Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Productive Photoshop Sites

Sometimes you just need to go back to pre-school for some cool "show and tell." Show me something I've never seen before, and tell me how you did it.

To satisfy my curiosity (at least regarding Photoshop), I found a cool new site which provides links to large numbers of tutorials about Photoshop.

The site,, presents thumbnails from each of the tutorials, so that you can quickly spin through the topics until something catches your eye.

Also, Adobe has a set of RSS tutorial feeds at I'm a fan of RSS feeds in iTunes, to pull down feeds and then review them on weekends (normally listening to audio casts while running errands and shopping for groceries, and viewing video casts while weight-training).

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Speaking Your Mind

James with Computer Headset
Online courses normally expect both students and faculty to do more writing. Giving comments back to students can be made easier by recording your feedback and then sending your students the resulting MP3 files. Not only is this faster than typing out your feedback, but it also allows your personality and sense of humor to directly reach the students.

To meet accessibility standards, you'll need to poll your students to find out which ones would like and can use audio files. For the students who do not want audio files, post a list of their names near your computer - so that you can remember to provide written feedback instead on their works.

There are a number of audio recording tools which allow you to create MP3 files for your students. I personally prefer to use Audacity with the LAME plug-in (to create MP3 files). Audacity and LAME are open-source software tools which can be used without fee.

You can even save yourself some time while recording! If there are some standard types of mistakes students make, you can record that information once, and then "cut and paste" it into other recordings.

If you do not already have a computer headset with a microphone, I can recommend the Microsoft Lifechat 3000. It is a USB-connected device, so that it works on any computer, and it has the benefit of lower noise (normal sound-cards pick up a lot of line-power hum and suffer from microphones that pick up other electrical interference). On sale, this headset is about $30.

You might also use this technique to give feedback on other graded assessments, such as essay exams, projects, presentations, and discussions.

CAUTION: You probably do NOT want students to submit assignments or questions as audio files. It is a lot easier for you to "quickly scan" a text-comment than it is to listen to an entire recording (think about how you might prefer an email instead of an extensive voicemail message).