Canva Rocks

March 13, 2017

Canva LogoThere are a lot of infographic tools out these days but none have won me over like Canva has.  My coworker Mattea turned me on to this online application when we were tasked with creating an infographic for our bosses to illustrate some workstreams.  Here’s what we produced:

PLC Schoology Support Highlights

Canva has a lot going for it.  Thousands of templates for web and print use.  Much of the material is free.  You only have to pay for Canva images when you use them (usually $1 a piece).  To avoid the cost you can upload your own images and avoid custom fonts.  One of the things that make it most appealing is the ease of use.  You can create an infographic, poster, invite, or web graphic in minutes-really!  And you don’t need a heavy background in graphic design due to the fabulous templates and the alignment tools that are built in.  When you’re finished with your design it’s automatically saved online and you can download in pdf, jpg or png formats.  Canva scores a 10 from me and you should try it out!  Here’s the link.  Let me know what you think.

Powerpoint Karaoke

February 13, 2017

microphone-closeup-by-paulRecently we held a Powerpoint Karaoke event at work to bookend our workshops on creating better presentations.  The purpose was to have fun but at the same time make clear the difference between great and awful slides.

So, what exactly is Powerpoint Karaoke?  It is an event where volunteer presenters come up to the front of the room and narrate slides that they’ve never seen before.  The slides change automatically and the presenter must improvise with every new slide.  The slides may or may not be related.  For the audience it’s usually a laugh-inducing event.  For the presenters, it can be a chance to show off their improv and presenting skills with welcome humor.

How did we do it and how can you do it?  Here is the way it worked:   First, we sent out a flyer advertising the event with a link to more info and a signup form.

powerpoint-karaoke-flyer

Since we only had one hour or less for the event I decided to have only 10 performer/presenter slots.  Each volunteer presenter would get 9 slides that would show for 20 seconds each.  The total running time of 3 minutes seemed reasonable for possible embarrassment or boredom.  I preselected slides with an intentional mix of good and bad examples.  This assortment added flavor and at the same time demonstrated the power of a well-designed slide.

Because I needed to control the breaks between presenters, I advanced the slides manually with a stopwatch app to measure the seconds.  You could do this with automation, but if so, then I would recommend a blank slide or two between presenters.

After the last presenter/improviser was done I brought out my iPad and opened a free app called Decibel 10th and we metered the applause for each presenter, going down the list and recording the number achieved.  The top applause winner chose one of the items I brought-a gift card, the book Slideology by Nancy Duarte, and a copy of Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds.  Second and third place winners chose from the remaining prizes.

This was so much fun that we are definitely doing it again in late Spring.  The next time we are also going to hold it in our public lunch space to draw a larger audience who might just stumble upon the event as well.  There is talk about doing this after-hours at a bar/restaurant to enable presenters full freedom in their speech.  I’ve seen this done at other places…just do a search on Youtube on Powerpoint Karaoke and you’ll see what I mean.

Finally, I want to note that this is also a great way to learn more about the talents of members of your team.  Let me know if you try it with your group.  I’d love to know how it went.

Getting to the (foam)Core

January 13, 2017

microphone-blue-lightSomeone was throwing out a very large piece of foamcore and, as I’m in K-12 budget world, I grabbed it for re-use.  The first purpose I used it for was as a light reflector for video and photography shoots.  Then a new need arose.  Our English Learning Acquisition (ELA) office asked me to make an audio recording of 4 narrators who would act out a screencast sequence.  I already had microphones and a usb audio mixer, but I knew that I needed some separation from each microphone during the live recording.  I grabbed the oversize piece of foamcore, cut it in half,  and made two slits in the center, just going halfway up the edge.foamcoreslits8x5

I then slid them together to form a +plus sign and set it on the table.  I placed microphones at each corner and proceeded with the recording of the narration track. foamcore-dividers-8x5

You can take a look/listen here to evaluate the results.

The only thing I would do in the future for this type of setup is to get an even larger piece of foamcore.  This one was originally 3′ x 4′  before I cut it into two pieces.  I might have even added some sound absorbing material to the sides.  But in any case, I’m ready for next time.

I hope this quick tip helps you if you ever need to make a low-budget audio recording of multiple voices.

Always innovating and problem-solving, Paul.

2016 ATD Conference Top 5 Sessions

September 16, 2016

yjyxkn7iThrough the fortune of geography and the opportunity to work as a volunteer, I was able to attend the ATD Conference in Denver this past summer.  Usually I like to share my top takeaways, but because of the enormity of this conference I had to go the level of top 5 sessions, not just top 5 ideas.  Here they are, in non-ranked order.

1. Storytelling is the Secret Sauce  Doug Stevenson, author of “Story Theater Method” echoed Chip and Dan Heath when he opened with this idea: facts fade, data gets dumped, but stories stick.  I was already a believer in the power of stories to teach and move people to action but Doug taught me some new things.  First, don’t tell a story just because someone told you stories are good.  It has to be the right story, at the right time, for the right audience.  Context is king.  Secondly, as a presenter, you should pay attention to your role as an actor/performer when you step in front of an audience. Just where you stand on a stage imparts meaning.

2. Effective Virtual Training/Webinars led by David Smith, from Virtual Gurus.  David recommends Adobe Connect as the best webinar tool and I found that reassuring, since I know the strength of that software and use it almost daily.  He gave me some ideas of elements to add to my webinars such as an intro video (to be played as people enter the virtual room) that shows attendees how to use the interactive tools.  Another recommendation was to avoid using yes/no true/false questions in polls, rather just have attendees respond using the agree/disagree buttons to save time.  He strongly advises for using a producer to handle tech issues, and only using the webcam at the very beginning of a webinar to establish presence, then turning it off to avoid distractions.

3. Awesome Powerpoint Tricks by Wendy Gates Corbett & Richard Goring from BrightCarbon. This demo went at breakneck speed leaving we in the audience dazzled, yet yearning for slower paced step by step instructions.  The main concept is to create visual sequences in Powerpoint that look like detailed animations focused on clearly communicating the most important messages.  I could see how most of us could develop creative animations, given the time.

4. Using Social Media and Online Learning Communities by Daniel Jones.  Daniel gave me some new ideas such as using social media before, during and after a course. This aligns well with the concept of ongoing learning that doesn’t just start and stop within course deadlines.  He touched on ingredients to create a successful online community: finding people who want to share, have something of value that makes them want to come back to the community area, and have a community manager who keeps the discussions on point, keeping it positive, and asking questions to spark discussions.  Daniel also gave me a new idea for webinars-seeking out resident subject matter experts to share their knowledge, instead of waiting for people to approach me to host webinars, I approach them first.

5. Biology, Sociology of Learning and Leading, keynote address by Simon Sinek.  If you’d like to see him talk on this topic, check out his TED Talk here.  Simon showed how our biological chemicals-specifically endorphins, dopamines, seratonins and oxytocins-give us powerful motivators to act in certain ways.  We must be aware of these to recognize what drives us and other to action.  Another factor is the influence of others, especially leaders, on our ability to work well and persevere.  Simon believes that leadership is a choice and involves personal sacrifice.  By building trust people will follow you.  Many of these ideas seem self-evident, but he added some more that serve as a personal challenge to me:  Anyone can lead.  It’s a daily practice.  We can lead by exercising selflessness, even when no one sees you.  This sounds like a bold, strong ethical ethos that I’d like to strive toward.  In closing, he said, “I urge you to take care of each other.  If you take care of each other, I guarantee we will change the world.”  Let’s do it!

Thanks for reading.

Let me know what you think.

 

Hanging Out on Air

August 19, 2016

googleplushangoutonair-300x207Dear Faithful Readers,

Sorry it’s been a while since posting…this summer has been hectic.  But the good news is that I have plenty to share over the coming weeks!

First, I want to talk about the streaming broadcasts that I hosted for the DEPLA (Digital Educator and Personalized Learning Academy) event this summer.  I volunteered to handle all streaming from one of the classrooms.  My challenge was to find equipment to support a panel discussion and to select the best free streaming platform.

In regards to selecting the platform, I chose Google Hangouts on Air and was pleasantly surprised by the ease of scheduling, automatic recording, and even stats for attendees and recording views.  I highly recommend it for these features.  Thanks to the static urls, we were able to publicize the links before the sessions (for live attendees) and afterwards for viewers of the recordings.  Here is our page of links to the recordings.

My biggest challenge was to find a usb audio mixer for the streaming room since my other mixer was being used in the cafetorium (yes, that’s what they called it, a combination of cafeteria and auditorium).  I purchased a Alesis Multimix usb audio mixer for this event.  This is  a mixer I would highly recommend for it’s affordability, ease of use and high quality sound with no noisy channels.  This mixer made me very happy over the two days of streaming panel discussions.

The lessons I learned to improve my streaming for next year are:

  1.  Try to use a better webcam or video camera
  2. Try to get a backdrop for the panel to avoid distractions and
  3. Look into a virtual or physical video mixer to run more than one camera

Here are photos of one of the panels and my humble streaming rig:

panel at deplamy streaming rig at DEPLA 2016

 

Always Have a Backup Plan

May 3, 2016

 

Leo Reynolds flcikr creative commonsLeo Reynolds Flickr CC

I’m on a committee planning a wonderful event called the Digital Educator and Personalized Learning Academy (DEPLA) to be held in June.  I volunteered to create a commercial to promote the event.

I was really excited to reach into my video production skills which were somewhat dormant.  With my coproducer Candy McGregor we developed an engaging storyboard and script.  My good camera and wireless mic were charged up and ready to go. An energetic coworker (Sarah Peterson) volunteered to act and we received permission to shoot on location at the coffee shop in the lobby of our building-which is run by older students who are learning job skills.

story arc

storyboardandscript

When we arrived to record during our lunch break, the coffee shop manager looked at our props (unusual coffee ingredients) and stated flatly that we couldn’t use them.  He said that they misrepresented what was served at the coffee shop and that people might become confused and start requesting these unusual ingredients.  (Producers Note: we deliberately chose these ingredients to bring in an unexpected element to the commercial-see Made to Stick.)

Rather than put up a fight with the manager or drop this engaging idea, I quickly shifted to plan b-the ever awaiting backup plan ingrained into my life.   We headed upstairs to a staff kitchen and quickly rewrote the script and storyboard.  Gone was the dialogue with the barista, now replaced with a monologue. A new establishing shot/sequence was created and newly found props were incorporated.  Here is the finished product:

Lessons learned:  Always have a backup plan. Always be ready for improvisation.  Work with folks who are willing to collaborate and improvise with you.

In creating a second commercial this week, we decided to build from the original video.  We used the ingredients metaphorically as Sarah read the new lines in a voiceover.  To add to the continuity (Nita would be proud of me) I shot still phoots of all the ingredients in their originally viewed bowls and re-used the tag appeal by another volunteer- Dale Downing who has an awesome announcer voice.  Here is commercial #2:

By the way, for video persons out there who might want to know, the first commerical was edited with Adobe Premiere and the second one with Camtasia.

Do you have questions or comments?  Please add to this blog or contact me directly.  THANKS!

 

Camtasia Recording Tip for Capturing Phone and Tablet Screens

April 8, 2016

DR-Camtasia-148x148Camtasia remains my favorite screen recorder because of it’s flexibility and editing capabilities.  Recently someone asked me to make a screen recording from their iPad.  After updating my operating system and Camtasia software I was ready to try this out.  Everything looked good-Camtasia saw the attached device.  But when I made a recording it was a failure.  After some sleuthing on the web, I found the answer which was not intuitive.

camtasia and iphone recording

If you’re using Camtasia to record the screen of a mobile device, make sure you select BOTH your microphone AND audio from the device, even if you don’t plan to use the audio from your device. Don’t worry, even if you don’t need that audio source, you can always mix/edit/delete it because Camtasia puts it on a separate track, as seen here:

separate camtasia tracks

Well, that’s my quick tip for this week.  I hope to return to being more active in my blog posts, it was just another crazy winter that I went through.

As always, I welcome your thoughts , comments, and feedback.

DIY Genius Bar

December 9, 2015

erinmagleysmallimageHave you ever thought of creating a help desk like those seen at computer stores?

We just held our first Genius Bar event at Denver Public School’s central office and I want to share the experience with you.

The Logistics

The idea of this event was suggested to me by a leader in our district.  I recruited “geniuses”  from our Ed Tech and IT departments as well as some other software experts that I knew in our building.  Using a Google doc I had folks signup and list their expertise.  I used this list to also generate table signs to go on the tables.  We’re fortunate to have a large open space on the top floor of our building, also known as the 14er.  There are long bar tables that I thought would be perfect for our purposes.

To promote the event I created very simple fliers that I posted throughout our building-in stairwells and on every bulletin board.  Here’s what the flier looked like:

geniusbarflierimageforblogpost

On the day of the event, the experts found their places at the bar and awaited people needing help  For people needing help they were greeted by two people on my team-Jessica and Taiya-who directed them to the appropriate expert.  If the expert was already busy then they put their name on a post it note next to the expert so everyone was aware of the queue.  Here are some images of our greeters and experts:

Reflecting on the Event

Enthusiasm was high among all participants and the “geniuses” did a lot of peer sharing when not helping folks.  I wish we had more folks dropping by in need of help.    We’ll try some different times and maybe different locations.  Everyone definitely wants this event to continue. We may not need as many “geniuses”.  This first time I had 13!  I’m also going to try some different communication channels.  The fliers by themselves may not be enough.  The trouble with email is that I have no way of just targeting people in the central office building and I don’t want other staff members and teachers who are at other locations to feel left out.  One last thought-we may have to create another name.  I have a feeling that “genius bar” is trademarked by Apple.  I welcome your suggestions!

Video Shooting Tips for Smartphones and Tablets

October 19, 2015

In this quick 3 and half minute video, I share some of my tips.

Here are the links mentioned in the video:

Gorillapod

iPhone Microphones

Samsung Galaxy Microphone

iOS Apps

Android Apps

Quality Video from Your Smartphone

Making the Best Video Possible from Your Phone

Online Learning Conference Review

October 16, 2015

olc logoLast week I had the pleasure of attending the Online Learning Conference in Denver.  I want to share my top five takeaways in this brief review.

1. The Glance Test.  In an impressive session by Laura Wall Klieves from Duarte, we were introduced to their Glance Test.  Using their rubric we looked at slides for 3 seconds and determined if they contained more signal than noise.  Elements we looked at included singular message, audience relevance, visual elements and arrangement. This reinforced everything that I’ve learned from Presentation Zen and “Lose the Bullets”.  I’m hoping that I can convert more people at my current workplace to this line of design.

2. Intelligent eDesign. Using the psychology of how people learn, course designers should remember that brains learn best when solving a problem (use PBL), use social learning, puil rather than push learners.  Learners like variety-our brains like different sources of input.  Aligning with Adult Learning Theory, let learners self-direct whenever possible and give them rewards/motivation for learning.

3. Interactive Videos.  This is something I’ve been meaning to try out with Youtube tools, making videos interactive with links.  They showed a really cool tool Hapyak that allows designers to embed not only links and branching but even quizzes into existing videos.  I’m definitely going to try out this tool.  The presenters also emphasized the value of video to encode into our memory using multisensory immersion and emotional content.  This harkens back to my work in Digital Storytelling.

4. Gamification. Another approach I’ve been looking at incorporating into my learning design.  This graphic connecting with Bloom’s Taxonomy gave me some entry points to explore.  There is no doubt that our brains are wired to play games, they are ubiquitous thanks to mobile devices and social media, and they keep us motivated and engaged.

5. Whiteboard Animation.  By now most of us have seen whiteboard animations where a human hand draws images and words on a white background accompanied by narration or music.  Until recently you would have had to hire an animation company to produce one of these videos.  Now there is software available to create some pretty professional looking short videos.  I attended a hands-on session using VideoScribe and we quickly created videos on our own.  I intend to purchase a subscription and try out this tool some more.  I am attracted to the customization that this particular software provides.  Look for a future post and example from me.