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    100 ways to use a VLE – #59 Uploading a Powerpoint Presentation

    August 9th, 2013

    Projector

    Probably one of the tools that teachers use “too much” is Powerpoint. As a result I would suspect that there are many VLE courses out there that mainly consist of uploaded Powerpoint presentations.

    I do find it interesting how embedded the use of Powerpoint is in education. In the late 1990s I was delivering lots of training sessions on how to use Powerpoint to lots of curriculum staff at the college where I worked. Back then I heard many of the “reasons” (and in many cases the excuses) why the curriculum staff couldn’t use the software, how their learners were different, how it wouldn’t work in their subject. However I did persevere in outlining the potential, the possible benefits and the longer term impact that using a tool such as Powerpoint could bring to teaching and learning.

    It was nice a few years later (after I had left the college) to find that the training had had an impact and Powerpoint was well used by the curriculum teams. I was particularly impressed with Hair and Beauty who were not only creating innovative presentations, but were sharing them across the department.

    Jump forward ten years and Powerpoint is extremely embedded into most colleges and often not only overused, but badly used. Though of course there are lots of positive and innovative uses of Powerpoint, so mustn’t be too negative about it. It is also often an useful starting point in getting staff to move on in their use of learning technologies.

    If you do need to upload a presentation to the VLE, then my preference is to use a service such as Slideshare or Speakerdeck, this converts the presentation, and then allows you to embed the presentation into a label or page on the VLE. Slideshare even allows you to add an mp3 audio soundtrack file to run alongside the presentation. This of course implies that you are using a traditional linear presentation, if you’re not then this is not the road to travel down, as these services break any form of interactivity in a Powerpoint presentation. If you are using an interactive Powerpoint presentation, then it makes much more sense to upload the Powerpoint file, rather than convert it. You are making an assumption that the learner has access to the Powerpoint software. This, in a world of iPads, tablets and Chromebooks isn’t always a given.

    Uploading Powerpoint files to a VLE, is most certainly not cutting edge in terms of using learning technologies, many of the people reading this blog probably were doing this back in the early 2000s or even earlier. However experience shows that there are still plenty of curriculum staff out there who don’t have that background or experience and for them uploading of Powerpoint files to the VLE is at the beginning of their journey into using note just the VLE, but learning technologies as well, more effectively to support and enhance learning.


    Top Ten Web Tools of 2012

    January 30th, 2013

    Imaginarium in Bristol

    I did mean to post this back at the beginning of January, but missed my own deadline. However I have found my previous top tens from 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 useful so decided to get this article done.

    This is the fifth time I have done this, it covers the web tools I use on a regular basis and it’s those that make a difference to the way that I work. These are not necessarily tools that I see as important for learning technologies, no these are the tools I use.

    This is an e-learning blog and I should really mention Moodle, I use Moodle everyday as part of my day job, however I see this more as an institutional service rather than a web tool. I use it every day, but in a management perspective, rarely if ever, use it myself for the purpose it is intended for. Help lots of people though to use Moodle. Anyway onto my top ten web tools of 2012.

    10. Evernote stays at number ten, I do use this very regularly, but certainly not as effectively as I would like. Having said that I do like how I can access my notes on any of my devices. I like how I can make audio notes, and use the camera on the iPad and the iPhone to capture handwritten notes. One feature I didn’t like very much this year was the integration with Skitch, I didn’t really want my Skitch captures in my Evernote notebooks. Another feature I think is missing from Evernote is a clever way of doing “to do” lists. I am using it in a smarter way now and I will usually look at it on a daily basis.

    9. Coming in at number nine is Speakerdeck, replacing Slideshare. Slideshare in a slightly foolish in April brought in a 10MB limit on uploaded files. Most of my presentations, which I do in Apple’s Keynote, use a lot of images and are often quite large and often nearer 100MB than 10MB. So I looked for an alternative and was reintroduced to Speakerdeck. I found that I actually preferred Speakedeck (less advertising for example) and the online embedding and interface seemed to work better. I wasn’t actually that bothered about my presentations been on the Slideshare website, as I in the main used the service so I could embed the presentations on my blog and in the college VLE. Speakerdeck to me is now the better option for putting presentations online and for embedding. Should be noted that Slideshare backtracked and changed the limit back to 100MB. I also like how you can add an mp3 file to Slideshare, something that is “missing” from Speakerdeck.

    8. Holding at number eight is WordPress, I still use the blogging software for my blogs. I like the flexibility it offers and it certainly works for me. I think the only thing that is missing for me is a decent mobile client or iPad app.

    7. Chrome enters at number seven. I do use Chrome on my Macs and (now) my Windows PC at work. Even though I use it a lot, I do use it alongside other browsers such as Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer. What I do like is that I can now sync my browsers across different computers and different devices. Using the Google Nexus 7 I can now see and open the tabs I was using on the iMac or the laptop. I also like how I can do the same with Chrome on the iPad. Great when you want to refer to a site, but either can’t remember the URL or how you got there. Safari does something similar via iCloud, but you need Mountain Lion and iOS 6, which I don’t have on every device.

    6. Flipboard falls two places, this iPad app makes it so easy to read RSS feeds and engage with social networks. It’s not that I use Flipboard any less, more likely I am using it more, but other tools have climbed the list because of changed or extended use. Flipboard is my primary RSS reader and in many ways I also use it to browse Twitter and Facebook. The iPad app has made it so much easier to flick through and browse the news, the social news and even images. I’ve not really used the iPhone version yet, but the iPad is a key way in which I can keep up with what is going on.

    5. Google+ drops three places to number five. I do like Google+, it reminds me so much of Jaiku, however as with any social network, the key and the value is the community. Though there is a great community there and I have had some great conversations, it doesn’t have the spread or depth that you find on Twitter. I find it a great place to share ideas, links and stuff; it’s just a pity that not enough people think likewise.

    4. Twitter, which was number one for a couple of years, drops a place to number four. There are days when I use Twitter all the time and days when I forget it even exists. It was also the year that Twitter finally allowed you to download your archive of Tweets, which was an interesting experiment. As with all social networks the key is the community and the conversations, they are still there on Twitter, there is certainly a lot less spam then there use to be.

    3. Instagram climbs three places to number three. I made a determined effort to use Instagram with my #366photos project, where I took a photo a day using my iPhone and Instagram. I did managed to do that so now have a nice collection of 366 photographs. I do like the social aspect of Instagram and I enjoy seeing the stuff that other people post. There was a little bit of a glitch with the proposed change in terms of use, but I think I will still continue to use Instagram.

    2. Flickr, also climbs three places. Even though I was using Instagram more than I was the previous year, I was also posting those photographs to Flickr too. I see Instagram as much more a social network than a photography tool, whereas I use Flickr more as a tool than a network. I did add over 1300 photographs to Flickr in the last twelve months. I also used Flickr extensively for finding photographs for the blog and for many of the presentations I gave this year. For 2013 though I expect to use it a little bit more, in the main with the update to the iOS app which makes it much easier to upload to Flickr from the phone, pity there isn’t an iPad version of the App.

    1. Dropbox is again my top web tool, making it two years running. It isn’t social, but I use it every day and in some cases all day. Dropbox is a fantastic tool, in the main because it works! I use to really love the concept of Apple’s iDisk, but it never worked for me, either it was too slow to be a useful cloud storage, or if syncing seemed to sync either really slowly or would forget to sync! Even it’s replacement iCloud hasn’t managed to get anywhere near the usefulness of Dropbox, fine with Apple apps, but it’s less useful when using other applications. What I like about Dropbox is that it is fast and reliable. So much so that if I have to move files from my laptop to my desktop on my home network, I usually use Dropbox as it “appears” to be faster than trying to move a file between shares across the network, and Dropbox moves the file via the internet… Virtually all my working files are now on Dropbox and I have it installed on my home and work machines. I use it for sharing files across my mobile devices and for sharing files with others when e-mail doesn’t cut the mustard. The main reason Dropbox is my number one web tool is that it just works, to the point it is transparent and it never gets in the way of me doing my stuff, which is as it should be.


    Making the move to Speakerdeck

    May 28th, 2012

    For the past few years when I have needed to share my presentations online I have been using Slideshare.

    There were two key reasons for this; firstly it allowed people to view the presentation within a webpage, without needing to download it and open Powerpoint and where appropriate in context. Secondly, I generally use Apple’s Keynote for my presentations. Most people don’t have Keynote (you need a Mac) and because of my style of presentation most of the presentations were too big for downloading, usually in the region of 100-200MB. I liked Slideshare as I could then embed my presentation into my blog and also into other webpages and sometimes the VLE. You can read about my presentation workflow here.

    However in April, Slideshare brought in a 10MB limit on uploads for free accounts. Not wanting to spend £19 a month on a service I probably use once a month, I asked on the Twitter and Google+ for solutions.

    Doug Belshaw said to save as PDF and use ColorSync Utility (part of Mac OS X) to reduce the file size. This I did and I did managed to reduce my presentation to an 11MB PDF, which alas was still too big for Slideshare. However this was certainly a useful tip for sharing other PDFs by email for example.

    Two people on the twitter, @hjames and @sboneham both recommended Speakerdeck to me. So that’s what I did and went and had a look. I actually found I already had an account and had tried it out once, but didn’t use it again. I suspect I tried it, found it didn’t add anything at that time over Slideshare and then didn’t go back!

    You upload your presentation as a PDF and the service will convert it into an online presentation that people can click through slide by slide (in a similar manner to Slideshare).

    The process was pretty straightforward and in many ways I much prefer the look and feel of Speakerdeck compared to Slideshare.

    Speakerdeck works well on iOS devices too, which is useful. As well as sharing by link you can also use an embed code to add your Speakerdeck presentation to a blog, web page or a VLE. As a result I have placed most of my recent presentations on Speakerdeck.

    When writing this blog post I wanted to check a few things and have found that Slideshare have relented on their 10MB limit and have raised it to 100MB. So will I go back to Slideshare…. hmm not sure.


    Top Ten Web Tools of 2011

    December 30th, 2011


    This is the fourth time I have posted my top ten web tools of the year. Looking back over 2008, 2009 and 2010 it’s interesting to see what new web tools I am now using, which old ones have been left on the shelf and the web tools I still use.

    There are still a few services that I like or use irregularly that didn’t make the top ten. I used Foursquare for a while, I then did a podcast with David Sugden and after that I never used it again….

    Facebook and Linkedin I just don’t use and so aren’t in the list, but I hear they are quite popular…

    I did use Prezi this year to demonstrate it, but have not yet used it in anger so it’s not in my top ten either.

    Delicious has had a few upheavals this year and drops out of my top ten, I do still use it, but it had lost some of the core functionality that made it so useful in the past.

    I still like Screenr, but don’t use it as much as I think I should and I would like too. The same can be said for Audioboo. These are two tools that I really like, but don’t use much or use them effectively. I may use these better in 2012.

    TinyGrab which was in my top ten last year also had problems, so that got dropped and I went with another tool.

    Posterous dropped out too, however the only reason was that I decided to host my own blog on my own server, it’s still a great service. Spaces is pretty interesting too.

    Google Docs dropped out of my top ten after been in for the last three years. Looking over the documents from the last year I realised how little I was using it. It’s a great collaborative tool and that was my primary use, but for lone document working I realised looking back that I now had a different workflow, so Google Docs dropped out.

    There are other web tools I do use now and again and I am sure there are some peoples’ favourites I have missed off, so let me know in the comments what web tools you are using.

    10. Evernote

    I really do like Evernote and I use it a lot for making notes. I really like the mobile applications on the iPad and the iPhone (and Android) and I really like how I can make audio notes and photographs of notes. I am sure it would be much higher if I used it more effectively and my plan for 2012 is to become more organised and systematic on not only how I make notes, but how I use and share notes.

    9. SlideShare

    Though most of my presentations (as in the slides) rarely make sense on their own, the use of SlideShare does allow me to easily show them on my blog alongside the audio recording. This is often quicker and easier than trying to match the two up myself and I can let others choose how they want to listen and view the presentation.

    8. WordPress

    I have been using WordPress for a fair while and though I swapped to my own host over a year ago now I still think WordPress.com is a great starting place for a blog. My own blog is self-hosted, in other words I bought a web hosting service on which I have installed the WordPress software. This has given me flexibility in how I manage the blog. Having said that I still subscribe to various WordPress.com services including VideoPress and storage. Much easier for example to have the podcast files on the WordPress.com server from a bandwidth perspective than to have them on my own server. I do like the VideoPress service, but I think other video services have now caught up, but I like the fact that I have much more control over the videos on VideoPress than say on YouTube or Vimeo.

    7. Skitch

    My main screengrabbing software use to be TinyGrab, it allowed me to quickly grab parts of the screen, upload them to a website and copy the URL to my clipboard, making it very easy them to paste a link to a screen grab in Twitter or Facebook. However problems with the TinyGrab software meant that I looked for an alternative. I had forgotten that I had an alternative already installed on my Mac, part of a MacHeist deal or similar called Skitch. This is a great piece of software that not only allows you to grab part of the screen, but you can also annotate it with text, arrows and other shapes. Really quick and easy to use, you can either then save the image, or upload it and share the link. I really do like it and it has made explaining stuff easier because I can do it visually.

    6. Instagram

    I have been using Instagram since it came out in 2010, well I started using it about a week after it was released. Over 2011 I used it a lot more and have posted nearly five hundred images to Instagram. One aspect that I do like is the social aspect. With any social app the key is the community, now that many more people I know are using Instagram, the social aspect, even though it can only be accessed from the phone is much better and more social. I do like the multi-posting ability, so usually not only will I post to Instagram, I also post a link to Twitter and upload the image to Flickr. As for the photographic effects, I know it is possible to do much better with PhotoShop and even Snapseed on the iPad is superior, however the filters on Instagram are not there to be the perfect photorgraphic filter they are there to add a little something to the photographs you take and to have a bit of fun with. To think that Instagram is a serious photographic app really does miss the point of the app; it’s fun and it’s social, enjoy it for that and not as a photographic app.

    5. Flickr

    I now have over 4,500 photographs on Flickr and though (in total) Flickr does not come anywhere close to the number or quantity of photographs uploaded to Facebook, I still much prefer using Flickr for uploading, but also for finding photographs for use on the blog or in presentations. It is so easy to find great photographs and so many are CC licensed making it also legal to use them too.

    4. Flipboard

    Flipboard has become my primary RSS reader and in many ways I also use it to browse Twitter and Facebook. The iPad app has made it so much easier to flick through and browse the news, the social news and even images. I’ve not really used the iPhone version yet, but the iPad is a key way in which I can keep up with what is going on.

    3. Twitter

    Twitter was my number one web tool for the last two years and this year it has dropped two places. It is still a really useful tool.

    I usually access Twitter via Osfoora on the iPhone and on the iPad. On my computer I will generally use the web interface.

    So what do I get from Twitter?

    Well the key thing is a community of practice from which I can get curated and useful information from. I can ask them questions and offer points of discussion to see what they think. I also find it a useful source of news and links, much easier in some respects than RSS feeds, a more personalised approach.

    I post lots of stuff to Twitter, yes I do feed into Twitter posts from my blog, photos from Instagram and other stuff. This is stuff I do want to share with my community and my view is that if you don’t like this then don’t follow me. However I do try and keep my posting of links to my stuff to a minimum, I try whenever possible to only post links to my blog only once to my Twitter stream. I know that this means people may miss that link, but I also know that clicking on links to blog posts I have already read are annoying. Twitter is a key tool for me with the conversations I have with my fellow learning technologists, e-learning specialists and library professionals. However one of the reasons it has dropped a couple of places is that I don’t think the conversations I am having there are as good as I am having in a different place…

    2. Google+

    Straight in at number two for me is Google+ and the reason is the quality of the conversation. I never really found Buzz or Wave useful, but Google+ seems to have worked well for me in 2011, much more so than Twitter. I am unsure if this will continue, a lot will depend on how the community use and continue to use Google+ as a service. I think the main reason I like it, is that it reminds me of Jaiku, which was my number one web tool back in 2008 (back then it beat Twitter). I like the fact that I can have a threaded conversation and people can easily join in. I hope it continues to work and be useful, but we will have to wait and see.

    1. Dropbox

    Well my number one web tool has been one that isn’t social, but I use it every day and in some cases all day. Dropbox is a fantastic tool, in the main because it works! I use to really love the concept of Apple’s iDisk, but it never worked for me, either it was too slow to be a useful cloud storage, or if syncing seemed to sync either really slowly or would forget to sync! What I like about Dropbox is that it is fast and reliable. So much so that if I have to move files from my laptop to my desktop on my home network, I usually use Dropbox as it “appears” to be faster than trying to move a file between shares across the network, and Dropbox moves the file via the internet… Virtually all my working files are now on Dropbox and I have it installed on my home and work machines. I use it for sharing files across my mobile devices and for sharing files with others when e-mail doesn’t cut the mustard. The main reason Dropbox is my number one web tool is that it just works, to the point it is transparent and it never gets in the way of me doing my stuff, which is as it should be.


    SlideShare moves to HTML5

    October 3rd, 2011

    In an not an unexpected move, SlideShare, the presentation hosting service has moved from Flash to HTML5.

    When SlideShare launched it used Flash to create an online slideshow of your presentation slides. It is a service I have been using now for over three years and have found it a useful place to put presentations, but then to also embed them into the blog or the VLE.

    However as it was Flash based there were issues when people viewed them on a mobile device such as the iPhone or the iPad. They did fix this for viewing a SlideShare presentation on the SlideShare website and released an API. Last year I reviewed the Slide by Slide app for the iPad and was not impressed. However this wasn’t an official iPad app one that merely used the SlideShare API.

    Even though you could view the presentation on the website on the iPad when the SlideShare presentation was embedded into a website, all you got was a blank space.

    So it’s interesting to hear that SlideShare are losing the Flash and moving to HTML5.

    • Your slides will display flawlessly on an iPhone, iPad, Android and any other mobile platform. You can send a link to friends and colleagues, and they can view it on the go regardless of what device they are using.
    • Your slides will now load 30% faster. On the web, faster is better.
    • Your slides will be a part of the web. No plugins or downloads are required to view them.

    They are certainly convinced that mobile is the way a lot of people will view presentations on the web.