More audio

One of the Antony Gormley figures (Another Place) being leaned on by me!I have just completed a day-long session working with the supported learning team at Brooklands College in Weybridge.

It was GREAT.  The section staff, led by Lorraine Crossland, had asked for some advanced input on audio creation and usage techniques – the goal being to better support the learners and to populate their VLE.

I’d visited Brooklands once previously as part of the TechDis Ambassador project and during that first visit had shown them a variety of audio tools, tips and techniques – nothing too advanced but enough to whet their appetite. This second visit was supported by the JISC RSC-SE.

So – why GREAT?

Well, mainly because learners were in attendance all day and I was asked (at fairly short notice) to deliver the afternoon session. All of which was brilliant. The Entry Level 2/3 learners were keen to learn enough about audio but we also told them that they needed to remember these new techniques so that they could support their teachers in the future 🙂

Having already bitten the audio bullet, Lorraine’s staff had planned the day around the sort of things they might encourage learners to do and had begun to work with the learners in preparation for my visit. The morning group were introduced specifically to Audacity and to Balabolka. During  my previous visit, the IT Technicians had been shown how both tools could support learners and had made a sterling effort since to ensure that MyStudyBar and Audacity were available in this room. The power of MyStudyBar had really impressed one of the IT guys – he had some nice ideas for deployment.

606368564My afternoon group, Entry Level 2, had been making PowerPoint files and wanted to add audio to the slides. No problem! It was as if the intervening twelve years hadn’t passed – bang, I was in front of an engaged group with moderate learning difficulties. For ‘engaged’ read: enthusiastic, motivated, keen to learn, enquiring and fun to be with! They loved it!

We started with introductions and I picked up that their favourite lesson (and teacher?) was sport – so I demonstrated the use of audio on their PPTs by using a sport theme. I showed them Audacity and simply inserted the audio file we created. I may well have used Vocaroo but the techies are in discussion with the site because the college firewall won’t let it (Vocaroo) though!  They all shouted “cool” when the audio played – yet when I showed them how to attach the same file to an animation (the sporty image we’d chosen) – so that the description of the image (which is what we’d recorded) they shouted “cool’ even louder.

We set them off to do the same themselves then. Towards the end I called the group back and showed them Balabolka. They ‘got’ this immediately and once the college have grasped how to deploy the TechDis voices across their network – the learners will use it big-time.

As i said at the top – GREAT.

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Brooklands

This post is an extended version of that published by me on the TechDis Ambassadors Posterous Space


picture of a well-sprutted potato

Mr. Potato

I recently visited Brooklands College in deepest Surrey.

The supported learning team there is working on one of the JISC TechDis Ambassador programmes and my role for the day was to observe, report and deliver a little training.

The department action plan’s main aim is for the team to make better and more effective use of the (Blackboard) VLE and our prime objective for the afternoon training was to explore uses and tools for creating and editing audio. No problem.

Except:

Except I’d forgotten to ask if they had any microphones. I often carry my own 15 sets of ‘Pound Shop’ Headphone/Mics with me, but on overnight stays like this (I was elsewhere the day before) my suitcase and my backpack are so crammed full that I’m unable to fit my Mics in. Hey ho.

The college had very kindly downloaded Audacity for us, so I knew we would all be able edit audio – but the trainer-machine was as useless to me for traditional audio creation as all the other machines (no Mics remember?).  My own PC laptop’s Mic is currently playing silly beggars too so I demonstrated www.vocaroo.com via my MacBook Pro. I showed the interface on the trainer-machine (connected to the projector) and then went through the (very easy) audio creation motions on the Mac. Ditto, editing with Audacity. Despite being a bit Heath Robinson, this all seemed to work.

During this part of the session we explored:

As ways of creating audio files.

Then I introduced MyStudyBar as a means of creating audio by using Text-to-Speech (TTS) and BANG – they were blown away.

Everything on MyStudyBar (nearly) was taken up, played with, discussed and copied for immediate use by staff and learners. Wow, it was amazing just how our colleagues took to this and how they came up with creative ideas for use.

We ended up with discussing ways that the learners could create their own audio using any of the tools we’ve discussed and submitting it via – any of various ways. Also of showing learners pieces of text in PowerPoint and the having the text read to them (insert audio).

Phew.

Blackburn College again

Today was the second of five days work I have with Blackburn College. They have been lucky enough to win one of the LSIS bids aimed at upskilling staff in the use of technology for teaching and learning. (I’m sure it had a far grander name when the bid was announced but any way … they asked me to help).

Last week’s workshop day was reported via an earlier blog post and this one was fundamentally similar – just longer. The group was in the same room for six hours, four of which were mine!

They opened at 9.00am with an overview of Read and Write Gold (RAWG) and an introduction to the college’s preferred Mind Mapping software (the name of which I can’t remember – blush). I knew these timings before I set off, because I was also to deliver an input on the My Study Bar memory stick during that time. I wasn’t sure that the group would cope with such an intense day but they were SO ENGROSSED in RAWG (and later, the mind mapping) that I had to re-assess my opinion pretty quickly.

I opened my 11.00am session by discussing my plan for the rest of the day and seeking their agreement for the way it would work. We began with an introduction to Audacity, iPadio, Cam Studio and Photo Story 3 before spending an hour of hands-on. The group were already on a high following the RAWG session but climbed even higher whilst playing with (predominantly) Photo Story 3. They came up with some nice ideas for use with learners and it seemed a shame to stop and ‘do’ the agreed My Study Bar (much shortened) session.  However, even though they had seen the glossy RAWG stuff, they were still impressed with the FREE products available on the memory stick.

Following lunch we began with some work on mobile learning (specifically texting using the Xlearn TextWall) and Bloom’s Taxonomy. This was followed by the main Web 2.0/Social Networking session, which despite the length of time they’d been in the room – was still devoured with pleasure.

Big ‘ups’ to everyone from Blackburn College today. They survived a long and very intense day’s CPD on two difficult subjects.

LSIS Funded Workshops

I think, on the whole, that I’ve come out on top this week. I delivered 2 x 3hr workshops on Mobile Learning, Web 2.0 and Audio/Video technique on Thursday and spent two days preparing for those! However, I will use the same preparation for four more days I have planned with this college.

I feel to have won, despite the many technical disasters that were encountered during the workshops.

A third of the workshop was to work with Audio and Video creation and editing (without a camera). Audacity and Cam Studio were to be supplied on a memory stick but as we started, we found that the sticks were corrupt – so couldn’t use those tools during the morning session. Photostory 3 wasn’t installed in the room we were in, so we couldn’t look at that either. However, I was able to demonstrate by using my own machine. I also demonstrated www.screenr.com via my own machine too.

The college forbids the use of Twitter and FriendFeed (something about them being classed as dating sites!) so the participants were unable to use Screenr themselves – because it needs a Twitter login. This wasn’t a problem for me because I already have a Twitter login, but the vast majority (17 of 19 this pm and 12 of 13 this morning) could not process their videos without registering. Neither could we make all of the microphones work – which made Audacity a bit of a trial later in the day! So that I could demonstrate, I created files on iPadio and edited those, but none of the participants seemed keen to register and do the same. As I say – a disaster, needing much more thought before I go again? At least i will have access to Photo Story 3 for the next visits.

The next time I go, I will have an extra hour, which will also help.

The Web 2.0 part of the workshops went really well. There’s so much I COULD do in a session like this that It’s hard to decide which bits to leave out. I demonstrated several sites but gave the group an exercise which required them to explore various ‘categories’ of site: image editing; mind maps; photo storage; video storage; Wikis etc. and to comment on their findings on a PiratePad Wiki. I know they enjoyed the time to explore but they didn’t do much commenting on the PiratePad – I suppose no one wanted to be the first one to write a serious comment! The Mindmaps were much appreciated by the morning group but not really understood by the afternoon group. it was much the same with photo editing, the morning participants ‘got it’, the afternoon group just didn’t get it at all.

In fact, many of the morning group told me as they left that they had been dreading three hours on a subject they just didn’t appreciate, but that they were invigourated now and keen to explore the subject more. I’d shown Lilian’s text wall this morning and immediately, several of the group had burst forward with ideas for use and asking how to get hold of it. When I showed them the Wordle link, some nearly wet themselves! It was really encouraging to have teachers so engaged and so inquisitive.

I’ve decided what changes I need to make to my approach for next time and am now really looking forward to them.

I just wish that there were more opportunities to open people’s eyes like this.