MacBook Pro 3

Since my last posts concerning the MacBook Pro [see and], I’ve moved on quite a bit. I’ve sort of mastered iTunes, iMovie and iPhoto and I’ve also delivered three sessions using it as the main machine. So – what have I learned and how does it feel now?

(Before moving on, I must thank all those of you that commented on MacBook Pro 2 – your comments have been tremendously helpful. Readers, please view the comments on that post.)


Snippy I opened an image in [Preview] the other day: just why it didn’t open in iPhoto, I’m not quite sure yet; but found that there is a [select] function – a sort of crop-tool. However, it allows you to freehand select tool [lasso] – in much the same way as Snippy and the Snipping tool in Vista. So if you like funny shaped pictures – use Preview and its select tool. Shift + Command + 4 to capture a standard still image of screen (thanks Di). This image defaults to the desktop b.t.w.

I used iPhoto big time on my American holiday [] but it took some time to ‘get’ it. All images the machine comes across find their way into an EVENT folder. You can then add the images to folders of your own choosing. But: If you delete them from the EVENT folder, they disappear from everywhere else you might have put them (you can easily drag them from EVENT to a folder of your own choice but the dragging only copies – it doesn’t move).

Troubles with iTunes.

screenshot - iTunes view icons

It also took me a while to ‘get’ iTunes. For someone used to yellow folder icons populated by file icons and the ability to view these hierarchically iTunes has been a steep learning curve and the bends are still making me dizzy. I can ‘view’ my music ‘albums’ in Album view (the chess board-like icon above) and easily see which album is which. I can even select different views within this view (!!) I can view albums, artists, genres and composers and each set of icons will be re-ordered and re-presented to aid my viewing/searching. But – and here’s where it took me a while to ‘get’ it – when you choose the lines icon (on the left above) you just get one HUGE list of individual tracks. Which I find alarming – almost scary. And then there’s the Album Art …

Screenshot - default iTunes album iconIf iTunes can’t find the cover image for your ‘album’ it grants you the use of its own generic music icon, which is dark and dull and if you have more than two albums; wrist-slashingly dull. To overcome this you have to be patient and committed (don’t all shout at once!!). You have to double-click the (dull) icon to open the album and see the track list. The (dull) icon will appear on the top left. Right click (or Control + right pad click) this and choose ‘get info’. Choose ‘artwork’. Now – open your favourite browser and go to: to search for your album and a link to a CD cover image you can then copy and paste into the ‘artwork’ window you have left open in iTunes. Of course this may not be legal – so I may never have done it. But it is nice to see an image replacing the dull, generic icon. You could of course compose an image of your own – if you have the time. Oh – there’s another ‘beware‘ before I sign off this post.

If one of the albums you are importing into iTunes is a compilation (say ‘The Best of Eric Clapton’) it may (9 times out of ten for me) ‘split’ itself into two or three different albums (album icons). I had Eric on his own, Eric with John Mayall and Eric with Cream – which was space-takingly annoying. I just wanted one album, like I have in my CD rack. To repair this, Right click (or Controlright pad click) the previously (perhaps still?) dull icon and choose ‘get info’ and then ‘info’. Make sure that the artist name is the one you want and where there is a difference between the different splits (gosh this is confusing, sorry), ensure they become the same (?) and lo – your three (or more) albums will become one again, just like you wanted in the first place.

Phew. iMovie next time and other ‘stuff’

10 years of Blogging

I was out walking with John Rousell yesterday, as usual on a Saturday morning [see the more recent photographs taken on Saturday jaunts here], when it occurred to me that I had actually been blogging for over 10 years. It came as quite a surprise to realise this, but in many ways quite rewarding to become aware that my ‘first’ blog post hadn’t been that made back in May 2005, just a few months before leaving my employment at Dewsbury College. As I’ve said before, I’ve always been something of a diary writer, but our conversation yesterday made me realise that I’d also been a blogger for some time too, even before I knew what the word was or meant.

Our conversation had drifted back to the time John and I spent a week cycling from Barmouth (in Wales) to Great Yarmouth (in East Anglia). We’d not realised that it was now over ten years ago (July 1999) since we’d done that trip. We had wanted to cycle from coast to coast and not only did this accomplish that feat at the widest point of the country – but the names rhymed!

John had been showing the cycle trip website to a friend last week and was telling me of his friend’s reaction (incredulity!), when I realised that this was indeed a rudimentary, early blog. We’d photographed our way across the country and kept notes about the journey, which then ended up online as part of my personal website. I had web space at the time from NHL (that might be wrong – they started as Cabletel, then became whatever they were called beginning with ‘n’ and were themselves taken over about the time I moved house and over to BT for my internet). Nevertheless, my ability to edit etc, was lost after my move but I eventually managed to regain the pages and re-post the site a few years ago by simply searching for it (this was before Google offered such a service). I lost some images, but was able to reform it in pretty much the way it was presented originally and to put it back online – back under my control. I’ve never really advertised it as part of my Village e-Learning site – but that’s where it is. Some of the pictures we took that week (on on subsequent Saturday mornings) were later used as part of John’s brilliant SimDis web pages not hosted by TechDis at

This week I’ve been to Birmingham (picture above) once and Leeds twice for work. I learned much more about each city during these visits and although I’ve always liked Birmingham as a city, I’ve similarly always hated Leeds. In both cases – my visits increased my liking for the cities themselves. Well done Leeds. I’ll write more about this later as my interest in Leeds will become a developing theme.

Whilst in Leeds the second time, I was helping Dave Foord and Lilian Soon to deliver a conference/workshop event at The Carriage House for the RSC-YH. This introduced a support service for regional ‘Pathfinder’ bids. We all felt that it went well and now look forward to the contact from delegates to ask for advice and guidance regarding the equipment side of their bids. Whilst there I took this video of Lilian making paper boxes.

Misleading food labels (again)

The Shadow environment secretary Nick Herbert has said this week that Tesco’s (and Morrison’s) have agreed to bring to an end the confusion caused by misleading food labels.

Hurray!! (but said with caution).

Herbert said, in a recent statement that the supermarkets will from now on (well, who really knows when) inform customers of exactly where the product (meat) originates. Instead of ‘produced in the UK’ on labels, we can now expect to see ‘meat originates in X, Y or Z’.  At the moment, European rules say that meat (except beef, which has different and more stringent rules) does not have to display the country of origin. It can advertise itself as British if indeed Britain is the last place that ‘substantial change’ occurred. This is a scary enough statement in itself but is easy enough to explain when you realise that meat reared in (say) Turkey is sent to (say) Belgium, where it is frozen – before being shipped to Britain where it is defrosted, cooked (when I say cooked I perhaps mean mass-produced as part of a chemically denatured and additively enhanced process of protein alteration by heat) and packed before again being chilled or frozen for shipment to any of the huge supermarkets around the country (or the world). At this point, the Turkish bred and Belgian frozen meat (lets say it’s chicken) can be termed ‘British’ as that is where the last substantial change occurred.  MMMmmm British Sunday Roast – loverly!!

So well-done Tesco and Morrison’s – let’s see the others follow suit.

But wait a minute chaps … (see previous post) it isn’t just the labelling of meat that concerns us – it’s misleading labelling full stop. The recent Tory statement is just another example of smoke and mirrors (by the party and by the supermarkets) – we still need a better and less confusing system of food labelling. Will our elected representatives help? Perhaps if we make enough noise!

Here’s an example of what happens when we become complacent.

PowerPoint – pointers

Once again this week, the misuse of PowerPoint was evident at a major conference.  I believe that this reflects the continuing misuse in schools and colleges where the teachers should by now know better. Yet, if used properly, it can be such a fabulous and powerful tool

For me, PowerPoint is one of the lower common denominators in the ongoing battle to have practitioners embrace the inarguable benefits of e-Learning. Practitioners can easily learn the technical skills required to produce a PowerPoint but sadly, this is sometimes where their development ceases.

Let’s just look at text and images.

Once someone has learned how to add text, it is just a short step to adding an image. We therefore see PPT’s with lots of text on screen and occasionally we see images too. But that simply isn’t enough; more thought about the PPT being created is required.

How many of us consider our audience when preparing a PowerPoint slideshow? How many different audiences can there be?

1. In-class, to support the didactic teacher
2. In-class, to support independent exploration
3. In-class, to support group work
4. In-class, to support extension activities
5. Out of class, to support independent exploration
6. Out of class, to support group work
7. Out of class, to support extension activities
8. At a conference – to support front-led pontification

There are probably many more instances but in each case the audience will be different; at least the way in which they will be expected to (or able to?) interact with the PPT.  Dave Foord has blogged several times about the misuse of PPT (e.g. and his website contains an excellent guidance sheet (pdf) aimed at promoting good use.

There are many things to consider when creating a PowerPoint but why oh why can’t teachers and trainers (less so) put themselves in the place of their audience and ask themselves something about font size, background colour and possibly the words themselves:

i- Can the class/audience read size 14 font at the back, or even at the front? (Conversely, if used as 2,3,4,5,6,or 7 above – is the size 36 font used too big?)
ii- Have I put too many words on screen? (Probably!)
iii- (a) Why are the words on screen? (b) Will I be saying them anyway?
Why indeed? If the words are on screen they must have a purpose. They have no purpose if you are going to speak them anyway – your audience will only be tempted to write them down and not listen to you – yet your only reason to be in the room at all is to be listened to – remember that. Why not use an Image or two to represent the point of your talk? These could be captioned – or you could ask your audience the relevance. This way too, you are creating a 2-way dialogue with your audience. Surely that can’t be bad.
iv- Now you have altered the background colour (you love groovy black) what colour font do you need to use and NOT use? Red on Black is invisible to even the grooviest of readers! Do Not Do Red On Black. Sometimes a plain white background with black text is enough.

PowerPoint is a PRESENTATION package.

Remember that!

If you do wish to use it for numbers 2-7 above different rules will apply and there are many tricks and facilities available for use in PPT that you may not yet be aware of:
* Hyperlinks to other files and folders and web sites
* Show web sites ‘live’ inside the PPT
* Embed videos in the PPT
* Create movement with carefully chosen (but minimal) animation
* Embed sound – maybe a voice-over to explain an image or point you’ve made:  Perhaps you could embed an audio file containing everything you had said in class (useful for 5,6 and 7) – see for an easy to use free (ish) means of recording audio.
* Insert interactive text boxes
* Insert timers for activities etc.
The list is not exhaustive.

None of the above techniques take much more in the way of technological skill, but they do need a commitment to improve delivery to an audience and learner engagement. Worksheets for some of the skills can be found at:

Rant over.

ALT-C 2009

I’ve just cleared the decks after returning from an interesting week at ALT-C. Well, when I say ‘cleared the decks’, I mean that I’ve caught up on as many emails as I can and have phoned as many people as I’d promised or needed to. And, when I say ‘an interesting week’ – I mean it’s been an all-absorbing, full-on, learning, networking and interesting three days, not quite a week.

The last time I attended an ALT conference was back in 2006, in Edinburgh and I blogged throughout that conference: This time I haven’t, I just didn’t seem to have the energy to blog. Instead – I Twittered (Twitted?) #altc2009 and learned about Twitterfall. I’d left the Edinburgh conference disillusioned and dispirited and purposely avoided the next two in Nottingham and Leeds (although I now wish I’d managed Leeds if only for the conference dinner which was apparently a great success by Thomas Danby College students).  It costs me a lot of money to attend and I can’t afford to come away feeling like that. This year though, Lilian Soon [] and I had been accepted for our delivery of a workshop called: Active Learning with mobile and Web 2.0 Technologies:

Since my return, it has been interesting to review my comments from last time and to match them against this year’s reflections (both Twittered and not). I’m not sure that Twitter was around in 2006, it might just have been, but this year has seen an explosion of comment on the #altc2009 Twitterfall. Similarities?

  • People are still talking about blogs – one speaker promoting them to her learners said ” I wouldn’t blog in a thousand years”!!
  • Talk of using the Social Networking giants (Facebook wasn’t around in 2006 either – much) as disappeared
  • There is still a lot of angst about how ‘it’ will affect the institution (and copyright and IPP and – so on) ‘it’ being anything new, unresearched or disruptive (i.e. everything I like)
  • PowerPoints are still badly made. The final keynote – Terry Anderson (whilst interesting) had very wordy slides – no change there then, since 2006. Another guy in a workshop I attended had red text on a black background – poo-er! Teacher Trainers seemed to have the worst PPT slides. Some of the best were just images (2nd keynote Martin Bean – VC OU elect – was a good example of an entertaining, informative talk with imagery and very few words on screen)
  • There is still a poor F.E. showing (% wise not quality wise)

On the first night (for me and Lilian) we went with James Clay and Ron Mitchell (their second night) to el Rincon de Rafa Tapas bar just off Deansgate in Manchester. We had a great time in this comfortable and very Spanish restaurant. I really can’t remember everything we had to eat but whatever it was plentiful and very tasty. I do like the beer here.

The second night was gala dinner night and this was presented in the magnificent Town Hall (Manchester) by a joint team of students from Sheffield and Manchester Colleges. Once again I can’t remember exactly what we had for every course (James saved me a menu, but I forgot to get it from him) but it was delightful; spoiled only by the awards having to be interspersed with the courses – instead of at the end. The petit fours were a bit extravagant!

Once again it was great to re-meet so many friends and colleagues from up and down the country and to reaffirm friendships and relationships. AND – it was great to go up on stage with Ron, James and Lils to pick up a ‘highly commended’ award from ALT on behalf of the MoLeNET team. Well done Elaine, Mick, John and Di.