Microsoft Showcase Classroom

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(c) @GlennWoolaghan [Twitter]

Yesterday I spent the day with Microsoft looking at their Showcase Classroom. I really did not have a clear perception of what to expect other than looking at different mobile devices. So what did the day entail (and was it worth it!)?

Firstly it was free other than the cost of getting to London, Victoria and back for 10:00am – 3:30pm. A cup of coffee and a pain-au-chocolate later and we was shown a brief “Sway” presentation before the big reveal, doors slid open in our relatively small room, showing a much larger room with bright colours, comfy stool and giant bean bags. We grab a mobile device… this is going to be interactive! I pick a rugged grey “Stone” tablet with keyboard and a carry handle, colleagues pick HP tablets or Surface Pro’s – they all do the job they need to do.

We are asked to rate out the following out of four possible options: Don’t know what it it, aware, used a bit, used a lot using coloured post-it’s.

  • Windows 8.1 – its search capabilities and seamlessness
  • Yammer – social networking in a safe environment
  • Office 365 – buckloads, I even learnt about “Delve” (did you know a 365 account gives you 5 downloadable office’s?)
  • OneNote – the collaborative side utilising OneNote Classroom
  • OneDrive – limitless
  • Lync (Skype for Business) – connect to others and record sessions!

Now I was able to answer “used a lot” for all but that’s more a comment upon the organisation I work for and the projects I am involved in. I found the delivery that followed upon these technologies well thought-out and verging on seamless. a worthy day for the less tech proficient for sure. We had an outline of Mix and Sway (yes I felt an over whelming smugness) and then a hard-sell pitch for taking back-end services and pushing to our learners – progress, options, etc. (way off but lord-able goals). Finally we had highlighted windows 10 and  HoloLens.

I certainly found the day worthwhile but I took a number of key things with me…

  1. The organisation I work for are certainly embracing the tech discussed
  2. Although the room looked funky the backless “stools” were not nearly as comfortable as the “sit-in” bean bags
  3. Despite discussing how being untethered from the front of the classroom is ideal, it wasn’t applied (beyond a demonstration)
  4. A number of technologies will not work fully until we are in a 1-2-1 device position (such as OneNote)
  5. I cannot see myself bringing everything together under one platform, I am all for diversity in technology (Our D.A.V.E. intranet covers the likes of Delve and Yammer)
  6. Finally, there was a lot of discussion around learners subverting the technologies. More of this on a future post.

Andy

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Storage Solutions

No this is not a post about the famous Swedish home furnishing store (however nice the meatballs are) but about a question posed regarding digital resource storage solutions available today. Formats have not necessarily expanded but have become readable by more than their proprietary systems, such as open office reading MS office docs. Some have been superseded for newer and wider adopted standards (the beloved Xvid & DivX seems to have made way for MP4). YouTube has now adopted HTML 5 as its main playback format over the long established Flash format.

It wasn’t so long ago that you choices were limited to local hard-drive, network drive (server), USB memory sticks or websites themselves. Those options have exploded in recent years and I started to reel of a list of options and soon found the list growing out of all-proportions. As a matter of documenting please see below (and it is not exhaustive):

  • Local Hard-drive
  • External drives (traditional drives 2.5″ or 3.5″”)
  • Memory Sticks – reaching capacities as great as 256GB
  • Solid state memory as in phone memory (i.e. iPhone)
  • Classic server/network drives
  • VLE or CMS (Virtual Learning Environments, Content management Systems)
  • ePortfolios (Mahara)
  • Cloud Services – dropbox, box, pogoplug, icloud
  • Temporary cloud services such as filedropper
  • Websites, both traditional and newer user content driven (web 2.0) that move beyond the forums. Such as this blog!
  • Web services e.g. Poll Everywhere, Socrative, Popplet, Padlet
  • Apps (built in info)
  • Social Networking (these can hold images, website addresses) Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, delicious

A number of these crossover more than one category. have I missed a category? any of your resources stored that do not fit in the above list?

 

Andy

AmazonBasics 3.5mm Male to Male Stereo Audio Cable [4 ft / 1.2 m]

Amazon Cable

I finally got annoyed with having to insert the Headcandy Hesh 2.0 lead in and having to pull it back by about a millimetre due to the extra mic connection not allowing an immediate good connection to the PC/Blue-Yeti. The headphones need a slim plug so I thought I would opt for an Amazon basics lead, as I haven’t been disappointed with any of their own range. The stepped collar is great for iPhone and iPads with cases on and the plug is slim enough (just) to not cause problems with the Hesh 2.0’s.

Cable feels slightly more rubber than plastic and does not tangle. The collar immediately preceding the plug is about 6mm diameter and is about 3mm in depth from plug to silver collar with Amazon basics branding. overall plug length is about 40mm with a solid “bung”to the cable. 1.28m tip to tip.

This stereo audio cable (3.5mm male to male) transmits audio in stereo format

  • For connecting a smartphone, MP3 player, or tablet to car stereo or portable speakers
  • Works with any device equipped with a standard, 3.5mm audio jack or AUX-in port
  • Bevelled step-down design; gold-plated plugs for reliable, static-free performance
  • Length: 4 feet (approx. 2.44m); comes with an AmazonBasics 1-year limited warranty

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00NO73MUQ

 

Andy

Blue Yeti Microphone

I am loving the Blue Yeti. Not only a great sounding Mic but one that has far more features than anything in the same price range and below. Hear a quick comparison between the Samson C01U and the Blue Yeti here – http://vocaroo.com – it does not do the microphone justice, I certainly don’t regret the purchase.

So what features does it come with? Well a good length of USB cable and one hell of a funky stand with rubberised base to support what is one chunky mic! (and great to attach a pop filter to)

  • On the front
    • Volume
    • Mute button – so useful!
  • On the rear
    • Adjustable gain
    • 4 pattern setting
      1. Stereo – main pick up from front and sides, vocals and instruments
      2. Cardioid – main pick up from front, singular speaker for podcasts
      3. Omnidirectional – all around, focus groups
      4. Bidirectional – front and rear, interviews across the table
  • Underneath
    • micro USB connection (no drivers required!)
    • headphone 3.5mm jack – zero latency audio monitoring
    • 5/8 inch threaded hole for microphone stand

What don’t I like? well not a lot to be honest…

  • Its a bit of a beast – it appeals to me but don’t think it will be a joy to carry around
  • The microphone has a tendency to either damage its own paintwork or that of the stand – if you look at second hand ones they mostly mention slight “mic vs stand” knocks (mine does but it on the stand.
  • Volume and gain controls feel a little loose
  • No ideal shock mount – Blue’s own Radius shock mount is expensive (at £44) and does not support its own mic (Search YouTube) and there is little alternatives out there due to the unusual base layout. (see unavailable custom mount at Amazon http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00HL5WWHQ )

Full specs can be found here http://www.bluemic.com/yeti/#specs

I think maybe a project for the summer would be to make a shock mount and publish the designs as a blog?

Andy

Pebble II (Pebble Time)

 

Pebble, looking to not lose pace with other smart watches, have returned to Kickstarter ( click here ) to crowd fund the Pebble II – Titled the Pebble Time – which is already near to completion unlike when the first Pebble needed funds to develop. with Projected shipping May 2015. New features to include:

  • 64 Colour screen
  • Microphone lets you send voice replies to incoming notifications or take short voice notes.
  • Pebble Time is 20% thinner than the original Pebble at just 9.5mm.
  • Ergonomic, curved design fits comfortably on either wrist.
  • Scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass with a bezel made of stainless steel.
  • Like our previous watches, it’s water resistant – perfect for a run in the rain, water-balloon battle or a swim.
  • All new Pebble watch bands include a quick-release pin, letting you swap bands in under 10 seconds.
  • Publishing the 3D data you’ll need to create amazing straps, covers and docks.
  • Pebble Time also has a smart accessory port, enabling hardware developers to build sensors and smart straps that connect directly to the watch.
  • Pebble Time comes in three colours: Black, Red, White
  • New timeline interface interaction – your notifications, news, reminders and events are laid out chronologically instead of being trapped inside separate apps.
  • £199 TBC

And the best bit? Timeline will work on Pebble and Pebble Steel (exact date TBD) so my watch gets an awesome update in the near future!

Andy

 

Make Your Own Pop Filter

Untitled

Last week was one of those of coincidence. I came across the following instructional video on YouTube http://youtu.be/WcB3s8KOk4w last Wednesday and the use of a embroidery/punch needle/cross-stitch hoop – I have never seen one of this these anywhere. On Thursday I found myself travelling from Essex to Barnsley for an elearning meeting and lo-and-behold next to me was a young lady with one of the same hoops. Mind Blown!

Andy

Asus Transformer T100TA Tablet

I hate to say it that this tablet has killed the Surface RT for me. The full Windows 8.1 (no RT!) tablet with a seriously docked keyboard is a fun and great locking bit of kit, whilst not as high spec and definitely plasticky (is that a word?) it still looks and feels good. At 32gb internal memory it does most things that I disliked about the Surface RT:

  • You can install stuff, woop woop! so hello iPlayer, VLC player, Zip 7
  • You can prop it up on your lap, no flappy keyboard
  • The keyboard feels like a keyboard
  • It’s one hell of a serious dock mechanism
  • Serious 11 hour battery life
  • Micro USB charge port
  • A full USB port and a usable Micro USB port – usefule with an adapter to full size
  • I don’t use a mouse with this device, unlike the Surface RT, as the keypad has a good feel to it

OK, so as ever onto the hates:

  • It is stroppy in regards to  charging – it likes good quality cable and occasional hates high powered chargers – liking the odd slow charge
  • It’s screen size is smaller than the Surface RT and not as good quality, the Surface RT has a certain clarity about it
  • No rear camera
  • It does come with Office 2013 – Word, Excel, PowerPoint but this does not include Outlook
  • This one is the killer… you cannot back up and delete the restore image to USB like you can on the Surface RT. Effectively giving you only 10gb of workable storage so although I can install I am loath to!

I have favoured this over the Surface RT though (as much as it pains me to admit, I just wish it was the 64gb version!

Andy

Hudl2

The Hudl2 is a vast improvement over the original Hudl, improved size, processor and audio amongst others. I for one never took the original Hudl seriously. this is not the case with the Hudl2. My eldest, of four mature years, has grown up with the 1st generation classic iPad (the device that is fast reaching its useful life)

  • It’s volume up control switch is no longer working
  • It no longer lat for 10+ hrs, instead we are lucky if it survives the morning
  • It’s stuck on iOS 5.5 so will not upgrade
  • More often than not apps are demand iOS 6 or above

The Hudl 2 comes in at just £129, that’s only£10 more than theHudl 1, with the added bonus that you can convert Tesco points money for twice the value allowing you to spend less real money. I have to say that the packaging and the feel of the tablet does not hint at its low cost and my lad loves it. Pitched at the more casual generation with a strong leaning to youngsters it is a serious tablet for all but as ever there are plus and minuses.

Positives:

  • Product feels great, and comes in a range of colours
  • A good range of quality covers are available that are really well priced. There are even kids bumpers and Bluetooth keyboard varieties
  • A noise limited set of headphones are available for the young ones that again are well priced and well built
  • Child profile abilities, our biggest bugbear with the iPad was it lack of control for little ones, so we can set a profile and control what our eldest has access to. On downloading an app you are prompted as to whether you will allow access rights to/for other users.
  • It is not heavily tailored to Tesco’s own branding and these are discreet

Disadvantages:

  • Charging. period. Our tablet failed to charge when powered up. we could only charge when either shutdown, or from newly powered-up. An inconvenience when you are in the middle of something and power is about to go.
  • Oh and the 32gb micro SD card. I have seen that some 64gb cards will work but some brands/variations may not – hence the 32gb limit.

Due to the charging issues, many comments are on the web, we took ours back. The replacement does the same. Given how good the tablet is, the next tablet is probably another £100 for a google nexus, and that for us it’s not a big issue we are going to stick with the tablet – even my father has the same charging issues. Its an excuse for our eldest to go do something more social.

I look forward to the end of the year and as to whether there will be a Hudl3 (with no battery issues)

Andy

 

Hudl2 specs below: Continue reading

Dodocool 2.4GHz Wireless Cordless Presenter

I look after my tech, but I have misplaced my presenter pointer. An old Genius Pointer that allowed you to control media players, the mouse pointer, left and right mouse click… you name it, it had it! but it was an old unwieldy thing that ate batteries when you needed them most.  It often messed with your head as you fought to put into one mode from another. and it hated Prezi.

 

Sometimes life throws you what seems like disaster only to be rewarded with fortune. Enter in my new Dodocool 2.4GHz Wireless Cordless Presenter with red laser http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00D72O46E. I am not expecting it to usher in a new age of technology. But it does do what I need, without bells and whistles….

  • Desicated on/off switch (hopefully less dud batteries)
  • Only takes an AAA battery and is extremely light, and small
  • forward/back buttons
  • Open/ close to Full screen (equiv.F5)
  • Blank Screen
  • Lazer pointer
  • Prezi friendly
  • website friendly (scroll & refresh)
  • Adapter for the PC lights up and stows away in the battery compartment

Uncomplicated and fairly versatile, without the complications. And one that I would not be to upset if I lost!

 

Andy

Microphone Solution for Podcasting

I have been toying around with a number of existing solutions before I consider investing in better quality kit, some of it out of curiosity…

Plantronics M55 Bluetooth Headset: I can imagine great on the go, personal recording

iPhone Built-In Mic:  On the go, for impromptu focus groups

iPhone Earpod Mic: I can imagine great on the go, personal recording, great sound and preferable to the M55

Boundary Mic (Sub £10): yet to test

ASUS Transformer T100 Tablet Microphone: yet to test

Logitech Quickcam Pro 9000 Webcam: This certainly is the current solution I have, but it does give an echo/open-room effect if it is positioned on top of the monitor

Samson C01U Mic: A rich, high quality recording but the audio does come out a lot quieter requiring gain/levelling filters to be applied

I think the iPhone solutions are comparable and would depend on a solo or group recording. The rest are clearly outshone by the Samson C01U which has a far richer quality to my voice (I am trying not to wince too much at the “Essex” accent.

See what you think by listening to the sample (only  normalise applied) here: http://vocaroo.com

I have been considering the mid-range cost solution of either the Samson Meteor or the Blue Snowball. The Meteor is stunning to look at, portable but only cardioid (directional), the Snowball offers cardioid/cardioid -10dB/omnidirectional but does remind me of an old webcam. Most reviews also comment on the comparable Samson Co1U, which work have, another cardioid only mic. I think I would be torn between the all three as each has their own strength but lacks the others…

  1. Samson Meteor – I love the look and portability, good price
  2. Blue Snowball – Love the options (NOTE: not to be confused with the Snowball ICE which is slightly cheaper and lacks options)
  3. Samson C01U – better audio quality

Testing the Samson C01U has convinced me that it should be the baseline that I compare all other mics against, coupled with the majority of review recommending the Blue Yeti if you can afford it as it has the looks, quality and options. At current retail, £99 85, eBay may be the way to go!

Final thought: I had read that you could use console mics, most of them are made by Logitech. Could not resist a go of our Wii Mic. It works, its poor! http://vocaroo.com

Andy