Tag Archives: resource

Google Breadcrumb: create interactive mobile learning resources


Google Labs has come up with Breadcrumb, a simple tool for creating web-based resources, hosted by Google, that are formatted for mobile access. Breadcrumb provides an online text editor where the text of the resource is entered. Simple markup characters are used to create new pages and links to them, in a manner similar to wiki markup. There are no tools for WYSIWYG editing: you need to use HTML to insert images and create formatted headings etc.

The Breadcrumb page also shows a sample (unformatted) output as it would appear on a mobile device, a ‘mind-map’ of the page structure and some minimal help. The sample output and mind-map are updated when the text file is saved. The page also includes a QR code that can be scanned directly off screen or used in print or a web page elsewhere to allow mobile users tor jump directly to your finished work.

The Breadcrumb screen

google-breadcrumb-screenshot

Teachers can use Breadcrumb to create interactive stories, scenarios and traditional ‘branching’ learning materials. For example, it would be easy to use Breadcrumb to create something like the Learning Design Challenge, a problem-based learning resource in the form of an interactive game-like story in Mediawiki. Breadcrumb can also be used to create decision tree resources.

Breadcrumb issues

  • The biggest issue with Breadcrumb is that there is no page security – anyone with the URL can change or delete all the text. So you really need to keep good backups of the resource code! Until this is fixed, Breadcrumb is really only useful as a fast and easy way to prototype a new resource.
  • Breadcrumb markup is similar but frustratingly different from other widely-used markup conventions. If you’re familiar with a form of wiki markup, learning Breadcrumb’s markup is easy. But moving resources between systems (eg using Breadcrumb to create a prototype as above) would be a chore.
  • Breadcrumb resources do not always display well on mobile devices – for example, on iPhone or iPod the text is very small and double-tap to zoom does not work properly. On Android the display is better but not perfect.

Breadcrumb tips

  • Backup constantly by copying and saving the text to a local file on your hard drive or an online tool such as Springpad or Evernote.
  • Plan before you start – eg create a mindmap or tree diagram on paper.
  • Use the Breadcrumb group to learn more, as Google’s documentation only covers the real basics.
  • Don’t use numbers for pages – one thing the Google documentation doesn’t tell you is that page names can be words. See my example in the diagram – I find meaningful page names much better to work with.

Breadcrumb has a lot of potential as a tool to allow non-technical users to create interactive, branching learning resources such as stories. Currently it seems to be not quite ready for real world use by teachers, but let’s hope Google Labs continues to develop this tool.

The iPad: a tool for teachers

When the iPad was first announced I posted some brief thoughts about its potential for education. Since then, it’s been released and I’ve had the chance to spend some time playing with one. It’s been an opportunity to see to what extent the device itself and the software available would be a useful tool for supporting the work of teachers and lecturers.

My initial impressions that the iPad functionally resembles a giant iPod Touch have been confirmed. Still, I use my iPod Touch all the time, so all the advantages of a bigger display are very attractive. The key question for me is to what extent the bigger display makes the iPad a great device not just for consuming media but also for generating content.

The iPad is a great device to view content – it’s fast and the display quality is impressive. And of course there is a huge number of apps available for it,  given that it’ll run existing iPhone / iPod Touch apps as well as apps developed just for the iPad.

But as a working teacher I also want to generate content. And it has limitations here:

  • Want to edit online content such as Moodle or mediawiki pages? Results vary – you’ll almost certainly need to use HTML or wiki markup since the iPad is unlikely to work with wysiswyg editors. I don’t mind that – in fact I prefer to use HTML or wiki markup – but many teachers will find this a real drawback. And things are worse if you’re one of the many educators using the PBWorks wiki- at the time of writing it was impossible to edit a page with the iPad.
  • You can’t print. So you’ll need to rely on a desktop or laptop computer for this.
  • Using Google Docs? At the time of writing you can view but not edit using an iPad.
  • Want to create media resources?  There are useful apps becoming available, but the lack of native support for accessing the iPad file system and the use of proprietary file formats is likely to be a barrier. My two-year-old grandson loved using the built-in mike to make that cursed animated cat speak funny – but there is no obvious way just yet to record audio to standard file formats that can be moved easily to a desktop, edited in other applications and published.

In my mind, Apple has focused too much on the entertainment aspect of its portable devices and neglected their use for real-world work. I’d like to see both, and I don’t believe they need to be mutually exclusive. The iPad is not quite ready to meet my needs as a working teacher – can’t wait to see the next version.

Image: Glenn Fleishman