Monthly Archive for November, 2009

Enabling micro-discussion in PowerPoint using Wiffiti

It’s rare for me to have an idea of my own, instead I rely on mashing up ideas of others. A case in point is taking a post on Pontydysgu 20 things to do in the classroom with Wiffiti and David Hopkins PowerPoint: Embedding YouTube Video, which equals ‘Enabling micro-discussion in PowerPoint using Wiffiti’.

Some background – Wiffiti is a free web service which allows to to upload an image, users can then publish messages in real time which are overlaid. Message can be submitted via SMS, twitter, flickr or via the web. Below I’ve embedded the example Jenny Hughes used (if you don’t see swirly messages it is probably because your network goes through a proxy server. Potentially a big issue if using it on campus - I’ve let the developer know):

In Jenny’s post she list some educational uses of Wiffiti. The obvious application for me is to stimulate in-class discussion. Like EVS removing the stigma of putting your hand up with an anonymous communication channel. You could of course just like to the Wiffiti page from your presentation but having read David Hopkins how-to on embedding YouTube in PowerPoint I was inspired to look at Wiffitifying PowerPoint. 

Basically all you need to do is:

  1. Create your page on Wiffiti
  2. Copy the ‘Share this Screen – Movie url’
    [The next part is an edit of David’s instructions]
  3. Go to the point in your presentation where you want the Wiffiti to be placed.
  4. Control ToolbarMake sure you can see the ‘Control Toolbox’ toolbar. [For Office 2007 users if you can't find the 'Control Toolbox' toolbar you might need to enable it by opening PowerPoint -> clicking on the Office icon (top left) -> click 'PowerPoint Options' and within the popular tab make sure the 'Show Developer tab in the Ribbon' is checked]
  5. Select the ‘hammer / spanner’ looking icon and then select ‘Shockwave Flash object’ from the subsequent menu list.
  6. Then drag the cross-hairs into a square area you want the video to be shown in. You’ll end up with a white box on the screen with two diagonal lines from corner to corner.
  7. Right mouse-click in this box and select ‘Properties’ from the list.
  8. In the empty ox next to the heading ‘Movie’ paste the URL of your Wiffiti.

Here is a PowerPoint file with the Wiffiti embedded. To see it work you need to be in presentation mode. You may also need to enable Active X Macros.

Google Wave 101 (Presentations from Scottish VLE groups)

In the last couple of weeks I’ve given Google Wave presentations to the Scottish Blackboard User Group (Scot-BUG) and the Scottish Moodle User Group (SMUG). These have been designed to be introductory session Google Wave giving an overview of the technology and how it could be integrated into existing institutional systems like VLEs.

This post contains follows the narrative I used for the presentations with some additional thoughts and resources. Here is the  PowerPoint used for Scot-BUG and SMUG (some edits)

The Wave Model

Here’s a nice video from which gives a quick overview of Wave:

The basic message is email works for basic communication but when you do anything which potentially involves more than two people it can get complicated.

The Wave Interface

The current Wave interface is entirely browser based and you don’t need any additional plugin’s for basic functionality (for drag and drop of files you need Google Gear’s installed). The interface uses the latest HTML standards so you need to use either Chrome, Firefox or Safari. Already 3rd party developers are developing desktop systems and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was incorporated into Mozilla’s new communication application ‘Raindrop’.


The current interface uses a 3-column layout not too dissimilar to your standard email client. Working from left-to-right you have navigation/contacts, your inbox, and finally a message area. The interface currently has minimal customisation other than minimising some of the component areas.

Basic Wave Interaction

The following video from the Google Wave team shows how a wave is started and highlights the benefits of a ‘hosted conversation’, having one message which everyone can edit in real-time.


By hosting a single conversation on a central server it makes it very easy for additionally functionality to be incorporated by using robots and gadgets. Robots are pieces of code which can interact in the wave. They have the same level of control as a human participant, responding in real-time. Google Wave has a number of build in robots which include things like spell checking or even detecting web links or video resources (here is an example of spell correction).

When Google were developing Wave they wanted to make sure 3rd party developers had access to as much of the robot functionality as possible. They achieved this by providing developers with an API ( - an API is a set of commands which allows communication between separate programmes). An example of the power of robots is Google’s translation bot Rosy:

As well as robots the functionality of Wave can be extended using ‘gadgets’. Gadgets allow users to share interactions with objects like maps, whiteboards or even games like chess or Sudoku. The following clip shows some gadgets in action:

Even though Wave has only been available to developers since the end of May there are already a wealth of 3rd party robots and gadgets anyone can add to their wave (here is the most extensive list I’ve seen of robots). To see just how extendible wave is here are some examples of robots and gadgets which might be of interest to educators:

WaveAlpha Video
Wave Alpha
Robot: [email protected]
Description: Returns search results from Wolfram|Alpha. Video includes this results from Wolfram.
HelpMeIgor Video
Robot: [email protected]
Description: Citation robot – links with citeulike and others to help with the process of adding references.
Tweety Video
Robot: [email protected]
Description: Allows you to ‘tweet’ from wave (this robot talks to the Twitter API, building its own UI in the wave).
Gadget: 6rounds Gadget XML
Description: Video conferencing gadget.
MapGadget Video Title: Map Gadget
Gadget: Map Gadget XML
Description: Lets users edit maps together.
MindMapGadget Video
Mind Map Gadget
Gadget: Mind Map Gadget XML
Description: Collaborative creation and editing of mind maps.


So far the videos above have showed you how the functionality of Wave can be extended using robots and gadgets. Another aspect of Wave which supports its use in education is the ability to embed waves into other sites. Already on this blog I’ve shown examples of embedding waves in Blackboard and Moodle (See Black Wave: Embedding Google Wave into Blackboard and Moodle Wave: Embedding Google Wave into Moodle). Embedding waves not only allows users to see the discussion but they can also still interact and add content as if they were using the full wave client.

Why do I think embedding is an important feature? Firstly, I see Wave technology as a very easy way to add additional functionality to your VLE. Even just using a basic wave you immediately have a way to support real-time interaction, but more importantly this environment can be enriched very easily by extending its use with robots and gadgets. Secondly, utilising Wave potentially adds choice. Students can choose to participate in a wave embedded in the VLE, or the same wave in their Wave inbox, or even the same wave potentially embedded on their Facebook site. Personalisation is a powerful tool to facilitate engagement.

Wave embedded into Blackboard
Screenshot: Wave embedded into Blackboard


One of the issues when promoting 3rd party web services is the lack of control over backup, security or access. Understandable Quality Offices get particularly nervous if summative assessment is involved. As part  of the Wave project Google are developing an open protocol which will allow any institution to host their own Wave server. This puts control back in the hands of the institution.

Also just as email systems can send messages to different servers, the protocol will allow different Wave servers to communicate with each other allowing real-time collaboration across institutions. As I’ve already highlighted in a previous post you can already install a prototype server although its functionality is very limited, but achievable using open source applications.

Wave as a platform?
The ability to host your own Wave server opens an intriguing question. Could you use Wave technology as a web application platform? If the Ning’s or Facebook’s of this world were developing a social networking platform would it not make sense to build it on Wave technology?  You could wrap the site in an entirely different interface, using more traditional web building blogs for the majority of the site, incorporating wavelets to achieve different functionality. So for example when a user registers for the site a number of waves would be automatically generated and embedded within the page (status update, photo album etc.). The advantage is not only could these elements be embedded else where but the same real-time interaction would also still be available. Also not forgetting the wide range of robots and gadgets which could also be incorporated. So is Google Wave going to be the Apache server for the 21st century?

But …

This all presents some quite promising opportunities for Google Wave, but there are a number of issues to be resolved. Before I highlight some of these it is worth reiterating that Google Wave is still in development.

Internet Explorer/Backwards Compatibility – Possibly one of the biggest sticking points is the lack of support for IE8 and an unclear roadmap for IE9. Microsoft’s stance is as the latest version of HTML hasn’t been finalised they are not going to incorporate any of its features into the next version of their browser. Rather worryingly Microsoft have a track record of being slow to take up standards and when they do don’t have full compatibility.

There is a workaround using Google’s Chrome Frame for Internet Explorer, but I can see many IT services staff who would be reluctant to install this on the campus desktop. There is also a wider issue of Wave not being compatible with older versions of browsers but I would argue keeping your browser up-to-date closes security holes.

Security/authentication – This applies more to institutions planning on hosting their own Wave server. The Wave protocol only extends to the real-time communication architecture and doesn’t include the authentication of users. As Wave is an extension of the XMPP protocol there will be solutions to draw inspiration on. SURFnet have also prepared a report on Wave which covers authentication.

Permissions – The  level of permissions when authoring waves is very flat in that anyone added to a wave has the same permissions as the author. This means they can add additional people to a wave including making it public. Removing contacts from a wave also hasn’t been implemented yet.

General access – With Wave being only accessible to 100k+ users it going to be sometime before we see if the technology is going to survive the big bad world. Some development to be aware of are: Wave will almost definitely become part of the Google Apps Suite (a separate preview program has already been launched); and some big names including Novel and SAP are already developing applications using Wave technology.

The power of waves

One of the common discussions around Google Wave, particularly when considering when looking at the impact on education, is the debate “Wave versus {a VLE}”. I don’t see Wave as a replacement for the VLE but a platform which can be integrated into it to enhance its functionality. The metaphor I’ve used is ‘constructive interference’ - the scientific effect of combining waves of the same frequency resulting in amplification. To achieve this effect the waves have to be in harmony  otherwise instead of amplification the output can be cancelled out.


Whilst there are still a number of issues to be ironed out with Wave I think there is enough there to make institutions seriously look and start planning for the future. The very fact that a number of large corporations have been looking at how Wave can be used to support their business processes is an indication that the technology might be taking its first tentative steps towards becoming an industry standard.

Useful Links:

Oddments from RSC NewsFeed

NewsFeed Cover While toiling to polish off the Google Wave 101 post a call went up in the office for contributions to RSC NewsFeed. In no time I had managed to put together 5 posts.

There isn’t really a common thread to pull them together so below is the title and short synopsis:

  • Automatic Captions in YouTube – This post relates to Google’s announcement that YouTube will begin to use voice recognition software to automatically add captions to videos, which also back videos a lot more searchable. 
  • 50 Educational Apps for the iPod Touch – A link to a great list of educational applications for the iPod Touch (mainly schools focused but there is something for everyone).
  • PowerPoint: Embedding YouTube Video – A nice ‘how-to’ by David Hopkins on embedding live YouTube videos in PowerPoint.
  • Edinburgh College of Art Launches its ‘Vision’ of Academic Research – Wow! When art colleges produce a publication, they really produce a publication. This 184 page publication is designed to showcase some of Edinburgh College of Art’s best research.
  • Hotseat: Any Mobile Will Do – This post highlights the work of Purdue University in developing a micro-in/out-of-class discussion tool which enables lectures to use multiple social networking sites to facilitate discussions.


What I've starred this week: November 24, 2009

Here's some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

Moodle Wave: Embedding Google Wave into Moodle

I’ve previously given instructions for Embedding Google Wave into Blackboard, for you Moodlers out there the process is practically identical:

  1. In your Wave Preview account add [email protected]
  2. Create a new wave with Embeddy as a participant
  3. Embeddy will generate two pieces of code for you to copy to notepad (see screenshot-1)

Wave with Embeddy
Screenshot-1: Output from Embeddy (Click to enlarge)

  1. Once you’ve copied the code you can delete the content and remove Embeddy from the wave
  2. Next you can seed your wave with text, gadgets etc
  3. Now open your course in Moodle
  4. Depend on what version you are running you want to do something like  ‘Add a resource’ –> ‘Compose a web page’
  5. Enter your required resource name and summary. In the ‘Compose a web page’ text entry switch to ‘HTML Source’ view by pressing the ‘<>’ button and paste the code generated by Embeddy (see screenshot-2)

Screenshot-2: Content editing view in Moodle (Click to enlarge)

Once you have saved this switch to student view and you can see that a Google Wave is embedded into the course (see screenshot-3). Remember the same wave can be embedded and interacted with wherever you like.

A frequently asked question is what does a user see if they haven’t logged into Wave or have a Wave account? Screenshot-4 shows what the student will see in this scenario.

Screenshot-3: Wave embedded into Moodle (Click to enlarge)
Screenshot-4: Message if user hasn’t logged into Wave (Click to enlarge)


While Wave accounts are still at a premium I’m sure this will change next year. Combine this with the possibility of institutions being able to host their own Wave servers I think this technology will make it easy to add additional functionality to your VLE with very little overhead.

Even without Wave access our colleagues at JISC CETIS have already extracted some of the well known Wave gadgets and embedded them into a Moodle course (See  Using "Moodle Wave" - Live demo). This solution uses the Wookie engine to render the gadgets so no Wave account is needed. If you are interested in findind out more about this I would recommend reading Scott Wilson’s - "Moodle Wave: Reinventing the VLE using Widget technologies".

What I've starred this week: November 17, 2009

Here's some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

What I've starred this week: November 10, 2009

Here's some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.

Black Wave 2: Blackboard Wave Integration!

Yesterday I showed you how you could embed Google Wave into Blackboard. At the time I tweeted this as “Google Wave embedded into Blackboard WebCT. A world 1st?″ (the tweet).

Turns out I might have not been the first to do this as George Kroner showcased a Blackboard Wave integration at EDUCAUSE09. His example is streaks ahead of mine as he is synchronising discussions between a Google wave and Blackboard (click on the screenshot below for a side by side comparison).

Blackboard Wave integration of discussion boards
Blackboard Wave integration of discussion boards

If you are luck enough to have a Wave account you can see the wave here. The mirror of the conversation in Blackboard is here.

The VLE lives!

Black Wave: Embedding Google Wave (etherpad and mindmeister) into Blackboard

There was a lot of talk at ALT-C this year about whether the VLE was dead. My personal view is divided. One one hand I can see the important role VLEs play in quality assurance. They are a controlled environment where the institution can validate learning, storing copies of work and making them available for external examination. On the other had VLE have a tendency to be rigid, forgoing flexibility and personalisation; ignoring the social change which is evident in other parts of the web. There is now a great richness is collaboration, openness and personal learning which sits outside the doors of the institutional VLE.

This all might however be about to change as the tide turns and the walls of the VLE are eroded by a rich web of social tools which are not bound by their domain but free to seed themselves on less fertile land.

That’s enough of the two-bit pros. Want to enrich your VLE with some Google Wave here’s how:

  1. In your Wave Preview account add [email protected]
  2. Create a new wave with Embeddy as a participant
  3. Embeddy will generate two pieces of code for you to copy to notepad (see screenshot-1)

Wave with EmbeddyScreenshot-1: Output from Embeddy

  1. Once you’ve copied the code you can delete the content and remove Embeddy from the wave
  2. Next you can seed your wave with text, gadgets etc
  3. Now open your course in Blackboard
  4. Depend on what version you are running you want to do something like add a file to the course content
  5. In the content make sure you are in html mode and paste the code generated by Embeddy (see screenshot-2)

Content editing in WebCT
Screenshot-2: Content editing view in Blackboard WebCT CE

Once you have saved this switch to student view and you can see that a Google Wave is embedded into the course (see screenshot-3). Remember the same wave can be embedded and interacted with wherever you like. So one student might want to play Sudoku in Blackboard another from a Wave client or anywhere else the wave has been embedded.

Wave embedded into Blackboard
Screenshot-3: Wave embedded into Blackboard

Why do I think Google Wave might revive a little life back in the VLE? The main reason for me is you will be soon able to host your own Wave server. This would allow blending an environment which requires validation and quality assurance with a rich social collaborative tool which is flexible enough to be embedded wherever you like.

Until Wave is put on general release I realise this is all perhaps a little blue sky. Don’t forget however that Wave isn’t the only real-time collaboration tool which can be embedded into Blackboard. After playing with Wave I also embedded the real-time text editing tool, or if you prefer, how about some mind mapping with Click here for information on etherpad embedding

Etherpad embedding (Click to enlarge)
Screenshot-4: etherpad embed

MindMeister embedding (Click to enlarge)
Screenshot-5: MindMeister embed

Thanks go to Simon Booth at the University of Stirling for Blackboard access.

Related post: Black Wave 2: Blackboard Wave Integration!

What I've starred this week: November 3, 2009

Here's some posts which have caught my attention this week:

Automatically generated from my Google Reader Shared Items.


This blog is authored by Martin Hawksey e-Learning Advisor (Higher Education) at the JISC RSC Scotland N&E.

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