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:


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.

It’s Time to Disarm Powerpoint Presentations

September 14, 2015

Powerpoint-Mac-LogoIn my  purple state of Colorado it would probably be difficult to ban bullets, but can we all agree to take bullets away from Powerpoint presentations?  It’s the 21st century and way past time to disarm Powerpoint.

Where did I get this idea?  Several years ago I had the pleasure of attending a session at Educause by Heidi Trotta entitled “Lose the Bullets”  You can download her presentation here.  About the same time someone recommended the book “Presentation Zen” which was an inspiration to Heidi I’m sure.  Ever since that day I’ve been modelling their ideas in my own presentations and advocating for everyone to take up the cause to improve presentations.  But as many times as I tell folks about improving the designs of Powerpoint presentations it still amazes me how many people have never heard of Presentation Zen, and how many bad presentations I still encounter.  Recently I attended a session where the opening slide was filled with 175 words!  That’s not a misprint- one hundred seventy-five words!  I think folks get confused sometimes between creating a document and creating a presentation.  Rather than show you their first slide and embarrass anyone, I have attempted to recreate that slide with new text of my own.  Here it is, click on it to enlarge:


Please folks, spread the word about what good presentations should sound and look like-see the above resources by Heidi Trotta and Garr Reynolds.  Let’s hope that there are better days ahead, with less bullets.

Flavors of Online Learning

September 3, 2015

Wow, another week, another screencast.  I think I”m on a roll with these as another way for me to share resources. Watch for more in upcoming weeks.  This one is short (7 minutes). It is my attempt to explain the categories of online learning which come in many varieties…or flavors.  Here is the video:

Two of the links referred to in the screencast are already here in my blog.  The other is: The Tangled Web of Online Learning.

Since there are few printed words in my screencast video I thought it might be helpful for some to see my outline and show you how I organized the categories.  Here is the outline for my presentation:

Online Learning Flavors
Online Courses-  LMSs with Modules, MOOCS, Digital Badging (aka micro-credentialing)
Courses can be 100% online, blended/hybrid mix, or web-enhanced
Elements-tracking, assessments, certificates/grades/credit

Google Forms, Google Slides, websites, blogs
Google Docs don’t need staples :-)  Collaborations!
Online Learning Communities
Social Media-FB, Twitter, Scoop It, Google +

Somewhere in between formal and informal
Personalized Learning
Customized-letting learners choose material but have a common assessment

Conference Calls
Live Streaming

Discussion Boards
Self-paced courses/modules
Online Resources-wikis, collaborative docs

As always, I welcome your comments and sharing.

Creating Effective Discussion Boards

August 27, 2015

This week I’m going to try something a bit different.  Most of my post is in the form of a video screencast (10 minutes).  It’s a subject I talked about years ago but felt it needed some updating as I’ve learned more on the subject.  Recently I gave this presentation at the University of Colorado.  The ppt follows the principles of Presentation Zen with images carrying my message along.  Here is the video:



Here are the resources mentioned in the video:

Creating Discussion Boards in Canvas

Discussion Board Advice from Faculty Focus

Cornell Center for Teaching Excellence

Mastering Online Discussion Boards from Edutopia

Tips for Creating Prompts

Sample Rubrics for Grading Discussion Boards

Glossary for E-Learning, Distance Learning and Computer-Related Terms

August 20, 2015

books image for blogpostI’ve been in this field for so many years, and the world has turned largely digital, that I sometimes forget that not everyone speaks my instructional tech language.  To help others understand many of the terms that I and others in the field use I went searching for a comprehensive glossary that I could link for use.  Alas, my search was mostly fruitless as I couldn’t find one glossary that was both comprehensive and up-to-date.  So…as those of you who know my creative and determined persona, I decided to create one of my own.  To be comprehensive, I included many tertiary terms that are computer-related and even some instructional design terms for foundational knowledge.  To be accurate, I referred to multiple sources for cross-referencing and validity.  Finally I used my personal experience to make selections and massage the language where possible so that even people outside the field could comprehend the meanings.

The resulting glossary is here.  As a google doc you can search it and jump to alphabetical sections via the lettered table of contents.  Please share this resource freely.  If you are in the field of instructional technology, e-learning, distance education, then I welcome your comments and additions.  You can respond to this post or email me directly.

Comparing LMSs

July 31, 2015

teacher at computer

(DPS) Denver Public Schools is looking at choosing a new LMS for teacher-student interactions.  Since I have expertise and they wanted to consider using the same LMS for delivering teacher professional development, they asked me to look at the selected LMSs and give my opinion.  I thought that this analysis might be helpful to others who are choosing an LMS and wanted to share my results here.

First, a little background.  As some of you may know I have in-depth experience with Blackboard and Moodle and experiential knowledge of eCollege, D2L, Canvas, and Certpoint.  Currently, the main LMS I am using is Moodle.  DPS asked me to look at Canvas, Schoology and It’s Learning.

Most LMSs are very similar and they meet the basic needs of dissemination, discourse and assessment. The chart I link below shows just how similar Canvas, It’s Learning and Shoology are in functionality.  Here is my unvarnished opinion:  I’m still a big fan of Moodle and not sure why the district isn’t considering it as an option.  I know that many people are swayed by their personal experiences with an LMS and it may have nothing to do with the LMS but much to do with course design, facilitation and user support.  Any LMS can underwhelm or even frustrate users if there are inferior courses or lack of orientation.

Of the three LMSs that I looked at, Canvas came out on top.  Why? I think Canvas had the best interface for users. It has searchable discussion boards and an easy html editor (with video and audio recording options) throughout.  But the most important reason I chose Canvas over the others is that it is the only one that has full-featured digital badges (aka micro-credentials).  Micro-credentials are an innovation that must be enabled in LMSs.    Kudos to Canvas and Moodle for incorporating these digital badges and linking them to Mozilla Backpacks.  Look for a future post on digital badges as I continue to explore, advocate and implement them.

Here is a link to my comparison chart.  NOTE:  These elements were requested by my team which delivers professional development in face-to-face events, as well as online courses.

Producing Great Webinars

May 29, 2015

computer cables small square imageI’ve been producing webinars for many years now.  I started out in the traditional videoconference world that used microwaves, ISDN lines and eventually the internet.  Today, I produce webinars on an almost weekly basis for various clients.  I want to share some of my lessons learned with you.  For the most part, my focus is on larger scale webinars, not one-on-one or small groups which may be served by Google hangouts or even Skype.

My favorite webinar tool today is Adobe Connect.  It’s user-friendly, full-featured, high quality, and doesn’t require users to download any software to view the live webinar or the recording.  I’ve developed a document that I give to people who want to deliver a webinar.  Some of the content is specific to Adobe Connect and my current work at Denver Public Schools, but I believe it can be helpful to you if you’re planning to hold a webinar.  Take a look here.

There are some tips that I have for producing a great webinar that are relevant regardless of platform:
• Plan ahead with good graphic design, targeting your audience and providing as much interaction as possible.
• Load content and activities into the virtual room in advance and have a practice session.
• Use a high bandwidth connection with an ethernet cable.
• Try to use a high quality microphone if you are using VOIP.
• Consider using a photo of the presenter instead of a webcam to save bandwidth and avoid disctractions.
• Always have someone monitoring the broadcast to quickly identify any issues.

Most of the expertise I’ve gained over the years has come from experience, but I also have learned a great deal from Cynthia Clay who works for NetSpeed Solutions.  I can’t recommend her enough. If you have a chance to attend a session she is leading at a conference or one of her webinars, don’t miss it.  She has published a book that has many helpful ideas for planning and producing webinars.  It’s simply called “Great Webinars”.  I also recommend this book as a guide.

Great Webinars Book Cover

Finally, her company, NetSpeed Solutions can also give you a checklist for producing webinars.  Here is the link.

My First Photobooth

May 11, 2015

Anatol_JosephoThis past week I was asked to setup a photobooth for our Teacher Leader Academy Awards.  I want to share my lessons learned and give you some ideas if you ever want to setup a photobooth for yourself.  First, I want to preface with some limitations I had:  Members of my team had already purchased a vinyl backdrop which, though affordable, was very shiny and produced some unwanted reflection.  Also, I did not have a photo strobe/flash kit so I instead used our video lighting kit.

The basic setup
Hanging the backdrop-in my test situation I used 2 lighting stands and attached the backdrop to it with masking tape.  At the event they supplied what is called “pipe and drape” so I taped the backdrop to those poles and was happy about the drape covering the bottom area since the backdrop was only 4 feet high.  I assembled our three-point lighting kit.  This meant a backlight, a spotlight and a fill light (with reflective umbrella as a diffuser).  The lights served 3 purposes: providing even coverage, adequate lighting (in a darker ballroom) and defining the photobooth space.  And speaking of the space, after power cords were taped down and improvised sandbags added to the bottom of the light stands, I marked a target area on the floor to show where people should stand to be in the frame.

photoboothsignand tape


My team members also bought some props to go along with the superhero theme of the event.
We encouraged attendees to get a free photo and strike a pose with a prop and co-workers.
Some people brought their children and so I improvised extra height with them standing on the lighting case. After the photos were taken, we collected the props and gave out slips with link to google drive folder with photos, using a tiny url.


The camera and settings
For this job, I used my Nikon D5200 SLR camera with tripod.  I set it for shutter preference (1/250) and an ISO of 400-figuring that the lights would give me plenty of illumination.  Even so, I wasn’t worried about underexposure, since I could always lighten them later and I did indeed lighten them before sharing in case folks wanted to print them.  (something to watch out for-the exposures were problematic due to the light reflections off the props).  Initially I tried to have participants trigger the camera shutter with a remote control, but since it required holding the button for a while and having to explain this to everyone, I abandoned the remote control for this shoot and just stood behind the camera.  Folks could see themselves as they struck poses because I activated “live view” on the camera and flipped the monitor screen toward the booth.  I tried to snap at least two shots of each group.  Of course I loaded my largest and fasted SD card into the camera and brought along an extra camera battery and the charger since I knew the monitor screen was going to consume a lot of power.

Best practices
In conclusion, I want to share the best practices for you to consider in setting up your own photobooth:
Get or make a non-reflective backdrop.
Use a good camera with a tiltable monitor screen.
Try to get or make some props.
Give out a link to where the photos will be posted.
Keep it fun, encourage posing and group interaction shots.
Add some lighting if you can.
Mark an area on the floor for people to stand.
Have a big, fast memory card and extra batteries.
Have two people staff the booth if you can-one to run the camera and one to hand out props, collect props and give out photo link.
Wishing you many smiles along the way!


Pixlr, Free Photo Editor

April 24, 2015

pixlr logoI was driven to Pixlr by two nudges.  The first was when a teacher asked if I knew of a free alternative to Photoshop that she could use in her classroom with her students.  Almost at the same time I had to replace the hard drive on my personal laptop and during the process I lost access to my Photoshop installation and Adobe was asking me for $10 a month to use Photoshop.  A colleague had told me about some free alternatives and after a quick review Pixlr looked the most promising for features and ease of use.

What I found was that Pixlr has a similar layout to Photoshop and the tools in the free version do most of the things I adjust photos/images in a hurry.  These commonly used features include cropping, basic light adjustments, adding text, and applying filters.  The free version doesn’t include many advanced Photoshop features such as layers, masks, etc, but you can purchase the Pro version of Pixlr to add these and other features if you wish.  The other limitations to the free version that you should be aware of are that 1. You can only open one image at a time and  2. The only export (save as) options are bmp, jpg, png and tiff.  I can live with these limitations for the free price.

If you choose to use Pixlr, know that you have several options.  First, you can use the solely online version, or you can download the app to your mobile device or desktop computer.  You can also choose to use the free version or subscribe to their Pro version for just $15 a year (much more affordable than Photoshop).

Here’s a screenshot of some of the tools with one of my photos open.  For more info and to download, visit their site Pixlr.

pixlr screenshot


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.