Sculptris: 3D modeling software

Tonight I have had some fun playing with a new tool. I will not be putting in my creation just yet as I need to do some work on them. At the moment they look more like something out of an alien movie.

From the Sculptris image library

From the Sculptris image library

The program I downloaded was called Sculptris. It is free 3D modeling software for Windows (there is no Mac option). Sculptris is designed to create models of sculptures and 3D objects with an almost hand-made aspect. It allows you to sculpt a figure in three dimensions,is based on a ball. It is really very simple and reasonably intuitive to use and requires no special knowledge of 3D modeling. I simply started to shape  the “ball” with the different tools just as though it were a block of clay.

The designer, Tomas Pettersson, created this application for his own enjoyment as a hobby and it is free. He does envisage developing it further and states that any donations to him would be used to help him fix any problems.  It amazes me that someone has spent so much time and effort creating these tools and are willing to share them with us.

It is an amazing tool and to get a better idea of how it works have a look at the videos below. They show, in a much more effective way than I can put into words, just how to create images using this program.

This looks as though it might be a good tool for students in the visual arts area. They could use this program to design models for claymation models or sculpture projects. I haven’t used it a lot but it might also be useful in other subject areas where models could be created such as geography, geology and science.

Audio book options

Uploaded from Flickr by Colleen AF Venable

Audio books are becoming more important/useful in many ways. It does not have to be sight-impaired students that benefit from audio books. We have students who have trouble with reading for a variety of reasons but who are perfectly capable of understanding and assimilating the spoken word. Many students enjoy listening to a book being read or there are those who have long journeys to get to school or who have training runs. Many use their portable device (be it iPod or others) already to break up the boredom so why not still listen to a podcast of a book reading.  It is a way of using otherwise “down-time” as reading time.

There was an interesting article in the Age Greenguide last Thursday about Bolinda Audio Books. Entitled “Telling stories to the world” the history of this company was outlined in terms of their development into a thriving audiobook company.

I remember buying a number of the Large Print titles for a vision impaired student from the earlier version of the company. In some respects it does not seem all that long ago but I must admit that I have become a much bigger fan as they have developed the audio book business, especially when I drive out into the country areas and I am faced with 3-6 hour drives.

Bolinda has become a large audio book publisher with a great  line up of authors and titles, especially Australian, and they are also beginning to offer simultaneous releases of audio books. This has been a boon to me as I want to “read” the new titles as I introduce them into our library. I am always trying to keep on top of the current literature and this is a great way for me to “read” a number of titles. I have also tried a few audiobooks for my iPod and it is very easy it is to download/use their MP3CD’s.

I have yet to investigate Bolinda digital which is a fairly recently decided to offer an option that will enable libraries to offer eAudiobooks to its library customers from its Library’s website. This will enable users to download time-limited version of the novel. How and if I can make use of this in a school library is yet to be seen, but I am interested.

There are also options for free books as well. If a teacher decides to study a book that is in the public domain, they can access the text from the ManyBooks.net site. ManyBooks has public domain books already formatted for various handheld devices.

Another advantage is that if you download a book for an iPod, for instance, Manybooks can provide it in iPod notes format. The text is divided into various files and each file is linked to the file that comes before it and the file that follows it. This is done because there is a limit to the number of characters allowed in one iPod notes file but no limit to the number of “notes” files than can be uploaded to an iPod. The user can then  access the text and audio of a book at the same time from the same device whenever they want to. I do not like reading from small screens but the iPad will change this.

Mp3 files can be downloaded and uploaded to handheld devices just like music is uploaded. If we want free books another option is LibriVox. This site hosts free public domain audiobooks that are read by volunteers. The quality of voice varies but it is still a good option.

From Fiction Focus there comes another audio option – in the form of podcasts. Entitled “Listen Up”, this sounds like an interesting idea and I plan to check it out tonight.

Audiobook Community is a US-based ning. The largest of its groups (104 members) is called Sync: YA Listening. During the months of July and August, the group is offering two free audio downloads each week to support the summer reading programs held by many school and public libraries in the US. Administrator Kirsten Cappy is still fine tuning the list, but here’s a glimpse. She is playing with pairing modern and classic books.

We are fortunate to have many options to enable us to give our students a gateways into literature. The above options only scratch the surface.

Social media is part of our world

The above is a short but interesting video that all those in education should pay heed to.

Social Media Revolution 2 is a refresh of the original video with new and updated social media & mobile statistics that are hard to ignore. Based on the book Socialnomics by Erik Qualman

Agree or disagree with the statistics and/or the sentiments, you can’t deny that social media is part of our world. Educators ignore it at their peril. At my school all our students are involved in varied aspects of the social media, in one way or another. I do not say they all use it well, or that they all understand how it works or the ramifications but they are there. Schools, and the educators in them, need to educate students in how to best use the media available to them. Parents must not  use the excuse “I don’t know anything about….” as an excuse for not knowing or understanding the world their children inhabit. Adults and mentors need to be aware of and, at some level, know about the various media. We all need to educate ourselves and apply our understanding and knowledge of the broader world to help educate our young people. Our young people need to know how to use the media safely and how to get the best out of it in the time available.

There is a lot of material online to help us, parents and teachers, to gain better understanding. You do not have to do a formal course, “playing with”  with the tools is most often the way our young people learn. Many schools offer parents introduction to various media and building up our own Personal Learning Networks, inhabited by like-minded professionals, is a great way for teachers to learn/share ideas. I also find students a good resource and always happy to help increase my technology skills.

Here is some more information about more learning tools. Multimedia Training Videos is  a series of completely free and open educational resources for learning a variety of multimedia and ICT tools and was mentioned in a post by Patricia Donaghy, on her Using ICT in Further Education blog.  The site has been created by members of the in the media area of the University of Westminster and offers training videos that step you through using tools such as Flash, Photoshop,  Dreamweaver, Director, Audacity and HTML. These are all useful for many e-learning tasks.

One tab takes you to a set of Student Tools Videos. This a great resource for teachers as well.   This section covers info links, second life, the social bookmarking tool Delicious, mind mapping tools, better searches, creating surveys, RSS and Blogger. The mind mapping tool, bubbl.us is a very good example of how to make the most of the on-line tool and how it can be used as oth a single user and collaborative tool for class.

These are great professional development for those who have not used the tools before. There is also a list of useful External Training Videos Links for further education.

EyePlorer – beta visual search engine

eyePlorer2I have been looking at other visual search engine alternatives to SearchMe. Beta visual search engine EyePlorer is a reference search engine that takes your initial keyword search term and displays related terms in a color wheel of information based around that term. When you hover over the different areas of the color wheel or click on a topic, information (from Wikipedia) is revealed about that term in the default eyePlorer facts window that opens up. If the information is useful and you want to save for later use, you can drag it  onto the EyePlorer notebook at the side. These facts you put into the notebook can be rearranged as needed. Once you have your notes, you can either save, copy or email them.You also have the option of choosing websearch view, that offers links to other sites or an images window (results from Bing). The images are also linked to their sites of origin.eyePlorer-images

These short explanations from Wikipedia could help give students an overview of the topic without having to read the whole article. They could then go on to do a more indepth search with a better understanding of the topic. All students I know understand about checking the data for accuracy.

Other options for EyePlorer users include:

  • “i” button under the search box. Click on this to get a quick summary of the topic
  • “+” button to add search parameters
  • the paper button to go to a Google search.

Class use:

This is a an interesting way for students to think about research and explore for new information.  Students very easily create a visual guide to their inquiry. It is then a very easy step to drag and drop what they find out into a notebook. This can form the basis for more in-depth research. The brief notes could enable students to see note making as a way taking down main points and important ideas, rather than copying whole slabs of text. The way that the information in the notebook can be rearranged could  also help them to go on to think about or work on organising ideas into some sort of order to form the basis of some structure for an argument, conjecture or essay.

It could also be used on a class wide basis.  When a teacher wants to introduce a new concept/idea. Using a data projector, so the whole class can watch, the teacher could type the subject into the search and then the whole class could work together to decide which information they want/need to save in the (class)notebook for later. It would also allow the whole class to work on the above ideas.

eyePlorer was created in Germany so you can choose to search in German or English. I had heard that you need to manually choose English but I typed in search terms with English spelling and it automatically searched for results in English for me

How has the world changed?

During this week, our year 8 students have been immersed in one single topic that is basically “Why is the world worth saving”. They were shown some excerpts from the video “The day the earth stood still” and then told that aliens were looking at the Earth and expect that, after a week’s notice,  humans will be able to argue on behalf of their world.

They have been looking at all sorts of things, things that they are passionate about. Many are looking at how we have developed in the areas of technology, medicine. There arguements have been that on the wholoe we keep learning and trying to improve things. It is enlightning to see how optimistic they are although they can also see the results of pollution, environmental changes, climate changes etc. Yesterday they were sorting out the big statements and questions and today they were starting to do the research to support there arguments. I was looking around and came across GapMinder.

In the video below, Hans Rosling  demonstrates GapMinder, a tool that can even make statistics look beautiful.  The content for this brief video is the change in the life expectancy & income throughout the world in the last two centuries. You can have a look for yourself by going to the the tool here.

I always love the way we can “use” statistics to support our arguments and GapMinder looks like an interesting tool. The trends described through the tool here are certainly useful to provoke thought.

Hans Rosling has also presented TED talks. Have a look at the TED talk where Hans Rosling, with insightful data backed by his spectacular charts, shows how some pre-conceived notions and grand generalizations (about the Third World countries, in this case) can be sharply in contrast with the facts.

Useful Links (weekly)

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Sites gone but not forgotten

itdied2

We are about to start a new year but already we have been hearing about the demise of various tools, one being Google Notes. There are many websites that are no longer with us.  It Died  tries to keep track of them. It itemises sites that have been (or will be) taken down or have just disappeared. It also discusses features that have been dropped from those sites that are still around.

The description for Google Notes:

Google Notes: The service allowed you to annotate Google search results by linking and creating notes. Google has various offerings that replicate but don’t fully replace this offering, which obviously didn’t have enough uptake to develop. The service won’t stop working for those using it, but no one can newly sign up for Notebook, nor will development proceed.

 itdied-homepg

The site has only been around since late last year and is edited by Glenn Fleishman. Edited by Glenn Fleishman. You can send tips or news to glenn@glennf.com. So next time you can’t find some site, you could try this, and you might find some explanation. At least until it too no longer exists!

Speaking about things that have died but remembered (and other silly things), the world famous Dead Parrot sketch, here, in its entirety!

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