30 March, 2007

Web Cats: Episode Six - Using the Olympus DS2 Voice Recorder


In this episode, Peter Beaumont demonstrates how to use the Olympus DS2 Voice Recorder. This voice recorder is used a lot at Edge Hill University to record lectures and interviews by both staff and students.

The video is also available below in sections. in streamed .wmv format.

Whole video (10:41 minutes)
1. The Olympus DS2 voice recorder (00:17 minutes)
2. Removing the cover (00:14 minutes)
3. Switching it on (00:16 minutes)
4. The Batteries (00:31 minutes)
5. Starting it recording (01:21 minutes)
6. Stopping it recording (00:30 minutes)
7. Setting the quality and file type (01:30 minutes)
8. Deleting old files (00:43 minutes)
9. Organising your files and folders (00:49 minutes)
10. Positioning the mic (01:03 minutes)
11. Listening to your recording (01:02 minutes)
12. Changing the volume while listening (00:14 minutes)
13. Navigating your own recording (00:28 minutes)
14. Putting the file onto a computer (02:11 minutes)

27 March, 2007

Scribd: YouTube for Documents

Mark pointed me in the direction of Scribd today. Scribd describes itself as a "free online library where anyone can upload.".

Mark described it as YouTube for documents. I think YouTube succeeded because it removed the need for people to worry about what format video was in - different file types could be uploaded, and they were all just coverted to Flash which nearly everyone has the plugin for.

Scribd in a similar way lets you upload multiple file types, and you can access the documents as Flash paper, but also as PDF, Microsoft Word, or MP3 files as you require.

I've uploaded our WebCT guides to it, which can be accessed at my page, or individually like the uploading a file to WebCT document.

Not sure if there are many situations where we could use this for students - perhaps if lots were having trouble accessing some files we could upload them to here and create links to them from WebCT?

22 March, 2007

Subscribing to Feeds by Email

I'm noticing more services that are enabling people to subscribe to web feeds by email. This is great for people who aren't following enough sites for it to be worth using an aggregator such as Bloglines.

We've already posted about FeedBlitz. Subscribe to Cakes using the form below to see what the user experience would be using this.

Enter your Email

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

R|Mail is another similar service, and from what I see it looks easier to use. Subscribe to Cakes below to see what the users experience would be.


Both these services provide extra functionality, such as subscribing to all the feeds in an OPML file, so if you want to do more you might want to explore them. Also there are other services out there that allow this, for example if you use FeedBurner to create your feeds, that supports subscriptions by email too.

As Kate Trgovac says on her blog, you've got to deliver content in the form people want to read - otherwise they probably won't.

15 March, 2007

Fast Forward Resource Creation Screencasts (22 minutes)

As staff are starting to create Fast Forward course materials. I thought it would be worth posting these screencasts on how to use the templates.

The templates are designed so that I can use the Course Genie software to convert the templates to Content Modules for use in WebCT. Also the templates mean that the members of staff who create the materials can easy makes changes to the course materials during the time that Fast Forward runs.

The screencasts were designed to be distributed via CD, but they are available here in case we have trouble getting the CDs to anyone. They were also created last year, so they use the old logo and refer to "the college", but I've not got time to re-record them.

01. Introduction to Training - 1:19
02. Managing Files and Using the CD - 3:38
03. The Template Layout - 2:32
04. Text and Tables - 2:42
05. Images and Diagrams - 4:31
06. Copyright Issues - 0:56
07. Linking to Web Pages and Files - 4:07
08. The Final Result - 2:44
09. Video, Audio, Quizzes and Animations - 1:09

If you want a copy of the template it is available for download.

The Optivote Video

Meg and Peter are creating some training materials for staff who are using the Optivote system, so I thought it might be worth re-posting the video of Phil Stanley's presentation.

If you want to skip to different sections, the contents are:

Part One: Setting up - 0:00 to 8:31
Part Two: Start Up Wizard - 8:32 to 12:51
Part Three: Setting Up Classes - 12:52 to 28:07
Part Four: Lessons - 28:08 to 32:24
Part Five: Questions - 32:25 to 1:31:04
Part Six: Using PowerPoint with Optivote - 1:31:05 to 1:49:12
Part Seven: Question Time - 1:49:13 to 2:03:25

There are other materials on the Optivote web site such as a quick start guide and screencast videos. These videos don't work for me in Firefox, so if you have problems try using Internet Explorer.

12 March, 2007

Sony Reader: Ebooks made readable

We've mentioned the Sony Reader before, and I think it is going to be released (in the US) soon.

It sounds like it really will make reading onscreen easier, however the £300 price tag will probably prevent it from becoming the 'iPod for text'.

I like it though and I think I'd like to use it when travelling. Visit the Command N podcast #82 and skip to 4 minutes 50 seconds to see it.

Perhaps this sort of thing is going to be important in the future of learning?

Pointing students towards useful resources on a subject

We've looked at a lot of ways that web feeds can be used by yourself and your students to keep track of information on topics. This has included supplying students with OPML reading lists of blogs and web sites that they could quickly and easily subscribe to.

Another way that you could supply students with a selected range of sites to explore would be to create a Google 'Custom Search Engine'.

You'll need to create a Google account, and then you can add a list of sites related to your subject that students might find useful. Of course they could still search the internet in the regular way, but this could help them by focusing their search initially.

Once you have created the search engine, you can add all the sites from an OPML file (perhaps downloaded from your Bloglines account) to it and then delete those that are not relevant.

I created one that searches some useful learning technology sites:

Try searching on a technology like blogs or podcasts, to see if there are any articles that interest you.

07 March, 2007

New Guides: 'Recording Audio' and 'Linking to Electronic Resources'

We've produced two new guides for Edge Hill staff, available on the Learning Services guides page.

Firstly 'Recording Audio' is a very basic 'demystifying' type guide. It covers the steps that a member of staff would take to record a lecture or session and put it online.

The 'Linking to Electronic Resources' guide details how the electronic resources, available from the Library Catalogue, can be linked to from a WebCT area.

01 March, 2007

RSS Feeds - Display Tools


Further to Pete's recent posts 'Create Quick Links to Web Feeds' and ‘Visualising Events in Time: SIMILE Timelines’, I have also been experimenting with different RSS display tools:

(I have created a couple of examples which are available to view in the Developers Community WebCT course. )

1/ A Timeline - created with 'My Timelines Beta'

As their website states, "My Timelines let's you easily add an AJAX based timeline that displays your most recent blog entries."

I really like this tool. The timeline provides a chronological representation of changes that are made and it's interactive too! You can pan the timeline right/left with your mouse, and click on markers for more info.

It is a straightforward process generating the timeline and there are some styling options included at the time of generation such as the size, time display etc. You cannot, (as far as I can tell) restyle the actual timeline but you can embed it into a webpage and style that as you like.

As well as using this tool to create a 'Blog Timeline', I have also created a 'Wiki Timeline'.
Changes to the Wiki appear displayed on the timeline by page title, so multiple changes to the same page make the timeline appear a bit repetitive and messy but the individual markers provide additional info/ specifics of the changes.

It will provide an overview/ history of edits and notification of changes to the wiki. I think it could be a great alternative means of tracking activity on a wiki.

2/ ‘Grazr’ is a tool which allows you to display feeds for browsing (Podcasts can also be listened to within the tool!)

At first glance this tool appeared to be suited to large websites which provide multiple feeds - to enable the creation of ‘feedmaps’ which make browsing (or grazing) all the available feeds on a site possible without the hassle of subscribing

For more information read James E. Lee's Blog posting - 'Create a feedmap to help people find, preview, and subscribe to your feeds'.


I like Grazr and think that it has the potential to be very useful in an educational setting.

It is a very easy to use tool.

At a basic level you can use Grazer to display one feed, either as an embedded ‘widget’* or with a link. You just follow 3 simple steps and are then provided with a range of install options.

  • According to Wikipedia [Feb 2007]
    “A web widget is a portable chunk of code that can be installed and executed within any separate HTML-based web page by an end user without requiring additional compilation. They are akin to plugins or extensions in desktop applications. Other terms used to describe a Web Widget include Gadget, Badge, Module, Capsule, Snippet, Mini and Flake. Web Widgets often but not always use Adobe Flash or JavaScript programming languages.”

With a little more understanding of OPML files you can display multiple feeds with Grazr.

This could be a really good way of providing regular, dynamic and current information within a course as well as introducing students to blogs and podcasts as sources of useful information.

3/ A Basic Text Update - created with 'Feed 2JS Build JavaScript and Preview'

This feed generation allows you to present changes/updates in text form.

Again I like this tool because I think it is really simple to use, it can be styled and the resulting script can be cut and pasted directly into a WebCT text block or HTML page.

To style the resulting feeds I have used the text block editor within WebCT (to create a simple two column layout, one for New Posts and one for Comments). For more sophisticated styling, I have used CSS and then uploaded the files.

This is another great way of introducing dynamic content to your online course area.