The Best 100 of 2011

Jane Hart is one of my great “go-to” resources for all things learning. Every year she posts a great review of the Top 100 Tools. Here it is and Thanks, Jane!

“Yesterday, I finalised the Top 100 Tools for Learning 2011 list.  In the last few days of voting  there was a surge of contributions (both online and by email) that brought the number of contributions to 531.  Many thanks to everyone who took the time to share their Top 10 Tools and help me compile this, the 5th annual survey of learning tools.” Jane Hart

Books with Soundtracks?!

I am always looking for new and potentially useful technologies that I might transfer to improve the learning experience. Here’s another I found today. Soundtracks for books …

The questions, to which books or textbooks would you add a soundtrack to enhance the learning experience and further enable the learning process?

Since I’ve never had a soundtrack added to a book, I’m starting to wonder if I supply my own. Listening to a soundtracks book starts to feel like a ken Burns documentary. Personally I think that’s a good thing.

Before the talkies, theater owners found that adding live music to the silent films added a giant dimension to the experience of watching the movie. More cues. Think of the scene in Jaws at the buoy when the shark attacks the swimmer. Or the musical communication between the humans and the aliens at the end of Close Encounters.  Soundtracks enhance movies and have become an inextricable part of the experience.

Would a soundtrack do the same for a book or textbook that was used as part of the learning experience? Is this the next logical step in the world of digital publishing? You heard it here first …

So here’s the challenge: What book or textbook do you think

would be greatly enhanced by the addition of a soundtrack?

Read on for the details …

Booktrack matches synchronized music, sound effects and ambient sound to the text of e-books in a way that’s automatically paced to the reading speed of the user.



Filmmakers have long been aware of the power of sound to enhance a story, but now a New York-based startup aims to bring a similar experience to e-books. Booktrack matches synchronized music, sound effects and ambient sound to the text of e-books in a way that’s automatically paced to the reading speed of the user.

Working in collaboration with Sony/ATV Music Publishing, Park Road Post and Full Fathom Five, Booktrack offers users a new way to experience the stories they’re reading. Readers begin by downloading the Booktrack edition of the book they want to read from Apple’s App Store. Pricing ranges from free to USD 4, depending on the title. Booktrack e-books can currently be enjoyed on iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch, but versions for Android and other devices are coming soon, Booktrack says. Either way, as the reader progresses through the story, the soundtrack keeps pace, with the ability to pause and resume whenever needed. Separately controlled music, sound effects and ambient soundtracks, meanwhile, can be turned off, lowered or raised individually, depending on the reader’s personal preference. The video below demonstrates Booktrack in action:

If you’re interested in more. check out Push Pop Press and its efforts to bring multitouch capabilities to digital books; now, Booktrack’s focus on sound is equally compelling.

Publishers around the globe: you’d better be paying attention!


The eBook and the iTune

How is an ebook like an iTune?

I asked my techno-savvy friends this questions recently and for the most part received blank stares.

The answer was obvious to me. They are both products of The Digital Revolution. Both of them have taken an analog “thing” and turned it into an instantly downloadable immediately gratifying product-of-your-choice. I want a single tune from a new CD. There’s the “i” and the “Tune” and it’s mine for 99¢. Same for an ebook only more money.

So ebooks have become the iTunes of the publishing world … and like iTunes the ebooks have quickly established a dominance in the marketplace that was totally unpredicted as little as three years ago.

Amazon predicts that it will sell more e-books than paperbacks by the end of next year, and that they will eclipse both paperback and hardcover sales combined shortly thereafter.

“I predict we will surpass paperback sales sometime in the next nine to 12 months. Sometime after that, we’ll surpass the combination of paperback and hardcover,” Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos told USA Today.

Kindle books have already eclipsed hardcover sales. Amazon recently said it sells 180 e-books for every 100 hardcovers, with the ratio constantly shifting in e-books’ favor. And that’s only on the Kindle. There are currently at least 5 ebook readers (not counting your PCs and other mobile computing devices) with more to come.

Many readers still favor the good old printed book. In a recent poll, most Mashable readers cited a preference for physical books over e-books. However, with the e-reader cum tablet battle heating up – the iPad is selling so amazingly well that Amazon recently launched a new version of the Kindle for the iPad – paperbacks and hardcovers may soon become an artifact of the analog world.

The analog was inherently isolating and we needed to create environments, for example schools, where text could be shared and discussed. The digital model is basically social and enables connections and conversations. I predict that it’s only a matter of time before the ebook finds a social connection like Ping for iTunes.

There’s already been an interesting experiment that I just finished … reading? linking from? booting up?

It’s from author Nick Bilton’s new book, “I Live in the Future and Here’s How it Works.”. One of the key points of the book is what Bilton calls “Me Economics”, what I have been referring to as “meconomics”. It explains an increasing consumer trend in which the buyer will increasingly seek out products and services that have personal relevance, and provide highly engaging personal experiences. Products and services in the Digital Revolution are all about 1:1 customization and personalization.

As the music industry and now the book publishing industry are learning, they need to adopt and adapt in order to survive and then thrive. My tunes, iTunes. Me book, ebook. Get it?

And The Next Great Thing?

The Print of the Future

Lots of discussion lately about the iPad for textbooks. I find it a bit premature since I only bought mine today, the first day of it’s release. Since the experiments are about to commence throughout Appleville, I thought I’d add some grist to the knowledge mill.

Here are two examples of what print might look like when it is creatively moved from analog to digital. The purpose is to thrill your imagination, help you see ways that ‘print’ can become something totally new when it morphs from it’s traditional and historical analog state to a new, multimedia digital world. The change to the digital mindset will give reading and learning a whole new meaning, and like iTunes, once again change the business model for an industry.

I especially like the Sports Illustrated model that incorporates an easy to use ‘social media wheel’ that enables you to instantly connect and converse with your social network. It highlights what I think is one of the key differentiators between the analog and the digital versions. The analog was inherently isolating and we needed to create environments, for example schools, where text could be shared and discussed. The digital model is basically social and enables connections and conversations.

As author Nick Bilton points out in his new book, “I Live in the Future and Here’s How it Works.”, it can also be immersive. His interview with NPR is also an eye opener into the future if digital publishing.

A Tool for Learning 3.0

How many times when you’ve been watching a movie have you just wanted to reach out and poke an annoying character? Maybe help a fleeing victim by making them run just a little bit faster? A new interactive experience by production company Tool of North America uses the capabilities of the iPad to allow viewers to do just that as they interact with–and seemingly change the outcome of–live-action video. Part video game, part immersive entertainment, Touching Stories is available today as a free, downloadable app, and we’ve got an exclusive behind-the-scenes video that gives a peek into the process of making it.

Tool, who create ads and interactive work for brands like MTV and Bud Light, had been tossing around ideas for creating such an experience for the iPhone, but as soon as the iPad was announced they realized the device was made for their concept, says Tool’s digital executive producer Dustin Callif. “Immediately as visual storytellers we got excited because the iPad is such a better device for consuming media than the iPhone–I mean just look at the difference in size with the screen,” he says. “We’ve been looking for the right opportunity to really create customized stories.”

Five of Tool’s directors–Geordie Stephens, Jason Zada and Erich Joiner, Sean Ehringer and Tom Routson–shot four films with interactive points that call for touching, shaking or turning the iPad built into the plots. A partnership with Domani Studios provided the technology to connect the film process with the iPad’s multi-touch and accelerometer features, as well as the ability to load videos or visit Web pages. The result goes far beyond special effects–the team rebuilt each film’s story within the context of the iPad experience.

Last week, Tool used the convergence of advertising’s top players at the Cannes Lions festival to create major buzz around Touching Stories: They delivered iPads pre-loaded with the apps to at least 10 chief creative officers at blue-chip agencies. A smart move, since the experience feels like it’s made for delivering a brand’s hands-on experience to consumers. But the implications for more narrative filmmaking are also important–how will this technology change the face of storytelling?

This week, we’ll have an in-depth look at each film and see how Tool worked closely with Domani Studios to collaborate on this new experience. If you want to try it for yourself, Touching Stories is available in the App Store today. Be careful, though, if you mess with the fate of those characters: Sometimes they strike back.

From Fast Company

Finally! The Hogwart’s Library is Real

From the very first time I used hypertext (over 30 years ago) I fell in love with it. I declared to everyone I knew that this was The Future of writing and reading.

I have been studying the history of writing from the invention of the printing press and the incunabula,  through the point&click functionality of word processing programs on the PC.

I remember being amazed by Encarta the hypertext encyclopedia and thinking Bill Gate’s book, “The Road Ahead”, with it accompanying CD that included, among other things, the book in searchable hypermedia, was in fact the road ahead to the future.

If this video is a precursor of things to come, then Gates might very well have been right …

Read on for more …

Read More