“To Be or Not To Be…..That is the question.” In this case, are we educators organized with our resources and lessons or do they look like this desk? If not, permit me to introduce LiveBinders. LiveBinders is your virtual 3-ring binder to get organzied. In learning about this fantastic Web2.0 tool I was fortunate to Skype with the founders Tina Schneider and Barbara Tallent. Through our conversation they agreed to conduct a podcast interview providing insight into the development of LiveBinders as well as the passion that brought these two ladies together. Tina and Barbara both spent time observing and collaborating with educators in their local school. Their objective was to gather insight, along with concerns those educators had about improving their instruction while utilizing new technology. There were three items commonly shared among those providing feedback:
- Time for training and support
- How useful is it for learning?
- How accessible is the tool?
Honestly those three items are the same instructional technology specialists and technology coordinators hear as we work with educators on a daily basis. So, in effort to explain the functionality of LiveBinders I will use these three concerns as my focus points.
Time? When does anyone have time for all the things we want to accomplish during our lives? Honestly, if you have 5-10 minutes you have time to learn how easy it is to use LiveBinders. The functionality was designed with the emphasis on content and sharing of learning materials. There are three ways to create a LiveBinder:
- Create from scratch via the LiveBinder website
- Build a binder by collecting search results via Google
- Using the “LiveBinder It” button within browser (use link to view tutorial video)
I strongly recommend you install the “LiveBinder It”. The ability to add websites to any binder as you come upon it without having to visit your binder directly is quite nice. You can observe tutorial videos via the website or subscribe to the YouTube channel for anytime/anywhere self-paced training.
The second concern expressed focused on how useful LiveBinders would be to education. To address this concern lets start by looking at the features currently available within this Web 2.o tool. First of all, all free binders are eligible to store up to 100Mb worth of uploads. Those uploads can be arranged in a collection of tabs and sub-tabs. Website URLs can be added with there being a 10 second period for the site to be grabbed. The “grab” function permits the site to become interactive within the tab/subtab selected. But the features don’t stop there. LiveBinders permits users to import bookmarks from their Delicious accounts, add images via Flickr import or uploading from a computer in .jpg or gif formats. Uploads are not just limited to images. Audio files (ie mp3), video files (.mov) or search YouTube via tags or by username, documents files (.txt/.docs/.ppt) and PDF files all can be uploaded and interactive. PDF files will open up within the tab or subtab as a webpage fine on a PC. On a Mac Safari displays the PDF correct but Firefox needs to have the plug-in via PluginDoc. Another convenient feature provided within LiveBinders, is the ability to use text layout templates. These templates are very similar to those you see in Powerpoint to help organize how text, images, or audio are presented. The final point I want to make about the usefulness of LiveBinders is how it can be used to compile numerous items within a single topic. If you visit the “Featured Binders” tab on the main website you will see how educators are using this Web 2.0 tool to share and organize their educational resources. Here is an example of a single virtual binder I have created for Digital Storytelling resources.
Recently LiveBinders has been updated with some great enhancements. This image points out how the limit of 20 tabs per binders has been removed, a “Present” mode has been implemented to provide users the same functionality as “Play” mode in Powerpoint, and the last two added features are being able to embed your bookshelf of binders (Here is my bookshelf) and easy access to LiveBinder’s FAQ section.
The final concern expressed by educators dealt with accessibility of the tool. Keeping in mind how easy it is to create a binder or add to one already created via the “LiveBinder It” that accessibility is addressed. The next issue of accessibility always worrying educators, is if the site itself is blocked. As an educator and one of the two folks responsible for maintaining our school district filter, LiveBinders will probably be detected and listed within the “File Sharing” category. Well, here are three items and one future enhancement that should address the concerns of those responsible for the filter that may help you get it open for all possible users or at least for educators if your Internet access is tiered.
- Binders can be kept “Private” ( as mentioned before) use a “Key” (password) to access it.
- All public binders are reviewed to make sure material is educational appropriate.
- Public folders can be set to “Not Copyable”. Thus, keeping it viewable to everyone but not reproducible.
- (Future enhancement) 3rd Party service to help identify users below the age of 13.
I hope this overview has opened your eyes to see how visually pleasing and user friendly LiveBinders is for educators. The ability to keep items public or private via a “key” and review of public folders for educational resources along with the ability to embed a binder or shelf within one’s own site should, ultimately, address those questions regarding the design for educators with educator input. Future enhancements will include the ability to have multiple people login simultaneously and contribute resources as well as working with a third party organization to assure those under the age of 13 are capable of creating their own LiveBinder yet meeting federal COPA/CIPA regulations. If this review does interest you but there remains a few questions, please consider watching this YouTube video created by the Barbara Tallent of LiveBinders.