Friday, October 31, 2008

Text to Speech Movies for EFL ESL

Learning technology teacher development blog: Text to Speech Movies for EFL ESL

Another Nik Peachy winner. This guy does the legwork so I don't have to :)

Here he reviews a text to speech movie service called Xtranormal. The result is really quite cool. What is the use of this? I would like to use it for students who don't feel comfortable doing the parts themselves. I would also love to do it to act out dialogues from class (either ones from the book or student-generated).

Take a look at the service and Nik's review.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

La rambla, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain - Google Maps

La Rambla, Barcelona, Spain

Google Street View on La Rambla in Barcelona, Spain. I have fond memories of my time in Spain a little over 10 years ago. Of course, things change. I hardly recognize most of these places now.

This post, however, is not just a nostalgic look into my past. I want to focus attention on the use of Street View for virtual touring. You now have the ability, not only to look at a picture, but rather to get the overall lay of the land before visiting a place. If you take a look at my link, you're able to see business names and other landmarks. Heck, you could plan a sightseeing trip and where to go for lunch along the way with this tool.

This tool situates users in the context more so than anything else we have available to us. You can see the style of clothes people wear (not faces in the EU), cars they are driving, and, of course, the architecture. You can visit famous places when discussing issues in history or current events, or you can visit the places less traveled to better understand how common people live or particularly sub-groups live (i.e., Harlem, Beverly Hills, or rural areas).

I haven't seen anything published on how people are using this, but I expect that you will in the near future.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School

How People Learn: Brain, Mind, Experience, and School

How cool is this? Not just this book, but the system supplying it. The National Academies Press ( provides thousands of books like this for free online and sells PDFs. They provide this widget to embed the books in a website as well (not too cool, but something to embed). So, if people don't mind reading on their computer screen, this isn't a bad option.

Read this FREE online!
Full Book | Podcast

Friday, October 17, 2008

Congress opts for educating students over blocking Web sites and social networks

Congress opts for educating students over blocking Web sites and social networks

Saying that this is a triumph of common sense and local control goes a little too far. It would be common sense NOT to have a bill that addresses this. However, I guess when seen in contrast to many bone-headed bills considered and passed, this one isn't too bad.

Should we really have to legislate teaching students how to best use computers and the networks that connect them? This seems quite obvious to me. Common sense would say that this should be part of every schools role as socializer of youth.

On the other hand, people often point to telephones and say, "do we teach students how to use telephones in responsible ways"? The answer is not really, but until recently students' telephones didn't come into the school. Now, we do teach them (in some ways) about the proper use of telephones. At the very minimum, we teach them that it is not ok to use telephones in class or when it interrupts the educational experience for anyone.

I hate to give teachers even more responsibilities, but this would be easy to insert into any and all computer-based activities that teachers utilize. Just mentioning things in passing like, don't give your contact information to strangers, don't leave your online social networking account open to the public (friends only), don't put anything online that you wouldn't be comfortable with your mother seeing, electronic data is easy to copy and distribute and anything bad you do will likely get back to a person you don't want to see it, and so forth.

If the schools want to take it a step further, have programs dedicated to this. Search for student pages or fish for friend invites and shock them that you so easily entered their space. I don't agree with showing the whole school their embarrassing details, but drop a comment on their page or just mention that you got access in a meeting. This will wake them up. If it doesn't, ask them if it would be ok to give their parents a link...that will probably seal the deal.

We are still in the trial and error stage here. Things change too fast to come up with any solid advice on how to educate students in this area. However, we can't just leave it to the streets. We will end up with a generation of digitally pregnant and drug addicted (metaphorically) citizens.

Brains: An End to Paralysis with Artificial Brain-to-Muscle Connectors

Brains: An End to Paralysis with Artificial Brain-to-Muscle Connectors

This is related to my previous posting in some ways. With this kind of science being done (actually applied) right now, how long will it be before we can virtual sensory applications?

I used to think that we would have to develop a body suit to get sensory (mostly tactile) feedback virtually, but this type of research makes me believe that we are getting closer to the ability to do this with a simple headset. Maybe this won't be done well in my lifetime, but I'm sure that my son will have this at his disposal sometime in his life.

How is it related to my previous post? Again, just as you can be in a place without actually being there, with this technology, you can feel the place without actually being there. A sort of virtual immersion. Brave New World.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

EffectiveUI offers 360-degree video apps

EffectiveUI offers 360-degree video apps

This review of EffectiveUI got me re-thinking about the future of CALL. Virtual reality worlds (MUVEs), such as SecondLife, has so much potential, but they have had so much potential for many, many years in one form or another. They have never broken through into truly useful tools for your average classroom teacher to utilize.

One problem is still that development is so difficult. I know that many might argue that developing in SL is relatively easy and they anyone can learn, but that is exactly the problem. People need to be able to do, not learn. I consider myself rather tech capable in many areas, but all of my attempts at development in SL have been complete failures.

There are many great projects in SL, but these don't even come close to offering good coverage for classrooms. They can be great activities, but that seems like a lot of effort (both on the class and developer sides) for isolated activities. I have seen some great lessonplans for use in SL, but they all seem to be reaching a bit.

What a computer program can piece together videos and pictures of places, procedures, and so forth and create the environment for you? That is essentially what EffectiveIU, Google Street View, and others are doing right now. In addition, these can then be augmented by creating hotspots, overlays, avatars, and other real/virtual enhancements. Take this a step further and it can be done realtime (as in virtual, realtime participation in meetings/classes) by powerful servers in the cloud. Client-side requirements are about the same as streaming video, which, with 3G and upcoming 4G solutions here and on the horizon, can be done on pocket-side mobile units (previously known as cellphones :)

In this view, development is as easy as taking a video (with your mobile phone or higher quality unit) or even with UCC videos and pictures available on the Web (Creative Commons of course) for basic design. Advanced design will still probably be out of reach of teachers, but they could do an amazing amount of work with the basics.

The beauty of this is that there is an amazing amount of both direct and indirect crowdsourcing. Every tourist, hotelier, businessperson, and advertiser will contribute to these spaces. Basic designs will get more complex/detailed as more images are added to the environment and as more people develop for the space. That which used to require hours and hours of animation work can largely be done quickly and by amatures with cheap, readily available video cameras.

I would have thought this science fiction just a couple years ago, but now I see it beginning to happen. Faster computers, faster data transfer, and faster software development make it likely that we will see many more movements in this area. Before long, I'll be virtually ringing your doorbell and coming in for a coffee in Chicago, while actually commuting to work in Seoul.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Almost human: Interview with a chatbot

Almost human: Interview with a chatbot

There has been a little press with the recent competition for chat bots. About 30% of the people chatting with the winner couldn't tell whether it was a computer or human.

Please see the sample conversation in the article, but I'd encourage you to pay special attention to the comments. The commenters feel the same way I do. I can't believe that anyone was fooled by this test. We are safe from true AI for a long time to come.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Is college worth it?

Is college worth it? --

This is a great article in that it brings home something that many educators have been saying for years, "Why go to college"?

This isn't to say, at the article also states, that there aren't great reasons to go to college, including broadening horizons, meeting people from diverse backgrounds, and a little something called education. However, the return on investment isn't what it once was. They often cite salaries of people who go into business-related fields, but not those in social services. Those in business are easily making $50,000+ relatively soon after graduate. They will pay off their debts. Those other professions, though, make much less and will likely need to get advanced degrees to bridge the gap even slightly.

We need students to begin making these calculations on their own. Return on investment isn't just about money, but to be in debt for 20 years is a terrible existence. This is beginning to drive lower-cost alternatives and will change the educational landscape over the next decade (yes, that soon).

As I near the end of my formal education (I swear I'm done after this phd), I have to say that it's been pretty good to me. I'm comfortable, I'm saving a little money, and I have a generally rosy outlook on life. In order to get this, though, I've had to go through years of graduate studies that was bartered with office and teaching work at the universities I attended.

I wish someone had sat me down when I was 17 and laid this out for me. I can't say that I would have done anything differently (I just wanted to party after high school and college was the best place to do it), but it might have saved me (more so my parents) a little money by making different decisions. By the time my own son is preparing for post K-12 life, I don't even think this will be an issue. It will be part of a well-worn system by then. At least I hope so. Having 2 of "the talks" is just too much.

Name change - a semi-sad day

It's a sad day here at the IU CALL blog, because it's no longer the IU CALL blog. I let this go for too long as the IU CALL blog. I haven't taught at IU for over a year, so it's time for a change.

I think that, for now, the name CALL from Korea is more descriptive of what I'm doing. It maybe a bit of a misnomer since I don't discuss Korean tech too much, but I hope that will also change in the near future.

I'm going to keep the URL because it's both too difficult to change (and keep all my previous postings) and then anyone who is following this blog will be lost.

Hope you enjoy the new name, but the same old postings.

OpenOffice 3 Download

I don't think that this is too extreme a statement, you are doing students a disservice by NOT at least discussing the use of OpenOffice. Don't let them grow up thinking that Microsoft is the only office software.

With that said, I still primarily use Office, but I am weaning myself off slowly. When I can no longer get it from IU for free (yes, a great student benefit), MS Office is OUT. I might even get rid of Windows, as my workhorse at least.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Cyprus Lip Dub - Don't Stop Believing on Vimeo

Cyprus Lip Dub - Don't Stop Believing on Vimeo

Not only a wonderful song, but an interesting project with students. I'm not sure what agreements vimeo has, but music videos on YouTube are ok (for many songs). Agreements have been made that allow even UCC music videos to remain up.

Show this to your students and have them make one of their own. There are plenty of possibilities for collaboration and cooperation. For instance, students need to create a storyboard, assign roles, learn the words to the songs, direct/take direction, edit the final project, present the final project, and so forth.

Cyprus Lip Dub - Don't Stop Believing from Brittany Bohnet on Vimeo.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

JALT 2008

The Japan Association for Language Teaching (JALT) contacted me about advertising their conference at the end of the month (OCT 31). I was happy to do so. It's a great organization and I just wish I could go myself. Please see the picture below for more information or go to their website at