Toolbox

I’ve just completed two more days out on the road for JISC TechDis.

It has been great to get out and meet people again this week: in Leeds on Wednesday and Taunton on Thursday. At both venues, it was good to meet old friends and colleagues and to make new acquaintances.

One of the things I’ve missed about my most recent work (2012) being mainly office based has been the lack of face-to-face human contact. There are various points of view regarding the fitness for purpose and value of online learning/collaboration and I have to say that I have argued for many of its positive aspects in the past, yet I believe that online activities can only be truly effective if there is some planned human contact as part of the process.

Being out and about and meeting people again has been great for me, I thrive on it.

I wrote last week about the new TechDis ‘Voices’ and this week I will touch upon the new ‘Toolbox’ facility. Perhaps later, when I have finished with the RSC summer fairs, I will reflect more on online distance learning and communications.

“[Toolbox] is a collection of resources which give useful hints and tips on technologies that can help individuals work smarter, quicker and more efficiently. JISC TechDis has a history of providing simple easy-to-use resources for tutors and lecturers. Here we have shifted our focus and Toolbox is aimed directly at the end users – the learners themselves.http://www.jisctechdis.ac.uk/techdis/news/detail/2012/ND2012Launch

As the above quote suggests, the Toolbox resources are aimed at learners rather than at teachers (although teachers are learners too!) When I was asked to create one small section of the site, it was suggested that I put myself in the shoes of someone who had never opened a computer before and to try and explain to that person how they might ‘Get started with Windows (7)’. That was an enlightening exercise, I can tell you because I’d never used Windows 7 at the time. I had stopped using Windows Vista in some despair and had become a Mac enthusiast. That ‘distance’ made it much easier for me to imagine the virginal adult user and hopefully, the resources I made are as acceptable and usable as those created by my fellow authors.

The Toolbox page is divided into ‘drawers’. Following the Toolbox semiotic, each drawer contains a different type of tool:

  • Using Technology: features subjects like Working in Windows, Microsoft Office, Working in Mac OSX and many more.
  • Planning and Organisation: featuring; managing your messages, finding information (amongst others).
  • Communicating: Presenting yourself, Reading tools, Writing tools (and so on).
  • Teamworking: Team planning, Team communication, Collaboration etc.
  • Different needs: Vision, Hearing, Mobility to name just a few subjects in this section.

You may well recognise some of the different voices featured in each section (drawer) – and hopefully, you will recommend this site to colleagues and friends who may find something useful amongst the many resources to be found there. Let us know what you think.

Face to Face

I had another great day out yesterday. Once again, I was working directly with practitioners.

Sincerest thanks to West Thames College, in Isleworth for inviting me down to deliver two sessions on the pedagogical use of mobile phones in teaching and learning

And thank you too, to the thirty odd staff members that passed my way for being so receptive, positive and enthusiastic. Your students are very lucky.

Since the downturn, I’ve found it hard to get this type of face-to-face event, but every time I do I come away reinvigorated and recharged.

Since all of the national eCPD progammes stopped, several colleges and providers have been kind enough to invite me in on their staff training days and each one has told the same story: Practitioners still need help in learning how to utilise technology in teaching and learning and how to recognise opportunities for that utilisation – the difference is that they are now ready to accept this learning.

There is nothing like face-to-face workshops to encourage this kind of development. I never just deliver, I always show and then allow time for practice. Yesterday it was TEXTING (we all sent texts and explored Wordle as an aside) >> PEDAGOGY (some Q&A interaction around Bloom’s Taxonomy) >> QR CODES (everyone created codes and discussed uses) >> MULTI-MEDIA (we looked at iPadio, and sent photos and videos to Flickr). Everyone contributed and everyone stayed on board. Well done.

Over the last twelve months, I’ve also been invited to lead workshops at Blackburn College, Gloucestershire College, Leeds College of Music, Pontefract New College and at a small number of events with mixed audiences. Each time it has been like giving ice creams to children: much appreciated and very much enjoyed.

Thanks again to all concerned.

https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2012/01/30/boring-ict/

https://eduvel.wordpress.com/2012/01/29/enaging-with-moodle/

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.

Stop Motion Animation

This week, I created my first stop-motion animation. I’m really proud of my end product despite the fact that it only runs for 8 seconds and that it took me over three hours to make.  My real reward was that the (salutary) learning curve was fun, rewarding and worthwhile.

The reason for it taking this length of time to create can be attributed to my cocky incompetence. In my eagerness to complete the task I completely disregarded all the rules of planning, storyboarding and good practice. Here’s the animation – then let me explain

I’d been asked to deliver someone else’s PowerPoint presentation entitled ‘New Technology in the Classroom’ to groups of school teachers in Salford: Five repeated one-hour sessions. One of those technologies was ‘animation’. As I’ve demonstrated examples of stop-motion in workshops before and I do get the theory behind it, I didn’t feel that there would be a problem doing the same thing again. However, because the presentation was very much based on what my employer for that day (RM) was offering to this particular school I felt the need to take a little ownership of the slideshow and decided that I would also further my own CPD at the same time: I would make my own animation to show the teachers. So far so good.

Take-1:
I quickly decided that the subject matter wasn’t important and that it would be the process that counted. I fetched my Panasonic Lumix TZ10 (camera) from my backpack, selected a few tools on my desktop (my real desktop – not the computer desktop), turned on all my lights and set to work. I took the photos (the snaps) and decided to make the animation on iMovie. What could be hard about that?

Take-1 reflection: Putting theory into practice isn’t as straightforward as it seems. First of all: lighting – I turned on my two desk lamps and my ceiling light (in my eyrie, the ceiling is less than 4” above my head and way behind me) and I felt confident that the light would be ok. It wasn’t, but I’ll come back to this. The next problem was the way I held the camera – which was the problem – I HELD THE CAMERA. As I moved each item (actor?) on my stage I also inadvertently moved the camera so the resulting snaps were taken from different angles. Those were the two main problems with Take-1, although I also had to overcome iMovie’s default 4-second timing for individual images too.

Take-2:
I went and retrieved my camera tripod from the boot of my car, where it had been since the last lot of Pathfinder videos I managed to film for RSC-YH. I set up my camera on this and planned what each of my actors would do on stage. The rudimentary beginnings of a ‘story’board can be seen here. However, this was another failed attempt!

Take-2 reflection: I was taking 20-30 photographs at a time and moving my actors around 1-2 centimetres for each shot. Then, when I’d loaded the photos into iMovie and repeated my changes to the default image timing I played it back and found the camera angles were still changing. I’d reduced the default image time to 0.4secs so the 20-30 images would make a movie/animation of around 8-12 seconds. But it was still rubbish. Back to the drawing board.

Take-3:
I double checked the tripod and I checked all the camera settings to make sure that the photos were getting as much light as possible, that the flash wasn’t working (flash throws shadows) and that it was set on manual. I even planned a more believable ‘story’.

Take-3 reflection: I’d realised by now that I should have planned this better and earlier. The resulting iMovie animation was no better than the previous two and I was left scratching my head.

So, why did Take-4 work (at least) as well as it did?

  • I’d investigated iMovie’s defaults a little further and realised that it puts a Burns Effect onto each image! Doh – that’s why the camera angles on Take-2 and Take-3 were so erratic. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ken_Burns_effect I had to highlight all of the snaps and make sure that they had no attributes added to them by iMovie. 0.4secs seemed to be a good length of time though.
  • I’d moved things around on the desktop so that the light was pretty even (again, I’ll come back to this).
  • By now, I’d actually scripted an activity where the pot cat would chase a startled computer mouse from the desk mat. Similarly startled pens would also run away in the background.
  • I didn’t plan to take 20 snaps, but that’s what turned out.

I am probably lucky that the distance moved between each shot was about right and the ‘jumps’ between frames are not too big.  The end product is a bit short (20 frames @ 0.4 seconds each has turned out to be 8 seconds) but good enough for a first publication 🙂

Lighting

I said that I’d come back to lighting. If you watch the animation you’ll see light coming and going from the top left of the screen – the laptop! Well, that was something I’d overlooked. The mouse (actor) was a Gyro-mouse and I’d neglected to remove the receiver from the laptop. Therefore, every time I moved the mouse, something changed on the laptop screen – which was half closed and which I therefore didn’t notice until the final product was rendered.

Also, because I had (what I now realise was) too little light, different shadows were thrown each time I moved an actor. This doesn’t distress my clip too much, but it might be an important consideration for others making animations.

Then of course, I looked at the product being supported by RM in the school: I Can Animate. This does all the hard work for you! Grrrr. Thanks too to James Clay for introducing me to iMotion for iPad and iPhone.

People are rude!

This comment was posted on one of my YouTube videos today “*talk a little slower plz*………..lol .[see http://grab.by/4sgc]

I did laugh out loud (lol – lol) and then thought – why? It’s not just that this person is being rude – it’s more that he/she has taken the trouble to go out of his/her way to be rude?  YouTube seems to attract rude people. He/she is not the only rude person I’ve encountered on YouTube.

First of all, let me state that I too can be rude, mainly through ignorance on my part and if I ever find out my rudeness has offended someone I am mortified. I do try not to be rude and to be courteous at all times. I can often be sarcastic, but usually as a reaction to something and I never use sarcasm as a preemptive strike.

That said, my voice and pronunciation seems to have caused some people to shake their fists at the screen and to write rude comments on my posts – usually they are American and usually their rudeness has illustrated the poor job we did with educating and elucidating our colonial cousins (not a preemptive strike – read on). The following video has had over 58,000 hits.


It’s now almost four years since I posted this video. At the time, there were no other fish filleting videos avaialble that a) explained clearly what was going on and b) was relevant to students in the UK. Others were just flashy ‘see how quick I can fillet a fish’ affairs. Things have changed now and there are some superb ‘fish’ videos out there. Nevertheless – the comment stream below my video (on YouTube – click the clip above to view) is largely complimentary but there have been some idiotic and rude exchanges too. They are worth a read if only to assess the banality of some people (and my sad, retaliatory, sardonic replies)

However, some comments can also be creative and although the one below takes the rip – it is creatively done and I really did lol. I later met the author and congratulated him. Very funny.


Historically, I spoke slowly because I was a) explaining something to someone – 16 year old students maybe? and b) I was unused to taking ‘to myself’ in the way that modern media now allows (and expects?). Geographically, I speak slowly because of my Yorkshire accent – too fast and you won’t understand a word 🙂 Actually – I don’t give a damn – but there’s no need to be rude.