Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

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

 

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:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B2MQ4wiJeWmCZkcydUtZRFBZRk0/view

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

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

photoboothlights

Add-ons
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.

photoboothprops

basketwithlinkslips
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!

photoboothsample

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

Converting pdf Files in Google Drive

April 10, 2015

logo-adobe-pdfGoogle-Drive_logoSometimes folks want to edit a pdf file or at least pull some text from a pdf file.  If there isn’t a lot of formatting and images that you desire, and your focus is on the text itself then Google Drive can convert the document for you.  There are two paths to take for this conversion to take place.  1.  If you’re using the old Google Drive interface, then in your upload settings you can choose to convert the pdf document to a Google doc.  2.  If you’re on the new Google Drive or have already uploaded some pdfs then follow these directions:

RIght click on the document name and select “Open with Google Docs”

open with screenshot

You’ll have to wait while the document is being converted.  This shouldn’t take too long.

When the document opens you’ll see the original scanned pdf page and then below that the extracted text.

converted pdf view

You can then edit, copy, paste. modify this text.

Pretty cool trick!

Quick and Easy Virtual Breakout Rooms

April 3, 2015

2 new teachers at nei eventMy main webinar tool is Adobe Connect and I love all the options it gives us for running interactive virtual meetings.  One of its features is Breakout Rooms.  These rooms have all the tools for collaboration and can be setup in advance.  The only problems are: 1. They are sequestered so that people outside the rooms can’t see what’s going on in the other rooms, and 2.  As a host I have to toggle between all the rooms, jumping in and out to see them, one at a time.  Recently I saw Cynthia Clay from Netspeed Learning Solutions come up with a simple fix to this problem.  She created two chat boxes, one for “Group A” and the other for “Group B”.  She even provided instructions on which group attendees were assigned. Beauty in simplicity.   2 chat pods screenshot from netspeed recordingNow I know that this solution doesn’t give attendees all the collaborative tools that breakout rooms have, but they are so simple to set up and implement in a fast way with few clicks, simple instructions and little confusion.    To take this approach further, she also shows an example where there are three chat boxes-each with a separate question to answer/discuss.  Attendees can either be assigned to a question or self-select which question they’d like to respond.  These are great options to increase engagement in webinars, and could be considered breakout rooms without sequestering. I will have more tips to share in the future and I encourage you to share yours.

Photos for Class

March 2, 2015

6819094724I’m a big proponent for using Flickr Creative Commons as a source for finding reusable photos.  I’ve used many over the years and have made a concerted effort to give back by licensing virtually all of my photos with Creative Commons (CC) licensing.  The main hurdles for K-12 teachers who want to use Flickr CC is getting a safe filter and making it easy for them and their students to properly cite the photos they find.  Now there’s software to solve these problems:  Photosforclass.com

Besides providing a safe search for images, you’ll find that when you download an image it comes with full attribution at the bottom.  The image I used for this blog post is an example.  Let’s all find photos for class!