Tue, 21 November 2006
Have you ever been working collaboratively on a document, either with one other person or multiple people? Have you been frustrated looking through your computer or your email for the most recent version or even an older version that that has something you've since deleted? Worse yet, have you ever been looking for that file wondering if the most recent version is on my work computer, my laptop, my home computer, my email or any number of usb drives I have laying around - or even worse yet on someone else's computer. What about collaboration - sending a file around by email, everyone adds their comments and you have to try to put it all together - what a hassle. And who can stand to read documents with track changes turned on. Well there's a new class of applications called webware coming to the rescue!
Gordon: Mike - what is webware?
Webware is an online software application that trys to replicate the richness and responsiveness of a traditional desktop application. What's really made this even remotely possible is the widespread adoption of high-speed or broadband internet and a new architecture for the Web (Web 2.0 and
Gordon: I know we've been using Google Docs and Spreadsheets - can you give our audience an overview of how these applications function?
Google Docs & Spreadsheets is a fairly full-featured online word processor and spreadsheet editor that enables you, your colleagues and your students to create, store and share documents and spreadsheets. It's this sharing - the collaboration - that's really exciting! Sharing enables you to decide who can access and edit documents, and even better, all changes are kept in a document revisions history. You can create documents from scratch or upload existing documents and spreadsheets. Other than a web browser and a network connection, there's no software required, and all your documents are stored safely online and accessible from any network-connected computer. Some of the neat features include being able to save documents to Word, spreadsheets to Excel and either (documents or spreadsheets) to HTML or PDF. The Spreadsheets even have a panel that allows collaborators to have a live chat regarding the spreadsheet. A particularly useful feature - AUTOSAVE - means you never have to remember to save your work!
How are people using it? Teachers are publishing announcements about upcoming assignments and monitoring student progress via the revision history. In the revision history, you can see clearly who contributed to what assignment and when; if a student says he or she worked on a given project for five hours, it will be documented (no more "dog ate my homework" excuses). Additionally, faculty are using GDS to keep track of grades, attendance, student projects and assignments. Students are using GDS to stay organized and work more effectively. Google Docs & Spreadsheets helps promote group work and editing skills, and encourages multiple revisions and peer editing. Students can go online to collaborate with other students, teachers, parents, relatives and tutors, and enter updates anytime from anywhere. And through their revisions history, kids can check how they've revised a document and who has helped. Not to be outdone, Google spreadsheets allows students to track their grades, assignments, semester goals, baseball statistics, car expenses, or anything else that interests them.
Gordon: Can you give us some more examples of how these can be used?
Consider the example of a high school English and journalism teacher who uses Google Docs & Spreadsheets to help facilitate students' work and has found significant improvement in their writing. Among the reasons she gives, GDS:
- facilitates peer editing and revising,
- allows for multiple versions of an assignment,
- allows her to see who students collaborated with and when,
- prevents students from losing documents either by failing to save or having crashed hard drives, and
- provides 24/7 access to their documents from anywhere in the world.
Adds the teacher - "It has changed the way I teach writing... for the better!!"
Imagine the way you could use GDS in your work - collaborating with colleagues to develop curriculum, a budget or even complete committee work - the possibilities are endless - take it for a spin and let me know what you think at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike: Gordon, there's been 3 new products released in the last week - the Zune, the Wii and the PS3. Can you give us a quick update?Zune
Microsoft's Zune digital media player came out a week ago and has had mixed reviews.
Looks including color choices of white, gray or brown
Connectivity: 802.11 b/g with range up to 30 feet
Zune's wireless song-sharing functions (many are calling this aa killer app), which allow users to digitally "loan" songs to other Zunes. Those loaned songs disappear from the devices after three plays. The song-swapping capability has been dubbed "squirting." Microsoft is working on other uses for squirting, and has called the song exchange a good first step in using the technology. Although the wireless sharing does not allow users to expand their music libraries permanently, it could give Zune owners a way to try out music and see if they like certain songs enough to buy them.
Weight, which is heavy for a digital media player, coming in at 5.6 ounces.
Critical mass is not there yet - yes you can do file sharing with other Zune users but how many people do you know that have bought one?Time will tell!
Mike: How about the Sony PS3 and the Nintendo Wii?
Looking at www.gametalk.com and the Next Generation Console Debate forum where people discuss Xbox 360 vs Wii vs PS3 you get the usual fans - and most of these people are pretty dedicated to their favorite platform. I (or correction - my kids) got a Wii and I get it play it sometimes. When I do get to play it - it is incredible. The controller - what I like to refer to as the user interface - is incredible. It's wireless and what I would probably call like a wand or a television remote control. You swing the wireless controller like a baseball bat or golf club or tennis racket. You can even simulate the throwing of a bowling ball. You can also attach the optional nunchuck controller and play two handed games like boxing. On the gametalk website there are lots of people complaining about sore arms - I know you sent me a tongue in cheek link written at Scientific American titled: Could the Nintendo Wii Reverse the Childhood Obesity Trend? Based on my own personal experience I think it could. Yesterday I threw 120 pitches in 7 innings and ended up having to ice my arm!:) Seriously - it can and does provide an excellent workout. I'm waiting for Nintendo to come out with Velcro sensors you wrap around your ankles. This would allow both the feel and arms to move - think of the potential - DDR for all 4 limbs!!
The Nintendo is about half the price of the high end PS3. I have not used a PS3 so can't provide much comment on usability. The control has some limited motion capabilities but not like the Wii. The graphics are supposed to be incredible.
Mike: What about the Microsoft Xbox 360?
The 360 is sorta old news believe it or not. It launched in March of 2005 so it's tough to compare to the new products from Nintendo and Sony.
We'll have to put together a separate podcast comparing these products once my arm gets better!!!
Microsoft's Zune Garners Mixed Reviews: http://news.yahoo.com/s/nf/20061120/bs_nf/48070
Zune Website: http://www.zune.net
Could the Nintendo Wii Reverse the Childhood Obesity Trend?: http://blog.sciam.com/index.php?title=could_the_nintendo_wii_reverse_the_child&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1