Free: SnagIt Screen Capture

26 11 2007

TechSmith, who are still giving out copies of Camtasia Studio for free, are now also giving away another of their premium products, SnagIt.

Like Camtasia, SnagIt allows you to capture anything you see on your screen and save it and edit it for creating small instructional resources. However, SnagIt can be configured for “one-clicK” access on your computer, and allows you to capture high-quality still images as well as video. You can add effects and instructional text and graphics, and even make your tutorial interactive with clickable areas and text.

Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (English)
Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (German)
Click here to download SnagIt 7.2.5 (French)

Click here for a key to register SnagIt 7.2.5 demo as a fully licensed version.

Because SnagIt outputs interactive Flash files as well as images and video files, it can be used in a number of ways to create mobile learning content for PDAs, mobile phones and media players. It could also be used by learners to document their mastery of a computer-based process or to create content for sharing with other learners.

(via Freebies Blog)

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Developing Us! M-Learning and More…

19 11 2007

Advocating educational innovation is usually not an easy task. While some aspects of educational technology – such as online learning and teaching – have gained a foothold in many institutions, newer ideas like mobile learning or the use of virtual worlds are being explored and practiced by a much smaller number of educators.

There are many barriers to teachers trying out and using new and innovative approaches in teaching and learning. It can be hard to find the time to explore and develop new ideas; online “social learning” sites such as YouTube may be blocked; or teachers may not be able to access equipment or funds needed to try out new ideas (such as for mobile learning activities). And that’s if a given teacher even has the inclination to pursue innovative teaching and learning practices; while most teachers are at least interested in new ideas for teaching, there are many more who are just fine with doing it the way they’ve always done it, and see no reason to change.

As part of my work at CIT’s Flexible Learning Solutions (shortly to be re-organised as a unit within the Institute’s Centre for Excellence in Education), I’m currently working on a few ideas for getting more teachers interested in using innovative methods and activities for learning. I’d be keen to hear what other people think about these ideas… :)

The first of these is the concept of “Teaching Commons”. Our organisation has several distinct campuses – none of which provide space for teachers from various disciplines or campuses to mingle and share their ideas for learning and teaching, let alone exposure to new practices.

A Teaching Commons area would be a space on each campus where all staff could spend some time getting a cup of coffee and talking with their colleagues. As such, it would have a “social” atmosphere and would feel like a welcoming place to visit. Staff visiting other campuses would find it particularly appealing since there currently isn’t anywhere to log into the staff network if you happen to be visiting another campus away from your own department’s offices.

However, this would be so much more than an ordinary “common room”. The idea here is to dedicate part of the space to be a functional and flexible workshop area, with computers and a Smartboard, as well as the ability to connect additional laptops if required. Various staff who support best-practice teaching and learning at our Institute would use this as a regular base of operations for consulting with and assisting teachers; and we’d also run workshops in this area. Adorning the walls would be posters on different innovative learning approaches and new practices, and all-in-all, the space would be a regular hotpot of professional development, peer discussion, and teaching and learning support. By converging social and learning spaces for teachers, it would provide an ongoing opportunity for engaging, developing and supporting teachers in flexible learning practice.

This physical “teaching commons” space could be complemented by an online “teaching commons” space reflecting many of the same ideas and themes as the physical one. Allowing teachers to put up their own interest groups in a “groupware” environment such as ELGG would lead to the development of a healthy online community discussing both teaching and learning issues as well as what people did on the weekend.

Another project I’m working on is an activity for CIT’s “Developing Us” all-staff professional development day, scheduled for the 29th of January 2008. There is a choice of some 50 workshops to be held across three time slots, including a large number of sessions around professional development. To make the day more engaging, I’m developing a learning activity to play across the whole day… but this activity could equally be played out by a class over the course of a week or a semester.

[slideshare id=171496&doc=where-in-the-web-is-crimson-sanfierro-119544095753786-1&w=425]

Where in the Web is Crimson Sanfierro? (CC)” is a Creative Commons game styled after the popular childrens’ educational game, “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego? (TM)” :) Instead of being a computer game about geographical locations, however, “Crimson Sanfierro” flips the paradigm on its head – it’s a game played across physical locations, about the web. :) Participants pick up “clues” from various sessions they attend during the day, and locations they visit… and use these clues to solve “cases”. They can get some additional information from the MySpace profiles of various fictitious suspects to help solve the cases, which are also all themed to fit in with the learning issues being explored on the day.

As we’ve yet to play out the game here, I can’t say too much more, except to say that I’ll say more after we’ve run the game. :) It promises to be a lot of fun. :)

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Workshop Activity: Paper Blogs

16 03 2007

I came up with this activity to demonstrate to teachers what (mo)blogs are, how they work, and why they can be such a powerful strategy for empowering and engaging learners. I’ve used it on a number of occasions – first for a Social Web Professional Development Day in July 2006, and most recently, last Friday, at a Professional Development workshop on M-Learning, for the University of Canberra. I’m pleased to see it has also been used by others I’ve taught it to, as a fun and accurate way to explain blogging – and it doesn’t even need a computer!

UC Mobile LearnersObjective:

To provide a hands-on, interactive explanation of (mo)blogging, and the way that blogs can be used in education as powerful learning tools.

Participants:

For a group of 6 or more workshop participants. The bigger the group, the better and more fun.

Materials:

  • A5 sheets of Paper – one per participant, and preferably in many colours
  • Writing implements – lots of colours of ballpoint pens and/or colourful textas
  • Post-It Notes – I use 47.6 x 73mm ones. If you can find some colourful ones around this size, so much the better. :)

Procedure:

  1. Place the Materials (listed above) in the middle of the activity space. Explain that this represents a Blogging Site: a place that provides you with all of the tools you need to set up and publish a blog.
  2. Invite participants to choose a sheet of Paper for themselves in any colour, as well as a pad of Post-It Notes and some Writing Implements. Explain that this represents how blogging sites allow users to customise the appearance of their own blogs, and personalise them.
  3. Tell the participants that they are about to write their very first blog post. (I like to get participants to blog about “Food and Drink” for this activity, because everyone has their own favourites, and it makes this exercise more fun; but you might have your own topic in mind). Ask them to write a paragraph or so about their favourite food or drink, and to draw a picture of it.
  4. Ask participants to also “tag” their post, by adding some summary information at the bottom: for example, whether this item is served hot or cold; whether it is a food or a drink; or whether it is served as an entree, main course, or dessert.
  5. Now everyone puts their posts back in the middle, and you invite participants to each take someone else’s post. Ask them to comment on the content, by writing their comments on Post-It Notes and sticking them onto the original post: for example, do they agree or disagree with the original poster’s favourite food? Do they like the picture that the original poster drew? Tell them that blogs allow this kind of commenting” by readers, which can help learners to consider new ideas and reflect on their own in new ways.
  6. Get participants to keep putting their commented posts back into the Blogging Site for others to read and comment. They are allowed to review their own blogs at any stage and remove comments they don’t think are useful, or comment on each others’ comments, too. When this has gone on for a little while, and all of the blogs have at least a couple of comments on them, get everyone to put all the blogs back in the middle and to find their own. The multicoloured paper helps to make this much simpler. :) They should have lots of fun reading their comments!
  7. Explain that this is what social software, such as blogs, is all about: sharing and exchanging ideas to build new ideas and new knowledge.
  8. Get everyone on their feet, and ask anyone whose food or drink is (or could be) served hot to stand on your left, and everyone else to stand on your right. Explain that this demonstrates how “tags” or “categories” are used to organise information in blogs, which are usually also searchable, to make it easy to discover new information in other people’s blogs.
  9. As a final (optional) activity, ask everyone to write another (brief) blog post on another favourite food or beverage, and to come and stand in front of you when they finish. Explain that most blogs allow readers to subscribe to them in various ways – with RSS being the most popular – which allows readers to be immediately informed if a blogger updates their blog, without having to visit each site.

You can certainly expand on and vary this activity to suit your participants, but this sequence communicates most of the important principles of blogging, without a computer in sight, and uses visual, auditory and kinaesthetic aspects to engage learners with all learning styles, which makes this a very fun activity for all.

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