Sunday, December 7, 2008

tt4t_066 Blurred Worlds

It’s Sunday, December 7th, 2008 and welcome to episode 66 of TechTalk4Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Today is the 67th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor that was one of the defining moments in American history. We are slowly losing many of our seniors that experienced this event and other historical events of World War II first-hand and this is a reminder for those of us with relatives of this generation to learn as much as we can about our parents and grandparents lives as they are willing to share. I have provided a link in the show notes to a couple of websites that caught my eye on this infamous day that as President Roosevelt predicted in 1941 has lived in infamy.

To listen click on the Play button >

Download MP3

Eye Witness to History website

Transcript of President Roosevelt’s Pearl Harbor Speech
(with a link to the original audio)

It is interesting how one thing leads to another when we are learning about new things. For example, last week I talked about the ManyCam program as my Technology Pick of the Week and offered a teaching lesson using the ManyCam program. A teacher can design a lesson around a historic character represented as an avatar with ManyCam. All that would be needed is Skype, the ManyCam program, a green screen, and a selected avatar. A selected individual represented by the avatar could act as the historical figure for a two-way video conference between the classroom and avatar character.

I have experimented successfully with this technology and it is quite possible to do. The advantage is that the individual that is being represented as an avatar is of course a person and therefore can interactively work with a classroom to listen to and respond to questions from students in the classroom in real-time and with a real human intellect to respond to questions in the historic context of the lesson. Of course the more informed the “actor” you get to play the part of the historical character the more believable their answers will become to the class.

This week I was reminded of a site that I saw a few months ago that is doing something similar but taking it to the next level. Instead of using a real person represented by an avatar they are using an avatar by creating artificial intelligence built into the avatar. This software and website is in Beta testing but I was again reminded of its development this week. The name of the site is Virsona. Here is a quote from their website about what they are doing.

“Virsona, Inc has developed a highly specialized, innovative, next-generation social media web-service with far-reaching applications and benefits. This unique “Online Community,” gives you the ability to create, store and then interact with the entirety of your life experiences. Once saved in your “LifeArchive,” we create the “Virtual You” - a Virsona that can Remember, Reason and React just like you can!

The Personal Virsona that you create enjoys a permanence that will provide subsequent generations with the ability, not only to know exactly who you are/were, but to actually share interactions with you. Imagine what it would be like to be able to give advice to your great, great-grandchild before his or her first big game or first date? The possibilities are truly astounding and unlimited.

You can also participate in both creating, as well as interacting with the “Community Virsonas” – helping to recreate your favorite fictional, historical or public figures and characters. In addition, you can also create “Shared Experience Virsonas,” making it possible to view & experience shared events from multiple perspectives.”

A link is provided in the show notes to the Virsona website.

Virsona – Reason. Remember. React,

Now this is a pretty cool technology and at the same time kind of scary. The students that we are teaching today will increasingly run into this collision of the virtual world meeting the real world and the boundaries are becoming more and more blurred. This area of innovation requires the attention of educators as the technologies are becoming more and more sophisticated and this will surely have a huge impact upon our society in the future as these two worlds collide.

Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology Pick of the Week this week is a free photo-editing program for the PC that is similar to Adobe Photoshop. The application is called and I have used this application on both Windows XP and Vista computers with no problems. I am always on the lookout for low-cost, and better yet free programs, that I can recommend to others. Free is always a great seller for schools and teachers on a tight budget. There are a few things I miss from the full-blown Adobe Photoshop program and the interface is not quite as polished as Photoshop, but for basic photo-editing this free application does a good job.

A link is provided in the show notes to the website where you can download this free application.

A faculty member asked me earlier this week to help them with a photo project they were doing with a class and wanted to purchase some software for her home computer to learn how to use. I recommended she give a try first since it was free and she had nothing to loose from trying this application. I spent about one-half hour with her giving her basic instruction with the program and she is now off and running with her project.

If you already know how to use Photoshop - will be easy for you to adapt to. On the flip side, once you learn the basics of you can easily move to Adobe Photoshop if you find you the need additional features. In addition to the professional version of Photoshop Adobe also offers a lower-cost alternative called Photoshop Elements for well under $100 if you are considering a commercial application.

For teachers we often just need the basics in a paint program as we often do not have time to spend hours manipulating photographs for class projects. allows you to easily resize, crop, colorize, add text to photos, adorn your pictures using layers, and use artistic filtering to give your photographs that artsy touch.

With the high-quality of todays digital cameras we often need to resize pictures in order to make file sizes acceptable for uploading to websites or sending to others as an attachment. For example a faculty member brought me a photograph that was approximately 3000x2000 pixels and I resized the picture to 1000x500 and saved the resized image under a different file name. By simply reducing the image size the amount of space the image consumed went from approximately 2 Megabytes to 500,000 bytes.

Now I ask you if someone was sending you an email with a picture attached which picture would you prefer to get? The smaller one will download four times faster than the larger one and the resulting loss in quality of the original high-resolution picture is almost imperceptible to the human eye.

That wraps it up for episode 66 of TechTalk4Teachers. Show notes for this episode and archived episodes are available on the web at the EIU Instructional Technology website at just click on the TechTalk4Teachers podcast link. If you have a comment or suggestion please send an email to of leave a comment on the TechTalk4Teachers blog. Until next time, this is Tom Grissom, keep on Learning.

No comments: