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.

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.

CPD for me

One of the advantages, if there is such a thing, to having less work on than usual (and less than I’d like) is that I can actually plan and undertake my own continual professional development (CPD). Given the current governmental hiatus [Saturday May 8th], I suspect I will become proficient at lots of things before opportunities for future work reveal themselves.

I made my mind up to concentrate (I really find this hard because it is not my ‘style’) on three things: assembling and where necessary creating evidence for my ITQ in Accessible Practice, to learn a bit more about the coaching process and to finally download and install my own Moodle. On my own server. All completely different but challenging in many, differing, ways.

I am a JISC TechDis Accredited Trainer. I have an affinity for learners who find it difficult to learn – no matter why; and this has led to me being recognised as one who can help teachers and learner support staff to understand how and which technologies can help the majority of their learners. I would say all their learners – but sometimes that’s just difficult to prove. It therefore follows that undertaking the ITQ myself, before it is launched ‘big time’ in September can only be of benefit to me – and by extension those I work with in the future. Lilian is undertaking this too and we have agreed to work together where we can. Yesterday was the second time we’d attempted this. The first time, I went to her house and we discussed ways forward. Yesterday we worked via Skype.

We are both working on some ‘audio’ developments and as I had never used Garage Band before – we agreed it would be useful to explore it together and to compare it with Audacity. Well, I had not used Garage Band on the Mac before because, to me – it is (was) unintelligible. Lilian had mastered bits of it so we agreed we’d create a combined recording whilst at our own desks 40 miles apart. Brilliant. It worked a treat. I learned about the Garage Band interface, Lilian learned about the difference between the version on iWorks 2008 and iWorks 2009 and how Skype can be used as a screen sharing device. I’ve used the Skype screen sharing facility before but never in the way we used it on Friday. Lils recorded the female track and I recorded the male track before she sent me her recording to ‘knit’ together with mine. She was able to watch me do this and to agree with the final product. She also screen-casted the work at her end (my desktop!) and provided me with the raw film to edit as evidence. What a great and encouraging two hours. I just need to do the wrapping up bits now…


Moodle is new to me.
I’m a competent course creator and have worked on many installations owned and hosted by others, but have never downloaded an installation of my own. Well I have now. I went to Siteground and bought three years hosting. At this stage, I was able to be talked through the download process by a sales assistant – via a chat facility. Everything else I’ve had to do myself, which has been hugely rewarding. There is a lot ‘assumed’ by these hosting sites and they are not the most user friendly places. Anyway, it was soon up and running (I had to move the DNS[?] from 1and1 who host my Village e-Learning web site and despite being warned that it might take 48 hours, it took less than 4). http://www.eduvel.org.uk. I’m not ready for giving guest access yet – but will over time.

My next challenge was to search the Moodle.com web site for modules/blocks and to install them on my site. I searched Siteground for advice, but they were no help and was missing something vital from my research on the Moodle page when Ron Mitchell rang about something else. I simply asked what the process was and he told me. Apart from not having a ‘Moodle/Mod’ folder on the Siteground server (which itself took some searching to find a way in) I now have downloaded and installed the Book module and it looks like it’s working.

I feel immensely proud of myself for this achievement; techie is something I’m not. Once I’ve got the Moodle up and running as I want it I can be a little more adventurous in my experimentation. I also spent quite some time on Friday chatting with James about VLE’s: more on this next time I suspect.

#ashton6fc

David Delivering

David Delivering

I’ve just got back from a brilliant day at Ashton 6th Form College in Greater Manchester. The entire college was having an e-Learning day and I’d been asked to deliver an introductory overview to ‘free’ bits of software and Web 2.0. I then delivered three workshops where participants could practice what I’d preached during my introduction!  Kevin Hickey and Lisa Valentine from the Regional Support Centre (RSC-NW) were also there to deliver workshops which were very well received, despite them being cunningly disguised accessibility sessions.

I delivered 50 minutes where we looked at and compared screen capture tools [Cam Studio v Screencast-o-matic], mind mapping software [FreeMind v Mindomo and Mind42] – then looked at free image editing software such as www.picnik.com and Microsoft’s Picture Manager. This is an oft-missed simple editing tool on most versions of Windows. Just right-click on an image and choose open-with >> MS Picture Manager. Both Picnik and MS PM offer facilities to crop, rotate, brighten, colour, sharpen etc – the usual basic editing tools. We also looked at sound file creation (we tried very hard to avoid the semantics behind the word Podcast) via MyPodcast.com‘s recorder software – which is dead simple to use and iPadio. iPadio is a fabulous site which I’ve blogged about earlier and elsewhere. Free MP3 recording via telephone is back.  I finished the presentation by introducing and discussing the perils of Tagging. I’d also shown etherpad and its use as a collaboration tool. 

All of this was delivered with the idea that learners would use the tools to become ‘creators’: but the understanding of that point came slowly to some.

The hands on sessions were well received and I think (know) that most attendees took something away with them. See this – click here – for an example of “how do I?” being put to immediate good use with the help of MoLeNET kit (a Flip Camera), a willing colleague, will and motivation.

Sandra and the college provided us with an excellent lunch at the local Italian Restaurant (I had a delicious 4 cheese pizza) and the Principal (without me knowing) stayed though my entire opening presentation. Good day – good job.

I was reported to the ‘boss’ during yesterday’s work at another 6th form college. I don’t know what the complaint was but as far as I know it was the only one in an overwhelming positive day – coaching teaching teams in Blackboard use and delivery. I know WHO complained and suspect -(I only suspect as she may have thought I was crap) – that it was because I had to give her the ‘talk to the hand’ hand (well: “I think your idea is really really good and I know that you don’t want to take the ideas I am presenting to your colleagues on board, but with the greatest respect – I am going to disagree with you and I will continue to show your colleagues these techniques”). That’s the first time in 40 years I’ve been in trouble with the headmaster!! Tee hee.