Photo editing – Aviary

Earlier this week, and just after posting my previous blog post I received a notification from Flickr which meant that some information I’d given in my earlier post would now be out of date.

We are thrilled to share the news that we’ve partnered with Aviary to bring you a brand new photo editing experience on Flickr. [Flickr blog]

I wasn’t overly surprised at Flickr’s decision to move from Picnik, given my earlier post [January 2012].

Aviary has never been one of the online photo editors I’ve mentioned or recommended before as although I’d always been aware of the service I had never used it. I’ve always thought that two or three different sites offering the same or similar service, is enough.

So I never went there much, before today!

Flickr does not link to the main (original?) Aviary site, which gives access to a powerful range of tools which go far beyond the sort of editing I want to do quickly and easily online. Instead, it links to a basic, icon-led and very customer friendly interface. This video demonstrates some of the features available (don’t worry that it shows it being used on a mobile device – I’ve only found links to the SDK online, not an actual App – perhaps it’s me?)

So, whilst I don’t always welcome major and constant change, I do do cautiously welcome this one. One of my predicted nails in Picnik’s coffin 😦

 

Picnik killed by Google

I woke this morning to the news that Google was killing off another superb tool in another (forlorn?) effort to get folks onto Google+

Picnik will now go the way of Jaiku, Etherpad etc. on April 19th 2012.

They wrote:

Since joining Google in 2010, we have been creating editing magic in Google products while continuing to keep Picnik awesome. But now we get to focus on even awesomer things. Picnik will be closing on April 19, 2012.

Picnik is (soon to be ‘was’) one of the better online productivity tools available for free. I know that ‘free’ is a dirty word in the corporate world but there is always an ‘upgrade’ facility if users want to get their hands really dirty. The site allowed users to upload photographs and to carry out basic edits such as cropping, ‘red-eye’ and recolouring. It wasn’t ‘Photoshop’ and it never set out to be, but those using Picnik could do just enough to make their images usable without needing a degree in media editing.

Google have killed off other promising tools in their effort to catch up with Facebook and Twitter – Jaiku (before its time) and Etherpad to name just two.

Just how many social networking tools do I need? Google+ hasn’t set my world alight and I seem to be managing quite well with Facebook (despite my intense dislike) and Twitter. And Flickr, and so on.

For alternative photo editing sites try:

http://www.fotoflexer.com

http://www.pixlr.com to name just two.


It’s easy to forget

It’s been a while since I chose to employ any Microsoft OS for my own use. However, most of the places I visit or work with have now moved up to Windows 7 and furthermore, I have been retained to give someone a report on certain aspects of Win 7’s potential. I have therefore bought a copy of Windows 7 and have installed it on my Aldi-Medion (formerly Vista) laptop. Well, number one son Ben has installed it for me – I may well have asked the laptop AND the software to pick a window (through which I would the throw it!)

I have brought the very same laptop on holiday with me, to a) put Win 7 through some easy paces and b) to upload my pics to Flickr and to keep up to my holiday blog. Internetting has been OK but drafting blogs became a tad tricky as I have not yet invested in Office 2010 – which is the plan. I tried the already installed MS Works and (as I have done many times before and many years ago) wondered what its purpose in life was. I then downloaded Open Office 3.0 and I was ready to go.

I missed Microsoft Picture Manager big-time too, I’d thought that was part of Win 7 but it seems it isn’t. On the ‘net, Fotoflexer wouldn’t work for me because it thought I was French and threw me out; Picnik tried to do the same, but I found the button that said ‘hey – I’m English and need English titles etc.’ so was able to crop/edit some pictures for use later.

So, tonight I tried combining all elements in a holiday blog post: Open Office 3.0 draft words, Picnik’d Flickr photos and WordPress. What a disaster!

My lack of recent familiarity with Windows and the ubiquitous Internet Explorer is to blame I think. I know I could use other browsers like Firefox (which is my default on the Mac), Chrome (which is my default on Parallels) or Safari (Which I use now and again) but for the same reasons detailed above – I need to reacquaint myself with it.

I did all the usual things like importing the words into WordPress via the ‘Paste as Plain Text’ facility and importing the picture ‘from URL’ but things just didn’t go right. I could see that I’d lost half of my text after inserting the picture – I wasn’t sure why that happened – and I pasted it right back in. Then, later in the evening I noticed that an complete paragraph had been missed. I’d deleted my original by now too!

I’m not blaming Windows or IE25 (or whatever version it is this week), it was definitely operator error, but it’s amazing how soon you become unfamiliar with a tool, when it’s been updated. Sorry to anyone who read that post and wondered what I was talking about 😦

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.

AccessApps Workshop

I had a really good day on Thursday. I’d been asked to deliver training to a group of teachers and learner support assistants (LSAs?) and agreed that I should do one hour’s input and then supervise a 1.5 to 2 hour workshop session where they could expand upon anything they liked. This actually worked very well and I came away enthused by the participants’ responses to the event.

I’d been forewarned that they were not as enamoured of AccessApps as perhaps they should be, but that they were pretty open minded about the use of technology generally. Everyone had their own particular need, according to the need of the learner(s) they supported. I therefore planned and delivered an input that delivered three main themes, with and underpinning but less visible fourth.

1 – Mind Mapping web sites:

2 – Photo editing web sites:

3 – Access Apps and

4 – Underpinned by use of various Google Docs facilities.

The big winner, in the end was AccessApps! Which, made me consider why I’d been advised of their earlier dislike. At the end, I asked everyone to tell me (via a TitanPad) what was the one thing they would take away and use again.  The answer? The RSC-Scotland EduApps webpage: http://www.rsc-ne-scotland.ac.uk/eduapps

Of course, I had to consider why this was the case. After all, they had seen the various applications before – hadn’t they?

Well, apparently – previous training sessions where AccessApps had been shown, were either very directed, short or just; well – ‘shown‘! Also (and I think that this is the main reason here at this college), if they wanted to play with AccessApps, they had to book a USB Stick containing the Apps out of the library – presumably to copy and use as they like. What I had given them was access to the website itself where they could investigate and download exactly what they like, when they like and without having to ‘go’ anywhere.

In the same way that it is more beneficial in the long term to give starving people the skills to farm, I’d given the participants ‘permission’ to grow their own AccessApps suite and to use just what they want, when they want. It’s great to see people leaving a training session with smiley faces 🙂