Thursday, June 21, 2012

A History of the World in 100 Objects and Podcasts

A History of the World in 100 Objects is a one hundred episode podcast series from the BBC. Each podcast in the series examines an object from The British Museum. The podcasts explain each object's significance in history. Each episode in the series is about fifteen minutes in length. Some of the objects featured in the series include an Egyptian clay model of cattle, an Arabian bronze hand, and The David Vases.

Applications for Education
A History of the World in 100 Objects could be a good companion to the BBC's History of the World interactive object timeline. Students can listen to the podcasts and look for the objects on the timeline. The podcasts could be good supplementary materials for a multimedia history ebook.

H/T to Open Culture.

BigMarker Updates Their Free Web Conferencing Tools

BigMarker is a free web conferencing service that I tried last year. This week some nice enhancements were added to BigMarker. The major change to BigMarker is the redesign of the web conference rooms to make them simpler and more intuitive to use. To make listening to conferences easier, you no longer have to have a headset to use BigMarker and you can now listen to conferences (but not start them) on your Android device.

Applications for Education
Big Marker could be a great tool for conducting online tutoring sessions and lessons. Students working on collaborative projects could use Big Marker to brainstorm and plan for completion of their projects. As a professional development resource Big Marker could be useful for facilitating workshops online.

Use Storybricks to Create Stories in Virtual Worlds

I sign up for a lot of beta and alpha invite lists. Often I completely forget about them shortly after signing up only to later wonder, "how the heck did I get on this list?" That pattern did not apply to Storybricks. When I received an email from them on Tuesday, I was excited to be able to finally try out their online platform for creating MMO stories.

Storybricks is a new service (still in alpha mode) for creating multilayered online stories. Storybricks works online if you have the Unity web player installed. Storybricks provides you with settings and characters that you can use to weave a narrative. All of your characters can have emotions and relationships with other characters. You make the emotions of one character respond to the actions of another.

The "bricks" aspect of Storybricks refers to the way in which you construct your stories. To build your stories you assemble "bricks" or blocks that represent emotions actions for each character. You can develop many different sets of actions and emotions for each character. And as mentioned above, your characters can be connected to each other.

Applications for Education
Storybricks is still in alpha so there are plenty of glitches in it. When those glitches are gone using Storybricks be a great way for students to get engaged in crafting narratives that they can see played out before them.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

8 Resources for Preventing and Detecting Plagiarism

This morning in a workshop that I facilitated with Greg Kulowiec there was a great discussion about copyright, Creative Commons, and fair use as it relates to using media in iBooks Author. During that conversation, Common Craft's explanation of Creative Commons was helpful. Later in the day I had a conversation with a couple of teachers who were also concerned about students plagiarizing work when constructing iBooks. That conversation prompted me to dig up some resources fore teaching students what plagiarism is, how to avoid it, and how to detect it.

Education is the best prevention.
These are resources that can be helpful in explaining to students what plagiarism is and how they can avoid it.

1. Plagiarism Explained by Common Craft.

2. The Purdue OWL website is the number one place I refer students and parents to for questions not only about plagiarism, but also for questions about all parts of the writing process. 

3., produced by the same people that produce the commercial plagiarism detection software Turn It In, has a free learning center for students and teachers.'s learning center includes tips about avoiding plagiarism, definitions of plagiarism, and explanations of when you do or do not have to cite a reference. also hosts two recorded webinars addressing the topic of plagiarism in schools and how teachers can educate their students about plagiarism.

Tools for detecting plagiarism. 
4. The first thing I do when I want to check a student's work for plagiarism is to do a quick search on Google. If you notice that a student has strung together some phrases that you don't think they've written, put the suspected phrase inside quotation marks and search. You may want to search on Google as well as on Google Scholar.

5. The Plagiarism Checker, created as a project for the University of Maryland, is an easy-to-use tool for detecting plagiarism. Simply enter a chunk of text into the search box and the Plagiarism Checker will tell you if and from where something was plagiarized.

6. Plagiarisma is a free tool that teachers and students can use to detect possible cases of plagiarism. There are a few ways that you can use Plagiarisma. The easiest way to use Plagiarisma is to copy and paste a chunk of text into the Plagiarisma search box. You can also upload documents (RTF, Doc, PDF, HTML, ODT) to be scanned by Plagiarisma. The third option is to type a url into the search box to have Plagiarisma scan for possible cases of plagiarism. Whichever option you use, Plagiarisma will return a list of urls containing possible plagiarism matches.
Update November 2014 - Links to Plagiarisma were removed after a reader informed me that the site was selling plagiarized copies of essay. Ironic, don't you think?

7. Paper Rater is a free service designed to help high school and college students improve their writing. Paper Rater does basic spelling and grammar checks, but the real value of Paper Rater is that it tells students if their papers have elements of plagiarism. Paper Rater scans students' papers then gives students an estimate of the likelihood that someone might think that their papers were plagiarized.

8. Plagiarism works just like many similar services. To use it, simply type or paste text into the search box and Plagiarism Checker will tell you if and from where something was copied.  (Note: the name is similar to #5 above, but they are produced by different organizations).

5 Sources of Free Sound Effects and Music

This morning Greg Kulowiec and I are teaching a workshop on creating content in iBooks Author. I'm starting the morning with a discussion about Copyright, Creative Commons, and Fair Use. This collection of resources for locating music and sounds licensed for re-use is one that I am sharing with the group.

The Free Music Archive provides free, high-quality, music in a wide range of genres. The content on Free Music Archive is used under various creative commons licenses. The New York State Music Fund provided initial funding for FMA. FMA seeks to maintain a high-quality resource through the use of selected curators who approve or deny all submissions to the collection. Anyone can download music from FMA for use in podcasts, videos, and other digital presentation formats. The music collections can be searched by genre or by curator.

Sound Bible is a resource for finding and downloading free sound clips, sound effects, and sound bites. All of the sounds on Sound Bible are either public domain or labeled with a Creative Commons license. You can find sounds for use in podcasts, videos, slideshows, or other multimedia creations.

Royalty Free Music hosts music tracks that can be reused in numerous ways. Royalty Free Music charges the general public for their downloads, but students and teachers can download quite a bit of the music for free. To access the free music tracks students and teachers should visit the education page on Royalty Free Music.

Jamendo is a source of free and legal music downloads. The music on Jamendo comes from the artists who upload it themselves. While not all of the music is licensed for re-use, there is a substantial collection of music labeled with a Creative Commons license. As always, before re-using any of the music you download make sure it is labeled for re-use.

From the same people that brought us the great computational search engine Wolfram Alpha comes Wolfram Tones. Wolfram Tones uses algorithms, music theory, and sound samples to generate new collections of sounds. Visitors to Wolfram Tones can experiment with sounds and rhythms to make their own sounds. Wolfram Tones allows visitors to choose samples from fifteen different genres of music on which to build their own sounds. Once a genre is selected visitors can then alter the rhythms, instrumentation, and pitch mapping of their sounds. When satisfied with their creations, users can download their sounds or have them sent directly to their cell phones.