house design, edtech & musings …so far!



Creating a Podcast using Screenr and iMovie ’09

How to create a podcast using Screenr, (free, web-based screen recording software) and iMovie, including adding narration and a company logo.   Continue reading “Creating a Podcast using Screenr and iMovie ’09”


Learn how to pronounce words using video…

This post is guest authored by Tay Omojokun, one of the Co-Founders of EmbedPlus, (I featured their ‘enhanced video tool‘ in a previous post) introducing a new tool they’ve developed to help students learn how to pronounce English words using video. Over to Tay…

An earlier post from this month covered EmbedPlus, which enhances embedded YouTube videos with features that the standard player does not currently have.  The EmbedPlus development team is also leveraging the tool to offer free video-centric learning experiences in different educational domains.  The first release is in the language learning space—a video-based pronunciation dictionary that offers learners a chance to hear and see authentic word pronunciations from real people in real situations.  By integrating video content with a dictionary, learners gain the apparent benefits of non-isolated pronunciations and face-to-face pronunciation examples.

The team is especially looking for feedback from language teaching professionals. If you’re an ESL/ELT teacher looking to experiment with this idea, start by exploring the links below to see examples of words with and without videos.

With videos:A video pronunciation dictionary

how to pronounce apple

how to pronounce genre

how to pronounce miscellaneous

Without videos:

how to pronounce zabaglione

how to pronounce awesome

how to pronounce cache

An extra plus is that the dictionary is crowd-sourced.  So, if you have a YouTube channel with quality speakers and are looking for a new way to get views, we suggest submitting your info to the team. Contact them here.

How to embed a video or presentation into a TULIP page…

A few of us have recently been having problems when trying to embed videos or presentations into TULIP pages. Everything seems to be going well until you hit the ‘Stop Editing’ button – and your embed code disappears!

I notified Support Desk about this and Martin Walter in the Web Team has now told me how to do it (thanks Martin!) so here you go…

I used a newly discovered bit of free software to create this guide – Clarify (available for both mac and PC) enables you to quickly and easily put together an instructional document with screenshots and annotations. You can then export it as a PDF so that it can be easily shared via email without clogging up your Inbox. For the purpose of this blog, I then uploaded this PDF to Issuu, as it displays PDFs rather nicely and you can embed them into your page.

Hopefully this should solve what has been an annoying problem and make our teaching & learning sites look a bit more engaging! Please let me know if it’s of use :o)

How to cut out a difficult subject in Photoshop CS5…

You may have noticed I have a new blog theme! I used  ‘The Common Blog’ by Mark Ellis as I really like the simplicity and colour scheme, which I think really complements the ‘air brushed’ photo. A huge thankyou to Mr Lyndon for his help with customising the theme btw!

I originally decided to use this photo for my Facebook profile, having been inspired by some really cool designs. I also needed to make sure that my online profiles looked OK as I was presenting a workshop about promoting yourself online to graduates (more on that in my next post). Plus, I’ve wanted to try out the new masking tools in Photoshop CS5 for a while now, and this seemed the perfect opportunity to test them to the max – strangely, I couldn’t find any tutorials that use a model with curly hair!

Here’s the original photo…

As you can see, there isn’t much contrast between the colour of my hair and the carpet behind me. (The first two tutorials I looked at conveniently had their model placed on a seamless white background – Ha! if only!)

I finally managed to find a tutorial that was slightly more challenging – it’s in two parts.

The new ‘quick selection’ tool is quite impressive – I was able to select the outline of my body and hands fairly easily, although I did have to tweak it a bit. Now, ‘Dr Brown’ makes the point that you should ‘select less to achieve more’. I disagree. I found I needed to return to tweaking my initial mask in order to select as much of the hair as possible, because when you get on to painting the edges of transition it generates alot of noise – on top of the noise curly hair already has in abundance! Although there is an ‘eraser’ tool to remove this, because you’re still dealing with transition you have no idea what result you’re going to get – sometimes it makes it worse! Also, each time you work on an area you’re actually affecting the whole mask.

I think I made things harder for myself by choosing to place me on a white background – a coloured one would have been more forgiving. It took me 4 attempts to do this and, as you can see, there’s still alot more work to be done! So, if you want a challenge…

Hair Detail from Original

Creating my first podcast with Camtasia Studio on a Mac…

Just noticed I haven’t blogged since November! I’ve been contributing alot to the UoP TEL Newsletter though – check it out if you haven’t seen it…

A recurring topic is podcasting – and, while I’ve researched and written articles around this, I had never created one myself with a voiceover …until now.

Now I work in a small, but open plan office with 5 others and a drop-in area. This is probably obvious but, even with everyone making an effort to be quiet, there is no way you can create a podcast in this sort of an environment! Not just because phones go off or people walk in, but because you actually need to really concentrate on what you are saying  …and get over the horrible sound of your own voice!

So I had to do this one in the evening at home (it being a last-minute request). I downloaded a trial of Camtasia Studio –  it’s really designed for PC so Mac-users, such as myself, only get a ‘slim-line’ version. This means that you don’t have the option of recording narration separately, which means that you HAVE to write yourself a script! I tried without one several times but, because my podcast was instructing users how to complete a profile in PebblePad which involves lots of windows, I kept losing track of where I was. I ended up having to do it in 3 chunks and sticking them together afterwards. Camtasia had a strange moment when it claimed it didn’t recognise its own format (?!), so I had to record 2 chunks again – grrr! So the whole process took about 4.5 hours and 4ish beers for a 5 minute video…

I then discovered that I couldn’t upload the video to PebblePad to attach to the profile because of the 10MB upload limit (video was about 35MB) – doh!

Said video is now on the University’s UPmedia site and attached to the profile – hurrah! I can’t listen to it myself – too horrible – but was told (in between much hysterical laughter) that I sound very clipped, like a 50’s BBC broadcaster …but that was a good thing!

My recommendations from this experience are…

  • Find somewhere really quiet to do your podcast. On campus I believe there are special ‘booths’ in the Library – but do they have podcasting software installed? Is there anywhere else? Can we get a software license that enables people to do this at home? (Q’s for those with the power..)
  • Write a script
  • Allow plenty of time
  • Make sure you have a ready supply of beer and fags!

Using Camtasia Studio 7 to create video tutorials…

I’ve been creating video tutorials to illustrate how UoP staff can embed media such as YouTube videos into their Tulip pages. Camtasia Studio is incredibly quick and easy to use, and produces quality tutorials. You simply click on ‘Record the screen’ at the top of the page and choose the area you wish to capture. When you have finished recording, you can do quite detailed editing, zooming into specific parts of the screen through creating new keyframes and even adding a funky introduction. Here is a brief overview of some of its editing features…

Zooming and adding 'call outs' in Camtasia studio 7Camtasia comes with pre-prepared video intros that you add to the beginning of your tutorial by simply dragging your selected one onto the timeline at the bottom of the screen. You can then choose a transition to take you to the first screen of your tutorial.

You can add keyframes so that you can zoom in to demonstrate, e.g. which item you need to select from a menu. You can also add ‘call outs’ – extra information boxes to explain why or how you need to do things in more detail. You can also add a voice-over track.

Other, as yet untried by me, features include overlaying a video clip of, e.g. a talking head; adding captions and the ability to add a survey/ quiz.

Once you have finished you have different options to publish and share – most outputs are mp4 (mpeg 4) which will play on the web and i-devices. You can also save directly to CD or DVD – this will produce a larger avi file. However, I found the easiest method was to publish straight to YouTube although, to be honest, I haven’t got this to work fully and have had to upload the mp4 manually through YouTube itself. But, this means you can easily embed your tutorial into your Tulip page! Please see the finished videos for how to do this! :o)

If you would like to try Camtasia Studio 7 out for yourself we have versions for both mac and PC available on our drop-in machines. Email if you would like to book a slot – LTs are always on hand should you get stuck! You may also find Techsmith’s tutorials in Camtasia Studio Learning Centre helpful.

How to use clipping path masks in Illustrator CS3

fp6I’ve been designing a new look for Tandem Exchange Online and, as it facilitates pairing students to learn different languages, came up with the idea of having people icons made up of different flags. As the images will be used for both print and web I used Illustrator to create the artwork. However, my people icons (thankyou Mr Lyndon!) were created using two paths – one for the head and one for the body. I tried finding a tutorial that would make both paths a ‘clipping mask’ but in the end had to work it out myself. Here’s how to do it (more for me in case I forget – which is likely!)

I used Adobe Illustrator CS3

  • Select both the paths that make up the ‘person’ and make a ‘compound path’ (Object > Compound Path > Make)
  • Drag the flag image into the same group layer making sure it’s at the bottom of the stack (as I was using gifs downloaded from the web I had to convert them to RGB and up the resolution to 300 dpi). Rotate and put into correct position.
  • Select all and make ‘clipping mask’ (Object > Clipping Path > Make)
  • Edit ‘clipping mask’ (click icon on top toolbar) and stroke (in this case 2 pixels)

et voila!

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