Easy Open Source Web Conferencing: Big Blue Button

I love my PLN. I discover so many new things every day. Today’s find is via Richard Byrne’s Free Tech 4 Teachers blog.

Big Blue Button is a video conferencing platform similar to Adobe Connect, Elluminate, or dimdim. It does all the regulars like text chat, voice and video sharing, PDF and PowerPoint viewing, and even screen sharing. The interface  is very clean and easy to use. The big draw to Big Blue Button for me is it open source and free to download.

When I say you can download it, that means it isn’t a hosted solution. You need to install it one your computers/servers. The good news is it is easy to install. I was surprised at just how easy it was for such a complex piece of software. Usually something like this requires lots of configuring and tweeking before you can get started with it. The developers have done a great job of making it easy to get started.

I installed it on Ubuntu 9.04 that was running on VirtualBox and I followed the very clear instructions available on the website. It is as simple as 6 steps. Open the Terminal and type each command.

  1. wget http://archive.bigbluebutton.org/bigbluebutton.asc
  2. sudo apt-key add bigbluebutton.asc
  3. echo “deb http://archive.bigbluebutton.org/ bigbluebutton main” | sudo tee /etc/apt/sources.list.d/bigbluebutton.list
  4. sudo apt-get update
  5. sudo apt-get install bigbluebutton
  6. You will be prompted to add a password to MySQL

Total install time was just over 8 minutes. That is pretty impressive.

Big Blue Button - The crappy webcam is my fault.

That’s it. Open up a web browser and hit your computers IP address and you will see the home page. Just enter your name into the demo room and you should be good to go.

I want to spend a bit more time with it and see what it can do after a bit more configuring and customization. I would love to find a way to launch a room directly from Moodle. After about 5 minutes of play it is very intuitive and just works. Certainly easy enough for teachers looking for a way to present online. BBB has their own demo server if you want to see it in action. They also have some great tutorial videos to get you started. I will keep you updated on my results. Thanks again to Richard for the great find.

Microsoft’s Future Vision

People sometimes assume that I hate Microsoft. It may be because I work on a Macbook Pro and am a public proponent of open source software. It could also be because I have stated my displeasure with some of Microsoft’s software…cough…Office 2008…ahem, excuse me. Anyways, I am not always a hater of big old MS. As of late their R&D department has got me excited for their products again. You have probably already seen Microsoft Surface, that really cool interactive table. While that is something you can buy today, (albeit for $10K) the video below shows Microsoft’s vision of the future. This is where we should be headed.

Cool stuff for sure. I can only imagine what type of learning opportunities such devices and environments hold for students and teachers. Can Microsoft deliver on this vision? Some version of it, I am sure.

Oh, and if you think this image of 2019 is too far fetched, watch this 1987 video from Apple. How many things in the video can you do with your computer? Forget about the annoying desktop secretary, thank goodness it didn’t all come true. The corny level is also high with this one.

Student Teacher Workshop Links

Here are links to some of the programs/websites I mentioned in the student teacher workshop on 2/6. For those of you not at the workshop, these are a few of my favorite tools that can be integrated into a teacher’s professional life at any grade level. This list is not comprehensive and does not attempt to list all the diverse tools out there. However, I have every letter of the alphabet covered. :)

ACTEM – Association of Computer Technology Educators of Maine. Great group to belong to. Awesome conference in the fall. $400 professional development funds.

Animoto – Create animated slide shows from you own media.

Blogger – Free blogging tool from Google. May be blocked.

Boxee – Turn your computer into a media player.

Comic Life – Create great looking comic books.

CamTwist – OS X only. Free tool to add video effects to your webcam.

Class Blogmeister – Free blogging tool specifically developed for education.

Delicious Library – OS X only. Track and check out books from your laptop.

Diigo – Great web bookmarking tool. Social aspects great for finding new information.

EduBlogs – Free blogging tool for teachers. Probably not blocked.

EduSim – Virtual World Software for your interactive whiteboard.

Flickr – Online photo sharing site.

Foldit – Protein fold by playing a game an help cure cancer.

Freemind – Free mind-mapping tool.

Garageband – OS X only. Music creation, podcasting, and learning tool.

GeoGebra – Free tool to help understand geometry, algebra, and calculus.

GIMP – Free image manipulation tool.

Google Anything – List of Google tools.

Google Docs - Office suite on the web. Best part are the collaborative features.

Google Earth – Google + Earth = Awesome.

Google SketchUp – Build 3-D objects.

Handbrake – Backup your DVDs.

iMovie – OS X only. Movie making tool.

Inkscape – Free vector graphics drawing tool.

Jing – Free screencasting tool.

Kindlelab – Free interactive whiteboard software.

Library Thing – Online book management and social tool.

Mahara – Free web-based electronic portfolio tool.

Miro – Free Internet TV and Videocast player.

Moodle – Free online course management tool.

Ning – Create a social network around anything.


PHUN – Fun free 2-D physics simulator.

PortaPortal – Easy bookmarks on the web.

PosteRazor – Make large poster out of any image using regular paper.

Qik – Stream video to the web with your cell phone.

Quicktime – You probably have it. If you get the pro version you can easily download quicktime media and record short audio and video shorts.

RSS Readers – Google reader and Bloglines makes reading web content so easy.

Scribd – Share your documents online.

Second Life – Virtual world. The COEHD has an island, Black Bear Island.

Skype – Free Internet Telephony. Talk for free over the Internet with video.

Stellarium – Free planetarium software.

Textorizer – Images into text. Try it

Twitter – Micro-blogging service. Great for creating a personal learning network.

uStream – Stream to the Internet from your computer.

Virtual Box – Run other operating systems on your computer.

Wikipedia – The largest collaborative encyclopedia. You are misinformed if you are not utilizing the wisdom of crowds.

Wikispaces – Free wikis for collaborative editing.

Xcuts – OS X widget for looking up keyboard shortcuts.

Your Fonts – Create computer fonts from your own hand writing.

Zotero – A Firefox extension to help you collect, manage, and cite your research sources.

Must watch videos:

Did You Know By Karl Fisch

An Anthropological Introduction Introduction to YouTube. – Michael Wesch


Witty Comics

This morning as Logan and I were watching Elmo, I can across a cool site for making comics. With Witty Comics you choose characters, backgrounds, speech bubbles and write you own creative banter. While not as powerful as something like Comic Life, it is still a fun little website to play around with. If you are not versed on the power of comics to portray information I suggest you read Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art by Scott McCloud. You won’t look at comics the same way again. It made me wonder why we don’t use them more often for complex ideas in learning. Anyways, here is my attempt at a witty comic. Try it out and send me yours.

Design as project

Most people have heard of Cafe Press, a website for selling custom t-shirts and other garb. After reading A Whole New Mind this last summer I have been thinking quite a bit about education through design. I wonder if anyone is using Cafe Press as part of project based learning, where students design t-shirts and/or other items and sell them. This would create a tie into the so-called real world that would get kids interested in learning. How cool would it be if they designed and sold real merchandise? I think we too often demonize anything to do with money in schools. Odd being that we are training them to operate in a capitalist society.

Anyways, this idea was clicked up a notch when I saw the website Ponoko in this months Wired. Ponoko gives the everyone access to professional designers. You come up with the idea for an object, submit it to their website, and they turn your idea into a real product you can sell. This goes well beyond the t-shirt building you can do on Cafe Press. Imagine students coming up with a brand new product that has never been made. So many opportunities to learn something. Now I just need to come up with an idea myself.

GMail Video Chat

It looks like Google has rolled out video chat for GMail. Sweet.


I have installed it, but it doesn’t work on my account. I am guessing that my GMail account hasn’t been blessed with the correct permissions yet. I will try again tomorrow.
It works now. Now I just need to wait for my contacts to install the plugin.

This is very cool as it is one less window I would have to have open. My question now is if I can video chat with my AIM contacts through gmail. That would be awesome.