Monthly Archives: December 2009

Core Activity 8.3: Communicating to an audience

Reviewing podcasts

… Conversations about using technology in education

  • Sound quality
    The sound quality varied with some parts having a distracting echo.  I assume this was due to using skype  for conversations and recording.  Volume was good and consistent.
  • Broadcast quality
    Good use of music. Good introduction summarising content and contributors.  They are produced on a regular (weekly) basis which I think is very important.
  • Suitability
    Useful for elearning professionals but possible a bit too much for general teaching practitioners to keep up with.
  • Length
    Varied between 28 and 55 mins, I would personally finding it difficult to find time to listen to 50 mins on a weekly basis.
  • Interest
    Useful and topical on current elearning topics, very reflective.
  • Academic quality.
    Based on the thoughts and opinions of respected elearning professionals
  • Suggestions for improvement
    Possible a condensed news update at the beginning as well as the ongoing discussions, although this is partially covered by the introduction.
    Possibly could use more details on how listeners can join the conversation.
  • Suggestions for use.
    Elearning managers  can dip into this to keep up to date.

Apple Education
Apple in HE

  • Sound quality
    Excellent sound quality, sounds like it was recorded in a studio.
  • Broadcast quality
    Good use of music and introduction, but it was not clear who was presenting.  It looks like all episodes were uploaded on the same date rather than a staggered programme.  Mix of audio and video episodes.  The audio podcasts i listened to were readings of case studies.
  • Suitability
    Reading text based case studies seems a missed opportunity as it does not include the voices and enthusiasm of those involved.  Often quite technical.
  • Length
    Audio episodes are generally less than 10 mins which makes them bitesized.
  • Interest

I would have found the case studies more interesting if they included interviews with those involved rarther than readings of text case studies. Also I find a monologue less interesting than a conversation.

  • Academic quality.
    Although useful case studies, the fact that they are produced by Apple gives the impression they are biased advertising, especially as they are reading out text based case studies which could have been written in a biased way rather that listening to raw interviews with those involved.
  • Suggestions for improvement
    Let us listen to the voices of those involved.
  • Suggestions for use.
    May be useful for technical departments when looking for ideas on how to use/ roll out apple products but would recommend speaking to others who have gone through the process as well.

Jan’s Podcast

  • Sound quality
    Good level of volume throughout which meant I could listen to it on my ipod while commuting.
  • Broadcast quality

Good summarising introduction.  The content sounds scripted enough to ensure there are no pauses and stumbling for words, yet relaxed enough to be interesting and confident.  This can be a difficult balance to get right.

  • Suitability

I found this to be a very good summary which could be played to other learning providers who are thinking of a similar project.

  • Length

A good length for a general introduction.

  • Interest
    Jan appeared to be talking directly to the audience and inviting them to be part of the conversation which kept it interesting.
  • Academic quality.

A good balance of case study, personal reflection and ideas for the future.

  • Suggestions for improvement
    This could be followed up by interviews with others involved in the project.
  • Suggestions for use.
    As an elearning advisor, I could play this to other learning providers who are considering the use of wiki’s

Eugen’s Podcast

  • Sound quality.
    Fairly quiet which meant I could not listen to it on my iPod while commuting.
  • Broadcast quality.
    A good introduction and the content flowed well, sounding confident and relaxed.  Not too scripted, not too improvised.   This is particularly impressive as English is not Eugens first language.
  • Suitability.
    Eugen is discussing a topic which he has personal experience of which means he is well informed and I think this should be played to developers of distance learning courses to help them get a better understanding of needs of learners.
  • Length.
    A good length for an introduction although It was so interesting I could have listened to more.
  • Interest
    An interesting topic and a friendly and confident speaker made this very interesting.
  • Academic quality.
    A good example of a personal learning environment of an OU learner who needs to work from multiple locations clearly explaining what factors influence the decisions he makes.
  • Suggestions for improvement
    This could be followed up with a more detailed look at some of the systems discussed, and how they are used on a day to day basis.  This could also be developed into an audio diary in which you instantly feedback on what systems you are using for your studies and how well they have worked.
  • Suggestions for use.
    As I have already mentioned I think this would be useful for anyone developing or supporting distance learning courses as it clearly explains some of the issues a learner has to consider when working from multiple locations


learning a new technology part 5- Reviewing Comic Life

For this activity I have learned how to use to software Comic Life which allows users to create comics using photographs.  I used this software to create a comic about how to use the Nintendo Wii for education.  I have found this to be a fairly easy and fun system to use and I can see a number of ways in which it could be used for education including;

  • Improve creative writing skills and  photography skills by getting learners to write and produce their own comics ( Similar to the graphic novel produced by a secondary school in Yorkshire )
  • Create photo casebook scenarios which can be used to initiate discussion in sensitive areas such as bullying, teenage pregnancy, depression, etc.
  • Create fun guides for students on topics such as what’s available in the library, how to apply for EMA funding and what to do when they are ill.
  • Get students to create comics which cover the points of traditionally boring topics such as health and safty.
  • Use images and text to support Modern Foreign Languages (MFL) students and  English as a foreign language  (ESOL) students.
  • Using comics for art students to learn about visual media (

I would say the main features of the software include;

  • A wide range of templates and styles for page layout, speech bubbles, image filters and page backgrounds.
  • An easy to use customizable menu system.
  • Easy do add photos from the photo menu pane, drag from explorer or capture via web cam.
  • Options to export as images, movie file or HTML file which can be embedded into a website or VLE.
  • Very easy and fun to use and exciting output.
  • Being able to extend speech bubbles gives a reader a path to follow around a busy page.
  • Although it isn’t free, it is relatively cheap and can be used on macs as well as PCs.
  • Free trial version available for practitioners to evaluate.
  • Educational bulk license deals available.

Potential issues include;

  • It can be fiddly and difficult to select and manipulate specific items, eg moving a fram but not the picture or visa versa.
  • There is no built in spell check.
  • Sometimes the text does not appear instantly on screen when typing, which can lead to errors.
  • I noticed bugs when printing content on certain printers.  Red blobs on certain parts of the page, only happened with one printer and one particular page but searching through the FAQ highlighted there were some printer specific issues.
  • When not using the HTML or Movie output format, multiple page comics are produced as multiple image files (each page is a separate image).  A combined comic in a format such as pdf would have been useful and can be achieved by adding the images into an application such as publisher.
  • Although speech bubbles, text boxes and text are useful items to add to the comic, additional props and additions such as basic shapes, and drawing tools would have made it even better.
  • Although the filters were fun to use, they may often hide important details of the image.
  • Learners taking and publishing photos of each other, particularly those under 18, may cause issues for legal and safety reasons

Having said this I have found this to be a really useful piece of software which could be used for a wide number of tasks within a college.

learning a new technology part 4

Okay, I have now cretaed my comic using comic life.  The comic is about how to set up and use a Nintendo Wii, which is a peice of equipment we loan out to learning providers.

I have uploaded the pages as seperate images which you should be able to click through via the thumbnails below.

learning a new technology part 3

I have been quite fortunate this week as I have been given the job at work of preparing a guide to using the Nintendo Wii for learning. This is fortunate as it gives me an opportunity to try out and review Comic Life. I always try and use a new tool in a real situation in order to highlight its pros and cons, which is difficult when trying to look at it out of context. So far I have put together a story board of how I want the finished comic to look, and our information officer has taken a series of photos which I will drop into comic life. Although the free trial was useful, this morning I bought the full version which has some additional templates. So far I am generally impressed with the system as it is fairly easy to use once you get the hang of clicking the components such as images, frames, speech bubbles, etc. I have had one or two problems moving the wrong part of the image by mistake, and i would have liked a few extra ‘props’ rather than just speech bubbles, thought bubbles and text.

learning a new technology part 2

OKay I have downloaded the trial version of comic life and created a quick  single page cartoon strip based on photos from our works christmas party (so i’d best not post it here).

It seems as though is easy to learn and could be useful for some of the learning providers I support, in fact I know some of them are useing it already.  There appear to be advanced features I could explore such as multipage comics and creating a movie file, however i have concerns that it might not meet the requirements of this activity as it is so user friendly?

I have emailed my tutor for advice.

learning a new technology part 1

For this activity we have to learn a new technology.  The exact details of what we have to demonstrate are listed below (taken from the course website)

The evidence of technology-related competency you produce needs to demonstrate the ability to:

  • learn about using a new piece of software or a new technology
  • appreciate some key features as they relate to your own educational practice or context
  • identify potential issues for other users.

The suggested activity involves creating a podcast but as I already produce a monthly podcast this wouldn’t be an example of me learning something new.

I am trying to think of something new to learn and have come up with the following ideas from Jane’s elearning pick of the day and the Centre for Learning & Performance Technologies, top tools for learning.  Both fantastic website for coming up with ideas.

Articulate Rapid E-Learning Studio contains three powerful yet easy-to-use products – Presenter, Engage and Quizmaker, each of which can be purchased separately. These three tools are rapidly becoming the de facto standard tools for creating rapid, interactive learning content.  Relatively expensive but available as a 30 day free trial

Lectora is a powerful authoring tool.  It provides users with a comprehensive authoring environment for creating and delivering custom interactive multimedia content. Very expensive but free trial

Udutu Course authoring software that lets you build a course very quickly and easily online either on your own or collaboratively with others. You can easily import existing content, e.g. PowerPoint presentations.

Comic Life lets you create astounding comics, beautiful picture albums, how-tos… and more!  The easy-to-use interface integrates seamlessly with your photo collection. Drag in your pictures, captions, Lettering text (‘ka-blam!‘) and speech balloons and your work is done! Less than $30 for the full version.

I think I will choose Comic Life as it is cheap enough for me to continue to use after the free trial and it is something genuinely different, where as the other products seem to be variations of the same thing.

I have also asked my friends on twitter for the best new technology of 2009 as this may provide some new ideas.

Core activity 7.2: Professional learning

For this activity we looked at 2 different ways of looking at Continuing professional development (CPD) which can in some ways be summerised by the tables of Clegg and Dealtry shown above.  I have to admit I found both papers a bit of a struggle.  This is because I didn’t feel as though either of them really reflected my own experiences.  I could see how they would work for teaching practiononers, but not as much for my own role as an elearning advisor, but I will have a go.

As far as CPD relating to my job is considered in relation to Clegg I guess the majority of my learning falls into category C, Action following reflection does not happen because there is no immediate opportunity to put anything into practice.  This is my job is so diverse and allot of what I learn is for the purpose of advising the learners I support, so when I learn something new it is rarely appropriate or possible to put it into practice immediately.

Deltry’s  table made me think about CPD in terms of learning from conferences.  I attend several conferences and events and for me they generally fit into the Familiar, Familiar category A, however I recently attended an online conference which I found really useful.  This was a combination of B, a familiar task in an unfamiliar environment, and D an unfamiliar learning experience in an unfamiliar environment