What Advice Would You Give?

Image of adviceYep, I know a lot about “a lot of stuff” but there lies my problem; as Bill Watterson (Calvin & Hobbes) says:

The more you know, the harder it is to take decisive action. Once you become informed, you start seeing complexities and shades of gray. You realize that nothing is as clear and simple as it first appears. Ultimately, knowledge is paralyzing

So I need help, advice, on what solutions/options you would recommend for the following scenario. Image by Petite Corneille.

I’ve been contacted by a lecturer who teaches horticulture. She says:

I’ve been recording botanical terms e.g. plant names and spelling to help ot students using a tape recorder. It seems to me it would be much more efficient to put this stuff onto the net so that they can download it to their mp3 players but I’m not quite sure where or how to do it. Any advice?

Here’s my thought process so far:

  1. Worthwhile considering offering both video and audio formats – to enhance the connection between the terms and the botanical images
  2. For audio I’d use a USB headset and Audacity. My choice for video would be MovieMaker or PhotoStory.
  3. Will the outcome desired change with time? i.e. focus currently is the benefit of recordings on mp3 but long term will this change to include: students being able to interact using a forum and post their own videos & photos; being able to provide other resources (documents, PDF); and/or write posts.
  4. Does the site need to be password protected or can it be open?

Can You Help Out?

  1. What other questions are worth asking?
  2. What solutions or options are worth considering?
  3. Do you know of any sites that horticulture lecturers are using with their students?
  4. What haven’t I thought of?

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Taking the stress out of talking about podcasting

After I posted on the stress of talking about podcasting – Zemina Hasham (Senior Director, Client Services for Elluminate) contacted me and “offered to meet up with me to better understand my presentation and share some ideas on how best to include these and minimize my stress!” So yesterday morning we meet up in her Elluminate virtual office, which was very nice of her since she had just flown from Calgary to USA, and was sitting in a hotel room at 8pm at night.

The main concern I had was playing the audio and video podcasts within Elluminate. She explained which option you choose depends on the file size:

  • Up to 10MB works well with the Media library (keep a close eye on the indicator so you have an idea of if there is any delays with any of the participants)
  • Over 10MB then you may be better off using the Web Tour – take them to the website and ask them to click play

She also showed me how the timer feature of Elluminate V8 can be used with Breakout rooms (i.e. put the participants in separate rooms, tell them they have 5 minutes to do the task and turn on the timer – this way they can clearly see how long they had to do their task).

We also discussed that it is more important to be an effective teacher in a virtual classroom as the student can literally step away from his / her computer without disturbing the teacher whereas in a f2f classroom, the teacher can see whether the student is engaged and paying attention. She even suggested some recorded Elluminate presentations that are worth watching to get ideas on being more effective. I think it would be really good if Elluminate had a series of how to be an effective teacher in a virtual classroom on their Training page (as I only found the Elluminate presentations she mentioned by Googling them).

I personally believe that having access to a virtual classroom for remote e-learning students is essential to ensure engagement and interaction. A virtual classroom lets you talk to your students, encourages interaction between both you and your students, direct message your students, take them on web tours, share their desktop, display PowerPoints, do brainstorming activities etc. If your organisation does not have access to a virtual classroom you can always get yourself an Elluminate vRoom.


  • Free – absolutely no cost
  • Available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year
  • Handy to have your own room that you can access whenever you have a need – when VOIP is not enough
  • Only difference from standard Elluminate is you can not record the session and max. of 4 people can participate

Thanks Zemina for your assistance. I am definitely impressed by the customer service supplied by your company.


Tools of the Trade

tool2.jpgDarren at Drape’s Take did an excellent post today on Why Every Teacher Should Have A Google Account. This is a list of basic tools that I recommend to lecturers:


Definitely a bookmarking site is a must. It is so great to be able to bookmark a website online that you can then view from any computer. I just love the fact that where ever I am I can go yes I remember reading an article on a particular topic and pull up my del.icio.us site and locate the articles I want to read without having to relocate the article again (and normally I fail to locate the original article). You can also set up del.icio.us sites with students so that they can collaboratively bookmark sites to select the top sites for information on topics.

However if you are going to bookmark using del.icio.us I suggest you:

  1. Use tags that have meaning e.g podcasting, PodcastingEquipment (if you put a space between Podcasting and Equipment you will have two separate tags and Equipment to me may also mean aquaculture equipment. Alternatively you could separate with an underscore Podcasting_Equipment)
  2. Sort your tags by setting up bundles and put your tags into the correct bundles – this way you can located the articles you want to read easier)
  3. If you are using Firefox as your browser there is a new cool Add-on for del.icio.us. If you are not using Firefox then think about installing it because it is a great Browser, I now use it more than Internet Explorer.

If you want to know more about using del.icio.us check out my information on getting more out of del.ici.ous.


I like using wikis as a quick and easy web site to share information with others. They are also excellent for encouraging collaborative learning between students. Personally I like using Wikipaces because their wiki is very easy to use and they have excellent customer service. If you want to know more about using wikis check out my information on getting more out of wiki.


I like both blogger (easy to use) and edublogs for blogging. I strongly recommend that you download and use Microsoft Livewriter which makes writing blog posts so much easier; and what a fanastic program. I had a hard time getting into blogging until I watched the following videos on blogging: Video: Blog History – shorten version and Long Video : Blogumentary – (1 hour) Thanks to Kate from Waxlyrical blog for recommending these videos. Check out Vicki Davis’s at Cool Cat Teacher’s blog tips on how to be an incredible blogger. While I agree with Darren about the value of teacher’s blogging I do think that Derek’s thoughts on online participation that for new people starting by commenting on blogs may be a good starting point.


I use Podomatic for podcasting however occasionally use Odeo. I prefer podomatic because it gives me a great podcast page which Odeo doesn’t. There are things about podomatic that I don’t like. For ideas for setting up a podcast page check out my podcast site aquaculturepda.podomatic.com


I have used two different free comic makers ToonDoo and Comeeko. No reason other than it is fun!!!!

ToonDoo is really easy to use (as they made it easy for kids to use) and they have lots of great characters, backgrounds and props that you can use. Basically anyone can easily create nice comics using ToonDoo – great fun for all ages – my 8 year old really enjoyed using ToonDoo as do I. The only issue I have had with ToonDoo is embedding my comics into my blog posts, these are my instructions on how to embed ToonDoo comics into an edublog blog.

The difference between ToonDoo and Comeeko is that with Comeeko you can use your own photos to make the comic. Comeeko is considerably harder to use than ToonDoo however a lot of fun because you use your own photos (which is very appealing).


Finally started to appreciate the value of photosharing and now am using Flickr.


I am definitely a Google addict. Here is my list of Google MUSTS:

1. Personalized google homepage

I have set up my own personalized google homepage. If you haven’t give it a try. All you need to do is set up a Google account and then click on “Personalize this page” at the top of Google. You can add lots of little cool gadgets to the page (e.g. “to do list”, news feeds, Weather information, world clock, Google video) and whatever computer you are on you can sign into your personalized Google and access the items on the page (if you become too addicted you can add extra tabs – yes I know I need a life).

2. Google Reader

I use Google reader to subscribe to blogs and podcasts feeds. It is really easy to use, and I can put a gadget for it on my Personalized google homepage that shows me the latest 9 blogs and podcasts. Also I love how people are embedding Google Reader in their blogs and sharing their items that they like from their reader. I was totally unable to get into blogging until I started appreciating the value of blogs by subscribing to blogs using Google Reader

3. Google Talk

I use Google Talk for chatting with others but prefer Skype for VOIP. OOPS occassionally with Google Talk I have sent the wrong chat to the wrong person. If you don’t have a VOIP application on your computer. Definitely a must – you can talk or chat to anyone, anywhere, using the Internet, at no cost.

4. Google Video

I prefer to upload videos to google video if I want to embed them in wikis or blogs.

BTW I keep failing Vicki Davis’s 3 Rule of 10 habits of bloggers that winRULE 3 Write and then cut in half! 🙂 There is no hope for me? 😀

The trials and tribulations of a podcaster

I often get asked how long it takes to create my podcasts. Well it all depends on the type of podcast I am creating; is it a video or an audio podcast. My video podcasts normally take considerable time because I like to put lots of images to go with the information whereas audio podcasts are quicker since normally it is just a matter tidying them up a bit.

Every now and then you get caught out, what should have been a reasonably quick podcast gets hijacked by gremlins (little men in the machine that are out to get you).

First lets set the scene. I was lucky enough a few weeks ago to interview Sean O’Driscoll, General Manager Communities and Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, about online communites and Web 2.0. (You will probably realise by now that I think Sean’s Community Group Therapy blog rocks). Due to work commitments and other podcasts I have had to edit it has taken me awhile to get to editing Sean’s interview.

So today I put Sean’s podcast on my to-do-list; it is only an audio podcast so that won’t take too long.

Famous last words, here is what happened:

  1. I record my Skype interviews with HotRecorder. Once finished recording you convert to mp3 using their AutoConvertor. Well – I have been trying since the interview to convert to a mp3 or wav using AutoConvertor without any luck. It kept “not responding” on my computer.
  2. Not a problem there is always plan B. Plan B always works. You play the recording in HotRecorder and record using Video ipod with attached MicroMemo recorder (sound is feed from computer to recorder on ipod). That worked so well – NOT! Bugger….
  3. Plan C. So I decided that the way to go was to copy the audio file to another location on my computer and then update my version of HotRecorder in case that was the problem with HotRecorder. Imagine my surprise to discover it had converted ok and there was no need for me to have wasted time trying to record onto my ipod.
  4. Great so now edited in Audacity – which I did. But FINE….not. HotRecorder produces a wav or mp3 file that is recorded at 24,000 hz with Sean’s audio playing in one ear and mine in the other. If I upload a file at 24,000 hz Sean will sound like a chipmunk (his kids would have a good laugh). So again I got out the video ipod, that always works, and tried lot of times, with lots of combinations to record, because that way if it worked we would both play in both ears and it would be at 44,100 hz – but no luck just could not get it to work.
  5. Downloaded a few Audio conversion programs to try and get it to convert to 44,100 hz and play better. Nope…. no good.
  6. Even thought I would start up my work laptop and try connecting my ipod to it…NOPE…even my laptop hates me and would not let me log in as localuser.
  7. So there was one choice left…..(actually what I really want to do was really a bit dramatic)…changed project rate in Audacity to 22,050 hz which then means it will no longer chipmunk however have to live with the voice each person playing in different ears.

Yes – I know the solution is to get myself some better podcasting equipment like my mate Stephan Ridgway from Talking VTE. He use a mixer and good microphones to record his Skype interviews. Still not sure why my ipod solution won’t work as it normally does. Oh well so is life. I am sure that Stephan, if he listens to my podcast with Sean, will have great pleasure in giving me a bit of a hard time as we have great discussions on how long a podcast should be; and I argue the need to keep them less than 30 minutes.

Stephan Ridgway's podcasting equipment

Any way, broke my own rule, the interview with Sean is longer than 30 minutes but I did not want to break it up as he talks about some many great topics such as: online commnunities and why they are important to businesses; how to manage inappropriate behaviour in online communities; the value of blogging to him; and various Web 2.0 topics.

Please note it is now late – and now my wireless mouse has decided to play up as well. Must be time for bed!!!!!


Beyond Text: Voice Online

This week has been full on networking with friends who had come to Perth for the WA Training Forum and meeting new people, one of which was Michael Coghlan. I have to say I am pleased that I had the opportunity to spend time with Michael – not only because he is a nice person – which he is – but it was great to learn from all his knowledge and experience (check out his involvement with New Practise Project for the Australian Flexibile Learning Network Beyond Text: Using Voice online).

Michael did two excellent presentations on voice online for his visit. You can check out podcasts of these two presentations at:

  1. Voice online (audio) – presented at WA Training Forum
  2. Using Voice Boards (video) – presented at West Coast TAFE

You can also check out the voice boards at Beyond Text New Practice Workshop wiki and I would also check out his PowerPoint.

Thanks Michael for the great workshops – we all enjoyed ourselves.