Stop! Collaborate and listen.

Group Collaboration:
Let’s take you day by day.

Friday: Isabelle send out an email (1st collaboration tool) to the group, outlining our activities and my first thought was, can we finish this week first. Ha!
Saturday/Sunday: Danny responds and let’s us know that he has taken Isabelle’s notes and his notes and placed them in our 2nd collaboration tool, Titanpad.
Monday/Tuesday: I jumped on Titanpad and inserted my thoughts.  Up to this point we have primarily been using e-mail to communicate. Everyone continued making edits to the content in Titanpad.
Wednesday: We agreed to video conference on Skype (3rd collaboration tool). We had some technical difficulties, as Danny and I were able to video conference but Isabelle was limited to chat. We finalized our gameplan and agreed to video conference again on Thursday. Isabelle created a Google Docs powerpoint (4th collaboration tool) for us to insert our presentation slides.
Thursday: We had trouble connecting via Skype but eventually, Amy & Danny were able to video conference while Isabelle and I were limited to audio. While on Skype, we were also on Google Docs making edits to our presentation. We geeked out over how cool this was!
Friday: Once everyone gave the final OK on their slides, I uploaded them to VoiceThread (5th collaboration tool) and everyone inserted their comments on their own time. I recorded and edited my comments with ScreenFlow. Danny used his iPhone.

VoiceThread Experience:
VoiceThread played such a minor role in our collaborative efforts that I am not even sure it warrants reflection. Our group was very impressed with the collaboration tools (email, Titanpad, Skype & Google Docs) we used and how we were able to, simultaneously, chat and edit our presentation. At this point, VoiceThread took up but an hour of my time. For next weeks module, I imagine VoiceThread serving a greater value, but at this point all it consisted of was uploading a photo, uploading a presentation and then uploading my comment for my slides.

VoiceThread in My Presentation/Professional Life:
It’s the comments that makes VoiceThread a useful tool. Without the comments, all it is a YouTube channel or The commenting allows for a social experience with presentations. Slidehare and YouTube also allows for commenting, the only difference is that you can comment with audio or video on VoiceThread.

I can see our faculty members and students using this product as it is relatively easy to use but the problem is that you have to use other tools prior to using VoiceThread. If VoiceThread offered presentation creation, online video conferencing and online collaboration, then I can see VoiceThread being useful but b/c our group spent a majority of its time with other collaboration tools, I don’t see VoiceThread being a useful tool.




Tool Category: Communication Tool & Productivity Tool

Description: So what is an infographic? An infographic is a visual representation of data or information. It is meant to take complex data/information and present it in a visually appealing manner that can be understood by all. is a site the provides infographics on a daily basis and also categorizes them.

Infographics are typically created by graphic designers but the beauty of Piktochart is that you don’t have to be a graphic designer to create one. The service is a web-based tool and is free to use.  You can upgrade to a Pro account to unlock more themes and more tools.


Big Data is trending in health care and infographics serve as a valuable tool to help the regular joe make sense of the data and infographics help to paint a clearer picture.

Need to Know:  You need to have your data and information organized so that you build your infographic in a manner that makes sense. You don’t have to install any applications as it is a web-based tool.  The pro account is $29 a month or $290 a year. Piktochart has a support page if you get overwhelmed.

What You Need: All you need is a keyboard, a mouse, an internet connection, and your creativity.

The Steps:

  1. Go to and click on the button labeled “START FREE TRIAL” or the “SIGN UP” button at the top right corner.
  2. You can sign in with your Google+ or Facebook account or you can create a username and password.
  3. Once you have created an account or signed in, you will be brought to a page that gives you four formats for your infographic:
    1. Infographic: Create longform infographics to draw pageviews to your blog or website.
    2. Report: Designed to fit snuggly in two A4 sheets of paper – use infographics to bring dry reports to life.
    3. Banner: Spreading information in a glance. Make your shoutouts and announcements in an infographic.
    4. Presentation: Pitches and briefings are fun with infographics. Block size is fixed for a 4:3 aspect ratio.
  4. After you select a format, you can choose from a variety of themes or create your own infographic on a blank canvas. Rolling over a theme will allow you to preview the theme and if satisfied, create an infographic using that theme.
  5. You will be prompted to name your Piktochart and then press the “CREATE” button.
  6. The infographic you selected will open up in a canvas to edit. The infographic is broken up into blocks and you can add, delete and edit the individual blocks.

    1. The buttons on the left (Graphics, Uploads, Background, Text, Styles & Tools) allows you to add content to your blocks. When you click on one of the buttons, options for that tool appear to the right of the toolbar.
    2. The buttons above the inforgraphic let you Undo, Redo, Copy, Cut, Paste, Delete and Align with other objects.
    3. The buttons immediately to the left of the block you are editing allows you to Add Block, Delete Block, Clone Block, Move Up (block), Move Down (block), and Settings which allows you to set the size of the infographic and individual blocks.
    4. When you are done editing your infographic, the buttons at the top right corner of the canvas allow you to Save, Preview, Download, Publish and Share your infographic.

Educational Resource:
Piktochart posted a blog about how infographics are being used in education. It’s a great read and shows how educators are using infographics in the classroom. Link

These were the responses from the educators.
Jon:  I have mainly used infographics to support teacher training.
Urvi:  The infographics were for a project in World Issues class about Genocide.
Vance:  I’ve had students create infographics on topics such as controversies in public health, the American obesity epidemic, STDs, and the environmental impact of their purchases.
Mia:  Students used infographics on a crowdsourcing project in Ethics and any other presentation, I use them to explain work flow and assignments.
Shayne:  We are taking a thematic approach and looking at hunger, homelessness and poverty in 8 subgroups. Students will report the using an infographic.

In the Teaching Environment:
The blog post above gives many instances in which infographics were being used in the teaching environment but I also see a great use for it in SBMI’s master’s program.

SBMI offers a course on data visualization which is pretty much the definition of an infographic. As part of a project, the students can be assigned to visually represent health specific data/information. The grad students can use Piktochart, since it is free, to create the infographics.

Also the professor can teach a class by building an infographic with the lesson of the day. Rather than giving a presentation in powerpoint, the professor can start the class with a blank canvas and build the infographic, during class time, with the content of his/her lesson.

Free web-based application
Easy to use by anyone, no graphic designer abilities necessary
Available for mobile devices
Community of support that helps in learning the tools

$29 a month for the pro account
Free account has several limitations

Yes. A graphic designer charges up to $100 per hour. This tool will save you money and help to make data visually appealing. Educators can use it in the classroom to engage learners.

Video Review

PIXLR: A Review



Tool Category: Communication Tool & Productivity Tool

Description: Let me tell you a little about his tool called PIXLR…it’s AWESOME! I use Photoshop on a daily basis and to find a bare-bones version that is free and easy to use, it has me thrilled.

PIXLR has three different web-based applications that you can use (shown above): 1) PIXLR Editor, 2) PIXLR Express, and 3) PIXRL O-Matic.

PIXLR also offers two phone apps (PIXLR Express & PIXLR-O-Matic) that are available for iPhones and Android phones.


PIXLR Editor (image below) is the web-based application that is very similar to Adobe Photoshop and GimpShop. It’s a photo & graphic editing application that allows you to edit, add text, shapes, & adjust colors to your photos and graphics.  It has some of the same tools & capabilities as Photoshop and Gimpshop including layering, filtering, image resizing, adjustments, and exporting to different image formats.


PIXLR Express (image below) is a pared down version of PIXLR Editor…an express version. It has presets that can be applied to your photo or graphic. Presets include adjustments, effects, overlays, borders, stickers, and type.


PIXLR O-Matic is a web-based photo enhancement tool that allows you to crop an image, apply effects, overlay filters, and add a border.  PIXLR O-Matic (especially the mobile phone app) has some of the same tools and functions as Instagram.

Need to Know:  Learning curve for PIXLR O-Matic is easy, PIXLR Express is medium and PIXLR Editor is difficult. If you have used Photoshop before, then PIXLR Editor is very easy to use as it has some of the similar features.

What You Need: All you need is a keyboard, mouse, webcam, internet connection, and your creativity.

The Steps:

  1. Go to and click on the application you would like to use: PIXLR Editor, PIXLR Express or PIXLR O-Matic.
  2. Click on the PIXLR O-Matic banner
    1. Click on the “webcam” icon to snap a selfie or clikc on the “computer” icon to upload an image from your computer.
    2. The menu at the bottom (pictured below) will take you through a step-by-step process beginning with applying effects, overlaying a filter, or adding border. The menu will also allow you to crop the image, save your changes, and step backwards or forwards.
  3. Click on the PIXLR Express banner
    1. Select the “Browse” button to upload an image from your PC, the “Open URL” button to edit an image from the web, the “Webcam” button to take a selfie, or the “Collage” button to create a collage.
    2. When your image opens up in the canvas, you will see a menu below your image that will allow you to apply a preset “Adjustment”, “Effect”, “Overlay”, “Border”, “Sticker”, or “Type”.
    3. When you are done with your changes, click on the “Save” button located at the top left hand corner of the canvas.
  4. Click on the PIXLR Editor bannerEditormenu
    1. Select the “Create a new image” tab to start with a blank page, the “Open image from computer” tab to upload from your PC, the “Open image from URL” tab to fetch an image from the web, the “Open image from library” tab to select from pixlr, facebook or other library, or the “Use pixlr on your mobile device” to use your mobile device.
    2. Once your image loads on the canvas, you will see a menu at the top of the window, a crop & resize tool below the menu, a “Tools” palette to the left of the image, and the “Navigator”, “Layers”, & “History” palette to the right of the image.
    3. Hovering over the tools in the “Tool” palette will let you know what type of tool it is.
    4. You can save the image for the web or in the PIXLR format to maintain the layers and changes.

Educational Resource:
In the video below, a teacher used PIXLR Express to edit photos. The teacher showed his students how to edit pics even though he taught them how to use Photoshop. After the students have edited the image, they were to place the edited image in their Prezi presentation. He was letting them know of some alternatives that are of no cost to the student.

In the Teaching Environment:
I think it’s pretty obvious that students could use this program in a photo-journalism or graphic design course.

A website listed some instances where PIXLR can be used in a K-12 setting.

  • Edit pictures before using them in other programs.
  • Add pictures and define vocabulary words.
  • Take pictures of memorable events (field trips, class parties, music programs, etc.) add captions and “swag” to pictures.
  • Modify pictures for take-home cards for parents.
  • Upload pictures of maps to Pixlr and add events or place names.
  • Take pictures of everyday items that form geometric shapes for a shape review.

I couldn’t think of any instances where this tool would be valuable at UTHealth SBMI.  I could see this tool being useful at the undergraduate level, similar to the instances as the K-12 suggestions. For graduate level courses, I can’t see it being handy unless students are editing images for presentations.

Free application similar to Photoshop & Gimpshop
A choice of three different photo/graphic editing tools that fits the users skill level
Web-based application
Available for mobile devices
Community of support that helps in learning the tools

A higher learning curve for PIXLR Editor

This tool works great for photo & graphic editing and it is rather easy to use.  I would highly recommend this tool, especially if students can not afford to purchase an application such as Photoshop.


Twitter: A Review


Tool Category: Communication Tool & Networking/Social Tool


Description: In Twitter fashion, I was tempted to describe the tool in 140 characters or less but then I probably wouldn’t get a good grade.  Twitter is a micro-blog, similar to these blogs we are posting to but you know, micro.  In this case micro is defined by a post of 140 characters or less.  It’s a great tool for posting a quick/short thought and sorting out tweets with a # (hashtag not pound).  Twitter is very social in that you interact and follow Tweeps that share your interest which also provides the user an excellent opportunity to network.

This tool is completely web-based and requires no additional applications to download and install.  There are applications out there that you can download and install to manage your Twitter accounts, such as Hootsuite & Tweetdeck.

Need to Know:  The language!  You are only allowed 140 characters so shortcuts and symbols are implemented to help navigate the limited amount of characters you are allowed. Here is a link describing the language.

What do you need to have before using this tool? All you need is a keyboard, mouse and your thoughts.

The Steps:

  1. Go to and create an account by entering an email and password.TwitterLogin
  2. Select a username that will used as your Twitter handle, then click on the button labeled “Create my account”.
  3. Follow the steps to update your profile.Follow
  4. To populate your timeline, begin by following users that share your interest.
  5. Along the top of your Twitter “Home” page is the menu bar to navigate Twitter.Menu
    Notifications: will let you know when interactions occur with your Twitter handle.
    Discover: will let you discover other users to follow & lets you know what’s trending
    Me: is how your Twitter profile appears to other users.
    Direct Messages: lets you know when other Twitter users are sending you message.
    Settings: allows you to customize all aspects of your Twitter profile
    Compose a new tweet: allows you to compose a new tweet (140 characters)

Educational Resource: UTHealth_SBMI
UTHealth SBMI created a twitter account to share news and information with it’s students.  To keep our students updated on informatics related topics and upcoming events.  For some of our distance courses, faculty members have asked their students to sign up for Twitter especially since Twitter is becoming a popular mode of communication among the informatics community.

In the Teaching Environment:
For face-to-face & blended learning courses, students can use Twitter during the lecture to help pose questions or try to help others in the course to understand the content.  Just add a #CourseNameNumber to the tweet and the TA could read the tweets and answer the questions as the professor is speaking.  Since the tweets are archived the student can always run a quick search on #CourseNameNumber to review was was said in the lecture.  It’s as if the whole course took notes and everyone has access to them.

For fully online learning courses, students at a distance can communicate with each other and faculty members via Tweets since Twitter can be downloaded to your mobile device.  Office hours can also be held in Twitter allowing open access to the faculty member and making office hours more social.

Social communication
Networking opportunities
Levels the playing field for all users
Great alternative to text messaging if you don’t want to give out your number
Discovering new people

Accidentally posting a tweet not meant for the public
Twitter has a steep learning curve

I love Twitter and I suggest you give it a shot.  The next event that you are heavily interested in (like the World Cup), hop on Twitter and follow the hashtag (#) associated with the event.  It enhances the event and allows for your voice to be heard and seen.


Hello everyone…my name is Marcos Hernandez and I am a web developer for the School of Biomedical Informatics at UTHealth and I also work with the distance education team.  We are all about the Web 2.0 techno thingies…you can even say we are Web 2.01.

This is my second semester at UH, currently enrolled in the certificate program but plan on applying to the MS program.  I recognize some of your lovely names but for those that I am meeting for the first time, I can’t wait to read your thoughts…well some of you anyways b/c this class has a crap load of students and “ain’t nobody got time for that!”

I am an aspiring artist, below is some of my work.

Wolverine or Freddy Kruger

Wolverine or Freddy Kruger?





*inspired by my 7 year old daughters drawings from pre-k.

I am also an aspiring musician…take a listen to a sample of my work.

*inspired by metronome…..& Justin Bieber.

I can’t wait for this summer session to end….I mean get started!!!