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Aviary Tools

March 26, 2012

The TLTC frequently assesses new software. We post parts of our internal reviews on our blog, but we do not necessarily endorse the technologies presented here. Please use this post for information only. The TLTC only supports technologies listed in our technology toolbox.

Aviary Tools is a bunch of online creative applications for artists of all genres from image editing and logos creator to audio editing and music maker. I found this suite full of friendly and easy to use tools that can be used right in your web browser.

Here are three applications that I find as very helpful:

Quick Markup (Falcon)

Some of you may find this tool very useful! If you are not looking for Image editing software because you need only to make small marks such as add text and markup the images to highlight the important parts Quick markup will make your editing easier.

Quick Markup’s main features are to point on the important things and add comments:

Quick markup also will resize, rotate and crop images easily if you need and save your image on desktop.

Image Editor (Pheonix)

Looks and feels a lot like Photoshop. It has layers, masks, undo history, effects, brushes that you can customize as well as a good number of filters that make manipulating photos easy. This tool is perfect for basic and advanced image editing.

Vector Editor (Raven)

This one is for people who are looking to create things. Images produced can be used as logos or applied to t-shirts and other garments. The application allows users to work with lines, paths, curves and objects.

Other tools in this suite:

Aviary is also offering online tutorials videos and a Forums that help its users to improve their design abilities.

I recommend to explore Aviary Tools!

SlideShark: PowerPoint Presentations on the iPad Review

March 22, 2012

SlideShark is a PowerPoint viewer. This app is free to use on any iPad device. The application has the ability to be synced with their web interface for use on different devices you may own. For example if you uploaded a PowerPoint to  the web interface, the iOS app will give you the option to download it onto your device.The one drawback to this is that when you find a PowerPoint on your device, you must first upload to the site then download it from the site onto your device where you will be able to view it. The presenter portion of the app is what you would expect from a slide presenter with nothing new in terms of features.

The app is free and manages PowerPoints with ease and will backup all of your PowerPoints to the cloud. With a few concerns about the process of getting PowerPoints onto your device this app does exactly what you expect from it.

Keynote Review

March 22, 2012

Keynnote is a iOS app created by Apple. The premise of this app is that you can create presentations on the go using your iOS device. It will cost you around $9.99 but as you will be aware; is quite worth it.

Keynote has a very simplistic design. It has two main screens, a collection list of all the presentations you made or downloaded and the presentation viewer/editor.

The editor is exactly what you would expect in a simple Microsoft Powerpoint application. Just not as heavy. What you can do with this app is actually quite amazing. For starters the presentation editor allows you to import pre-made objects, pictures and movies straight of your device and control how they transition into the slide or configure its orientation/size. The amount of effects you can use will make your slide look professional. Because of this subtle feature you’re not hindered in terms of presentation because of simplicity but can benefit from the simple interface to make quick and easy presentations.

This app also allows you to make decision based events like skipping to another slide. With this you can make interactive presentations.

After the presentation is made you have a set of options to export the presentation.

The app is $9.99 but worth every dollar if you’re the type that is on the go or needs to create presentations on the fly. I recommend this app. A more detailed review can be found here.

eBook Creator Review

March 12, 2012

The TLTC frequently assesses new software. We post parts of our internal reviews on our blog, but we do not necessarily endorse the technologies presented here. Please use this post for information only. The TLTC only supports technologies listed in our technology toolbox.

eBook Creator is a iOS app with the purpose to allow the mobile users to produce eBooks on the go. This app has some features like sharing the final product to other mobile users, ability to import images from the devices photo album, background music, and more. A full list of features this app can do can be found on the bluefinger.com website. I will go over the interface and functionality of this app as well my final thought about it.

The interface for this app is simple, a book case containing your created eBook’s. Upon entering the eBook Creator’s creation menu you are given very simple and intuitive options. These options include adding titles, background images, background sounds and text. You have the choice frame options, transition styles and effects to each slide. With these features and options you can create eBooks quickly and easily.

Where this app lacks is the functionality it has. Though the interface is easy to use and to understand, the functionality is not at par for post-secondary use. Whats missing in this app is more functionality to enhance the eBook creation process. What I would of liked to see is the ability to add more text per page and more images. Currently the only image you can add is a background photo from your devices photo album. Also the workflow to create new slides is not intuitive. You will need to create pages by reverting back to the main creation page and then make sure the page was last viewed in order to add details like background images, sound and text.Once done you can send it to your friends or colleagues by tapping on the send button in the creation page.

While the app is great for younger audiences the overall experience for post-secondary use is lacking. This app costs $3.99 (March 3rd 2012) and can be found in the Apple Store.

Free And Portable Image Editing Software

February 27, 2012

The TLTC frequently assesses new software. We post parts of our internal reviews on our blog, but we do not necessarily endorse the technologies presented here. Please use this post for information only. The TLTC only supports technologies listed in our technology toolbox.

I’d like to present another free and also portable image editing software that I tested and found very easy and friendly to use. PixBuilder can match to any level of needs, whether you need to do small changes to your images or for someone who wants software that can make more serious and advanced corrections.

Another thing that I really like is that PixBuilder requires low memory so you can load it on a USB drive and run it from any desktop.

PixBuilder works with high resolution images and support layers, an important feature for anyone who’s halfway serious about editing images. PixBuilder’s uncomplicated interface is familiar and intuitive, with menus across the top, a toolbar down the left side, and a set of panels down the right.

Main Features
  1. Image resizing, rotating, and crop function.
  2. Brightness/Contrast, Color balance, Levels, Hue/Saturation, and Color fill.
  3. Auto Contrast and Auto Levels.
  4. Built-in high quality effects: blur effects, sharpen effects, dithering, and more.
  5. Flexible selection management functions, such as transparency masks, magic wand, different lasso tools, single column selection, color range function, and the gradient color transition effect that gives you the ability to draw complex raster shapes and apply effects for complex areas.
  6. Layers concept makes your work more effective and efficient.
  7. Text layers with drop shadow.
  8. A full set of brush-based tools, such as the stamp tool, healing brush, replace color tool, and others.
  9. Built-in shapes drawing tools (rectangles, circles, and lines).
  10. Free transform and Selection transform.
  11. Save with preview.
  12. Support of image scanners.
Supported formats

Import: BMP, PNG, JPG, GIF, TIFF, PCX, TGA, PSD, ICO

Export: BMP, PNG, JPG, GIF, TIFF, PCX, TGA, ICO

Questions?

PixBuilder comes with a well-written Help file that will explain and teach you about each feature that the program can do. Also, there’s a Forum on PixBuilder’s website that covers all Frequently Asked Questions and guides you How To.

You can download PixBuilder here: http://www.wnsoft.com/pixbuilder/

Free Online Image Editing Tool

February 22, 2012

The TLTC frequently assesses new software. We post parts of our internal reviews on our blog, but we do not necessarily endorse the technologies presented here. Please use this post for information only. The TLTC only supports technologies listed in our technology toolbox.

If you need to correct or make some changes on your images, and you don’t want to spend your time on searching and downloading any software then Pixlr is perfect for you!

Pixlr an amazing flash-based online image editing tool that may work for instructors who need to fix images and looking for functions such as: crop, re-size, colors, contrast, red eyes reduction, add titles, control the impact of an effect, border or overlay and more.
Pixlr has also other features like Marquee, Lasso, Magic Wand and other functionalities such as Brightness & Contrast and Image filtering like Blur, Sharpen, Water swirl etc which you see in Photoshop.

Pixlr is built in Flash, this means if you don’t have Flash plug-in you’ll have to download some and other thing is that Pixlr works only on Windows systems.

Apple has also an application for this software for free download, but it doesn’t have all the functions as Windows version. It has only photo effects such as changing color or adding a frame. (http://itunes.apple.com/app/pixlr-o-matic/id450263811?mt=8 )

Android (https://market.android.com/details?id=pixlr.OMatic&featured=bestappever) – has same functions as apple app, this means – not much.

All editing changes are done on online software. You can upload any wanted images, edit and save in any format and resolution that you need on the computer.

You can go online and start working with Pixlr here: http://pixlr.com/

Other Notes

Privacy – images are opened direct and local in your browser (other Pixlr users don’t see them in any way and they don’t leave your computer).

Files that are posted to Pixlr via the API are automatically deleted from Pixlr’s servers after 5 minutes.

Questions?

If you have any questions about this software, you can easily find the answers and technical support on Pixlr’s Support and Blog webpages.

Copyright – There’s an option that any picture can be chosen from internet by entering URL, edited and saved on PC. Please, before you use some image from internet search and check the Copyright policy of the image’s owner.

This software may be used download image that you do not have copyright permission to use. Please be aware that unless you own the image or have obtained explicit permission to download it you are violating copyright by doing so.

The Rapid e-Learning Blog

February 17, 2012

While there are several different places on the web where you can find valuable information about Instructional Design and eLearning, none are so immediately useful as the Rapid eLearning Blog, sponsored by the fine folks who create Articulate:

http://www.articulate.com/rapid-elearning/

Here you will find several very handy and timely articles on everything from a great free template find to free fonts and graphics for use in your courses. They discuss many topics regarding content creation and organization, as well as ways to effectively target your audience and keep their interest. Go check it out!

Computer based training example

February 17, 2012

I had an experience with computer based training while I was taking a graduate course on educational technology. One of our projects was to evaluate a unit of online training. I love to cook, so I decided to find one about the science and practical skills behind cooking. Searching the internet I found a site called Rouxbe. The first lesson I tried on their site was free, and it convinced me to sign up for more.

Everyone knows the basic ideas of how to fry food. You put it in a pan, heat the pan, and voila. The problem is that so often that the chicken or steak or potatoes you’re frying ends up sticking to the pan and your food ends up as more of a hash than anything else. The lesson I tried was on pan-frying and it started by talking about the theory of how food reacts to a hot pan and why oil is necessary. It presented a series of videos that were professionally narrated with an excellent voice actor. These videos showed me exactly how to determine when to add oil, how much oil to add, and when to add the item to be fried – chicken breast in this case. The sound was incredible – you could hear the splash of the oil and the sizzling of the chicken.

It showed how to not do things as well by demonstrating chicken added to a cold pan or put in a pan that is too hot. It ended by delivering a self-test that included video and audio samples and asked questions about them. For example, it showed water drops being added to pans with different heats and asked which pan was at the proper heat.

The lesson also included recipes based on the technique it taught and a forum where you could ask a Rouxbe chef questions (and they were actually around answering the questions on a daily basis!)

This demonstrated a high water mark for CBT – professionally produced, using sound instructional design, and choosing a medium that really worked for the material being presented.

If you’d like to check it out it can be found at http://rouxbe.com.

Microvideo at Red River College

February 17, 2012

Principles of Microvideo

Video in teaching and learning is becoming more and more important. We only need to look at YouTube to see the huge proliferation of online video training pieces – both good and bad. The problem we face is how to help the hundreds of instructors at our large College develop the videos they need without massive investments in production facilities.

The TLTC has been working towards the concept of microvideo as a sustainable solution for our College’s instructors to produce simple and effective video. Here are the principles that we developed to guide instructors in creating these microvideos:

1. Single Topic Short Videos

People have short attention spans. Long videos will lose their attention. Break your videos into small chunks of 5 minutes apiece that cover a single topic.

2. Many Takes One Shot

There can be many takes, but the final version must be one shot. If there is a problem during a take it is fixed by doing another take until it’s correct.

3. No Editing

The video will not need to be edited once it is shot – video and audio must be recorded at the same time. If it’s not right, reshoot.

Do not put info into the video that will likely change. There should be no references to the textbook used, the course the content is going into (because it could be repurposed for another course), the sequence of the videos (don’t refer to yesterday’s video, make each video standalone), the module or lesson that the content is going into (because its location could change), or the day on which the video is being shot.

4. Plan Ahead

Planning saves time. Prepare an outline and practice out loud what you’re going to record before the shoot. Try to shoot more than one video at a time. Find a time and location where you will be undisturbed. If you need help from other people ask for it well in advance.

Types of Microvideo

Type of Video Details Ideal Length Resolution Resources Required
Talking Head Introduction or brief lecture. Many takes, single shot. No editing. ≤ 5 minutes ≥ 320×180 or higher webcam & mic, adequate lighting, quiet space
Screen Capture Demo of actions on a computer screen – single concept. No editing. ≤ 5 minutes ≥ 640×480 or higher Screen capture software (camtasia) & mic, quiet space
Interactive Flash Video Built using off the shelf tools. No customization. ≤ 5 minutes ≥ 640×480 relevant software, mic, quiet space
Document Camera Single concept demo of ‘thing’  based operations – math, tools etc. Shot from above via camera and stand. No editing. ≤ 5 minutes 1280×720 (720p) document camera & micadequate lighting, quiet space
Location Shoot Single fixed shot or handheld camera while narrating. No editing. ≤ 5 minutes 1280×720 (720p) HD webcam, wireless  mic, adequate lighting, quiet space

Following these principles will help you to create simple but effective videos that you can put online for your students. It’s easy to get distracted from true microvideo, however. For example, if you’re creating longer videos (say 10 minutes), once you hit that 9 minute mark and make a mistake it becomes a much harder thing to say that you’re going to restart the video from scratch. Soon you’ll start thinking that some quick editing will solve your problem, and then that turns into a much longer process overall. Sticking with short videos makes a big difference in executing the “many takes one shot” principle.

If you have any questions about the technologies we use, please contact LEARN Support at learn@rrc.ca for more information.

I’ll post more soon about some of the solutions we’re looking at to host video in the College.

Attached file: Microvideo Planning Document v2