How to “Explain Everything”

If the latest version of the NMC Horizon Report Higher Education Edition is any indication, tablet computing continues to be at the forefront of higher education trends. As a new tablet owner myself, I have been looking for more ways to incorporate it into my daily work life aside from reading email, taking notes and enjoying the occasional YouTube video. Also, as more librarians are using tablets for roving reference or during instructional sessions, it’s interesting to consider how shifting more of our day-to-day work to tablets might look.

Given the increasing number of librarians interested and involved in creating online instructional materials, one area to explore in tablet computing is screencasting and screencapture applications which allow librarians to do this type of work on-the-go.

Explain Everything

One of my favorite applications I’ve found so far for screencasting from my iPad is Explain Everything. Explain Everything is an iOS app which allows you to interact with images and presentations on your iPad, including adding annotations and recording live animation or voice narration.

Creating and Editing Projects

To begin a new project in Explain Everything, you can upload images (JPG or PNG), upload other compatible files (including PDF or RTF and PowerPoint, Excel, Word, Pages or Numbers files), or start from scratch with a blank project. Projects are presented as a series of slides, with new pages or images from imported documents each appearing as separate slides. You can rearrange, duplicate, insert, and delete slides within the Explain Everything project.

Explain Everything Home screen

Explain Everything home screen displaying saved projects.

Once a project is created, you can manipulate objects using the interactive white board. Tools in the whiteboard allow for adding new slides, annotating or free-hand drawing, inserting shapes or typed text, adding additional images, and opening a live browser window. You can also rotate, resize, and delete objects.

Explain Everything Whiteboard

Editing and recording interactive whiteboard in Explain Everything. Image created using Skitch

Recording

In addition to manipulating the slides on screen, you can record a presentation or screencast. Using the “Record” button on the bottom of the whiteboard will capture your live annotation, object manipulations, laser pointer, and voice narration. You can continuously record while navigating from slide to slide, and easily pause the recording during interruptions.

Since Explain Everything also allows you to open a live browser window, you can easily create projects which demonstrate online resources. This is particularly nice for libraries as we create guides for users to reference when interacting with our online catalogs, databases, etc. Unfortunately Explain Everything’s recording capabilities may not capture some online animations (including pop up windows and javascript), which can make it difficult to demonstrate certain interactive online activities (like typing into a search box).

For demonstration purposes, you can see a couple of quick videos I created using the recording function.

Saving and Exporting

One of the best features of Explain Everything is its ability to export projects in different formats to different locations. Projects can be exported as Explain Everything’s XPL format, or as PDFs, images (PNG), and videso (MOV/MP4), and can be saved to various places like the iPad camera roll or Youtube, as well as your favorite cloud storage service (including Evernote, Dropbox, and Google Drive). You can also adjust the quality and size of exported images and videos, though the quality of its compressed videos may leave something to be desired for some users.

Export and Save in Explain Everything

Export and Save in Explain Everything

Wrapping Up

Although not a free app, Explain Everything’s current price at $2.99 (or $1.49 per copy if you’re purchasing more than 20 copies through Apple’s education volume purchasing) is significantly lower cost than many other screencasting alternatives which offer the same type of features and capabilities. Additionally, you can learn more about using basic and advanced features of Explain Everything with video guides and a free iBook manual. [Note: At this time, Explain Everything is available for iOS only. However, Android users may want to check out these posts when looking for Android-friendly alternatives.]

In addition to creating quick, low-cost screencasts and tutorials, Explain Everything might be useful for librarians who are using iPad carts in library instruction or libraries with iPad check out programs, providing students an easy way to create and export their own screencast projects or narrated presentations.

Have you tried to create screencasts or tutorials using a tablet application? Leave us a comment!

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Poll ‘Em Everywhere

Do you ever look out at your class and see students checking email, text messaging, or simply sleeping?  Let’s be honest, library instruction has the potential to be a bit boring.  Why not spice it up and make it more interactive with Poll Everywhere?  Give your students a fun option for in-class participation using their own cell phones.  Poll Everywhere has two main types of polls: multiple choice and free text.  The choices in multiple choice polls are set up by the instructor on the Poll Everywhere website and voted on via text message by the students.  Like American Idol, your students can “vote” by simply texting a number or a keyword to a designated phone number.    This type of poll could be used as a quick quiz to gauge student engagement or it could be used to provoke class discussion.  The free text poll allows an instructor to ask a question and for students to text in their free text answers.  This could be a great way to brainstorm keywords or to get feedback or answer questions that students might feel uncomfortable to ask.  This could be especially for encouraging shy students to participate in discussions.  Both poll types update in real time without much of a delay.

Poll Everywhere has a variety of pricing options from free to $1400 a month (http://www.polleverywhere.com/plans).  Their free version includes up to 30 responses per poll which could work for some classroom settings.  For $15 a month you can bring that up to 50 responses.  Both versions require participants to text in a number rather than a keyword, which could get confusing.  For $65 a month, instructors can choose the keywords that students text for their answers.

In general, I think Poll Everywhere could be a great (possibly free) alternative to clickers in the classroom setting.  My only concern would be the cost to students.  While many of our students have unlimited text message plans, some do not.  Poll Everywhere does have one workaround;  students can choose to vote via a website instead.  This would, of course, only work in computer classrooms or for those who have unlimited data plans on their phones.    I think that as long as the activity is not required, it could be a great tool for any kind of classroom or even presentation setting.

Andy Burkhardt at Champlain College wrote on his experience using Poll Everywhere for library instruction back in October on his blog.  Check it out here: http://andyburkhardt.com/2010/10/25/poll-everywhere-in-library-instruction/

Hope to see/ meet many of you at the ACRL conference this week!

-Carissa

Bullet points, begone!!!

Now that our blog has received national exposure, thanks to Erin Dorney and the good people at ACRL, I’m feeling the pressure to show just how emerging we are when it comes to technology.  And so, I present to you the very first Library Tech Talk entry about…

PowerPoint

Yes, I know.  PowerPoint has achieved ubiquity – it’s like the Kleenex of slide presentations.  Lately you may have heard that those bullet points you use in your presentations aren’t so effective.  Additionally, you may have begun observing a new trend of slides littered with Flickr images.  Not that I’m dismissing the effectivenes of images, but, practically speaking, is there really time to find an image for every message you want to convey to your audience?

Point being, for better or worse, we still use lists with bullet points sometimes.  Now, thanks to the help of PowerPoint’s “SmartArt Graphics”, you can easily turn your mundane bullet points into visually stunning gems of knowledge.

Here’s how…

1. Make your list, like you always do. (Go ahead, admit it.)  Check out my mundane slide in Figure 1 if you need inspiration.

Fig. 1. A typical slide with bullet points.

Fig. 1. A typical slide with bullet points.

2. Select the text box that contains your bullet points.

3. Click the SmartArt icon in the “Paragraph” section of the “Home” ribbon (see Figure 2).

Fig. 2. The SmartArt icon, located in the "Paragraph" section of the "Home" ribbon.

Fig. 2. The SmartArt icon, located in the "Paragraph" section of the "Home" ribbon. And, your ticket to PowerPoint success.

4. Choose your preferred SmartArt graphic (hint: hovering over a particular SmartArt graphic will give you a preview of your transformed bullet points).

Fig. 3. Your transformed slide after applying one of the SmartArt Graphics.  Getting better.

Fig. 3. Your transformed slide after applying one of the SmartArt Graphics. Getting better.

It’s better, but you’re not done yet!

Next, with the SmartArt version of your bullet points selected (make sure you choose the whole graphic rather than just part of it), click on the “Design” ribbon (Figure 4).

Fig. 4. The "Design" ribbon has tools for enhancing your SmartArt graphic.

Fig. 4. The "Design" ribbon has tools for enhancing your SmartArt graphic.

From here, you can change the colors and the style of your SmartArt graphic.  Your B&W bullet points seem light years away now!

Fig. 5. The finished product. Your bullet points, transformed by SmartArt and its color and style features.

Fig. 5. The finished product. Your bullet points, transformed by SmartArt and its color and style features.

A tip…

Different SmartArt Graphics work better for different types of information.  Some are good for representing processes – the design cycle, for instance.  Others work best for hierarchical information.  Choose “More SmartArt Graphics…” for a categorized list with descriptions.

Now do something about those slide titles…

Yugma and Web Conferencing

Need to meet with a colleague across town or across the country? Trying to present content or teach an online class? Need to teach library instruction at a satellite campus? There’s no need to travel or to teach in an asynchronous environment- why not try a web conferencing tool? Web conferencing allows for easy screen and presentation sharing as well as options for audio through a conference call or voice over IP (VoIP). Some programs even have the capability for a shared mouse and keyboard so that something like database search instruction can be modeled and then tried by all participants in an online, shared environment. Businesses have been using these technologies for years, but they can also be very useful in an academic setting with more and more online and distance education opportunities as well as collaboration between faculty and/or staff at different institutions.

yugma1Yugma is one of the many options out there for online conferencing. One great benefit of Yugma over many others is that it has a slimmed down version that’s available for free! With the Yugma free version, you have the capability to share your screen to up to 20 people at a time. It also gives you a free conference call number or the option to use Skype (VoIP) for all participants to be able to connect vocally. For written communication, public and private chat is also included. Yugma is also unique in that it is compatible with Mac, Windows and Linux systems.

With an upgrade to a paid account you additionally are able to share keyboard and mouse, change presenters, record and archive sessions, schedule meetings in advance, and access presenter tools (highlight aspects of screen/presentation). Prices run from $14.95 a month (or $149.50 a year) to $179.95 a month ($1799.50 a year) depending on the number of possible participants in a conference (20 to 500). An additional “Webinar” feature is available at $19.99 a month (or $199.50 a year) which allows you to have personalized web space where participants can sign up and directly access the webinar.

Yugma is intuitive to use, although I did run into some hiccups with the free account. The presenter/organizer will need to download the program, however participants should be able to access the screen share/presentation by simply visiting the Yugma website (www.yugma.com) and entering the access code that the presenter will see when setting up the session. A few things to look out for when using Yugma:

  • Although Yugma gives the presenter the option to “Invite Contacts” or “Invite Contacts to View Only”, the free version only allows viewing, so choose the view only option.
  • If you upgrade to the paid version and would like participants to be able to do more than view, they need to “run” the program which may cause administrative rights problems.
  • The latest Java will need to be installed on both presenter and participants computers
  • The teleconferencing, although free, doesn’t have the best sound quality. Skype is also an option.
  • The access code that the presenter is given when setting up the session is in a 000-000-000, however needs to be entered by the participants on the Yugma page without the dashes.

For additional options for web conferencing see the Wikipedia article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_web_conferencing_software

 

 

Professional networking with SlideShare

Drat, you missed the Internet Librarian 2008 conference! Don’t fret. You didn’t get the tote bag, but you can still learn from the conference presenters. Their presentations have been posted to SlideShare.net. As have the slide presentations of millions of scholars and professionals worldwide.

SlideShare is free and easy to use. The site allows you to post and view PowerPoint, OpenOffice, and PDF presentations. You can also add audio to your presentations, by syncing the slides with an mp3 URL, thus producing SlideCasts that can be easily added to blogs and websites with a SlideShare widget.

Slides can be made publicly available to an international audience or made private for a select group of viewers. Like the organizers of the Internet Librarian 2008 conference, you can archive presentations from events you have organized or group other people’s presentations based on your own criteria.

SlideShare encourages professional networking. You can join groups that interest you or establish contacts with people who post interesting content. Like other social networking sites, SlideShare allows members to post public comments or send private messages to other members’ profiles.

With millions of members worldwide, there is always something new to explore on SlideShare. Checkout the “Slideshow of the Day” (today’s is about How people really use the iPhone) and other featured presentations. The site is full of opportunities for learning and sharing. Try it.