Final Post – Reflection On This Blog

This is my final post so I think I will just talk about my experience with writing this blog.

When we first received this blog assignment, I was slightly confused as to what the point specifically was ie: was it to help us reflect or was it to highlight what we have learned so far or was it to communicate with each other? I now think that it was basically all 3, perhaps more so to allow us reflection on our learning.

I have enjoyed the experience but not really for reasons of my own learning reflections. Though I found it cathartic at times to write out my thoughts if I felt confused or anxious about a project, the main thing I have gained from it is the fantastic method it has provided for communicating with peers, garnering feedback and help/advice and the ability to browse through other students blogs and see what their experiences were.

There have been several times I have picked up useful tips, felt reassured that others were having problems and it wasn’t ‘just me’ and found it generally interesting to read about experiences that differed from mine and understanding why.

Overall, I think it was a great assignment, very beneficial and enjoyable!

Flash Assignment

I am extremely anxious about the Flash assignment we have been given. Though I have by no means started it or foresee starting it for at least another week or two, I have read through the brief and to me, it sounds really difficult.
I have said in lots of these blog posts that I get a little anxious around unfamiliar technology and I think that Flash seems the most difficult -to-grasp application I have come across in this course.
I have tried the lab sheets but i really need to go over them again. I also looked at a the examples Darina gave us of previous Flash projects but they have made me feel even worse as they look so great!
Even though I cannot start this project yet (due to other deadlines), I have realised that I need to start practising Flash NOW, in order to be comfortable enough to attempt this assignment whenever I do.
I have looked through tutorials and videos to try to hone in on any which may help and have come across a few:



When we had the Dreamweaver assignment, I had feelings of apprehension there also, though not as much as with Flash. But, I have to remind myself that once I start putting in the practise I will inevitably feel better, as I did with Dreamweaver. The one thing I like about the assignment, is the specificity of it. Usually, I prefer freedom of choice and creativity but in unfamiliar and scary territory I think strict requirements are better!

I will also be availing of the Sulis discussion thread to ask Flash-related questions. These threads are so beneficial and handy, and are a great supportive resource to have.

Captivate

For our interview assignment we are required to create a presentation using Adobe Captivate.
I initially thought that Captivate was used purely to create presentations (of a quite conventioanl nature). I understood that it was similar to a more dynamic form of Microsoft Powerpoint.

However, I am amazed at the capabilities and creative potential that Captivate allows. I also think that considering the broad range of possible actions that it allows, it is relatively easy to use. Not EASY in actual terms, but easy in relation to what it can produce.

I am still trying to learn the process but I am really intrigued by it and what it could potentially do for my Dissertation Project. I will be creating an E-Learning cours on visual merchandising so my course will rely very heavily on visual and interactive content and I think captivte could certainly help with this particularly in terms of creating learning objects as it also integrates with Flash.

The one thing I find difficult is the TIMING aspects. This is purely because timing is a dimension which is totally new to me in terms of technical processes and it is something I have never had to consider or implement before.

Similar to Audacity but on a much more complex scale, the TIMING of the slides and all objects/captions is a defining factor in the output of using these applications. It is a very new and quite challenging concept for me and one that is taking a while to get used to! I will definitely be availing of internet tutorial videos to learn how to use this tool effectively.

Audacity

I have recorded my podcast using Audacity and I think it’s one of the easiest applications I have ever had to learn.
It’s quite straight-forward and once you think of the sound wave(s) as a ‘visual’ map, the editing processes make perfect sense.
I have also used Audacity to record my interview for TW5212 and had no problems with it whatsoever. Of course, there has been one issue…

One problem I have had, is inserting more ‘time’ into the podcast. I was under the impression that placing the cursor at the point you wish to create (extra) time, and hitting record, this would ‘push over’ the subsequent recording and make room for the new one. I tried this, but all that happened was a new (3rd) soundwave/file was created SIMULTANEOUS to what was there already. For example, I want to create a few more seconds of time in between bits of my recording, but any further recording just adds another file that plays over the initial recording.
I know that placing more time at the beginning or end of the file is easily done but the same method doesn’t seem to apply to WITHIN the file.

Does anyone know where I’m going wrong?

How Do You Prepare For And Structure Podcasts?

I have been researching guidelines and tips on how to create effective podcasts. A lot of the information emphasises the importance of preparation before any recording or editing is done, which makes a lot of sense. As I have started to script mine, I do wonder about things like, do you ‘welcome’ the listener? explain what the content will be and the sequence of it? It seems straightforward but once you get into the detail there does seem to be a lot of planning involved in terms of structure, ‘chunking’ information, timing everything similarly and how to use your voice to emphasise and clarify more important points. I have also found that practising reciting your content is really helpful – the more I have practised the more natural I sound and mistakes are lessened.

I found a helpful youtube video (below) on how to prepare for a podcast, and what makes a good podcast. Though the advise is not geared specifically towards educational podcasts, it seems the guidelines are relevant no matter what the nature of the podcast is;

http://www.videojug.com/player?id=b0186618-c04f-4e27-508e-ff0008c9ad7c
Podcasting:
How To Make A Podcast Part 1: Planning And Preparation

Podcasts As Educational Tools

The podcasts assignment for TW5212 is actually something I am looking forward to. Unlike other assignments, it seems very achievable, non-scary (technology-wise) and I love that we can choose our own non-course-related topic which makes a refreshing change.

I had never really known much about podcasts before. I was aware of them, but I never really considered them in terms of what they are used for or how they would benefit anyone. Now that I have become a lot more familiar with them, it seems like they are completely invaluable tools particularly in the educational sphere.
The fact that the software is free and relatively easy to use is also a major bonus. I found a paper ftp://amd64gcc.dyndns.org/WORLDCOMP06/SER4351.pdf describing the benefits of podcasts in educational institutions and particularly from the perspective of language students, it’s a fantastic tool. The paper mentions one school that actually has recording equipment in its assembley hall, and creates and uploads podcasts of every talk, regardless of attendance numbers. This seems to be something that will get more and more popular.

Another great aspect of podcasts is the amount of creativity that is induced in creating them. An excellent example of the creativity that is developed during a podcast creation can be seen in the work being
done at a San Diego County elementary school, as mentioned in the above paper. There, a music teacher is having his students develop podcasts based on their studies of Africa. The presentations, which were originally slated to be regular oral presentations, were rethought by the instructor, after he took a course explaining the benefits of the technology, and its usefulness in the classroom environment. The students are honing their vocabulary, writing, editing, public speaking and presentation skills. The prospect of adding dynamic elements and audio/visual clips greatly enhances the creativity and individuality of the assignments while engaging with the software itself adds yet another learning outcome.

Learning Dreamweaver

Since starting the website design assignment for TW5212, I have been very anxious about whether or not I could learn enough about using Dreamweaver to create even a basic site. Honestly, it seemed (and seems) very ‘fiddly’ to me, and the whole CSS system is annoying, though I can see how eventually it would become a useful system once mastered.
The way I approached this assignment was basically to write the content for each of my 10 pages in Microsoft Word, then when I had it all written, images and media sourced, I would worry about the technical side. However, I finished this over a week ago and am still trying to get to grips with Dreamweaver. Despite our lab sheets and information on the net, I just couldn’t find a good starting point for myself, all the different approaches confused me, the new terminologies, html code, servers, root folders-all new to me and really frustrating.
These were some ofthe initial things I found confusing when starting Dreamweaver:

Where are all the files stored? What is the difference between the folders (root, site etc)?
Why can I preview my pages in the browser sometimes, and other times all I can see is code? (still don’t understand that actaully…)
How do I manipulate divs?
Is it better to use a template, make my own template, use frames as a template or use embedded templates?
Do I have to create a CSS for EVERY bit of text I write?

Those were my initial problems, but I more or less have gotten over those now (and other ones have developed). The past few days I have definitely made progress, I have spent days trying to get to grips with it and finally have maybe half of my site done. Whereas I began by trying to use embedded templates, I eventually found that creating my own template using divs was the easiest way for me to begin. Once I got my head around ‘creating editable regions’ and FINALLY became comfortable the css system, I feel a litle better. I still have to work on some sort of navigation system, and I’m finding inserting images slightly dodgy but hopefully I’ll figure it out.

Here is a youtube tutorial video I found helpful as it shows how to create pages from templates you have created yourself;

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