Explaining Explain Everything | LEARN Blog

I wrote a recent blog post for LEARN based on a fascinating conversation that I had with the developers of the Explain Everything app for the iPad. If you find this interesting, you should consider attending the LEARN-RECIT Technology and Learning Summit 2014 at the Sheraton Laval on October 20, 2014.

Explaining Explain Everything | LEARN Blog – learning from each other and building a community: “Dr. Reshan Richards is one of the developers of the iPad screencasting app, Explain Everything.  On October 20th he will present and deliver the Keynote address at the LEARN-RÉCIT Technology & Learning Summit at the Sheraton Laval on October 20th. In the lead up to the Summit, Dr. Richards and his co-developers, Piotr ?liwi?ski and Bartosz Gonczarek agreed to talk about their unique partnership.”

(Via LEARN Blog.)

“MacGyvering” Low Cost Alternatives to Assistive Technologies | LEARN Blog – learning from each other and building a community

I contributed a blog post to the LEARN Blog. Here’s the link:

“MacGyvering” Low Cost Alternatives to Assistive Technologies | LEARN Blog – learning from each other and building a community.

An accessibility tip for iOS 6 users

In researching affordable OCR apps for iOS, I came across this cheap alternative using full-featured software like GoQ’s WordQ, or Kurzweil to read printed documents aloud. ABBYY’s TextGrabber for iOS ($3.99 – iTunes App Store link) does a decent job at digitizing printed text. Once the text is digitized, the “Speak Selection” accessibility feature built-in to iOS 6 can be used to read the scanned text aloud. It’s not perfect, and works best on high contrast printed text, but it works quite well and is very affordable as long as you already have an iOS device.

Here’s a short tutorial I posted on YouTube:

Sakai Install: Preparing the System

We chose Linux as the platform for Sakai. The main reason was cost — no licenses for the server OS and the availability of low cost server hardware. We opted for CentOS 5 as the flavour of Linux. It is basically Red Hat Enterprise and has proven to be robust in the past.

CentOS is easy to install. I began with a virtual machine running in VMWare Fusion on my iMac. This allowed me to walk through the install process as a dry run, test out tools and steps, and to roll back if anything broke.

I opted for a 64-bit build of CentOS, so that we could take advantage of large amounts of memory later on if needed.

After installing CentOS using the GUI, the next step was to prepare the system for installing Sakai from source.

To install Sakai 2.5.x from source, we need several things (with caveats):

  • Java JDK/JRE 5.0 Update 18 (Java 6 will NOT work)
  • Apache Tomcat 5.5.26 or greater (Tomcat 6 is NOT compatible with Sakai)
  • Maven 2.0.6 or better (for building Sakai source code)
  • MySQL 4.1 or 5.0.x

Out of the box, CentOS has both Java 1.4 and Java 6 installed. Java JDK/JRE 5.0 needs to be downloaded from Sun and installed (Note that Sun Microsystems is withdrawing Java 5.0 as of September 2009, so if you want it, download and archive a copy now).

Installing a new version of Java involved unpacking the distribution in a local directory (e.g. /opt or /usr/local) and the using the “alternatives –install” command to make the system aware of the version and to select it as the default Java version. Use “java -version” to confirm that the correct java version  is selected.

Next: Installing Tomcat 5.5

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Upgrading an existing Sakai installation

The next few posts will chronicle the process of creating a fresh install of the Sakai portal/course management system and then importing content from an existing installation.

The organization that I went through this process for had a Sakai instance that had been installed by a vendor/consultant as a binary distribution. We relied on the vendor for troubleshooting, upgrades and tool/portlet installations. We decided a few months back to develop the expertise “in-house” to install, configure and upgrade Sakai so that we would no longer be reliant on a vendor.

We wanted to go through the entire process of installing Sakai from source in order to learn how to do it, and to allow us to add tools using source code later on.

Sakai is not that difficult to install on its own, but there are a number of issues that arose during the process that I felt it was important to document.

Stay tuned!

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Videomaru: A great Flash video tool

A student of mine recommended a great Flash video tool called video.Maru. It’s a component which allows a developer to create customized video players without any knowledge of ActionScript.
All you have to do is create MovieClips on the stage with the correct names. I am experimenting with it now and will post some more impressions here as I go along.

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NECC – June 26, 2007 in Review

The final full day at NECC was a full one. The day began with a bus tour of the Atlanta area. Did you know that Elton John lives for part of the year in Atlanta? We toured through the downtown area of Atlanta and drove through one of the more upscale neighbourhoods, admiring stately homes.

The bus stopped at the Atlanta Cyclorama, which is a huge panoramic painting depicting one of the key battles of the American Civil War. Afterwards, the tour continued on to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birth house, as well as the church where he was a minister. Both of this sites are now historical monuments.

The afternoon was devoted to presenting LEARN’s Virtual School project at an afternoon poster session entitled “Learning Environments.” We spoke to interesting people from all over the place. There was a woman from Perth, Australia who expressed some interest in what we were doing. We spent quite a bit of time speaking with a colleague from New Brunswick about their Virtual High School project. It will be interesting to follow up with them and compare notes as we move forward.

The evening was spent attending a reception at CNN Center hosted by Apple Canada. After some lively conversation with Canadian colleagues and Apple representatives, we enjoyed a fascinating tour of the CNN facilities.

NECC – June 25, 2007 – Why I want a GPS Unit!

Wow! Every once in a while you attend a workshop that really makes a difference – or at least rises above the usual standard of conference workshops. Dr. Alice Christie is this year’s bomb. This was by far the most effective, impressive education workshop that I have attended in a long time.The workshop focused on GPS technology and the practice of geocaching. Geocaching is a kind of treasure/scavenger hunt that uses the GPS as the primary tool for finding the hidden treasure or “cache”.Dr. Christie put the participants of her workshop in teams of 4-5 people and gave us all the task of finding several destinations, or “waypoints” in Atlanta’s Centennial Park using a GPS accompanied by a clue. The key to completing the activity was to function as a team, share responsibilities and collaborate to solve all of the clues.After completing the exercise, we reflected on the activity and performed another activity that situated the GPS “game” in contructivist learning principles.If you are interested in GPS or geocaching (or educational technology in general), visit Dr. Christie’s excellent website at http://www.alicechristie.org/.More links tomorrow! Report from NECC – June 25, 2007