Wednesday 22 December 2010

Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 for educational video creation

 I have been assisting with some geology field trials of the TurningPoint system headed by fellow Learning Technologist Sid White, and thought this would be a great opportunity to experiment with the latest FREE Windows Live Movie Maker 2011 for Windows 7 to create the video above. Users will be pleased to know that Microsoft have expanded the range of accepted video formats.  It's now a simple case of drop and drag into the work area and start editing.  All the videos used for this clip came from a Canon 550D (HD, 25fps), the files are in MOV format, but I found they easily dropped straight into the work area. The software then creates a low quality render of the video so you can then experience the video at all the stages of the editing - in real-time!

There is a very good range of transitions, some professional and other perhaps now entering the realms of clichĂ©, however, this did not detract from being able to create a fairly professional output from this software. Notably, users can only add one extra sound track, which is a bit of a limitation. I was particularly impressed with how well it handed every drag and dropped video, each could be cropped and/or copied while inside the editor, very slick.

The other excellent additions were the ability to upload directly to YouTube and also to create a DVD of your video!  I was able to output my video as a sensibly compressed WMV (Windows Media Video), which I also found I could easily upload to YouTube or the University's UpMedia area for inclusion on iTunesU.

All in all a very excellent free software package.  Could this be the Windows 7 tool of choice for making educational videos fast and efficiently amongst busy academics?  Time will tell...

Wednesday 15 December 2010

Mohive training, for online train materials

Dr Richard Thain (Project leader), Becki Vickerstaff (fellow Learning Technologist) and myself spent the last two days training, under the careful tuition of Alan Payne (Fugro Subsea Services). These sessions were to familiarise ourselves with Fugro's own Mohive environment. The Mohive platform is used by Fugro to develop content for their geoscience, survey, and geotechnical services. This session, for me, marked the start of a much larger collaboration with, CENORE and Flag Officer Sea Training (FOST) HM to develop distance learning content for a Hydrographic Surveying module here at the University of Plymouth.

Mohive is a SCORM compliant Flash based content development system that allows various forms of teaching and learning materials to be developed efficiently within an online interface, which is ideal for collaborative work. It also has the ability to allows users to create anything from simple quizzes all the way to adding interactivity to embedded video content. All this in a rather tidy interface.

During the training we were given a mini project in which we had to create a teaching and learning guide on how to sharpen a pencil; we even covered elements of health and safety! Exampled below is a quick (tongue and cheek) video I created as part of the training, which encompassed each of the stages to sharpening a pencil... I think with only two days of training, using a simple concept as sharpening a pencil really helped us to focus primarily on using the interface. All an all a very fun and extremely useful couple of days. A big thank you to Alan's efficient tuition. We will certainly all be looking forward to future collaborations on this initiative.

Tuesday 23 November 2010

iTunesU launched at University of Plymouth - 13 our lucky number!

Prof Wendy Purcell 
hitting the big red button!
Lawrence Stephenson,
Education Consultant, Apple UK Ltd
Opened by Prof Wendy Purcell (Vice Chancellor, University of Plymouth) who spoke of her excitement bringing iTunesU to the University.

Followed by Lawrence Stephenson, Apple's educational consultant, with a showcase of podcasts from Plymouth's own selection of uploads. Plymouth now the 13th institution to join.

Wednesday 10 November 2010

Easy PowerPoint to Video using Office 2010

I recently downloaded a trial version of Microsoft Office 2010 to test out the features in PowerPoint as I wanted to investigate if/how easy it was to create a video with narration for teaching and learning purposes. In comparison with Office 2007 this is extremely simple to achieve. 2010 has the ability so simultaneously record a pseudo-laser pointer, narration, animations and slide timings all in one go.

Here are the steps (also demonstrated in the video below):

  • create your powerpoint as if you were taking a class (Tip: use larger fonts and images - easier for viewing on portable devices.)
  • Plug in your headset with microphone (Tip: the quality of the microphone makes all the difference).
  • Go to the Slide Show tab, then either rehearse the timing with voice or select 'Record Slide Show - Start Recording from Beginning'. Select your options in the popup then... (You are recording!)

  • Speak into the microphone and move through the pages as normal (Tip: use the mouse, as this also allows you to CTRL + left mouse click to show the laser pointer dot, as shown)
    Laser pointer dot shown next to
    'Site Feed'

  • When complete, press 'Escape' wait while it momentarily organises the data.
  • Then create the video by going to Save & Send, which is found under file menu. Select the 'Create a Video' option as shown below. Leave settings as standard, but note there are other video options depending on your needs. All done!

N.B. Don't forget to also save your presentation if you need to come back and make changes.

Microsoft have a guide on recording audio.

Watch the video of how it was done! (including sound)

View on YouTube - note that the video quality starts in standard low resolution quality, HD is also available. Use the expand button to watch full screen (the four arrows - bottom right)

New - Also available on iTunesU

Hope you find this useful...

Tuesday 2 November 2010

Adding narration to your PowerPoint 2007 slideshow and outputing to video

This is probably common knowledge but I thought I would blog this very easy way of getting your voice onto a PowerPoint presentation.

The completed presentation (if packaged as a 'PowerPoint Slide Show file) can be distributed and played on any PC.  So how does this work? Well as the user records their voice and moves through the slides, all the information is cleverly recoded including the timings of each slide. This process can be done in the comfort of your office but I expect the braver lecturers may try this during an actual lecture (just dont forget to save the file afterwards - and take a blank large capacity USB memory stick with you...) From a student/staff usability point of view this is the easiest way of viewing past lectures.

How do I make a presentation with narration?
  • Create your presentation (all slides) first (N.B. its useful to add cue points - numbers or symbols to areas on the slides as the mouse movements are not saved).
  • Obtain a good microphone/headset (you can actually hear your voice through the headset, which helps you get the intonation right) - ensure the microphone works on your PC first!.
  • Go to the Slide Show tab as if you were giving a presentation.
  • Ether rehearse the timings or go for the riskier option of doing it in one go...
  • After selecting the 'Record Narration' button, you are then shown the following window:

Select image to enlarge.

Note the 'quality setting' is the default shown on my PC, it may vary on yours depending on your software. Its usually good enough to leave as default, as you are only recording voice.  However if you are not happy with the quality try changing the 'attributes' drop down menu.  (N.B. Selecting a higher kHz settings means better quality, however, the higher the quality the larger the final file size!)  A cheap microphone or holding it too close to your mouth will cause distortions or breath noises, so be aware.
  • Select 'Set Microphone Level' option as shown above. This is the best way to ensure the microphone is working and allows the software to automatically set the input volume based on your voice (speak during this part to get the levels...)

  • Select OK and you're live and recording!
  • The presentation will run as normal, just speak freely into the microphone about each slide and let the software do the rest of the work for you.  The timings of the slides are also recorded, but unfortunately it is not possible to see the mouse movement.  Remember this omission while talking ensuring your potential audience is guided verbally to each part of the slide.
  • Once complete, simply press the Esc (Escape) key relieving a pop-up window. 
  • Only select SAVE if you are happy with the voice recordings and this will automatically be added to all your slides (note the little loudspeaker icon - bottom right of each slide -).

You are now able to play back the presentation and hear your narration. If you are still happy with the result the next step is to package as a PowerPoint Slide Show file. You are then ready to distribute to your students (e.g. on your module page):

So how do I get this into a video format?
This is the tricky part, as there is no option built into Office 2007 to do this...(this option is only available to Office 2010 users, outputting to a Windows Media Video WMV file). One suggestion is to use one of the many pay for software options that are designed to do this (somewhat costly!) for example provides examples.

Using a screen grab software could work...
An alternative is to record the PowerPoint Show in real-time using a screen grab software. CAMstudio (freeware) is a fairly good one, also mentioned on fellow learning technologist Edd Boulton's blog.  As with most free software it is not without its limitations in video file format.  The principle is to select your screen area with the capture software, run the PowerPoint while recording with the capture software.  The capture software then saves this as a video.

Thursday 28 October 2010

What operating system does your mobile phone have?

Do any of you ever wonder... Im curious what everyone out there has on their mobile phone, if you're willing please fill out this simple questionnaire. You can view the responses at the end of the questionnaire. Thank you!

I want to do this questionnaire in another window!

Monday 25 October 2010

YouTube Video Editor part 2

Thought I would throw in this quick update about the YouTube online editor. This is in addition to my previous post while in Beta testing. Users with YouTube accounts will now notice that the Video Editor tab appears at the top, rather than manually typing in the URL.

Notable changes:

  • There is no longer a limit of 7 clips.
  • There are a set of 3 simple transitions cross-fade, wipe and slide. (cross-fade is my personal favourite for a more professional touch)
  • Preview playback is extremely grainy, but the final output will be as good as the original quality.
  • Moving the preview playback slider is very dependant on network speed, typically you have to watch all the way through to see if transitions and video work...

Select image to enlarge
It's a very simple process of drop and drag, items can be easily removed by simply using the 'X' on each of the transition or video objects.  Notably adding the music will still prevent the user from downloading the MP4 file later, so if you intend using your completed file elsewhere it is preferable to add music or additional sound using an offline package later. Hopefully YouTube will add the option to upload your own sound files in the future and then allow MP4 downloads.

 The MP4 download option can be found as shown (from the 'My Videos' area):

A word of warning, if you get too carried away you may find that the Download MP4 option disappears from the drop down menu, usually it warns you that the option is 'currently not available'.  So what happens? Essentially there is a limit of two MP4 downloads per hour as described in the YouTube help, so choose your downloads well...  If you need more, just come back later...

Overall, a very handy simple, quick and free video editor that will suit most peoples requirements for simple educational videos. As YouTube also hosts your videos (for free) all videos can also be easily embedded into online resources. Thank you YouTube and keep up the good work.

Thursday 21 October 2010

Using Google Earth to train engineering geologists

I have recently had the pleasure of working on this geology based technology enhanced learning (TEL) project with Prof. Jim Griffiths (Head of the School of Geography, Earth, & Environmental Sciences, University of Plymouth), Dr Anne Mather (University of Plymouth) and Professor Adrian Hartley (School of Geosciences, University of Aberdeen), a project originally funded by the Experiential Learning CETL here at Plymouth.

The project was primarily about using technologies to help engineering geologists better understand such things as landscapes and how processes of landforms develop over geological time. The approach chosen by Prof Griffiths and colleagues was to implement Google Earth for reconnaissance mapping and terrain evaluation training. We essentially used Google Earth's excellent layering ability to produce geomorphological layers coupled with appropriate integrated legends, image pop-ups and tours. The beauty of Google Earth from teaching enhanced learning perspective, is that it's free; easy to navigate; provides really quite decent terrain and outputs are easily packaged into KMZ files for distribution among students. Students can easily do a reconnaissance of entire massive landforms with relative ease, in this case the well known great landslides of Chile, obtaining a much clearer understanding of the environment. It's not a replacement for the real thing, but an excellent addition to the training required to bring students to chartered geologist level and certainly something we will be looking to develop further in the future.

Further information:
Griffiths, J.S., Mather, A.E., Truscott, J.B., & A. Hartley (2010) Application of low-cost satellite imagery for reconnaissance mapping and terrain evaluation training: A case study of coastal landslides, Chile. Geologically Active: Proceedings of the 11th IAEG Congress. Auckland, New Zealand, 5-10 September 2010. 

Currently available from Amazon,  Routledge Taylor & Francis Group or ISBN: 978-0-415-60034-7.

Thursday 7 October 2010

Barcode Creation

Thought I would share a useful find, something I had been testing for potential TEL projects.  Its a handy bar code creator on TEC-IT website. Allows users to create specific barcodes with any alpha numerical text! Its free for non-commercial use..., hence the logo below, thank you TEC-IT ;)

Yes this one also says 'Hello World!'.

Try Barcode Scanner on the Android to test it out, works a treat! 

Tuesday 7 September 2010

Tested To Destruction "TTD": mobile devices good enough for fieldwork?

Image of a Trimble fieldwork kit
used by Geology student here
at Plymouth University
Many of you may have probably wondered what electronic devices are durable enough to take out in the field, without having to attach numerous protective covers.  If you watched the Gadget Show last night you would have seen the team testing a number of mobile devices out in the field and I can assure you they were not handling them carefully.  If a device can take this sort of abuse it has a good chance of lasting on just about any of our field trips!

Devices (that survived...even being subjected to explosives!) included:

* Kodak Playsport camcorder -  also reviewed on CNET UK
* Garmin Oregon 450T (GPS) - also reviewed on Free Geography Tools
    The full test can be seen on video via Gadget Show blog. I'll leave it up to the viewers to decide what they would choose!

    Friday 27 August 2010

    Climbing the hill of learning technology development

    As I've been relatively quiet on this blog in the last month or so, I thought I would share a little insight into why. Recently I've had numerous people saying to me, "It must be a quiet time with all the students off campus...", which is probably the understatement of the year (in the nicest possible way of course!). In fact, this is the busiest time, which can sometimes seem like an uphill struggle with no view in sight, but equally the most fruitful and exciting time for developing learning technologies. There are also great opportunities to collaborate with my fellow learning technologists! You can be sure that better ideas spring up from these developments which more often than not get implemented later on in the academic year.

    Why so busy you ask? Im currently juggling six main projects ranging from mobile technologies for fieldwork; e-portfolios for budding scientist; collaborative learning environments to interactive websites. Plus and not forgetting continuing professional development, writing papers, peer reviewing for TEL journals and last minute fixes, all of which covers a range of disciplines, from chemistry to ecological economics. It's just one of the few times that academic staff actually have the opportunity to think about and actually 'do' the things they have been wanting to do throughout most of the year. I will certainly be sharing all of these developments with you as soon as my workloads come to some sort of as people say, watch this space...

    Thursday 26 August 2010

    Mscape now available on the HP website.

    The Mscape software that many of have used is no longer available from the website as the site has been pulled down (forums and all!), users are now greeted with an error message. A particularly sad demise of a perfectly usable website and software, which had a very active user base. Fortunately the software can still be found on the Hewlett Packard Labs website, but with extremely limited information on building your own mediascape. At the time of writing this post, Create-A-Scape still provides users with their own method for creating mediascapes, though you will need to use the HP lab link to download the last version of MScape. So those of us with Windows Mobile GPS enabled PDAs can still continue to enjoy the software.

    Some of the original Mscape software developers have now formed a company called Calvium. Currently the company has published a GPS Draw software for the iPhone.  There is indication that they are programming for the Android too, which is good news. I had heard through various sources that they were considering software 'similar' to Mscape, but of course due to copyrights etc, it will not be Mscape!

    The main feature of Mscape which is particularly appealing, is the ability to use your own maps.  When building teaching and learning materials for remote fieldwork locations, you don't really want to be depending on your 3G networks, for two main reasons: cost and availability.  What does the future hold? There are applications coming out on the Android Market, such as MapDroyd, that allows users to down load a whole country or even the world, for free! This application of course uses the popular open source map Open Street Map, the very same map source functionality added to MScape not long before its demise. Here's looking forward to a greater wealth of mobile applications for teaching and learning!

    Mscape and other logos are the property of their respective owners.

    Friday 16 July 2010

    Google App Inventor for Android

    Im keeping a keen eye out on mobile devices software that have some educational potential and functionality that relate to the science and technology disciplines and could be made freely available to students. Google have now released an application 'inventor' for its android based phones. Its esentially a way to write your own 'Apps' without actually getting involved with the nitty gritty of hard core programming. Its very much a visual programming language. I think their video says it all, with a basic example.

    For me the bit Im excited about is that to quote Google:

    "...App Inventor provides access to a GPS-location sensor, you can build apps that know where you are. You can build an app to help you remember where you parked your car, an app that shows the location of your friends or colleagues at a concert or conference, or your own custom tour app of your school, workplace, or a museum."

    A piece of free software that allows access to the GPS is good news for field work as far as Im concerned. It will be interesting to see how good this software is...

    Creating your own Google My Maps

    I have been working on a number of Google Map related teaching and learning projects recently and have used Google Maps to good effect within web pages for a number of my projects. Previously this process required some javascript added to the web page code, of course there are occasions more complicated applications will requires these maps to be hard coded... however, My Maps has been coming along in leaps and bounds and negates a lot of this process altogether. It even creates the necessary embedding code for you!

    You will need to create a Google account to use this facility, if you already have an iGoogle, then log in with this first. Ok, so you're logged and on the My Maps page, what next? The above video by Google explains the process very well and those of you that use My Maps may have already been greeted with this video. Note in the video that when adding photos, the items must be hosted on the web for example Flickr or Picassa to name a couple. Enjoy your mapping.

    Tuesday 6 July 2010

    GEES Anniversary Conference - the value of PDAs in extending fieldwork practice in the Earth Sciences

    I'm currently attending the GEES Annual Conference here at Plymouth University. Where geography, earth and environmental science academics, support staff and friends come together to share best practice. It's a special occasion for the GEES subject centre, this being its 10th anniversary.

    Why the image of a PDA? Well yet again TEL pervades the realms of this conference, there is a technology stream throughout. Happily I can report that the first day contains a series of field trips with a TEL theme. My colleagues Drs Mark Anderson, Meriel Fitzpatrick and I will be running the PDA (GPS) based fieldtrip to Kingsand (as detailed here), where delegates are invited to do the very same as our geology students!

    Derek France is also running a parallel session (unfortunately I miss this one!) where delegates are taken on an iWalk, they will be shown various interesting parts of our city and film elements as they go. Then later create an electronic story board showing their findings. I was talking to Derek about this and he said that his students do the same thing at his end of the woods, they typically can turn out a story board using MS Movie Maker in 1.5hours! Yes you guessed it, in effect a short film/podcast.

    Also in the afternoon is Dr John Maskall, Dr Paul Lunt, Dr Trevor Collins and John Lea fieldwork session to Devon Great Consuls, 'Improving accessibility to environmental science fieldwork using a portable communications network', which back in March I had the pleasure of attending their trial run.

    There is so much going on at this conference regarding TEL, from Facebook to Google Earth. This should be an interesting one!

    Update! - Photographs I took at the conference

    Thursday 1 July 2010

    Earth's gravity podcast example

    I've generally been keeping an eye (and ear) out for simple science based podcasting applications and have particularly enjoyed the sort of outputs that the BBC News online produce. I'm not talking about their high end productions but their simple use of audio, usually reinforced with images. Although most would agree that good use of descriptive audio can stand alone - we can all still learn a lot from radio broadcasting techniques - think of the plays or shows with narrators setting the scene before the characters talk... If I may point you to this recent BBC News article on Earth's gravity.

    I'm being a little bias, as this was a topic I remember well from my geology classes. Did you know that earth's gravity varies across the earth surface? Those of you from disciplines that link to environmental/geological studies will of no doubt know this as the Bouguer anomalies.

    I digress... Notably this articles page includes a very simple podcast from Professor Reiner Rummel, explaining the gravity map (see GRAVITY - A MOVING TARGET) OK its not called a podcast on the page, but it has all the characteristic. Essentially a typical BBC interview asking questions combined with the images. I cannot stress how simple and effective short bites of audio are for enhancing learning. Why bother? Well the beauty of using audio (only) is that it's easy to do and students are able to carry these snapshots of knowledge with them. A simple application could be an image on our tulip ('MS Sharepoint') and a link to the audio (held on iTunes U or our new UpMedia system), would you not agree this could be effective? Enjoy being creative with your favourite subject matter.

    Image courtesy of ESA - GOCE High Level Processing Facility.

    Thursday 24 June 2010

    YouTube Editor, how does it fair?

    I created this video to demonstrate how simple short films can be made using the new YouTube Editor. Ok its a little basic, only allows 7 video clips to be included in the time frame, there are no transition effect and there is no audio editing other than an 'AudioSwap' feature that allows users to add creative commons music. For this example I only used 4 original clips taken on a Canon 550D camera that I uploaded directly from the memory card. The clips were then shortened further (using the YouTube editor cutting feature) and pieced together on the (max 7 video) time frame, its all drop and drag!

    At the time of producing this, the Editor was in its early stages of development. Yes its crude, but the results are very reasonable. Unfortunately videos created in this way are not available for MP4 download, BUT, if you did not use AudioSwap the MP4 download option does appear.

    I think key points to remember are:

    • Uploads can be time consuming if using slow connections.
    • The editor will currently only allow 7 separate video clips to be pieced together in the final item. Keep them short, as you are only allowed a max of 10 mins total for a 'complete' video.
    • No editing of the sound is available as yet. Although royalty free music is included and can be added by drop and drag.
    • The video created with the editor does not currently appear as something that can be re-edited.
    • Processing of your final work can take time, thankfully you can happily turn off your PC while it chugs away and view later!
    • videos created in this way (and using the AudioSwap) are not available for MP4 download, if you dont use AudioSwap, its not a problem... (N.B. and single videos that you have uploaded can be saved as an MP4 - worth knowing if you wanted a simple converter)
    • Completely FREE!!!!!!