Until we call out the ridiculousness when it appears, until we recognize exactly how broken things are we may be falling into the trap of longing for nostalgia. For a past we can return to where the problems we have didn’t exist. Or, we can recognize that nostalgia is fed from exactly the dynamic that got us to this thorny moment in the first place: the denial of our broken social contract, and institutions and rituals that were performatively there, the way the debate was, but no longer providing the function that was the stated reason for their existence in the first place. Zeynep Tufekci ‘Against Nostalgia’

Responding to the presidential debate, Zeynep Tufekci draws on the work of William Fielding Ogburn to discuss the mismatch between a past we hope we can return to and the actual reality that has moved on. Debates worked in an era with little choice, however with so many other means of communicating it does not make sense.

We could, instead, have panels of journalists interrogate the candidates in separate hours, where the candidates have time to speak. The panel could consist of journalists chosen by the candidate and his opponent, with questions alternating between the friendly questions and those less friendly. The questions could be negotiated so that some of the same questions are asked of both candidates. They could be a mix of questions submitted in a town hall and questions polled among the public. The follow-ups could also alternate. And so on. Something else. Anything else.

Although different from the debates, this notion of mismatch is something that has been called out by the current crisis.

As students return to classes, there is a lot of discussion about what has changed and the dangers of snapping back into an old sense of normal. For Steven Kolber, the move to offsite learning has highlighted the opportunity for asynchronous learning.

A ‘build back better’ move would be to allow a portion of students’ load to be delivered remotely, giving teachers and students some space for variety in their schedule, and freedom from the byzantine and industrial timetable of schools.

I think that this opportunity is something pertinent both inside and outside of the classroom.

In my work in supporting schools, the move offsite has forced a rethink for how schools and staff are supported. Where in the past, there was a focus on in-person workshops, structured around particular topics. In their place we have been forced to explore other approaches. One of the consequences of this is that it has broken up sessions into support that is done at the point of need.

One of the things I have been doing for a while is following up support calls with a summary of how I saw things. Many take their own notes, but having my own set allows for cross-checking. Associated with words, I have been exploring a number of other ways to communicate and explain various points.

Annotations

The simplest way to supplement a written explanation is with an annotated image. Although it is possible to provide clear descriptions, this presumes we all share the same language. For example, here is my online course associated with Global2 which is regularly broken up with annotated images. Although in the past I used Google Drawings to create such images. These days I use SnagIt to quickly capture and create images, especially when connecting remotely using BOMGAR.

Gifs

I have taken to using GIFs to capture more complex workflows which cannot be presented in a static annotation. This was in part inspired by Jake Miller’s EduGIFs. It involves turning short screen-casts into GIFs. I have found if short enough, they can be sent by email or uploaded into a Google Doc. As with annotations, I have been using SnagIt to create these GIFs. Although I like Miller’s combination of text and image, this is not possible with SnagIt. I therefore still provide these with written instructions.

Video

One of the limitations to both images and GIFs is that often they only capture a particular part of a longer processes. Therefore, I have taken to using Captivate to record video demos this year in something of a flipped model. This has involved:

  1. Recording the video. Although research suggests that showing your face is important, I find it impedes the ability to edit the video unless you keep your face really still. If I make a mistake or am unhappy with a particular instruction, I usually just do it again while recording, knowing I can then just cut this out later.
  2. Fixing up the audio. Opening the narration in Audition, I normalise the volume and silence any unwanted noises, such as coughs, umms and words I inadvertently repeat, like ‘now’. In the past I have used Levelator and Audacity for this, however Captivate has a direct integration with Audition, which makes it easier.
  3. Trimming the video of parts not needed. This includes pauses and moments where I may be completing a task that does not need to be demonstrated. Ideally, it would be good to keep such moments in and speed them up, but I have not found a simple way of doing that with my current setup.
  4. Editing the narrative. Using the Zoom and Highlight Box functions I guide the viewer’s attention to match my instructions. This includes updating the default Highlight Box so that the background is basically blacked out.
  5. Publishing the video. Once complete, I upload the videos into Google Drive to be shared. I have been thinking about whether it would be better to load these into YouTube as unlisted to provide access to transcripts, as Mike Caulfield does with his instructional material. However, for now Google Drive works.

Much of this is captured in this video from Paul Wilson and this guide:

It needs to be noted that another influence in regards to asynchronous videos has been Ben Collins. I have written about presentations before, focusing on the importance of content, delivery and supporting materials. Lately though I have been inspired by Collins’ courses and the way in which he carves out succinct narratives and breaks-up the whole into its parts. I am sure that hours of effort have gone to getting this stage.

The challenge I have with my work is two fold: to build the capacity of users, as well as develop a sustainable support processes. In addition to using images, GIFs and video, I endeavour to use de-identified data in the images that I share, this means that if somebody else has the same request that I can easily just send them the same message and image.


So that is my new normal beyond the classroom. What has it been like for you? As always appreciate any thoughts and feedback.


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I have been doing a bit of work lately with YouTube. One of the challenges is adding content. Although there is the option to live stream or create videos from still images, both of these approaches have their limits. Here then is a list of other options:

Touchcast

An iOS application, Touchcast allows you to not only easily record, but through the use of a green screen, add your own settings and backgrounds. In addition to this, it has a great teleprompter which helps alleviate the problem of not quite looking at the camera, as well as helping with pace and fluency. For more information, read my post here.

Adobe Spark Video

Originally Adobe Voice, Adobe Spark Video is a multi-platform application which allows users to easily present ideas and information in an engaging manner. It provides connections to range of content to create slick and stylish presentations in minutes. Once finished, users can  download videos to publish elsewhere. For more information, read my introduction or watch my video.

Powtoon

An animation program, Powtoon allows users to build on the idea of a PowerPoint presentation in the creation of a engaging video. With a range of templates to work with, there are many options for what is available. However, projects do have the potential of becoming complicated quickly.

Lumen5

A new application, Lumen5 has been designed to quickly and easily visualise the web by identifying the key elements of a post or a page. Similar to Adobe Spark Video, it provides access to a range of Creative Commons images and music to create posts. The goal is to automate the creation of content through the use of artificial intelligence. For more information, see Kevin Hodgsen’s post.


So what about you? What applications do you use to create visual content? As always, comments welcome.


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Image created with Google Drawings
Image created with Google Drawings

One of the best things about a blog is the ability to add different types of content. I have written about creating images and visualisation. However, the next step in powering up is incorporating different content, such as video, audio and gifs.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Videos

There are so many different options when it comes to making video for a blog. Whether it be a telling a story with images using PhotoStory, creating an animated presentation with Powtoon, celebrating voice with Adobe Voice or simply using a camera to make a live recording.

When it comes to adding video content to a WordPress blog, the easiest way is to simply add it via the media library. The issue with this though is that whatever blogging platform you are using, there is always a limit to how much you can store. In addition, there are also limits associated with the size of single files. For example, the limit with Global2 is 50mb. The solution then is to store the videos somewhere else and embed them within the blog.

The most common platforms used in education are YouTube and Vimeo. The problem is that even with potential to have videos unlisted, there are still some that have issues with housing video within such public spaces due to privacy issues

One alternative is to store content within Google Drive and embed it. To do this you upload the video file in question then click to pop it out. Once it is open in a separate space, you click on the options tab where you will find the embed code. Other than having more control over the content, a benefit of using Google Drive is that you are able to apply restrictions as to who can and can’t view the content through the ‘share’ settings if that is a concern.

(Another option that I have not explored is FUSE. This may well be another solution. However, I have yet to properly explore this at this stage.)

Audio

Often we associate adding audio to a blog with creating an episodic podcast. However, the process does not always have to be that complicated. You can easily create a one off recording and add this to a post. This can be useful when it comes to musical creations or one off interviews. See for example Doug Belshaw’s interview with Bryan Mathers or Dean Shareski’s response to Bud Hunt.

In regards to producing audio, Alan Levine recommends a range of applications including:

  • Levelator to even out the volume.
  • Audacity to cut-up and remove unwanted parts.

It is also suggested that you use a proper microphone rather than the in-built microphone within a computer or tablet if recording, as this will improve the quality of the audio.

In relation to adding to a blog, you can embed using sites like Soundcloud and Audio Boo. However, the easiest option is often just adding an MP3 file to the media library and inserting this. You can use a plugin to add further feeds and functionality, but this is not always needed.


flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

GIFS

A GIF is a is a type of loop-able image that lasts for only a few seconds. It stands for graphic interchange format. Originally designed for icons, these silent images can be used for a wide range of purposes. For some they are used to tell stories, while for others to present a quick tutorial. You only have to look at platforms like Vine and Instagram to see the power and potential of GIFs (although technically speaking, neither of these platforms produce GIFs).

Some programs that you can use to create a GIF including:

  • GIFS a website which allows you to turn just about any YouTube clip into a 15 second GIF
  • Format Factory a program which provides the means to change the format of any video file into a GIF
  • Photoshop a program which allows you to both create and edit
  • Ezgif a website which allows you to easily create and edit GIFs online

There are more, it just depends on what device you are using and what you are trying to create. I have written more about GIFs here.


Overall, there are so many other different options for embedding content that helps to power up, for more details see the long list at Edublogs.


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