Friday, December 19, 2008

Useful programs and websites to help you complete your project

Educators are shifting away from assigning individual projects and group projects are being assigned more and more. Years ago, getting together to make a group project happen was a pain in the ass. However, more and more projects are becoming digitized and more people have access to the Internet. Getting together in real life may be hard to do, but who said that you need to get together in real life?

E-Methods of 'Getting Together'
  • Instant Messaging/IRC: Text based chatting services such as AIM, MSN Messenger, and even an IRC server all useful ways of communicating with other group members. These technologies do not require a user to have a fast internet connection, making instant messaging one of the most popular methods to use. Most instant messaging services and programs will allow group chat, therefore allowing you and your group to 'meet up' online and share ideas and links. As an added bonus, you can also look at what you and others have said previously in the conversation so it is not neccessary to repeat yourself.
  • VOIP/Webcams: Voice Over IP and webcams allow you to communicate hands free over the Internet with other group mates. Webcams can also be used to display and get critique in real time on a material project. VOIP programs (such as TeamSpeak or Skype) may be used at the same time as instant messaging if needed. VOIP requires a medium or fast internet connection and requires slightly more RAM and CPU than instant messaging. Webcams require a fast connection and significantly more RAM and CPU than instant messaging.
  • Google Docs: Google docs, a web based application, allows you to upload many files, such as powerpoint presentations, spreadsheets, html files and word documents. These files can be edited or created in your web browser without the need of downloading and installing another program. One of the most notable features Google docs is the ability to work on a document realtime and simultaneously with other group members, as well as allow other members to edit files regardless of whether you are offline or online. A simple instant messaging-like window is built into Google docs as well, reducing the need for having many windows open. Google docs requires only an internet connection (almost any speed will do) and is probably the best choice for Powerpoints, Rich text documents and spreadsheets.
  • 3D Chat Rooms: Progams such as Second Life and IMVU offer mostly the same benefits as Instant messaging plus a small feeling of togetherness. Users can use text based chat (or in some cases, VOIP) in 3D envoirnments and navigate through worlds or scenery. (mostly with no benefit whatsoever) Connecting through 3D chat rooms requires a medium to fast internet connection and ALOT of RAM and CPU. This method is not the most efficient, but the novelty of it makes it alright.
  • E-Mail: Electronic mail. Good for almost anything, but slow. If you do not know what this is, you are not ready for the internet. Get off. Personally, Gmail,, and Hotmail are the best free E-mail hosts.
In conclusion, do not go out of your way to arrange real life gatherings when you can use technology much easier.


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