Monday, December 20, 2010

Website Accessibility

Recent lawsuits by the National Federation of the Blind against universities with inaccessible websites and course management sites once again raises the importance of universal design.

Here are some links relating to accessibility of websites and academic course web pages.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Facebook adding "remote log out" security

If you're receiving SPAM messages from your Facebook friends, don't blame them entirely. Spammers and hackers are creating applications which are asking Facebook users to enter in their Usernames and Passwords so that they can "authorize" applications and games to post to their pages. Well... once they have the credentials - they take over your account.

Facebook is adding a capability of Remote Log Out - so that you can see all the devices and connections logged into your account and "log out" specific devices and instances. This is also handy for people who store their passwords and then the preying eyes of roommates and family members simply go to Facebook have an automatic "in" to the site under your account.

Check out the article link for more details.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Fair Use - Center for Social Media

The Center for Social Media has developed a great series of tutorial on the doctrine of Fair Use under the Copyright law.
The site also contains sets of Best Practices for using materials for Media Literacy, using Online Video, using materials in Documentary Filmmaking, and many other areas.

Of particular interest might be the video "Remix Culture" which addresses best practices in Fair Use for Online Video.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Are You Ready to Teach Online?

Baker University has an excellent tool for faculty who are interested in teaching online.
It is titled Am I Ready to Teach an Online Course?
The self-assessment examines the technical skills, attitudes towards online learning, teaching style, and communication style of the prospective online teacher and then provides feedback about then answers provided by the candidate.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Confident Conference Presentations

I want presenters to be successful, and I actually feel pains of embarrassment in my stomach when a presenter flounders or ends up losing an audience part-way through their hour-long session.

Many times when a presentation ends, I ask myself "ahhh… yes… so what?”

Presenters need to be customer-oriented when they design their presentations, and the greatest opportunity for improvement is to focus a presentation around learning objectives and a call to action. After you filter away all of the other distractions and boil it down to "what should audience members learn" and "what are the benefits to doing it differently" - the presentation is much more likely to maintain an alert audience.

I am in the midst of helping plan and run another large state-wide conference, and I have decided to jot down some notes of advice for presenters. Effective presentations will:

Develop an Elevator Pitch: “Why should we care?” and "How will what you are going to tell me make me better off (richer, safer, happier, smarter)?" How can you convince YOUR intended audience in 30-seconds or less to listen to the rest of your presentation? How can you convince them that what you are about to say will be original, beneficial, and useful? What is the main point of your presentation, and how can you summarize it to start off your presentation? Being able to package your presentation into this short set of statements will help you funnel in just the core ideas and information your presentation needs and filter out everything else. If most of the audience members already have expertise, don’t waste their time with the basics. If most of your audience members are novices – don’t make them feel stupid by using unfamiliar language or concepts.

Use Learning Objectives to direct a Call to Action: A great presentation normally has both a set of specific learning objectives (what should the audience have learned during the presentation) and also a specific call to action (a challenge to do one or two new things based upon what they have learned). These are the beneficial “take-aways” participants get for spending their time in your presentation. When you are building your presentation, use these along with your Elevator Pitch to help focus and filter the content you choose to present.

Utilize an Attention Getter: what humorous image, video clip, anecdote, or story will help demonstrate the point that there is a problem and that it is the audience’s responsibility to fix the problem?

Appear Organized: Tell the audience what you are about to tell them (introduction), then tell them, then tell them what you told them (summary). This helps audience members understand the outline and structure you will be using in your presentation – and it helps them know where you are heading and why.

Engage the Audience: Normally the people in front of you are smart, experienced, and have much to share on the topic. Make the audience part of the experience. Ask them challenging questions. Ask them to share their own observations and experiences.

Anticipate the Objections: If you are asking people to change process, procedure, or habit, you need to anticipate and refute alternatives. If you don’t anticipate and handle common objections or concerns right up front – you’ll lose a large share of your audience as they mentally try to come up with arguments against what you are proposing.

Be Well Rehearsed: There is nothing more embarrassing to a presenter that to look shocked or confused during their own presentation. Rehearse your presentation many times from start to finish, and memorize the structure and key points you want to make (don’t verbatim memorize you’re your audience members will throw you off when they ask questions).

Not be Read: Reading your PowerPoint slides is highly annoying and serves no purpose. Use “blank” or black slides when you want the audience to concentrate on you and not the screen. Mix it up! Maybe change the pace of your presentation with just one word or phrase on the screen – to rapidly change through slides, and then slow things down by adding more words and phrases. The PowerPoint is there for your AUDIENCE to know the structure of what you are say – NOT a reminder to you of what to say (you should have figured that out in your rehearsals).

Consider the Sight-lines: Standing in front of the projector screen is an obvious mistake, but not so obvious is blocking the view of a portion of your audience. When you have something important to show, stand off to the side of the screen and gesture with your hand or a laser-pointer to call attention to specific parts of the slide.

Be Heard: In the theatre, you’re asked to “speak to the cheap seats” (way, way, way in back). You don’t need to shout, but you do need to speak much more loudly than you normally would, and you need to enunciate much more clearly than normal conversation. When one is available, use a microphone. Microphone etiquette: if you are wearing a lapel microphone – be sure that you are not touching your chest or holding papers against the microphone. When you are using a handheld microphone – hold it off to the side of your mouth (by your cheek – pointing toward your mouth) – so that you don’t “slam” the microphone with your breath sounds or your “popping P’s.”

Show Confidence: Great eye contact, loose shoulders, big smiles all communicate to strangers that you are confident about what you are going to say, and that wins you some credibility. Also – if you are well-rehearsed, you should be confident about what you are about to say.

Pace the Handouts: Don’t load up your audience with a bunch of reading materials at the start of the presentation. Audience members will be so busy reading that they may just ignore what you are saying. A few sparse handouts which give the main ideas are best – and then more detailed information can be provided at the time for questions and answers (or after the presentation concludes).

Request Feedback: No matter what, you should have your audience give you some critique and feedback. Maybe your “super-great” presentation left most people confused or bored. Isn’t that a very useful thing to know? Also – the critique helps give you insight into how others interpreted your presentation’s points. Always ask open-ended questions such as “what was the best part of the presentation?” and also “what needs to be improved in this presentation?”

Friday, March 05, 2010

Fun Use of Vocal "AutoTune"

There are vocal effects "stomp boxes" for singers, the same way that guitar players have "stomp boxes" for special effects for their instrument sounds.

Here is one of the funniest (and best) uses I've seen for the "auto-pitch correction" (or Auto Tune) feature on one of these boxes.

The way the device works is that it takes a musical input and changes the speech to match the pitch of the input.
This funny video features politicians and newscasters saying outrageously stupid things -- set to music. Awesome!

Monday, March 01, 2010

BLIO eReader for Textbooks

I saw an interesting webinar for BLIO eReader. The software-based product was developed by KNFB Reading Technology, Inc. This is an electronic book / textbook reader program which allows students to use their own digital ink to highlight passages and to also type electronic notes. There are built-in tools for text-to-speech synthesis, and there are also tools to synchronize spoken words with typed text.

Unfortunately, one of the main selling points is 508 and ADA accessibility - and the person presenting the webinar linked to and displayed materials which outright failed to meet 508 accessibility (video clips without closed-captions, interaction activities which required mouse-based navigation, lack of ALT text captions in images, etc.).

The company uses a proprietary software application (rather than Adobe Reader which would have been a preferable implementation - for accessibility and market penetration reasons). This looks like a product that has some merit for the future, but it looks as though it needs to get some solid textbook partners involved in offering titles AND to have those partners ensure that the media and image materials make best use of accessibility features in the tools.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Top Tips for D2L

Top Tips for Using D2L from RSP / ITeach 2010 Super Roundtable "Embrace Your Inner Geek"

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Demonstration of SkyDrive folder

This is a demonstration of the SkyDrive folder holding presentation materials relating to Podcasting and also relating to Stepping Up PowerPoint presentations.

James' Skydrive Public Folder

Hibbing Presentation:

Online Looping Music Editor

Dubstep Studio (Learning Jam001) - use the CLICK TO MIX button to hear the composition.

I stumbled across a FREE online editor to create loops-based music. The site provides a large number of Midi-loop phrases, and you "paint" the loops along a timeline to indicate when each sound loop should play. After the creation is made, you can embed the music or provide an email link to friends to "remix" your creation.