Author Archives: Jennifer Koerber

DIY Month at Learning for Life Online – MAKE Magazine

For the month of October, we’ll be looking at DIY – “do it yourself” – tools and resources available online. We’ll start with the biggest and best: MAKE Magazine and Instructables.

MAKE Magazine

MAKE logoMAKE Magazine is one of the best online and print magazines for handy folks. Every issue is full of suggestions for projects, from decorative pillows to a LEGO record player. Many projects are practical, and many more are just for fun. Their Halloween issue is good for decorating, snacks, costumes, and more.

MAKE also helps to organize MakerFaires around the world. MakerFaires are gatherings of makers and DIY-ers and inventors of all sorts, where you can learn the basics of building a robot, welding, or sewing your own fantastical costumes. If you’re local to Boston, check out MakerFaire Somerville on October 13th, 2012 from 3p – 7p in Union Square, Somerville. It’s a good way to get a taste of makering.

Check out everything from MAKE:

 

Instructables

Instructables logoInstructables.com is a place where anyone can share their favorite projects and the instructions on how to create it. First, explore the projects already on Instructables, including a recipe for Oreo Nutella Brownie Bites, replacing the vinyl cover on a car armrest, or making rubberband helicopters or a spin art machine! Each project or idea has step by step instructions complete with photos, going through the entire project from start to finish.

Then, if you’ve got a project you want to share, read the instructions for uploading and contributing your instructions and photos. No project is too big, too small, too silly, or too easy to share. Everyone needs new ideas and new ways of doing things, including yours.

And, of course, Instructables is currently featuring Halloween projects for house and tomb.

Next week, we’ll take another look at a few sites we introduced this time last year in the post on supporting small business online. Stay tuned…!

Treasure kids’ artwork with Artkive and Art My Kid Made

For our last bit of visual fun online, let’s look at two apps that take real-world visual art and turn it into a digital treasure.

What Is It?

ArtKive app homepageArt My Kid Made and Artkive are apps for iPhone or iPad (Android coming soon) that let you easily take a picture of a child’s artwork, add information about it, and share it with friends and family. Art moves easily from the refrigerator to the world!

How Does It Work?

Both apps work the same way:

  1. Download the app and create an account for a child
  2. Use your iPhone or iPad to take a picture of the child’s art
  3. Add the child’s name, age/grade, the date created, a title, and any additional information
  4. Save the image to the app’s cloud storage, easily accessible from anywhere in the world
  5. Share the art via email (ArtKive) or Facebook, Twitter, & Evernote (Art My Kid Made)

Screenshots of Art My Kid Made appThere are differences, though. Art My Kid Made instantly shares images to Facebook, Twitter, or Evernote, as well as uploading to its own web page. It also has a simple photo editor that lets you add “stickers,” effects, text, and crop the image to just the best bits. They also feature an “Artist of the Day” on their website and Facebook page.
 
 

Tagging screen in ArtKiveArtKive makes it easy to keep several kids’ worth of art organized by their first names, and you can create a small Share Circle of email address to send the image to only the people who care most. ArtKive will also eventually let you print the artwork as a calendar, on a mug, or as a picture book!

Why Is It Useful?

If you have children in your life at all, you know that one of the hardest things to do is to organize (or get rid of) the artwork they make at school and at home. It’s all precious, and an important part of their growing up. These two tools help you preserve and organize this part of kids’ lives, and share the art easily with friends and family.

If you’re one of those friends and family, you can use either app to help you organize art made by grandchildren, nieces & nephews, cousins, godchildren, children of close friends, students, or any other kids in your life. ArtKive, with its drop-down menu to choose the artist, makes managing multiple accounts a snap.

You can also take pictures of more than just drawings and paintings. Capture and share that A+ school assignment, the clay paperweight, an image from a school play or musical recital, or any other moment from a child’s life. Check out the Facebook pages for both apps (in the list below) for more suggestions and ideas.

Help & Resources

paper.li logo

Want to be an Online Publisher? – Using paper.li and Scoop.it

Last week, we looked at Issuu, an online newsstand full of print documents like magazines and reports. This week, let’s take a look at a similar but different idea – creating a magazine or newspaper made up of website and online images and videos.

What Is It?

paper.li logopaper.li lets you create an online newspaper from websites, images, videos, or even searches for particular terms and topics. As these sites add new posts or the searches find new results, the links appear as part of your newspaper. You need to use either a Facebook or Twitter account to log in, and then include additional sources of information.

scoop.it logoScoop.it is similar, but it’s more of a magazine than a newspaper because it has that glossy look and feel. Also, rather than adding automatic feeds from other places, you pick and choose specific pages, articles, images, or videos to add to your Scoop.it magazine. You can use your Facebook or Twitter account to log in, or create an account just for Scoop.it.

For both tools, adding content is as simple as choosing items off a list or copying and pasting URLs. You can create different sections and add your own notes and articles. Other people subscribe to your online newspaper or magazine and as it gets updated, they see new content and information. You can also add your paper.li or Scoop.it feed to a blog or website so that visitors can see the content you’ve curated.

How Is It Useful?

Just like Issuu, paper.li and Scoop.it allow anyone to create an online resource for a specific group of interested readers. With a print newspaper or magazine, you need to be able to see a large number of subscriptions to make it cost-effective. Using online tools, you can easily put together a publication for just a handful of readers who are all passionate about a particular topic.

For example, an editor named Tollcraft curates a paper.li newspaper for crafters in Tollcross and Edinburgh, Scotland. The news might be from anywhere in the world, or from right in their own neighborhood. Meanwhile, Public Relations News curated by Lee Odden is for anyone in the world who’s interested in PR or marketing.

This video from Scoop.it gives you another example:

In all of these cases, it’s the fact that real humans are curating this content – picking and choosing what gets included – that makes it most useful. Someone decided that particular websites, images, videos, or other links were relevant to a particular topic and put them all in one place. This aggregation and content curation are a way for people who don’t necessarily want to create content to be able to share other useful content instead.

Try It Out

You don’t need to create an account with either paper.li or Scoop.it to read the content that other people have created. Just visit the paper.li newsstand or browse topics in Scoop.it, click on something that looks interesting, and enjoy yourself. You can also use the search boxes at the top of each screen to find topics that are important to you.

paper.li search box
Scoop.it search box
 

If you decide you want to create your own online newspaper or magazine, read more about signing up and getting going:

Help & Resources

Taking Issuu With It

For the month of September, we’re going to focus on some great visual resources in online life. Let’s start with something familiar: an online newsstand bursting with full-color publications.

What Is It?

Issuu logoIssuu is site that features thousands of online magazines, catalog, conference reports and more. Professional-quality digital publications are available to read online, in full color, on a computer or mobile device. It’s free, easy to use, and many of the publications are gorgeous.

It’s easier to show you what Issuu is like than tell you, so click through on an example below to see it in action.

In addition to finding digital publications, Issuu is also a place where anyone can upload and show off their own visual document. All you need to do is create an account and then upload your finished document to Issuu. Share the URL for that document in email, on a blog, or from a social media account, and everyone will be able to see it quickly and easily.

Read more about how Issuu works, watch a video, or just give it a try.

How Is It Useful?

Like most of the tools we examine, Issuu is most useful because it takes a document or publication and makes it available to anyone with an internet connection, wherever they are. In addition, Issuu highlights new and popular publications each month, making it easier for other people to find the most interesting titles. Issuu’s search isn’t the best, but it does organize things by category and popularity as well as by how new it is.

Try It Out

If you just want to browse Issuu and see what other people have done, start at the home page and click on a featured title. You can also start at the publications page, then: Use the search box at the top to look for a particular topic, choose the language you want or the type of document you’re looking for to get more specific results, and use the facets down the side to browse by subject.

Search bar at the top of Issuu.com page

Help & Resources

Happy Labor Day

Due to the holiday, there’ll be no Learning for Life Online post today. Enjoy your day in the sun (if you’re in New England) and we’ll be back on the 10th to start a month of exploring visual life online. See you next week!

A Rocket in Your Pocket – Apps for Students

One of the ways to make any student’s life easier is to give her the tools she needs. With smartphone and tablet use rising, apps for students can be those tools. Here’s a quick roundup of some of the better apps for students of all ages.

Note: I’ve tried to find free or low-cost apps. There are higher-costs apps with more bells and whistles, but there might also be a free version that gives you the basics you need. Shop around.

Familiar Names, In An App

  • SparkNotes has a free app for both iPhone/iPad and Android devices. Access study guides online or offline, and check in to SparkNotes to find other students in your area studying the same thing.
  • Cliffs Notes has apps for iPad/iPhone/iPod Touch that will help you review texts in English. The app is free, and each study guide is $1.99 (much cheaper than the print versions). They also have a free CramCasts, three-minute overviews of literary works in a podcast that you can subscribe to.
  • Encyclopedia Britannica’s apps are geared at kids, but anyone can use them to learn more about snakes, knights & castles, US Presidents, and the solar system.
  • Dictionary.com is a great web-based dictionary/thesaurus, now available as an app for iPhone and Android.
  • There are several graphing calculator apps out there, but here’s a few for iPhone (one for free and one that costs $1.99) and Android (free and also free)

New Tools to Try

  • Evernote is a note-taking and list-making app for iPhone, iPad, and any Apple computer. What makes it awesome is that it will sync up those notes and list from one device to the next, so you always have the same updated information in front of you. No more copying things over or emailing to yourself.
  • Quizlet is a flash card website and app that lets you create your own flashcards or study using existing ones.
  • Flash card creation apps like StudyDroid (Android) and gFlash (iPhone/iPad)
  • Outliner for iPhone and iPad easily helps you break any project or paper down into an outline and task list.
  • Adding to last week’s post on time management, here’s iProcrastinate, a Mac/iPhone app that helps organize and break down large projects.

Not an App, but a Neat Site

WebElements.com is a site for high school and college students of all levels that has an amazing amount of information about the elements in a useful format. You can also buy all sorts of posters and displays to help remember more about the elements.

Many, many many more

There are hundreds of apps out there that are great for students of all sorts. Use your favorite search engine to find one on a subject you need, for the device you have. Just type in the subject you want, then “app for” and the device you have. You should get a few great lists to start with. You can also search the iTunes App Store or Android Market/Google Play for more.

Resources

From “To Do” to “It’s Done” – Online task management

One obvious way to use online tools for school and study is to help keep things organized.

What Is It?

There are different tools that will keep track of your to do lists for you, but they all have the same basic features. You can create specific tasks, organize them into lists or projects, set due dates for each task, and view these tasks in a single agenda or project-by-project. Some tools can do more, like send you notifications of tasks as they are due, or give you a mobile app for your smartphone to use wherever you go.

To see a variety of to do list tools, take a look at these:

How Is It Useful?

When you write out your to do lists on pieces of paper or on a calendar on the wall at home, it’s easy to lose track of updating the list or remembering what was due when. Using an online task organizer, you can keep that list in one place and get to it wherever you can connect to the web. If you have a smartphone or tablet, it’s even easier. Just like all of the online account or online collaboration tools we’ve looked at, it’s about keeping things in one easily-accessible place and not having lots of information in different spots.

Try It Out

If you have an online account with Google, Yahoo! or Hotmail/WindowsLive, use the help below to create a basic to do list and try organizing just one project to start with. It might be a class you’re taking, a report you’re writing, or even a project at home. Don’t try to organize everything all at once – start with something simple and add projects as you get the hang of it.

For a little more organization, or if you don’t have an online account, give one of other tools a try. Remember the Milk and Todoist are the simplest to use, but all of them are good for different kinds of projects. Look at the lists of features and see what works for you.

Help & Resources

Classrooms Without Walls

As folks head back to school, let’s spend the rest of August finding ways to study and learn from wherever you are: still on vacation, away in a dorm room, or hanging out at recess. Watching TED talks is fun, but sometimes you need a little more structure.

What Is It?

After more than ten years of colleges and universities offering some kind of online access to courses for their students, today anyone can find lectures, courses, and more available online – some for free, some for a reasonable fee. Here’s a few to give you an idea of what’s out there.

Free Resources, Open to Everyone

  • Wikiversity was created by the same people who started Wikpiedia. Educators and experts worldwide offer free educational resources and courses on hundreds of topics.
  • Several universities are offering online courses that you can explore at your own pace, or take with a registered class of other students. Check out what’s available from MIT’s OpenCourseware project, Stanford’s Free Online Courses, Open Yale Courses, and Harvard’s Open Learning Courses.
  • Imagine searching for lectures as easily as you look for the latest pop hits? That’s the premise behind iTunesU. If you have iTunes on your computer, open it up and click on the iTunes Store, then iTunes U up at the top. Search for a subject you’re interested in and then subscribe to listen or watch it.
  • For online courses from around the globe, read through this list of 200 Free Online Classes to Learn Anything from the Online Education Database

Something brand new and very different is the edX project, a partnership between Harvard University, MIT, and University of California at Berkeley to offer free courses online. Unlike the resources above, edX does require registration and will offer a certificate after you complete a subject of study. Read more about edX and ‘the future of online education.’

Paid Courses

  • Looking to learn more about computer programs you need for work or school? Try Lynda.com, a resource for online training tutorials. For a monthly or annual subscription, you have access to nearly 1500 tutorials on everything from Microsoft Word to Adobe Photoshop and more.
  • Many colleges and universities offer formal distance-learning programs, but the University of Phoenix has one of the most well-known online degree programs.
  • The Museum of Modern Art in New York offers art courses online, both self-study and instructor-led. Discover art from MoMA from wherever you are!

How Is It Useful?

World-class education, for free, from whatever computer or mobile device you have that can get to the internet. Learn at your own pace, on whatever subject you like, whenever you have time, wherever you are. How isn’t this useful?

Try It Out!

Take a look at a class from any of the resources above and listen to a recorded lecture, read through the notes, or watch a video. Expand your mind and get back in gear for learning.

Help & Resources

TED Talks – Inspiring, Educational, Wonderful

Since the first week of August is apparently one of the busiest travel weeks of the year in the United States, let’s take a look at a perfect travel companion: TED Talks

What Is It?

TED logoStraight from the About page: TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader.

TED helps find and spread ideas worldwide in many ways:

Anyone can watch the hundreds of TED Talks available at the TED website. They range from just three to 20 minutes long, and are on every topic imaginable. Use the search facets on the left to find talks that appeal to you, or just keep browsing and clicking on whatever catches your eye.

There have also been at least two Boston-area TEDx events: TEDx Somerville and TEDx Boston. These self-organized events bring people together to share a TED-like experience, focused on locally-important topics. Take a look at the talks from TEDxSomerville and all four years of TEDxBoston.

Why Is It Useful?

Once you’re out of school, it’s harder to find lessons in life that will challenge you or get you to imagine new possibilities and consider alternatives to ‘the way things have always been.’ Watching TED talks online bring some of the most amazing thinkers from around the world to your screen, and can fill you with hope and wonder. It’s as useful as anything else that makes you think, dream, and play.

Try It Out

Unless you happen to have a TEDx event coming up nearby, the best way to get to know TED is by watching TED Talks. Try these on for size…

For the rest of August, Learning for Life Online will focus on getting ready for the school year and showcase ways to help study, learn, and discover online. Whether you’re heading back to school or just looking for something to do over the winter, LLO will have something for you.