Trivantis announces Snap! by Lectora

Today the Lectora user Conference began in the US, and it brings with it a couple of firsts.
For a start, the event (or at least parts of it) are being streamed live online. This is a trend we’re witnessing with many organisations and events, and it’s something we hope to see more of. Why limit exposure to your product to just those who can make it to the event, when you can share it live, globally? They’re also encouraging the back channel conversations on Twitter.
Of the announcements made by CEO and Chairman Charles Beech, the one that really grabbed my attention was the launch of Snap! by Lectora. This is a PowerPoint plugin that they are positioning as a competitor to Adobe’s Presenter and Articulate’s Studio as the entry point for anyone wanting to get started in elearning development.
Without a doubt, it’s most interesting feature is it’s price, just $99 compared to the $500-$999 you’d pay for it’s targeted competitors.
Will it really prove to be a competitor? That remains to be seen, but we’ll be doing a review just as soon as we get the demo installed.

Top Ten Tools 2010

The Number Ten
Image by yoppy
Since 2007, Jane Hart has been inviting learning professionals around the world to contribute to her crowdsourced list of the top 100 tools for learning.
This is my contribution for 2010 (in no particular order).

  • Twitter has become my favourite way to connect with people online, and one of the first places I go to when searching for information. The unexpected and serendipitous connections you make can be at least as useful as the deliberate ones.
  • Skype has little competition when it comes to voip for consumers and small businesses. It’s the tool I’m most likely to use for voice communication, and for the last two years I’ve done away with a business landline and replaced it with a Skype number.
  • WordPress is the open source software that this blog runs on, as does my personal blog. Anyone that knows me will know I’m a big fan of Drupal (and nothing can beat it for complex projects) but with version 3.0 WordPress has became the ideal tool for simpler projects.
  • Evernote is my ‘external brain’, the place that I use to record anything I may want to refer to in future. It’s brilliant because it’s accessible on all of my devices. It’s largely replaced delicious for me as I had too many instances of saving bookmarks to sites that later disappeared.
  • Instapaper is a fabulous service that allows you to save content for later reading, and presents it in a consistent and wonderfully readable format. I save content from wherever I’m browsing, but will usually read it using the Instapaper iPad app.
  • Google Reader/Reeder is still the best feed reader I’ve found. The only thing that’s made it better for me in the past year is using Reeder on the iPhone and iPad to access my account. I can’t imagine reading the quantity of content that I do in any other way.
  • Google Chrome has pretty much become my browser of choice. I gave up on Firefox a long time tme ago (too slow and buggy) and although it’s improved a lot recently Safari hasn’t quite kept up with Chrome in terms of speed and stability.
  • Dropbox is one of those services that you just can’t believe anyone wouldn’t be using. It’s simply the best way to keep my Macs in sync and make all of my content available on my phone, iPad and from any browser. Just brilliant!
  • The iPad has already been mentioned in this list in terms of some of the apps I use, but it deserves its own place in the list. I think we’ve only just scratched the surface of what this kind of device will enable.
  • Webex Meet is a service that is in beta and currently free for meetings of up to 4 people. If I need something more complex than Skype, such as document sharing, this is my tool of choice. Whether they are able to maintain it as a free service remains to be seen.

You can add your contribution here.

Working with the iPad

It’s now two months since the iPad was launched in the UK, and so it’s timely that people are starting to comment on how they and others are using it. Inspired by these and other posts I thought I would jot down my own thoughts on how the iPad fits into my toolset.
The first time I took the iPad out, my laptop came along too as I couldn’t quite convince myself that the iPad would do everything I needed. Since then unless I know that I will specifically need it (such as for development work) the laptop has stayed at home; the iPad has quickly become my main portable device for business. I regularly travel up to London, and previously my bag would contain my laptop, its power supply, a paper notebook and usually whatever book I happen to be reading. Now all I take is the iPad. It really does have a battery that lasts all day, and combine that with no wait to boot up, and it really is just such a convenient device for accessing… well, everything.
I work at home, so the line between work and non-work activity has a tendency to blur, but the iPad somehow makes that less intrusive. I think perhaps because it’s so quick and easy to access things, activity like checking for an important email you’re waiting for is less likely to open the door to doing other things. In fact, one of the things I like most about it is the way it forces you to be focussed, because although background multitasking is on its way you can only ever be in one app at a time so there’s far less opportunity for distraction.
Some people have commented that at 16, 32 or 64GB it doesn’t have the capacity for serious work, but that hasn’t been a problem for me. All of my content lives in the cloud in one of three places – DropBox, Evernote or Google Docs, so if I want access to something I just open it via WiFi or 3G. The days of carrying your actual data around with you are pretty much gone, even if we don’t quite have ubiquitous access to the net yet. For the curious, my 32GB iPad currently has 26GB free, although I suppose I should mention that I don’t keep any music on it as that all lives on my iPod Classic.
Irrespective of location it has become my favourite tool for online communication, whether that’s via email, Twitter or other social networking tools. That has had the knock on benefit of keeping those things off my desktop when I’m working. I’ve also found that I manage my RSS consumption much more efficiently on the iPad, although that may be more down to the app I use (Reeder) rather than the iPad itself.
I guess you can’t talk about the iPad without mentioning its lack of support for Flash, but for me that’s really been a non-issue as it’s yet to stop me doing anything.
Despite having reasonably large hands I’ve found the on screen keyboard to be surprisingly good, but then I can’t touch type anyway so I don’t have a great typing speed to start with. If I know that I’m going to be doing a lot of typing I will take my Apple wireless keyboard with me too.
At Onlignment we’re all about working virtually, and the iPad is proving its worth as my portable virtual office. Apps from Skype, Webex and Adobe Connect mean I can be connected with the rest of the team wherever I am. I’ve no regrets about buying the first generation iPad, but I’m excited by the opportunities that future versions will bring.
Image Source: Apple UK

Virtual meetings in your pocket?

We all know that setting up the environment for virtual meetings or training sessions involves a commitment in terms of hardware, software or both. Or does it? Genius Room hope to persuade us otherwise, with the launch of their new PocketMeeting service.
The premise is pretty simple. You go to their website, enter your credit card details and for $5.00 you get 24 hours of access to your own screen sharing environment. It doesn’t feature voice or chat, or in fact anything other than screensharing, but that’s the beauty of it really. No big learning curve, no complex tool to remember, no vendor specific plug ins (although it does rely on you having Java installed).
If you occasionally have the need to share presentations or other desktop materials, and are happy to use conference calling or VoIP for the audio, PocketMeeting is certainly worth investigating.