Friday, 25 July 2008

Jing & Screencast (scoring web 2.0 tools)

In my last blog I was asked for my comments on how good I found the web 2.0 tools I used (see

I used Jink (a free, open source tool, easy for creating slideshows and screencasts) and hosted by screen (a free, open source tool, by the same company as Jing called TechSmith).
Jink is great, really easy to learn, it sits in the background in the top corner of your screen (so you can use it at a moments notice). You can take a screenshot (and do some nice animation), you can video your actions on your screen (ie. Used as a tutorial for learners or “how to….” session), you can record audio on top of a powerpoint presentation. You are limited to 5 minutes video only (though Jink use this as a USP saying 5 minutes is enough!!!). The problem is that the file format is not compatible with many other file sharing sites (eg. You Tube). This is a real issue for me and a real pain (I’m sure others too would have issue on this). Jing puts a positive spin on this saying it’s files are not compressed so are better quality.

I didn’t however like, a site where you host your Jing content. I couldn’t see any network effect (no real community sharing stuff and bouncing ideas of each other). It’s not that pretty a site (well to me in any case). You can embed files in other sites, but you are limited to only 1 type of widget (which isn’t the best) and it doesn’t work with all sites (eg. It doesn’t work with quite a few blogs).

That’s the end of the blog………but you can read on! I’ve rated Jing/screencast under several criteria. I’m going to try to do this with other tools. This will mean that I can compare & contrast tools. The main criteria are around ease of use; multi-media & instructional design (does it help learners learn). I’ve been tough on Jing/screencast as I see 10 out of 10 as very easy to use, fairly rich multi media, good instructional design & a good network!!! Please do let me know what you think of the criteria!!!

I've just set up a wiki for these tools. Please see (you won't be able to read the table below on blogger!)

Friday, 18 July 2008

What do employers want from training and elearning?

Here’s a very short presentation with audio of my view of what employers want from training and elearning. It’s based on numerous pieces of Ufi learndirect research, external research and my own direct experience of working with employers. All this in 4 minutes!!!!!

PS. I’m often asked what web 2.0 tools I have used. This presentation used Jink (a free, open source tool, easy for creating slideshows and screencasts) and hosted by screen (a free, open source tool, by the same company as Jing called TechSmith)

PPS. If you want the RSS feed or to add to your iTunes library visit......

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Make podcasting easy for learners and customers (user generated content), plus free guide

There are three aspects about making podcasting easy for learning
1) Technical aspect - “How to” do a podcast
2) Consider how podcasting fits into the learning (ie. the pedagogy in official speak!)
3) Create the right environment (or community of practice) so that learners want to share and can see the benefit.
In this blog, I’m going to take the first aspect (let me know if you would like me to cover the other aspects?)

For a definition of podcasting see

Podcasting made difficult! The standard steps are:
1) Buy an audio recorder. Learn how to use it!
2) Buy a microphone for the audio recorder. Learn how to use it! And where to place it for the best sound recording
3) Record the podcast (there are many different styles of a podcast from an interview style or just recording someone’s thoughts on a subject. You don‘t want it too boring, or to long or too many “hhmms“! etc). You might want to use a podcast for formal assessment as part of an e-Portfolio.
4) Use a USB cable to connect the audio recorder to your laptop. Transfer the file over (learn how to do this first!)
5) You may want to edit the podcast using great free software like Audacity (so you need to download the software from the web and learn how to use it!)
6) Many websites want a compressed MP3 file - so you need to learn how to convert the file to the right format (fairly easy to do, but still a learning process!)
7) Upload it to the website/LMS/social networking site/community of practice/your blog. Many sites are quite difficult. Unfortunately, too often it is not 1 button to upload, then a quick message to say it has been successful! (You may also want to share the podcast more widely. Then there are also is the learning curve around distributing the podcast via iTunes or RSS feeds).

You can combine some of the above steps by recording on a mobile phone or a camera, but you still have to work out how to connect it to your laptop and how to download it (on a mobile phone you often need to download the mobile phone own software in order to do this).

If you are not used to the web or don’t have the time, I would give up the will to live! Let’s make it easy for learners or tutors to share and collaborate.

Podcasting made easy - two ways:

Mobile Podcasting - see Gcast (or other similar sites). You use your mobile phone, call a number; you speak and your podcast is automatically recorded; it is automatically uploaded on the relevant website.

Podcasting via Skype - cut out many of the above steps by simply recording a Skype call via a free recorder widget. Then upload to the relevant site (make sure your site makes it possible to upload really easily though!). See

For a free guide about podcasting produced by my company, Ufi learndirect, with Kineo, please see (it’s a great guide particularly around the different styles of podcasts eg. Interview style podcast, but doesn‘t cover “how to make podcasting easy“)

There’s also a good podcast from Donald Clarke (a Ufi Board member)

Be great to hear from you if you have tips on “how to make podcasting easy for learners, teachers or customers”

Thursday, 3 July 2008

How I use Facebook (Social Networking and learning, 1)

I’ve been thinking about how social networking can be used for learning for a while now! The only problem is that I’ve been thinking about it by myself (which sort of defeats the object of social media!). So I thought I would put some of those thoughts on my blog as a first step. At the same time, Ben Tomkinson (who works in my team at Ufi learndirect) is looking at social networking, how other training providers and companies are using it (what can be learnt from this), and how Ufi learndirect might use it (though we already have some exciting things on the go).

As this will probably be a series of blogs, I will start at the beginning. How I use social networking sites and what I find useful. I find you need to understand the social web fairly well before you can then go on to thinking about learning solutions. I’m no expert but I have spent considerable time interacting on the social web (just ask my wife how annoying this is!!)

I’m on Facebook, Linked In (business networking) and Twitter (micro social networking). I know this sounds draconian, but my first step was to tell my friends that they could only interact with me via Facebook (yes, we can still meet face to face!! I’m talking about online here!). This blog is about Facebook.

What I found is that email communication is a poor man’s social network! Why do email when you can social network?

The two big things (for me in any case) is……
1) I do not want a million friends on Facebook!! My security is set so that only friends can view my Facebook page. I reject most people. I just want my friends (or those friends I have lost touch with accidentally!). I’ve rejected my Grandma’s invite to be a friend as at her age I don’t think she should know what I get up too!! I’m thinking of her health of course! Seriously though sometimes I don’t want all my family on my Facebook site! To solve this, I am thinking of having two pages - one for my inner circle and one for the rest. Also I’m aware that many people meet new people on the web (I do this more via specialist communities of practices or blogs. Some of these communities of practice are via Facebook. They are called “Groups”.)

2) Social Networking via a laptop is a bore and is so yesterday!! Mobile is so much better! You can organise your life, view your friends updates, update your status, upload photo’s all via your mobile. I have my mobile with me 24/7. I’m only online via a laptop for 5-10 hours a day (you may gasp!!)

I feel there is still a blog or two about social networking in general. But I promise that in future blogs I will discuss what can be potentially applied to learning. Also I’m very much aware that I’m quite into online social media. Others will not use it in as deep or rich way that I do! Others may use the social media in a deeper way than me! Though I do feel that what was once the preserve of the early adopter, the geek and the young is widening out. That you can look at some aspects of how geeks and the young use social media and in some cases see what the future is.

Help please!!! Could you let me know how you or your friends use social networking (or why you hate it!). Just put a comment on the blog (I know many of you prefer to email me with comments, but it would be great if you could share your views. Anonymous comments are fine!)

That’s the end of the blog………..PS. But read on if you want a more detailed list of what I like about Facebook (the same goes with the other sites):

  • Your friends know what you are up to. You know what they are up to (without millions of phone calls or texts!!). I update my status fairly regularly on Facebook (where am I. What am I doing. If it is vaguely interesting that is!). I put pictures on Faceebook (but mostly via mobile phone. You take the pic and send it to your Facebook site. It’s so easy. To be honest I really can’t be bothered to link my camera and upload pic’s via a laptop!). You don’t have to email or speak to friends - you can just be!! You interact when you want rather than think that you have to phone someone because you haven’t spoken to them for a while!
    Likewise I can keep track of my friends and what they are doing. All this is aggregated into one page (you don’t have to go into individual friends pages; though I do sometimes put messages on their “wall”)
  • Organise my social life. It’s much easier than email as you can chat to everyone (or selected subgroups) at once. I also instant message via Face book.
  • There are lots of widgets on Facebook developed by third parties. Some of them are fun where you can compare your interests with friends (eg. Music, films, IQ!) and do quizzes etc etc
  • Share your favourite clips and videos
  • Groups: I belong to groups on Facebook (eg. Tottenham Hotspurs, Springsteen and some learning groups). This is great. Companies should go where their customers are (as this is easiest for the customer).

PPS. Starter for 10. A list of questions I think we need answers to during any research. Do you have any to add??
1. How do people use social networking sites in their everyday lives. What may happen in 5 years!
2. How are training providers or tutors/lectures using social networking sites (case studies). How are companies using sites for communications/engagement with staff and customers. What can we learn?
3. What do the “experts” think social networking sites could be used for in relation to learning. How can it be used both in formal and informal learning (and structured vs. unstructured learning). Can it also be used as evidence for assessment? How is it blended with often linear (!) elearning courses.
4. What is the difference between a network (social network) and a community (a community of practice)
5. What are the pro’s and cons of using social networking sites for learning (eg. you should go to where your learners are; are there security issues)
6. What are the pro’s and cons of building your own community of practice outside a social networking site. (How do you build your own community? What are the Critical Success Factors to building a community of practice. There is now quite a bit of science out there to this!). Perhaps this is a separate piece of research?
7. What is the social networking functionality to Learner Management Systems. How can social networking sites (or community or practice) be integrated with a LMS?