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Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Awesome Apps - 25/09/12

So this week has seen a rich source of interesting stuff in two areas: Education and Online project management tools.  I thought as I had found them both so interesting that a double header blog post might just be in order :)

So, the first one - Education:

  • Khan Academy - growing in recognition this is a wonderful project.  In some schools it is even being trialled as the curriculum.  Video assets are great.  Exams and online tests useful too.  Very wide selection of things to choose from.
  • Coursera - This site is all about higher education.  Great stuff from around the world and in particular the US.  Some really interesting and in depth courses here in a variety of areas.  I'm thinking of trying out the maths and computer science courses as part of my own interests.
  • iTunes U - A wonderful cornucopia of stuff on this Apple platform for education.  Comes into its own on the iPhone and iPad.
What I love most about these is that they are FREE.  Wowzers!  In a world where education is so commercialised in the US and UK this is amazing.  Let's not overlook too things like MITX, which is building a whole new future in online higher education of the highest order.

Keep this main point in mind again: this stuff is free.  For you, for me, for everyone who can get to it through the web or a device.  And it's increasingly more tailored to our web and device interfaces, making the learning experience far more portable and interactive.

A wonderful opportunity for people of any social class, geographic region, age or experience to get involved with education and to feel the benefits to their work, their lives or just their feelings of self worth.  I genuinely think that these things are wonderful.

And the second one - online project and collaboration tools:
  • Trello - a ramped up set of Agile cards on a white board.  Few added task tools and you can add files to the cards too as well as pictures to help you visualise your end goals.  I use this every day now.
  • Basecamp - I love this site too.  It's quick and simple to use from the start.  We found in our team that it became a bit too admin heavy though - and easy to become a task in itself.  We wanted something lighter - which is where Trello came in, but we lost some of the helpful bits - like longer term planning and milestones, that were very handy in Basecamp.
  • Wunderkit - BBC Click featured this last week.  Liked it a lot.  Looks light and easy to use.  More for creative projects than technical I think, but worth a try out if you are going into an agile project for the first time.
Things I like about these tools:  They are free or quite cheap to run, they work really well, They are simple, you can do stuff straight away, anyone can use them and they mean you can collaborate much more easily over long distances.  Oh and you rarely become a slave to them and can just get on with the work.

Things I don't like: Reporting from them is a bit harder than say an MS Project, the integration with say Google logins is minimal and I'd really like to see them integrated within Skype or Google hangout environments so that you can hold a video call for collaboration with a team and bring the project board more easily into view.

In short though, if I compare them to say trying to use MS project to run a short term project, or trying to collaborate over several geographies and writing up endless meeting minutes, I think that they are FANTASTIC!  Well worth a look.

And that brings an end to today's Awesome Apps experience share.  Hope you got something out of it of use to you.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Awesome apps - 15/09/12

Well it's been a couple of weeks since I posted something about awesome apps, but please don't let that make you feel like I haven't seen any innovation in that time.  In fact, its the opposite!  So much new stuff floating in and out of view every day in this space that its quite incredible.

I come from a background of engineering and science where change and innovation is central to what we do, but takes a very long time.  In this apps space its constant, everywhere and FAST.  Exciting just isn't the word, and I have a lot to thank our uTest partnership for in terms of bringing me headlong into this space.

So, here's this weeks tiny insight into that world of Awesome Apps:

  1. Hotel Tonight - Put simply, the app I have been waiting for all my consultancy life.  Deals on hotels that night.  Special deals on price for last minute availability. #awesome
  2. Voxer Walkie talkie - Ok, so this is something I am not 100% on board with yet, but an example of a nice innovation in the messaging space.  In effect, its audio texts.  Free ones.  Brings a more rich dialogue.  Conceptually very nice.  Reality still a bit clunky for me personally but something to keep with and see where it goes.
  3. Quartz Projects - Accessibility is a key area for me right now and I like this site where they provide accessibility enhancements for twitter.  Such a key forum needs to be accessible for all!  Strong work and kudos to these guys.
Many thanks go to the International Herald Tribune and the BBC Click show for the inspirations behind todays post.  I find both as really useful, credible, mature sources of information in this space.  They form part of my daily (IHT) and weekly (BBC Click) info gathering on the market and I highly recommend them both.

More soon :)

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