Apr 10 2013

Visualize your Writing with FlickrPoet



This cool little web app creates a visualization of your original poetry (or any other text you enter) by fetching Flickr images that match each word and displaying them in a collage with the text floating over each image.

You simply enter the text and click the “Show Story” button. Give it a few seconds and your collage will be built before your eyes. If you don’t like it, click the button again to re-spin your visualization. Here’s a small sample of my original work (I make no claim regarding the quality of the poetry itself):

Once the collage is built, you can click on any individual image to open its Flickr page. Other than that, you can’t do much with it. You can save it as a web page if you want to keep it- and I suppose you could print it to a printer or make a PDF of it.

Now that I think about it, it would be a quick way to search for a collection of images for projects (such as book trailers, slideshows, presentations, etc.).

NOTE: I could never get this to display correctly in the Chrome browser (my default). I used Firefox (on a PC) for the above image. If your web filter blocks Flickr images, this will not work!

Apr 6 2013

How I quickly share text online- and avoid character limits (take that, Twitter!)



There may be times when you need to post some text somewhere online but don’t want to mess with editing a website, making a new blog post, or logging in to edit your wiki, etc. For example, someone recently asked me (via Twitter) about my presentation schedule for an upcoming conference. The problem- Twitter only allows me 140 characters and I needed to share quite a bit more than that. And I didn’t want to log in and make a post on my blog and give out the URL- what a hassle!

A while back, I would’ve used www.textbin.com to enter some text and just paste the link to my note. Unfortunately, that website is now in the Web 2.0 graveyard. So why not www.heypasteit.com?

The idea is simple- just type or paste text into the text box on the website, click “Paste Online” and it generates a unique URL for your note. You just share the URL (or just the code) and give it to whomever you want. That’s it! No accounts. No logins. Just paste & share. It’s not fancy, doesn’t have some of the more advanced features that other similar sites have (like http://pastebin.com/). But it’s clean and simple.

If you want to see how it looks on the receiving end, here’s my note I referred to earlier about an upcoming conference schedule: http://www.heypasteit.com/clip/0RHC. Notice you can download the text as a file (.txt).

I can think of all kinds of uses for this. I’m sure you can too- but will you remember it’s there for you when you need it? And will the website still be there or will they have been gobbled up by Google? Only time will tell. Until then, I’m going to use it to my advantage!

Apr 1 2013

For April Fool’s: Flip text upside down with Flip Text!



This site has no real practical uses other than to annoy your readers, email recipients, or students. But it does make for a great prank!

Simply go to the site, enter your text, click the button to flip it, then copy the resulting text to paste back into an email, blog, website, or wherever you want. See, this blog post looks like this when flipped:

Annoying, right? Just a word of caution- not all blogs, websites, and email clients will accept this upside-down text and will substitute something entirely different (like a font substitution) filled with illegible symbols and characters.

Want to be even more vexatious- turn the font color to white! Just saying…



Mar 31 2013

Susan’s Invisible Blog Post


Has anyone seen Susan lately?

Mar 19 2013

Death of iGoogle and Google Reader- Consider Protopage as a Replacement!



In the beginning, Google created Google Personalized Homepages- and they saw it was good. Next they improved upon it and created iGoogle- and we saw it as very good. Then they decided to kill iGoogle- which prompted tens of thousands of users to launch “Save iGoogle campaigns” and such (probably to no avail).  Google is putting iGoogle to rest November 1st, 2013. To deliver our personalized news, website changes, and RSS feeds, we switched to Google Reader (as Google themselves suggested). And just last week, Google announced the end of life for Google Reader for July 1, 2013. Grrrrr.

Those of you who liked Google Reader and want to stay with that look and feel, try www.feedly.com. They even have tools there to help you transition from Google Reader. That website has a much more polished look than Reader, but the basic layout and features are similar.

For those of you still mourning the loss of iGoogle or you just like the ability to add and rearrange widgets on a custom screen, try www.protopage.com. This is very similar to iGoogle and you can actually import your iGoogle or Reader OPML files right into your own start page.


Features of Protopage I really like:


  • Page is not tied to a Google account so I can share it easily with others (want to see mine? Look at http://www.protopage.com/talljim)
  • Can add multiple “tabs” (pages) like iGoogle
  • Can share only certain tabs of your portal
  • Can add built-in widgets or RSS feeds from various sites
  • I love the Web Widget which allows you to paste in embed code from Web 2.0 sites to test & display




Mar 17 2013

Who’s bringing what? Stop the back-and-forth emails with Sign-up Genius!



It happens all the time- your team, group, or class decides to have some party, get-together, or luncheon requiring everyone to sign up for something. Once upon a time, sign-up sheets were posted outside an office door, cubicle wall, or lounge bulletin board. Then someone had a bright idea: “Let’s email each other what we are signing up for!” And so the email madness begins. You know, it goes something like…

Sally decides to bring fruit salad, and so does Jill. Their emails to the whole group cross in the ether. Tony decides to bring a corn casserole but forgets to email the whole group and just emails the person coordinating. Then Sally sees Jill’s email and retracts her own and decides to bring a Jell-O salad at the same time Jill decides to bring an Apple-Walnut tart. So in the end no one brings fruit salad, three people bring corn casserole, and the plasticware was left off the list!

Sign-up Genius pushes this to the cloud and takes care of it all… and yes, its FREE! So let’s say we are having an end-of-year party at school and we need parents to donate certain things. So here is the sign-up sheet for all to see and use (go ahead, try it- it’ll just send me an email):


No, we aren’t really having a party, though that would be all kinds of fun!

A few great settings that can be selected in the creation process:

  • Can require an access code to sign up for items
  • Can ask customized questions
  • Users can leave their own comments
  • Notify me by email when someone signs up
  • Send reminders to group members X days before the date they signed up
  • Allow a list member to “swap” slots with another member

So for the love of all things good, please pass this on to your room mothers, PTA coordinators, party planners, your Aunt Anne, and anyone else who needs people to sign up for things- it will save a lot of time and hassle (and keep those insane “Reply to All” email messages to a minimum).

Mar 10 2013

Narrate a collage of images with Narrable



There are many websites that allow you to add voice narration to photos, slideshows, etc. But there are very few that allow you to narrate a whole collection of images with ease like Narrable does.

After you create an account, upload local images (or browse Facebook), then sequence and resize them into a scrolling collage. Honestly, this is the hardest part- reordering and resizing the images is a little more cumbersome than it should be. Once the images are in place, simply give your photos a voice by either uploading audio, using the built-in voice recorder, or enter your phone number for the voice recorder to call you and record by phone!

Each picture may have a different recording- and each recording is labeled with the person narrating. This allows groups of individuals to contribute to the same project! Here’s a curriculum example (thanks to my awesome and wonderful daughter who lent me her voice for a whole sentence in the narration).

The final project can be shared in a number of ways, including embedding using an iFrame as shown here (view Fullscreen for best results):

Dec 11 2012

Remember Everything! Every time! Access Everywhere!- With Evernote!




Let me apologize ahead of time- I get real excited about Evernote. You may even call me an Evernote evangelist of sorts.

I have not blogged about Evernote before now for a couple reasons:

  1. There aren’t enough words to do this justice.
  2. Hasn’t everyone already heard of Evernote?

There are only a few programs that I launch daily that I cannot live without- and Evernote is one of them. What is it and why do I need it? Those are the hardest questions of all so let me see if I can summarize it:

  • A platform to let you remember and access all of your information when you and where you need it
  • Your digital life coach and manager
  • Your lifesaver in time of need
  • Your agent of change- start leading a “paperless” life

Evernote works on the concept of “Notes.” You add a note to your account using a device (computer, tablet, phone, etc.). The note can contain text, of course, but can also contain a photo, a link, a file, almost anything digital. You can then access that note at anytime once it is synced to the server. You can also share that note with others when you want!

Rather than be bore you with the details, here are some practical ways I use Evernote:

  • Post-it note replacement- Instead of writing something down on a little note, I just whip out my phone and make a quick note within Evernote. I then can access that note later.
  • Son’s football practice schedule- I take a picture of the printed football schedule (called a “snapshot” in Evernote). Then that text in the photo is searchable. Let me repeat that- any text in any image is searchable (sort of like the way scanners use OCR). This works even for handwritten text within an image!
  • Take a picture of a PPT slide during a presentation
  • Take snapshots of business cards, then trash the card itself
  • Take snapshots of receipts- I inevitably will misplace paper receipts. Taking a snapshot makes them searchable and can show them to the store so they can get the information they need for exchanges and refunds!
  • Take a snapshot of a diagram or poster on a bulletin board, etc.
  • Take a snapshot of a book I’d like to read or buy later (since I won’t remember the title or author on my own) Continue reading

Dec 5 2012

Is your website blocked in China?



We’ve all heard the rumors and humdrum about the Chinese government blocking all kinds of websites with their massive web filter to “protect” their citizens from possibly interacting with anyone or anything that may be critical of their government or infuse those crazy Western ideologies like democracy and basic human rights (OK, I’ll stop the political rant here). But how much of the rumors are true? How aggressive are those web filters? Find out at this site simply by entering the URL of a website. The website will attempt to access the website from computers within China to see if it is blocked or not.

This won’t be all that useful for a great number of people, though it will for some. An ESL teacher that was going to leave to teach English in China asked me about our web resources- asked if they would be available to him once he is in China early next year. For him, this website is of great value. For students in general, this is a great lesson in cultural differences- analyzing which websites are blocked and finding out why!

Nov 30 2012

Need an online voice recorder that’s not Flash? Croak It!



Fans of online voice recorders like Vocaroo, Soundcloud and Aviary’s Myna know that these web apps have many uses. Students can use these for things like storytelling, summarizing, explaining concepts, etc.  But one of the major drawbacks (relatively speaking) is that these are all Flash-based . That is not all bad in itself. However, since Flash is on the way out and is not supported on iOS devices, a replacement is needed to fill this void- especially one that will work on iPads!

There are many options out there, but Croak It! is by far my favorite for a couple reasons:

  • No registration required (this is critical for student use)!
  • Free (this is also critical in our line of work)
  • Has both Android and iOS apps
  • Can also be used online with a computer as a Flash-based web app
  • Creates a unique URL for each recording
  • Can add a CroakIt! button to your own website!
  • By default, the recording is private only to you (or whoever has the URL to your recording)
  • Can post to Twitter or Facebook
  • And I love the frog logo!
So with a classroom full of iPads, students can record their feedback or explanations regarding specific curricular topics. Then they can share the generated URL however they want (Edmodo, Kidblog, etc.). Anyway, it’s an easy solution without having to manage accounts to other sites like VoiceThread and others!