etc. Content can be kept private to a company/university/school, with restricted access to specific groups via the ‘feeds’ arrangement within Socialwok. However, it’s also possible to publish to Socialwok while simultaneously publishing out to Google Buzz, Twitter, and Facebook; a time saver and potentially great publicity mechanism. Also external collaborators can be granted access to a specific Socialwok feed, something that I know is required.

The personnel at Socialwok are technically very impressive and rather astute business-wise, which is always a plus point when considering longevity in today’s world of technological winners and those that fall along the wayside. I think this video by Robert Scobles (Scobleizer) from Google I/O 2010 Conference in which he asks Is Socialwok the best of the collaborative enterprise social services? demonstrates both these aspects.

Another innovation with Socialwok is the integration with Seesmic to create a desktop facility (read the Seesmic blog post) to monitor and contribute to your ‘corporate business activities’, or ‘course studies’ in an educational setting, alongside maintaining your PLN of contacts via Twitter and Facebook. This is bringing Google Apps to the Desktop in a full featured client, with real-time social search and relevance ranking functionality. This integration is a point of pure business genius, and is highly significant, which I have to applaud.

My interest is in educational uses. When it comes to appealing to students and encouraging them to work with social collaboration media, the fact that the environment has a ‘look & feel’ of something they are already used to has distinct advantages.

Of course you might need to hammer home the differences in the philosophy underlying each. Something I wrote previously on the subject:

[Facebook/MySpace/etc] is out there, it’s open, just do what you do in there. The [university/college/school] collaboration environment is something different; it’s not trying to be [Facebook/MySpace/etc], and it’s certainly not trying to compete with [Facebook/MySpace/etc]. Our collaboration environment is more akin to a professional environment you might see within companies when you’ve graduated [uni/college/school], or a social network relating to a particular area of professional interest (an international science social network for example).

The [uni/college/school] has provided our environment as a secure place, where you can work through your ideas, collaborate with others, develop an understanding of how to participate in a professional manner, with the assurance that your work is secure and that your ideas remain just that belonging to you and the [uni/college/school]. The loss of your Intellectual Property is a consideration if you use openly available tools and environments hosted elsewhere. Put more simply, if you put your work or your ideas somewhere on the web, you might just have given those ideas away (the chances are you won’t have checked the small print).

By developing the additional skills that using such a tool can enable, you can demonstrate to future employers your ability to work professionally within a collaborative environment.

There are probably particular benefits to using the environment for researchers, with respect to Intellectual Property and the ability to work and share with external colleagues, partners and collaborators from anywhere in the world.

I’m rather interested by Socialwok and I need to investigate more fully its potential for educational use with colleagues.

Google Docs on Android

So I’ve been playing with and liking Swype. I’ve set up a quick WordPress blog and installed the WordPress App so I can quickly write notes and post a blog without much effort. Not so much microblogging as miniblogging.

What I also thought I’d be able to do was to edit Google Docs directly from my phone. That’s what I thought, but I was wrong. It turned out Android isn’t set up to do that. But there is an App called GDocs that is supposed to help out with this and allow you to edit your Docs. However, again my experiment was dashed by problems as GDocs doesn’t seem to work on the HTC Desire. Whilst I could download documents to the App on the phone and edit, the upload didn’t work as it should. So the search goes on. Hopefully there’ll be a solution; possibly the next upgrade on GDocs will do the job, or maybe Google will release a solution before too long. Fingers crossed.