Monthly Archives: January 2013

The experience of the FirefoxOS Apps Day in Toronto #firefoxos

The last Saturday was the FirefoxOS Apps Day. It’s been a world wide event, from Argentina to Roumania, from Spain or Japan. Here en Canada there were two cities hosting the event, Vancouver and Toronto. Basically, it was a event to present the brand new FirefoxOS, an open operative system by Mozilla and the Spanish telco Telefonica.

The event was hosted in the amazing Mozilla’s office between Chinatown and the downtown of Toronto. It was pretty informal because was intended to be more of a hackaton than a conference. Even though, there was a couple of slots to speakers. The first one was John Karahalis giving a brief introduction to FirefoxOS. After him, Jennifer Fong-Adwent and Jonathan Lin of Mozilla shared tools and technology built to extend and support the new platform. Then the hacking part started for 4 hours. Our turn came after the hacking time, and we presented Dr. Glearning for FirefoxOS, talking a bit about motivation and goal, but focused on the problems we found developing for FirefoxOS in both modes (hosted and packaged apps), and how we came up with solutions and workarounds.

Later, was the time for showing demos built during the hacking time. Even if 4 hours is not time enough to develop something complete, I was amazed by two different factors: first the creativity of the developers, from utils apps like the ones you use everyday to check the trolley time, to games in cavalier projections; and second the good taste in matters of design, specially one on Pomodore Technique and another one on compass. And everything in just 4 hours!

My conclusion, after seeing the success of the event in other parts of the world as well, it’s that event was a perfect starting point to captivate developers on the simplicity of developing for FirefoxOS. But Mozilla still has a long way ahead. One thing to the future could be a World App Challenge with good prizes for the winners. But I have to say that all the teams that presented a demo got one of the awesome GeeksPhone with FirefoxOS, a very elegant detail for the attendees to the event from Mozilla’s part.

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Now I have a MOOC platform, what are the physical stuff I need?

It’s been a while since I wrote my last MOOC-related post. But now, after the crazy days of starting the first MOOC class in which I have the honour to participate in, I can write a bit about the second main aspect of a MOOC: what do you need to create those awesome videos. I already know that these posts are not about content, but about things you need to start. About the content and political or philosophical implications of teaching a MOOC there already are conversations out there that can fit your interest and answer your questions. For me, it is simply an interesting trend that universalizes the access to higher education, so as an academic member of an university, it’s a must to at least give it a try.

Said this, let’s talk about physical stuff. In the last post, I talked about infrastructure needs. Well, we finally forked the OpenMOOC engine and started our own development, which includes an all-in-one solution (registration, users, discussion, etc.) with a very easy installation process –stay tuned for detailed instruction to deploy it in your own server. And now that the course started, we are producing the videos as fast as we can. In an ideal world, you should buy one of those amazing Wacom tablets that already does all the work for you, but if you don’t have $4,000, as we do in our lab where the resources are limited, you should use what you already have. So far, what we are using is:

  • Digital camera recorder. The Panasonic HC-V700 ($460), but any modern camera, a good DSLR or even a small digital camera, is able to record in good quality (1080p) and is not that expense.
  • Tabletop monopod. This time we bought one from Amazon, a Sharpics SPMP16 ($30), in order to record what the teacher writes.
  • Lamp. In order to avoid annoying hand shadows when writing, we got a basic swing arm lamp ($25).
  • iPad ($399). We already had one, so no more to say.
  • Stylus. We are using a Bamboo Stylus Solo ($30), but there are cheaper options out there. It’s most about how confident you feel with it.
And I think that’s all. The process we are following on the cheap, in order to achieve results as close to Udacity‘s videos as possible, shown above, in which the hand never hides the written content, is the next:
  1. Write a small script of the video, that it is called nugget on the OpenMOOC terminology.
  2. Fix the iPad on a desktop under the camera lens, using the monopod and the lamp light.
  3. Write the content on Paper or Sketchbook Pro ($4.99) and record all the thing.
  4. At the same time, we screencast the iPad using screen mirroing through AirServer ($14.99) and Camtasia ($99).
  5. In the same Camtasia, using chroma key, we put the texts and diagrams over the hand, creating the similar effect.

But we need a lot of more practice 😀

On the other hand, we are also streaming the classes, so we can record and cut the session into pieces and make more concepts videos. So far, we are not using videos for homeworks, but Dr. Glearning, a service that enables you to create homework that your students can do in their phones. I wish you could see the students’ faces after telling them they will do homework in their phones, it’s simply priceless. But, although Dr. Glearning app is already available on iTunes and Google Play stores, is still in beta for teachers to create their courses. In addition, our OpenMOOC fork, we developed a basic integration, so you can embed Dr. Glearning courses into your MOOC course. Awesome, isn’t it?

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