Monthly Archives: March 2008

a new way to edit photos online

I’ve used Picasa and Flickr, a pair of excellent web-based photo organizers. They give users a way to sort and share large numbers of digital pictures. One downside has been the ability to edit images. I tend to use Photoshop Elements to do the editing I need because the online tools don’t give me all the options I need.

Adobe has released a potential remedy to this problem: Photoshop Express. It is currently in beta form, which means it is still officially in “test” mode. Patrick and I took a look at this beta today and found it to be quite nice! You can preview the effect of a potential edit by hovering a mouse over a thumbnail. Cropping, distortion, filters, color sampling and replacement, redeye reduction, and lighting fixes are all included.

photoshop express screenshot

Adobe is currently giving users 2GB of space on their servers, and the best part of all: integrated access to Facebook, Picasa, and Photobucket. I was able to edit pictures and upload pictures directly to my Facebook profile with a minimum of fuss. I had to log into Facebook to tag them and correct the captions though.

A couple of downsides: there is currently no way to order prints online (I can only imagine this will come in time) and you are currently limited to JPG images of 10MB or less. Not a big limitation but a notable one.

I for one am totally thrilled with this application. It offers me the ability to do moderately sophisticated editing from anywhere, with direct access to web photo sites. I wonder how it will hold up with thousands of people creating accounts to try out this beta software…

Moodle for Fall?

So we are working on a plan to pilot-test Moodle in the upcoming Fall term. Patrick and I are trying to learn the software now so we can support a few faculty in trying it out. Then we’ll make a decision about whether we will make Moodle a supported service, perhaps even an opt-in alternative to the Luminis course tools we have now.

Today Patrick and I looked at the Assignment module. There are a few different options for teachers to select from. Students can type text directly online (called “Online Text”). This is very easy for students to use, and it allows a teacher to grade them directly online as well. There is another option called “Upload a Single File.” This is simply a hand-it-in tool. “Advanced Upload” allows students to hand in multiple files along with notes for the teacher. Here is a screenshot of a teacher grading a student’s submission and providing feedback. Notice that I have the option to turn the files back over to the student to redo (“Revert to draft”):

Grading an Advanced Upload

 Finally, “Offline Activity” is a tool for any assignment that needs a grade. That way you could assign a presentation, or give credit for going to a guest lecture and continue to use Moodle for grading.

A few notable details regarding these Assignment options:

  • The teacher can set start and end dates for submission, and disallow late submissions entirely
  • It is possible to allow resubmission – so draft papers can be handed in, responded to, then handed in again
  • Students can include web links in the notes on “Advanced Upload” assignments
  • Files don’t have to be Word – you can upload movies, audio, pictures, whatever – as long as it is not too big

We’ve tried this a few times along with a few quizzes. Moodle does a nice job of collecting everything into a central gradebook which can then be downloaded in Excel or Text format.

Next I’m going to play with a module called “Database” and try importing a quiz from third-party software called Hot Potatoes.

current activities, not the least of which has been Moodle

Much of my last few weeks has been spent in a renewed push to help people work on their campus websites. I also had to prepare a presentation for the upcoming Sungard Summit conference

I’ve also been spending time every week working on a revamped test Moodle system. This time the campus authentication system is in effect!

Yesterday Patrick and I tried out the integrated wiki tool and the chat tool. We also tried something called a “choice,” which is really just a poll. Another tool is called “survey” which you might think does the same thing as a “choice.” Not so – surveys are actually standard types and are not customizable at all. They are mostly variations of ATTLS (Attitudes Toward Thinking and Learning Survey) or COLLES (Constructivist On-Line Learning Environment Survey) survey instruments.

I’d also like to encourage everyone to subscribe to the other Office of IT blogs. Our staff has been doing a nice job of keeping some communication flowing, but we still need people to read them!

Fred’s blog – IT planning and operations (also a source for notes and updates on system problems and outages)

Network and Server Group blog – some great explanations of what goes on in the mysterious server room

Patrick’s blog – great tips and basic explanations of useful desktop-level skills