A few months ago I was trying to decide on whether to spend £100 on an Apple TV or £30 on a Google Chromecast. I opted for the cheaper, newer, untried, unknown Chromecast.
Here are my thoughts, so far … it’s not there yet, but it has potential.
It is easy to set up and easy to use. Simply plug it into an HDMI slot on the back or your TV. If’ you’ve a USB port on the TV too then use this for power, if not you’ll have another cable trailing on the floor to a plug. Follow the short, simple instructions to set Chromecast up on your wifi, either through your laptop or iPad browser, and that’s it. It took about 3 minutes in all and then I was away.
Every so often I’ll have a discussion with an academic around “this facebook thing” or “what’s the point of Twitter”. Each time it’s for a different reason or coming from a different perspective or background. But each time it also comes down to two main areas of interest: time and effort. How long will it take or how much effort will they need to put into it for it to become a worthwhile enterprise.
I always say it will come down to what they want to get from the experience. Do they want to get hits or recognition, do they want to build a social profile and/or ‘digital footprint’? Do they want to manage or improve an existing profile or footprint, or eradicate a negative one? Is it to be able to connect with colleagues and peers through LinkedIn or Google+, or to increase conference speaking requests? Is the reason for signing up to Facebook or Twitter for student engagement or because you can only really understand how the students use it if you use it yourself? Is their need to be ‘there’ one of inclusion or monitoring? Often the reason is just one where they see someone else using it, probably successfully, and therefore “want some of that”.
In most cases it is nearly always ‘some of the above’, and in very few cases ‘all of the above’ (even if it’s not acknowledged to be this). I can’t say “you should start here … ” as each person should start where it is more appropriate: LinkedIn for professional reputation, SlideShare for conference and/or learning resources, Google+ or Twitter for networks and Personal Learning Networks (PLN), etc. Continue reading →
One of the best examples I’ve come across, when looking at how you can utilise social media to form and develop a personal learning network is from my friends Sue Beckingham (@suebecks) and David Walker (@drdjwalker). Their presentation at the TEL-themed SEDA Conference in 2011 on “Using social media to develop your own personal learning network” is one I have referred to before, but surprisingly never blogged about.
We need to think about social media and networks in a way that removes the actual ‘tool’ from the mindset and introduces an ‘ecology’, a system for “enabling a system of people, practices, values and technologies in a particular local environment” (Suter et al, 2005). By thinking in this way we can introduce a ‘reason’ and a ‘purpose’ to it’s use that is not tied to any platform or time, that is able to be flexible and engaging (and easier to understand) so it is more readily available and adopted. Continue reading →
Sorry, the title is dramatic, it’s meant to sound a little like ‘Star Wars – A New Hope’, but doesn’t really get there. This isn’t a post about Blackboard as a VLE, nor is it about the trials and tribulations of the whole upgrade process for a heavily used Blackboard system.
This is about one of the best bit of this summers Blackboard upgrade at UoL – the new text editor! Yes, that clunky and often sworn at text editor has been removed and a new one put in it’s place – the ‘content’ editor (if you’ve sign up for it). The best bit is that it works. The next best bit is that it doesn’t take an age to do anything, nor does it eat your PCs processing power, it looks quite nice AND it works – did I say that already?
What is so good about it? Well;
Options for text and font formatting are more tightly controlled – it’s more difficult to change font and font size, therefore making your materials and content more likely to look the same across the whole course.
Cut-and-paste from Word documents strips out the unnecessary hidden code and leaves only the basic formatting (bold, italics, etc), again helping your content have a more unified appearance.
Option to have the content editor full-screen (finally!!)
Edit CSS styles (if you like it that way) and have control over the design of your content.
Insert special characters.
Cut-and-paste tables from Excel or Word actually pastes the table in the editor, properly, and they’re easier to edit too (see below)!
Create and manage tables quickly and easily using the editor.
Edit the image properties easily when you right-click the image when in edit mode.
Insert mash-up (see above) makes it easy to search and insert from YouTube, Flickr, and SlideShare. Once you’ve chosen the content to embed you’ll have the options on how it is presented as well as what attributes are displayed (Blackboard … more mash-up sources please!).
The spell checker is far less clunky than in previous versions, and works in the editor instead of in a different pop-up box. Words are highlighted with a red underline and a left-mouse click on the words gives you the options to correct it.
Don’t miss this little gem – those three little lines in the bottom right of the editor indicate you can enlarge the box so you can see more of your content as you edit it! Yes, this is perhaps the best bit of the new editor, and a very important addition (finally I hear some say?)
There are a fair few resources on the Blackboard Content Editor page, as well as a good list of keyboard shortcuts which can make your online editing life a whole lot easier.
The title of the post ‘A New Beginning’ may be over the top, but the new editor does make working in Blackboard a much nicer and enjoyable experience, it brings the process in line with other online systems I’m used it (WordPress, etc) and one I am very happy to be using.
Presentations can often be boring, uninteresting, unimaginative, dull [insert your own negative description based on the presentations you've wished you had missed here] but that is not always the fault of the speaker. In my experience it can be either;
the PowerPoint presentation,
the subject, or
In the odd the occasion it is sometimes all the above.
So, as a presenter myself, and ourselves, what can we do about it?
Know the theme of your PowerPoint presentation. It is easier for you to choose your PowerPoint templates when you know the topic or the purpose of the discussion. If it doesn’t have a theme then you have better chances of coming up with a more effective PowerPoint presentation with plain-coloured PowerPoint templates or those that are not too flashy or colourful.
Download the template designs. PowerPoint comes bundled with a variety of templates. However, these are incomparable to the number that you can find online from a simple search – try www.templateswise.com for starters.
PowerPoint templates should not cover the texts or images. The templates that you’re going to use should not be too bold or too light that texts and even images don’t appear clearly on the screen. Complement is the rule. If you’re using light-coloured texts, darker templates are advisable. The opposite is ideal if you have darker-coloured words. If you will be using a lot of images, such as during product launches, go for PowerPoint templates that are of lighter hues.
Keep them uniform all throughout the presentation. You may be tempted to make use of different template designs all throughout the PowerPoint presentation. Don’t. It doesn’t just look too annoying to your audience, but it will also bring down your credibility. Consistency is always associated with professionalism. It will also save you a lot of time and effort.
Use the format menu. Would you like to change the existing template design of your PowerPoint presentation? You need to save the PowerPoint template that you want to use. Then, on the Format menu of your PowerPoint application, select Apply Design Template. Locate where you have placed the template design. The choose Apply. It will change not just one but all template designs that you are currently using.
Mind you, saying this is all well and good, but some of the best presentations I’ve seen don’t use a template at all. They do, however, stick to a format or style which is easily recognisable. I’ve added one or two of my favourites below for you, all on or about eLearning, Technology, or presentation-styles.
Does your employer / Institution have a policy for the accepted use, by staff, for how they can use Social Media (Twitter, Facebook, SlideShare, YouTube, WordPress, etc)? Is it limited to how you can use it for work, or in work, or does it cover your usage outside of work and how you talk/post about what you do at work? Are you allowed to use images/logo of your employer/Institution in your work?
Here a are a few I found;
DePaul University – Social Media Guidelines: Social Media Working Group. There are some good resources here, especially interesting to me is the section on ‘personal site guidelines’ that outlines what an employee can do in their personal space, but based on work at the Institution.
SAP - Social Media Guidelines 2009. Again, some great resources, and well worded reasoning, on what and staff members can do on networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, etc in a professional manner about their work, but not linked or attributed officially to their employer.
Colorado State University – [Draft] Social Media Policy.This covers all official accounts on Social Networks that represent CSU rather than covering staff use of Social media for personal reasons based on what they work on.
Law Schools on Ning – Social Media Best Practices for Law Schools. This Ning site has a good draft/example policy for Law Schools to use as a starting point as well as a link to The Legal Watercooler Blog post by Heather Morse-Milligan on whether you actually need a policy to cover social media use or not? Heather’s post is actually very good in that it outlines 5 reasons why you don’t need a policy to govern your staff and their use of Social Media and Social Networks.
Southeast Missouri State University – Social Media Information. Why is it only US University’s that are open about their policies? Anyway, this really only covers Twitter, Facebook and Blogs for departmental uses.
Washington State University – Social Networking Guidelines. A list of official Twitter and Facebook accounts and pages, but the link to the ‘Reference, Social Media & Web Tools’ page was unfortunately broken at the time I looked (June 9th, 2010).
In the corporate world it seems they are quicker to sort this out. The Online Database of Social Media Policies from large multi-national companies (including the BBC, Reuters, Microsoft, and Kodak, to name a few) has some very good (and some bad) examples. Check them out.
This list, produced by Michael Willits, is also a good place to start. He has broken the list into different categories based on the type of organisation. Again, take a look.
One thing I have found during my search for examples is that, as we all know, the world of Social Media and Social Networks are constantly changing, so any ‘policy’ needs constant attention and updates and, in actual fact, should be thought of as a working document rather than a set-in-stone policy.
About the same time as writing this (I started it back in April 2010) Alan Cann (@AJCann) was asking for examples and links on Twitter. If you have any to share please post them as a comment below and I’ll alert Alan so we can share and share alike!
June 9th, 2010: Social Media Best Practice for Law Schools – Recommendations for Staff use. I have seen a few other policy’s and guidelines that look a lot like this … I wonder if everyone uses the same base model to start their policy documents?