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    Archive for the 'Review' Category

    Introducing StepShot Manuals

    By Jim R Tyson, on 8 February 2018

    For a while now, I have been quietly promoting StepShot Manuals (StepShot for short) to my colleagues in ISD. StepShot is a rapid documentation development tool. Which is not nearly as bad as it sounds. StepShot allows you to record an on-screen process – for example, formatting a table in Word or filling out an expenses form – taking screenshots, adding callouts and annotations and writing explanations as you go.

    Some key uses for StepShot include

    • rapid development of training materials and technical documentation
    • developing test scripts for UAT
    • recording test results or bugs
    • creating knowledgebase articles
    • recording process for business analysis and process review

    If you have ever done these jobs, then you might have combined several tools, for example

    a screenshot tool (Windows has one built in), Word, an image editor (Paint or Photoshop), with a workflow like this: take all your screenshots, insert them into word editing, cropping etc as you go, adding explanatory text.

    Stepshot brings all this together in one tool. You set it up to record the activity and select to create a screenshot for mouse clicks or keyboard actions or to use a specific hot key combination for screenshots. As you go through the activity recording images you can also give each a descriptive title and a comment. When you stop recording StepShot opens its editing tool. This latter looks a bit like PowerPoint: your images are listed vertically down the left while the main window allows you to edit an image and add text.

    Click to see the animation!

    This is already a vast improvement on hacking documents together with separate applications, none of them specifically designed for the job, but wait there’s more! StepShot can export your document when you have finished, as Word, PDF, HTML, XML or DITA and can publish directly to Confluence, SharePoint or WordPress. (If they add a PowerPoint option I’ll throw a party). There are simple built in templates for output and with a little effort you can create a customised or branded template.

    So, currently about a dozen people at UCL have taken up a license (UCL staff members can contact ISD Training Administration for licensing information. To use StepShot you do need admin rights on your Windows or Mac PC.). It has been used to create training materials for lecturecast (published on Confluence), it has been used in UAT creating test scripts, it has been used by software testers to record bugs and communicate them to developers. No one currently using it has had more than a two minute informal introduction to the product but people seem to pick up its basic use very quickly. Users report that they enjoy using it as well. The most commone response using it for the first time has been about the immense time savings you can achieve and next about the simplicity of use. One or two people have commented that they don’t really like the look of the output, but this is largely because they haven’t learned how to customise output. I have offered a short workshop on customisation and hope to run it again.

    I have created a Microsoft Team site and I will be keeping in touch with people using it since I have been asked to feedback our experience to the developers.

    Book review: ‘Digital Video – A manual for Language Teachers

    By , on 13 January 2017

    This review has been contributed by Paul Sweeney, Instructional Designer, UCL Institute of Opthalmology.

    Digital-Video-coverDigital Video – A manual for Language Teachers

    Nik Peachey

    Cost: £4.99

    Format: iBook or PDF from http://peacheypublications.com/

    Who is this book aimed at?

    All teachers of English as a Foreign Language (EFL) also known as ELT and related disciplines of ESL and ESOL.

    Anyone teaching languages to teens and adults

    Questions any language teacher might ask before buying a resource book:

    Will I learn something? Will it save me time? Will it become a useful addition to the (digital) bookshelf?

    Answers: Yes, yes and yes

    Questions for any language teacher might ask about buying an educational technology themed resource book:

    Do I need a certain amount of experience in order to be able to make use of this? Or – for more advanced practitioners –  Is this only for beginners? Will I still learn something?

    Answers: No, No, Yes

    Why should I buy a book about exploiting digital video?

    Because online video is an increasingly important part of everyday experience. Everyone is viewing and sharing more video than ever before. So what? There is also an ocean of text and images washing over us. The relevance to education is? The point is that most of us are already sufficiently empowered to deal with text and audio. Those of us who are so inclined can tweet, blog, Facebook, Instagram etc. to our heart’s content and many educators are taking advantage of a plethora tools to explore associated educational benefits. Video is different. Where to find resources (apart from YouTube)? What tools to use? What approaches to take? That is what this book offers help with.  Lots of resources, tools and techniques even the savvy may not have known about. Very practical suggestions, all linked to pedagogy and learning outcomes. There is no “tech for tech’s sake” here.

    Is this only for English as a Foreign Language (EFL / ELT) teachers?

    The resource reviews are more focussed on the core audience but the majority is of use to language teachers anywhere and quite a few sections of general interest to teachers of any subject where bringing video into the classroom and student creation of video offers potential.

    I am less experienced with video or learning technologies. What does this book offer me?

    • Video tutorials (hosting a video online/ downloading videos / embedding videos in a webpage / muting audio / adding subtitles / creating QR codes / creating a video slideshow)NB you need to be online to access these.
    • Technical help in selecting editing tools and hosting sites
    • A clickable glossary throughout which picks up lots of the key digital terms – examples of words glossed – apps / applications / synchronous / asynchronous / target language / URL / QR code / LMS interlocutor / paradigm.
    • A good range of comprehension and creation activities to try out with step by step instructions.
    • A list of resource sites to explore.

    How does this support more experienced teachers?

    All of the above is useful for most audiences but experienced users can benefit from is a helpful overview to jump around easily. There are also sections on ‘cool tools’ and application reviews.

    So far so positive. Any negatives?

    • For a higher education audience, the Approaches to Learning chapter (Chapter 4) may come across as simplistic although this does not detract from many of the sound points therein. The real value of the book is the tutorials, tools, sample tasks and resources.
    • The tutorial videos don’t work offline.
    • In this fast-moving environment, some of the tools and resources listed are no longer available. Three out of approximately twenty resources fall into this category.
    • Two out of the academic resources fall into this category at time of writing (November 2016) http://www.mobento.com and videosci.com. Also one of the kids resources www.videos.esl-for-kids.com

    Anything else about this book?

    In keeping with his frontier-gazing, guru status in some circles, the author adopted what he termed a Publishing 3.0 approach https://nikpeachey.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/publishing-30-new-model-for-independent.html. Firstly he used crowd-funding to sign up a number of guaranteed readers in advance – which also explains why there is a discreet sponsor stamp on each page.  Secondly he self-published which inevitably led to a few rough edges but for £4.99 who is arguing?

    And finally

    Coincidentally, this is the second excellent book on the subject produced for the EFL / ELT sector recently.  Language Learning with Digital Video (Cambridge University Press) is an excellent addition to this new field and, like the Nik Peachey book, has won an award or two.