Thursday, December 16, 2010

Google Lab's Body Browser

Google has done it again. The Body Browser is an application that can only be described as the Google Maps for the human body. The app is still in beta and can be found by going to Google Labs at and then searching for body browser or go directly to

Note: Body Browser only supports browsers using WebGL which, at this time, include the beta versions of Chrome, Firefox, and Safari. The easiest way is to install the beta version of Google Chrome.

Body Browser is an infinitely viewable model of the human body. Toggles and slides allow the viewer to seamlessly view muscles, circulation, skeletal, organs, and so forth. The model human form can be rotated horizontally or vertically. Tags point out each body part, or the tags can be turned off. The viewer can zoom in or out, and the tags will follow based on location within the body.

The application must be seen and interacted with to be fully appreciated. It has potential as a supplemental tool for students to brush up on major body systems and/or a great synchronous or asynchronous teaching aid. And it’s also a lot of fun!

Watch this YouTube video of Body Browser in action. I've also included several screen shots of various aspects:

Remember that you'll need a browser supporting WebGL to use this app, available in the latest beta versions of Chrome, Safari, or Firefox.
Controls for zoom, rotate, and system on left.

The slider controls will move you into or out of the various systems.

You can also tilt the body for better views of areas.

Zoom and pan controls allow for specific views of areas.

Views can be with or without labels.

Google does it again!

Keeping Current with Technology

Without fail, when talking with colleagues at conferences and networking events, one of the most common questions asked is how each of us keeps current in the field. With the plethora of information resources available these days, there is certainly no shortage of information on learning technologies, educational technologies, and instructional technologies (and believe it or not, each of these has a different meaning).

So how do those of us at RHCHP Learning Technologies stay current? Each of us seems to have a different method. Some use Delicious, a social bookmarking site that provides a way of sharing bookmarks with others. A promising site is placed on the Delicious site, making it available to anyone.

Others use RSS feeds. When a worthwhile site is found, they find the URL of the feed (look for the RSS feed logo). The RSS URL is then added to a feeder page. Voila! Any new content from the site is then captured and sent to the page. I use My Yahoo as a home page. My portal contains feeds to news, sports, weather, computer news, family blogs, and various technology sites. Personal favorites include the Chronicle’s Wired Campus, Mashable, Lifehacker, Gizmodo, and CNET News.  

I also have a number of ed tech resources that are followed in the same way. Some of my personal favorites include a couple of compilations by Ray SchroederEducational Technology is a listing of links to selected news; Online Learning Update contains links to the latest in online learning news. I also have a feed set up through ProQuest at the Alvin Sherman Library at Nova Southeastern University. ProQuest sends any new research articles based on search criteria, in this case using the terms “instructional” and “technology”.

GPS-Don't leave home without one!
The field of technology changes incredibly fast. A technology that is cutting edge one minute becomes an also-ran in the next. Take GPS systems. Just a few short years ago GPS systems were fascinating toys for the tech savvy and VERY well-to-do. Today, GPS systems are one of those ubiquitous technologies that are built into automobile dashboards and cell phones. Rental car companies hawk them as an expensive add-on to rental contracts. And electronics stores such as Best Buy have entire sections dedicated to GPS units with varying levels of functionality. Some even display images and play mp3s while talking you to your destination. I couldn't find my way around Denver without one, and it’s certainly helpful when the urge for a Subway strikes in an unfamiliar part of the city.

But you can’t remain current with the latest and greatest if time isn’t allowed to read, review, examine, and play. What good are resources if time isn’t made to investigate what's available? Making time to keep current in the field is essential for maintaining an understanding of the current climate of technologies and the significant overlaps they have with learning and student success. All too often we get caught up in the daily activities and put off precisely the activity we need to maintain a fresh perspective on what we
do. I allow the last hour of each work day to browse the latest news and information and make mental notes to investigate particular items of interest. It's one of the best ways I know for keeping pace with an ever-changing landscape of trends and information.

Happy holidays from Learning Technologies. 

 Smiling Santa Hat Dog courtesy of CALS Career Services, NC State University, December 16, 2010, Creative Commons License

Monday, December 13, 2010

A free HTML editor: Kompozer Review

What is it?
“KompoZer is a complete web authoring system that combines web file management and easy-to-use What-You-See-Is-What-You-Get (WYSIWYG)
web page editing. KompoZer is designed to be extremely easy to use, making it ideal for non-technical computer users who want to create an attractive, professional-looking web site without needing to know HTML or web coding.”
  • KompoZer is Free. It is open-source.
  • It is something that you would download and run on your computer.
  • It can be used on Windows or Mac.
  • KompoZer may be a free alternative to using Adobe Dreamweaver.

Ease of use:  Although it was easy to download, it doesn’t show up as a program under the “start” button. Each time you want to open the program you would click the KompoZer.exe file. So as long as you keep track of where this folder is (that contains the .exe file) or if you make a shortcut to it, you are ok. (However, this might be problematic if you can’t install programs on your computer without the intervention of ITS)
Using the scale indicated below in the table, KompoZer ranks a 4 on general ease of use. If you simply are using the product to make clean edits to your course pages and that is it, then it is ranking a 5. There are some features that may seem a little complicated for a ‘non-tech’ person, such as using style sheets or the site manager but are not necessary to use if you are only making edits. In other words it has the capacity to design an entire website if you wanted to.

Please NOTE: It is still not advised that you copy and paste from Microsoft Word as this program will not clean the code for you.

Availability of tutorials/help/support:
There is a “Help” knowledgebase located inside the program. The knowledgebase includes a search feature, an index, a glossary and a beginner’s tutorial. There is also a web-based user-guide that was created by a user.

Rating scale:  Excellent (5) Very good (4), Good (3), Fair (2), Poor (1)

Feature or task
Downloading the product and launching the program
General ease of use
Editing an existing page
Creating a new page
Creating a link to open in a new window
Ease of working with tables
Ease of working with ordered lists
Quality of tutorials or help