Monday, April 30, 2012

Producing Camtasia to YouTube HD

I've had problems with the quality of my Camtasia videos onYouTube. I also dislike how sometimes YouTube will add black bars to videos. Here's how to fix that!

This info is from a video on the Camtasia website. It first explains simply how to produce to YouTube, then at 1.04 describes how to produce to YouTube HD.

1. Record in at least (preferably, exactly) 1280 x 720. Is is an option under Custom. If you record in less than 1280 x 720 and follow the rest of these instructions, YouTube will put black space around the whole video and you lose precious space.

2. IMPORTANT: Then when you open the .camrec file for editing, choose the YouTube & HD editing dimensions. (If I trained you, I recommended Recording Dimensions in the past. Forget that :)

3. Do whatever editing you need to do.

4. Share to YouTube. The end. That was easy, right?

Note: when you watch the video on YouTube, it does take a few seconds for it to come into focus and be at full quality. So don't be disappointed it it doesn't look great right when you click play. Also, it will still look a little blurry at full screen on a huge monitor. Don't expect complete perfection!

If you need a bigger area than 1280 x 720 (which is unlikely), you can click the drop down menu for Custom and choose "lock to application" (toward the bottom), then choose 1280 x 720, click the lock next to the dimensions to constrain it, and then drag a corner to fill what you need to record. Producing will just make it a bit smaller.


I learned one additional cool thing from this video, which I can't believe I didn't know before: If you click "lock to application" it just resizes the recording area to the size of your window. So if I had Chrome right to the size I wanted it, instead of having to drag the edges of the green recording area, I could just click "lock to application" and it would size it. Voila. This is only helpful if you are recording one window though - if you're moving around to other windows, this doesn't work because it will just keep recording the initial window.

Branching Scenarios in PowerPoint/iSpring Free

Branching scenarios or "choose your own adventure" types of tutorials can be an effective way to learn by trying, with feedback and do-overs. In my previous job, I used a combination of PowerPoint and Articulate to do this. Unfortunately, Articulate is really expensive. Fortunately, iSpring Free does the same thing for free!

To get started, create the PowerPoint with all of the options of answers as individual slides. I use PowerPoint as my storyboard because it is so editable, but some people like to make an outline in Word or even on paper or using sticky notes. Do whatever works for you to visualize the process and all the options the student may choose.

So, let's say you ask a question and then give 3 options. Have each of the options in a rectangle or whatever you want. Below is a very boring mock up of this. Hopefully yours looks nothing like this!

The student clicks on their option of choice and it takes them to the slide explaining whether it is right or wrong. So if they chose option 2, they'd skip the option 1 slide and go to option 2. Then on each of wrong the options, you'll need to have a BACK button hyperlinked to the question, so they could go back and try again. On the correct option, you would say "good job" and have a NEXT button for them to go to the next scenario/question. 

The key is to hyperlink the rectangles. Right click on the rectangle and choose Hyperlink. One of the options on the left is "Place in This Document." Then choose the slide you want the rectangle to go to. It helps if you have descriptive slide titles. 

You can record audio with the slides as you would normally in an iSpring/PPT tutorial. Then publish the presentation via the iSpring Free tab in PowerPoint. The resulting files can be put on the Slideboom website or right in D2L (they are small files). They are not streamable via YouTube or the university server. 

It is a good idea to explain to the students that they actually have to click on the images in the slide when they are making a choice, or they may just click forward and look at all the slides in order which would defeat the purpose! However, you may want to give the students the same information in another format, like pdf, so they can study easily after completing the tutorial. 

Note: this only works on Windows. Mac users could design the PowerPoint on Mac but then would need to use Windows to record audio, create the hyperlinks for the shapes/images, and convert it using iSpring. I tried recording audio on Mac and the moving to Windows, but it would only play the audio on click and it kept the speaker image in the presentation (not good). Also, I can't guarantee that the PPT will look exactly the same on both platforms (i.e., you may have to do some formatting tweaking when you get it to Windows). Let me know if you need access to a Windows machine with iSpring (if you work for UWEC :)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Facebook Privacy

A business communication professor asked me how to advise her students to lock down their privacy settings, since Facebook does not make it easy. I recommend for students looking for jobs to make themselves as hidden as possible on Facebook, not necessarily because I'm assuming they are doing something wrong, but because I feel they should be evaluated on their job related skills and training rather than their personal Facebook profile. Here are some tips on how to restrict your privacy. They will probably only be correct for the next 15 minutes before Facebook changes again, so make sure to note that this was written on April 17, 2012.

In case you don't know, privacy settings are accessed from the drop down on the top right of your screen when logged into Facebook (see image on the left). This mostly applies to finding and tagging. I will show you how to make photos and your "about" area private later. 

On the following screen, I recommend choosing the Custom option on the far right (see below). I initially had mine set at "Friends" but I don't like what it did with my photos: if I tagged one of my friends in a photo, his/her friends could see it and comment on it. 

Under Custom, you can uncheck the box in front of "Friends of those tagged" to avoid the situation described above.

How You Connect is a key area to check out. Change all of these to Friends, and Friends of Friends for friend requests if you would like. This makes you ungoogleable, so the only way people can find you is if you are in their friends' friends list. 

The second option from the bottom under Privacy is to "Limit Audience for Past Posts." You may want to consider this if you have previously had a public profile. It will change every past post to Friends only.

So, that's pretty much what you can do under Privacy settings. Not too helpful, right?  

Here's how to restrict visibility of your Info or About page. 

Go to your profile (or timeline, I guess it's called) and click About. 

You will need to click edit and check out every area. Yippee! Get yourself a cup of coffee and do some clicking. You will want to see the icon on the right, which means friends only. Below is a screen shot of one part of mine. I haven't filled in most of it, but everything is set to Friends only anyway. You can tell something is set to Friends only at a glance because it has that image of a person behind another person. Make sure to save it. 

Then, you have to manually change all of your photo albums to Friends only, or at least check what they are set at. I wasn't lying when I said Facebook does not make this easy. First get to the page with all of your albums, so go to your Timeline and click on Photos which is right below your cover photo. Cover photos are public and that can't be changed. The world symbol on the bottom right means public. You can see most of my albums are Friends only, but there are some that have this star with spokes or something (Mobile Uploads, Wall Photos, and Year in Status Photos has this). Those mean I need to choose my audience for each photo. Thanks Facebook. My default was friends only (not sure how that happened), but I could see this being a hassle if they are not. If it happens that you need to change every photo, you could create a new album, move them all there, and change the privacy on the new album. I think Mobile Uploads have that setting automatically. I remember once moving my Mobile Uploads. 

I think that's everything. When you are done, you can go to and view your profile like the public would. You will need to be logged into Facebook to try it. Please let me know if there are other easier ways to do this or if you run into any snags. 

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Live Binders

I discovered LiveBinders last week when I was looking at the stats of this blog because someone had used my Pinterest post in their LiveBinder, resulting in additional traffic to that post.

LiveBinders is just what you'd assume it is: a way to make a "binder" with tabs and sub-tabs that can include websites, pdfs, and word documents. It is an electronic way to combine information and save it. There is a presentation mode if you are showing it to someone else.

I made a very basic LiveBinder in about 10 minutes. I found it to be very user friendly. The only assistance I needed I received by clicking on "Quick Guide" once to figure out how to upload files. I made it private because it is not real or finished (it's a good idea, so maybe I will finish it), so if it asks for a password or key, it is april.  I learned to definitely use pdfs instead of Word docs (at least Word on Mac) because the pdfs are viewable right in the tab, whereas the Word docs have to be downloaded.

It accepted an annotated link from Diigo (that is the "Writing Questions" tab), but it jumps right to the sticky note and highlighted area, which is not quite what I want. It is good to know that it works with Diigo anyway - at least in Chrome. I haven't tried it in other browsers yet.

It doesn't seem as if you can play a YouTube video within the binder, but at least it can be a place holder and the viewer can click on the link to go to YouTube.

So, what could you use this for? I could see faculty using it to combine resources for students. Instead of having a resource list or using Links in D2L, you could make a Live Binder.

Students could use it to gather resources for an assignment and they could present the binder to the class or annotate the pages with Diigo. They could even have a tab in it with a pdf explaining the resources.

Either way, an important skill for people to have in this digital age is the ability to find and assess information that exists on the web. Why reinvent the wheel? This is a visually pleasing and nicely organized way for them to do it.

Friday, April 6, 2012

SMART Boards in Higher Education

The Communication Sciences and Disorders (CSD) department invited an alumna, Erin, to train them on the use of smart boards for Speech Language Pathologists (SLPs) and they opened up the training so others, like me, could attend. Erin is an SLP in an elementary school and she frequently uses the smart board in her teaching. I learned what almost all of the buttons in the smart notebook software do and seeing Erin navigate on the smart board was helpful and interesting.

Most smart board images on google have kids in them like the one above, because they are most commonly used in the K-12 setting. Kids get excited about technology, enjoy interacting with the smart boards, and are not afraid to try using technology (or so I've heard!). The lessons Erin showed us were perfect for the population of kids she worked with; exercises that would have been done individually are modified for a group and integrate technology to make them more kinesthetic and interesting. The kids get immediate feedback on most of them and they usually got opportunities to try again if they got the answer wrong. She had tons of specific examples.

So how can smart boards be used in teaching college students? That is a little more difficult, because the students might feel as if they are being treated like children even if the content is relevant. With the hipster trend in full force, college students are significantly less likely to be excited about anything, so you lose one of the main draws of using smart boards in K-12. But we have smart boards and students in some disciplines should have experience with them for their future profession, so let's use them!

One faculty member mentioned that her students were reluctant to get up in front of the class and try the smart board activities. That makes sense - think about how people are more likely to speak from where they are sitting rather than physically come to the front of the class. One idea mentioned was to have the students do the smart board activity as they are coming in to class or during a break, so they don't have to get up in front of a group of people and be put on the spot to do it. You could also have discussion time/smart board time, where they are discussing in groups and taking turns at the smart board. That way, they can all try the smart activity while everyone else is discussing.

Example activities could be determining what to keep and what to get rid of about a theory (a grad student in the room offered this idea) or having them sort or match items/terms. There are probably lots of anatomy applications. It could be a simple multiple choice question where they drag the answer over.

Students in disciplines like education and CSD where they will be using smart board in their profession should understand the importance of gaining experience with smart products, both on the student and instructor side, for marketability. It is possible to download the smart notebook software here free for 30 days, so they could do that and create practice lessons and then other students could do the lesson as practice K-12 students. They could be actual lessons they'd use in their teaching, so the college students completing the activity for practice would definitely know the answers, reducing that possible area of reluctance to try it.

But what if the faculty aren't preparing future teachers or SLPs and don't want to create lessons and learn all of the ins and outs of the smart software? They could use the smart board as a glorified whiteboard or chalkboard and write on it, with the added benefit of being able to record whatever they write on slides and share/keep them. This is an extremely limited use of a very expensive technology though. I'm talking very expensive. In these cases, I'd recommend other products such as Mimio that are a fraction of the cost. The drawback to Mimio is that it is projection-based, meaning you write on a whiteboard that has an image from your computer projected on it, so you do end up blocking a bit of the image when you stand in front of it or write on it. You also have to use a stylus (vs your finger), but the Mimio software is pretty comparable based on what I know. I will have to explore more. I've heard that Mimio is becoming more popular in K-12 schools. You can also use a Wiimote with free Smoothboard software to create a similar effect to Mimio for under $70. We are going to try this soon

On a related note, if annotation is your primary need (like if you are writing out math problems), there are a few options which have the added benefit of being projectable so larger classes can see what you are doing. For instance, smart has a podium which is basically a monitor you can annotate on (unfortunately it's also very expensive), there are tablet PCs by Lenovo and Fujitsu to name a few, and the iPad has some nice annotation apps.

Bottom line: What do I think of smart board use in higher ed? 
  • Students in some disciplines should be familiar with smart boards for their future jobs. In those disciplines, looking for ways faculty can use them in their teaching of those students is justified. 
  • I would also recommend for the students to learn to create lessons themselves for the smart board using the smart notebook software. 
  • In every other situation, the need should drive the technology. Think about what you need to do, and use the best (and preferably most affordable) solution. My job is to help figure that out. 
  • Smart boards are simply not the best way to teach large classes because the image is not projectable (at least last I checked) and it will be difficult for students to see. 
  • If faculty aren't going to learn the smart software to create lessons/activities, it doesn't make sense for them to use the smart board as a glorified whiteboard or chalkboard for the cost. It's a big waste to use it only to show PowerPoint slides or whatever would be projected onto a screen in a typical classroom. 
  • Overall, I don't think that using smart lessons/activities to engage or teach college students is the best modality. I'd usually recommend clickers, an online polling service, or Twitter so that each student can answer individually and the faculty can go over the results. This is mostly because I don't see that much benefit for the cost and class sizes in higher ed can be quite large. 
  • Smart boards in K-12, especially for students with disabilities, are totally different and justifiable, mostly because of that excitement factor. I was really interested to hear Erin's stories of how it was going over with the kids. 
What do you think?

Note that the brand SMART is usually written in uppercase. I was being lazy. 
The image is from the SMART website. 

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Twitter in the Classroom

After I came back from the mobile learning conference, I met with a faculty member who was looking for ways to engage large classes (75 students) and since I was jazzed up about mobile learning and BYOD, I suggested using Twitter. Surprisingly, she was interested in pursuing it. I sent her the nice video about Monica Rankin from UT Dallas who uses Twitter in her in-class discussions and she found an even better article written by Monica Rankin about her use, since the video had become so popular. The article resonated with the UWEC faculty member since she currently was conducting her discussions similarly.

We explored options other than hashtags because they seem to go away fairly quickly (our conference hashtag tweets no longer came up in the search after only 6 weeks), but there didn't seem to be any if the goal was for the whole class to see them. So she created her own Twitter account and came up with a hashtag for each class that wasn't UWEC-specific (FERPA!).

She told the students they did not have to follow her and she would not follow them. Again, to be conscientious of FERPA, they also did not have to user their full names on their Twitter if they didn't want to and they could create a different Twitter account for school (it is necessary to associate a different email with it though). The whole Twitter experiment was optional.

She lectured for a little while and then posed some questions for them to discuss in small groups. The students had the option to tweet their responses to the questions or to ask additional questions via Twitter, using the class hashtag. She circulated and I circulated a little and refreshed the hashtag search (we just used the Twitter webpage rather than Hootsuite or Tweetdeck). I was mostly there for questions but I think I only answered two. After the discussion time, she went through the tweets and discussed them and asked a few follow up questions.

It went very well in the first class. The tweets were almost all on-topic and what she was looking for. It was interesting that one student who tweeted for class, got a response from one of his twitter followers saying "too bad (student name) is in (class hashtag)"but later the friend also tweeted "must be cool if everyone is tweeting about it" which was kind of fun. FYI, both of the friend's tweets, who is not in the class, came up in the class hashtag page because they were replies to tweets with the hashtag in them. So it is important to note that anyone could use the hashtag and the tweets did show up in the feeds of the students' followers.

In the second class (she teaches this twice in a row), one student immediately noticed the hashtag on the whiteboard and started tweeting  about his performance on the quiz and other things only marginally related to the class. About half of the total tweets were off-topic. This surprised both me and the faculty member and we learned that it should probably be explained that use of the class hashtag should relate to the discussion questions from class so there isn't as much unrelated information to wade through. It was not bad though. I just checked the hashtag again and noticed the most recent tweet was a student explaining that the tweets with that hashtag were for his class.

I thought it was extremely interesting. Probably 95% of the students in the class had a phone, smartphone, laptop, or ultrabook to use. Not all tweeted, but many were following the hashtag on their device. The faculty member thought it went well and she is going to explore other ways to use it too, such as having them tweet from the perspective of a historical figure! She may also use Twitter as a way for them to increase their participation grade. She said that the off-topic tweets may slow down once the initial novelty wears off. I admire her adventurousness for trying it out and am interested to see how it goes.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Embedding a Prezi in Blogger