The joys of housework!

The amazing aspect of tidying up is it actually creates more work because you see more dust which eventually plays on your mind until you do something about it! So I fix up the appearance of my blog (which is now 2 weeks old!) because I could not have my friend’s blogs look nicer. MMMmmm while I would like to improve the appearance of my wiki, my podcast site is in urgent need of a makeover!

First lets start with some reflections on about my podcast site. I uploaded my first podcast on August 27, 2006 and since then I have uploaded 58 episodes ranging in content on information on m-learning to e-learning and “how to”. I started out creating audio podcasts and then expanded to include video podcasts (why because some messages have more impact as videos). My podcast site has provided me with the opportunity to interview lots of people and gain a great deal of knowledge that I can then transfer into my own practises. People within Australia and around the World have be introduced to the work I am involved in which has expanded my ability to network with others and gain from their knowledge plus experience; in return I give back to others. If the statistics of my podcast site is to be believed; it is my most popular website (feed views about 1500 and downloads approximately 1000 per week).

So if my podcast site is the most popular the question asked would be “why haven’t I improved it’s looks before now!” The answer is simple, my podcast site is the most unstable platform. Updates in technology affect how my podcasts work. Like one step forward and six steps back. Older audio chipmunks when once it was fine; old video does not play when once it was fine (note if you experience these problems with my podcasts when you press play then click on download rather than play and it will start playing not a problem. This is only a problem when played on the site; episodes downloaded through iTunes or Juice experience no problems). Reasons for these problems relate to the embedded flash player that is used on podcast sites, and changes to this and how the podcast site converts audio and video as it is uploaded then impacts on existing podcasts (my podcast host converts all uploads into a format which is better supported by the flash player; however old episodes are not converted so then have problems).

I decided to just get on with it and see what happened. Well, as I fixed up the text, images and links in the posts for my podcast episodes, it is also then converted the associated media to a format that works in the flash player. Great now some of the old issues are actually playing in the flash player. Problem is I have so many posts to fix up that it is going to take time because the formats are being converted. So it looks like this housework will need to be spread out over several days so that I don’t stuff up all my podcasts. This is what my site now looks like!

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Why blinging your blogs and wikis can drive you crazy!

So you set up a blog or a wiki- great you achieved that! For a few days life is good; then you start thinking that everyone else’s looks nicer than yours…. So you decide to amend that. This is where the frustration starts to settle in. We all get sucked into the same trap. Over the last week my two friends, Frances and Sue have both set up blogs (and in the past few weeks – wikis). Both have then spent hours trying to get more out of their site’s look. End result they start going crazy; things never go to plan!

To make matters worse, they improve the look of their site, so then I can’t stand the look of my site, so then need to bling up my blog. Unbelievable – with all my experience I really should know better. So this post is dedicated to all those, like us, who just have to do it because we like our sites to reflect who we are!

Personally I like Sue’s solution on her blog, the presentation theme she uses has the option of bringing in photos from flickr that have been tagged with the tag name she nominates. Quick and easy, looks nice and clean. She is using the theme Worldpress Silver II. This means she has not had to stuff around with anything. Except for the fact that I think she spend half a day trying each different theme until she found one she liked (would be nice is there was a quick like to a list of which edublog themes supports additional theme options and what these options are).

I could not use these theme because she is using it. So I decided I would insert my own customised header. That is easy; create in Photoshop – find a theme that supports your own header and done! Especially since I was using Regulus theme should be simple.

Hehehe, I should have known better. First you have to link to a URL that has the theme. So had to set up Flickr account. Would not like to Flickr account. So googled and found a suggestion to locate at OurMedia (great that meant I had to set up account with Internet Archive as well). Cool – did that! Nope, still did not work! So I thought maybe there is a problem with putting it on those types of site. So then I remembered that I get some free web space with my broadband account. Problem – had never tried to do it before and had no idea. Time to phone a friend – thankfully my friend Phil talked me through how to do it – learnt how to set up website using FrontPage (yes I know Dreamweaver is better) and how to remote transfer files to website. New skill learnt! But no, didn’t work. I must be doing something wrong!

So then decided to change theme because I could not let their blogs look nicer (the principal). Amazing when I tested another theme, that supported your own header, the linking to the URL worked. Only problem was the header size you need depends on the theme. Each theme has a different size header required (would also be nice if each stated what size works best – at least Regulus does that). So I discovered that Fleshy, Fauna and LetPrime all support headers (there are probably more themes at Edublog that do but it really gets frustrating searching). Thanks Graham for putting me onto LetPrime.

So after a lot of hard work, I changed to Fleshy. But still was not totally happy, especially how the text wraps too closely to pictures when they align in the text. So when Graham suggested LetPrime I thought that is a good idea – looks nice. Spent another few hours changing the size and look of my header only to realise that it does not support any other pages at the top of the site except for Home and About (sorry if I have that information wrong).

Back to Fleshy I went. Though picture was still bugging me! Mmmmm there must be a simple solution…. Idiot html. Definitely worth getting a basic understanding of html as it does occasionally help you out. I use the HTML Quick List (which I keep bookmarked in my del.icio.us account) when I need to work out which code I need. All you do is click on HTML icon above then insert the required bit of code. This is the page of the HTML Quick list I used to make the picture fit better with the text. So now the picture looks ok in the post and I can live with the theme (and Frances – the IT lecturer – says that solves the problem – she also did not think of using the html).

My thoughts on why blinging sites can drive you crazy. Well the great thing about these sites is they set them up so that they are easy to use. Sure they can add more features, so we can customise more, however this often means the harder they are to use. That then defeats the point of making them easy to use. At the end of the day it is all user error because we want too much!

If you want to learn more about working with edublog blogs check out “how to edublogs v.2“.

Check out FORA.TV for enhanced online TV viewing!

Part of my daily routine is to quickly read posts from blogs that I subscribe using my Google Reader – this keeps me up-to-date with all things new and happening. One of the blogs I subscribe to is by written by a Gabriella Grosseck in Romania. While this may seem a bit crazy as Gabriella posts in Romanian (which I can’t read – and the online translators do not seem to translate the Romanian really well) I actually get a lot out of reading her posts.

Yesterday she posted an article on Jimmy Wales. Not quite sure what it says but it did link me to a great presentation by Jimmy Wales on Wikipedia. While I am always keen to listen to Jimmy Wales, that is not the most important aspect of this presentation, what did amaze me is the video format that FORA.TV uses which I thought is really important to tell others about.

FORA.TV is all about is presenting or producing content from the world’s leading public forums. Most importantly all programs are broken up into chapters which means that you quickly access the part of the program that interests you.
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It also includes a transcript of the presentation. Which you can read. You can search for a word in the text and then jump to the point in the video.

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The use of chapters and searchable transcript makes it much better to watch their videos than watching a normal video. I just can not believe it has taken me so long to realise FORA.TV exists; considering this great presentation by Jimmy has been on their site since the end of Nov, 2006.

Any way check out Jimmy Wales presentation on Vision: Wikipedia and the Future of Free Cultureby pressing Launch FORA player.

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Mobile techology in TAFE is now blogging!

After much debate (with myself) I have finally decided to set up a blog site for Mobile Technology in TAFE for a number of reasons:

  1. My reluctance have stemmed from the fact that sometimes I feel overwhelmed reading blogs – however I have now solved this problem by managing my reading of blogs using Google Reader which I have found brilliant for keeping track of all the blogs I like to reader and I have inserted a Google Reader gadget onto my personalised Goolge homepage. This gadget lets me see the latest 10 postings from the sites I subscribe to when I go to my google homepage.
  2. I am a avid podcaster and my podcasts take considerable time to create. Check out Mobile technology in TAFE podcasts to see my latest podcasts on m- and e-learning. However I learn a lot about different topics while I am creating my podcasts, and I have some many ideas running through my head that I can not put in my podcasts and a blog is a good place for me to share these thoughts.
  3. I have a wiki at Mobile technology in TAFE wikispaces where I share information on m- and e-learning in terms of use with students and “how to” tips for educators. Once again it takes me time to write the pages for my wiki . But once again while I am writing the pages I have lots of ideas that are better shared on a blog.
  4. Added to the fact that I work full time and have two kids. Oh well a person has to have a hobby.

So welcome to my first post. I hope you enjoy reading my posts and my different sites help you learn to use the different technology better, whether you are just interested in learning more about technology for yourself or you want to use it with students.

Meanwhile check out this excellent video from T4 Jordan School District which highlights the reasons why we should be using technology to engage our students.

And if you have not watched Web 2.0 … The Machine is Us/ing Us take the time to have a look. Well worth it if you are struggling to understand what Web 2.0 is all about.