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 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 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).


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.


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 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‘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.