Animoto Review: Chris Thomson’s perspective

July 29, 2010 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Digital Era, e-learning 
I had an email from Chris Thomson who is @electricchalk on twitter who wanted to post a comment on the blog but was blocked by his proxy. He has sent this to me by email and I thought I would post it up without editing.
I totally agree with you, Animoto in itself doesn’t have vast educational potential unless the work surrounding it  is purposeful.
I supported some work with a drama teacher in a school in Sheffield where they were doing a project on bullying. The students worked in teams to devise and script a story and then took pictures of themselves acting it out. They then compiled an Animoto out of their images, choosing appropriate music and adding text. The teacher led them through a peer review process, giving and receiving feedback to each other which led to them re-editing their Animoto and refining it. They were then encouraged to do some personal reflection on how the process had gone and what they learnt about storytelling as a result.
Use of Animoto was incidental (it could have been any number of pieces of software) but the fact that it was an engaging tool meant that the students were motivated to complete the task and had a certain amount of pride in what they achieved.
I think you identify a real risk that people can get carried away with the shiny!

Animoto Review: Engaging… but educational?

July 28, 2010 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Cloud Computing, Digital Era 

Another late night and another review of something interesting I have come across this year. As I was taking a tour of Twynham School with one of our visitors on the last week of term we popped into a lesson where the students were using netbooks in their normal classroom. The class were producing presentations to send to David Cameron and a number were using PowerPoint as I might suspect. The interesting thing is that many of the students had opted to use a different presentation that the PowerPoint/movie maker norm- instead they were using Animoto.

Animoto is an ‘on the fly’ producer of presentations which incorporate your pictures, videos and music. Its value is in the ease and simplicity with which you can throw your different components into the web interface and quickly get a compelling presentation. Here is an example of a History presentation which would be used by a teacher at the start of a new unit to get students engaged.

I think the real value of Animoto beyond its simplicity as a mash-up tool is the way in which students are engaged by the production of engaging presentations. As we know for most students music is a major impact on their lives and the ability to add soundtracks or run one at random alongside movie quality effects certainly appeals. The other side of course is examining what the educational value is of such a tool. In the presentations I saw there was very little evidence that Animoto added anything here beyond engagement. That said Animoto also has an educational section where you can sign up so take a look here and try it for yourself.

Social Computing and SharePoint 2010

One of the significant improvements in SharePoint 2010 is in the Social Computing section. Whilst I don’t want to contradict myself with my post on SharePoint 2010 and the Lost Generation I do believe that there have been some significant improvements over SharePoint 2007. At the end of the day what we have in SharePoint 2010 is what we have. If I think social computing then my SharePoint expert would be Dan McPherson who owns Zevenseas, a SharePoint consultancy in Holland. I heard him speak last year and have since started to look at ways we can link up with SharePoint for educational use. Last week he was talking with his team at Microsoft SharePoint Connections 2010 and their presentation has become available online. Take a look at what SharePoint 2010 can do for your organisation. If you are short on time you could miss the intro to social computing and start at 17 minutes on the video.

Click here to go to the SharePoint 2010 Social Computing Overview video.

‘Apologies for the blanket email’ and staff briefing. Will SharePoint 2007 notices bring them to an end.

January 31, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Digital Era, SharePoint, Twynham School 

A fairly simple post and perhaps only interesting for education people. Like many schools we have a staff briefing system where all the teachers get together 3 times a week at 8.35 for 5 minutes to give out any notices. All three schools I have worked at have done this on Monday, Wednesday and Friday each week. Alongside this method of communication and unlike my other two schools Twynham uses email voraciously and my inbox will typically get between 40 and 100 emails per day depending on day of week and time in the half term.

Both ways of communicating have positively impacted on the running of the school but both also potentially have their downfall. Every colleague will know what I mean in particular with email and the dreaded ‘Apologies for this blanket email’. This is the email which is often written about a particular child which has 10-14 teachers but is sent to the entire teaching staff of 120 because the sender does not want to undertake the simple task of checking on the gateway who the relevant teachers are. My frustration as I read this sentence in my inbox is perhaps greater than the Angry Technician’s when someone tells him the Internet is broken! Don’t get me wrong I am a huge fan of email for the way it helps me keep efficient with communication as well as the lack of paper in my tray each day is bliss.

Staff briefing is far more defendable as it brings humans together and you can catch someone you want a face to face with which cannot be done on email. You can even simply say hello to people who otherwise you would rarely see in a 1600 comprehensive. At the same time everyone gathering in a central place minutes before the school day starts can be counterproductive when the following happens. Over the last few months I have turned up at staff briefing and something remarkable has happened- no one has had a notice to give. I haven’t really thought about it at the time and indeed the frequency of notices seems to be declining (more than a dozen times this year there has been just 1-2 notices where typically there can be half a dozen or more). This morning when I logged on to the staff gateway I think I have found the answer to the decline in both- staff notices.

At Twynham we have been using staff notices for three years but often the area would get one or two notices every week or two. During the current year this has increased steadily to the point that it is becoming one of the key communication tools for staff with each other. The screen shot above is evidence of this and looking back to September we have had over 140 notices in 20 weeks. It seems that staff notices has become the primary communication tool which will continue to impact on staff briefing and the dreaded email.

Camtasia Studio version 6 with High Definition

January 30, 2010 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Digital Era, Product Reviews 

Over the last week I have done a lot of video demonstrations covering the 8 basic features of SharePoint 2007 for end users. I really enjoyed making the series and know the demos have already proved very useful for many people but one thing has frustrated me- video quality. I use Camtasia for screen recording and love it but have often been frustrated by the output when recording a full screen. On Friday I managed to get round to something I should have done a while ago- upgrading our Camtasia version. Turns out we are using a version produced in 2006 and there have been 2 newer versions.

The Pepsi challenge

Having upgraded I decided to re-record a SharePoint basic features video so that I could see the difference. Being a child of the 80s I explained this to the team as ‘The Pepsi Challenge’. Blank faces ensued as my colleagues 10-12 years younger than me had no clue what I was talking about. Dave Coleman noded knowingly from the corner of the room and then started talking about Chorlton and the Wheelies which led to me producing a blank face. Here are the results and see if you can ‘taste the difference’ between Camtasia 4 and Camtasia 6 in HD. Obviously putting the videos into YouTube will play a factor but the difference is still clear.

SharePoint basic feature in Camtasia 4 (view in 420p)

SharePoint basic feature in Camtasia 6 HD (select 720 HD)

Slideshare and the web 2.0 world

October 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Digital Era, SharePoint, Windows 7 

In the last post I included a couple of videos to the blog using an embed code from YouTube, the site synonymous with a web 2.0 world. One other site I regularly use for embedding resources is Slideshare, the document presentation sharing site. How many people are using this service? I only use it as an easy way to pull the presentations through on my blog but never really thought about how many people go directly to the site to see presentations. The 10 Power Points I have uploaded on Slideshare in the last year have actually been viewed over 2,300 times in the last 6 months. With this in mind I thought I would give you the top 10 most viewed PowerPoints I have uploaded:

1. 5 Reasons for failure in SharePoint User Adoption (related blog post here)

2. Year 11 Revisions Seminars (related blog post here)

3. SharePoint Survival Kit (related blog post here)

4. Raising Acheivement through a Learning Platform (related blog post here)

5. Revision Gateway Survey (related blog post here)

6. Windows 7 at Warwickshire Local Authority (related blog post here)

7. Window 7 at Twynham School (related blog post here)

8. Windows 7 at West Hatch School (related blog post here)

9. Windows 7 at Lodge Park School (related blog post here)

10. Windows 7 at Dean Close School (related blog post here)

Although the Windows 7 PowerPoints are at the bottom of the list they would actually be the top 5 in terms of views per day. The fact that failure in user adoption is number 1 but only went up in July is perhaps telling of the state of Learning Platforms in the UK.

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