Slides that Rock!

SlideShare: where we can learn from others

Concert crowdI’ve just read an interesting article from a SlideShare subscription alert. It was interesting on a number of levels. The article ‘Slides that Rock’ describes 5 ways SlideShare has helped them ‘rock’:

1. providing a platform where they can learn
2. building a better network
3. enabling a global presence
4. providing a marketing platform
5. adding credibility

I loved viewing their accompanying SlideShare presentation too which has some excellent learning points many of us can take away. It does have a SlideShare promotional feel to it and is considering SlideShare more from a marketing tool point of view but, nontheless, all their points are valid and I started to relate it back to eLearning (as is my tendency) and learning in general.

Presentations are a very passive way of sending a message but can play an important part in workplace learning or as part of a formal blended/eLearning solution. Reading copious amounts of text can have a detrimental effect on our levels of engagement and often visuals play a vital role in our comprehension of the material as well as motivating us to ‘stick with it’. “A picture paints a thousand words” as the saying goes is useful to bear in mind. We can learn to change that by taking ideas from these types of presentations such as ‘Slides that rock’.

Of course, we don’t have to stop at changing how our presentations look. We can apply the same principles to our eLearning tutorial slides too not to mention our classroom slides. And just think of the difference you can make to your conference presentations!

When people on my eLearning design workshops fear they haven’t the creative skills to produce dynamic and appealing slides I point them to two of the names mentioned in this article, Nancy Duarte (her Slideology book) and Garr Reynolds (particularly his Presentation Zen Design book).

Two further publication I always recommend are (i) ‘The non-designer’s design book‘ by Robin Williams (covers in layman’s terms the basic principles of graphic design – contrast, repitition, alignment and proximity) and (ii) ‘Visual Language for Designers‘ by Connie Malamed. I’m looking forward to checking out the work of David Crandall and Jesse Desjarnins to whom the article refers.

We could also do well to remember as learning designers though is that we too are marketeers. When we produce a piece of learning, whether it’s designed to be a formal course or ad-hoc, just in time chunks to help with workplace learning, we are producing a product to ‘sell’. The visual design ideas we see here could also be transferred to our marketing material such as posters and leaflets.

On a final note…. the main points that stuck with me from this article however were that SlideShare gave them a platform from where they could learn and it allowed them to build a better network.

We learn from sharing and collaborating with others. We just sometimes need a little help in knowing where to look which is where the role of trainers becoming curators and consultants comes in.

What’s in a name? Let’s Huddle!

It’s more than just a social gathering


On my travels through the blogesphere (looking for something else as it happens), I came across Huddle. Now the name intrigued me because of what it brought to mind.

One definition for huddle is “to gather together privately to talk about or plan something”. I often use it when facilitating in a classroom asking the group to ‘huddle’ around the flip chart to discuss a topic.

The people at Huddle describes it as follows: “With Huddle, you can manage projects, share files and collaborate with people inside and outside of your company, securely. It’s available online, on mobile devices, on the desktop, via Microsoft Office applications, major business social networks and in multiple languages. Simply: if SharePoint was built today, the would have built Huddle.”

Taking a further look around the website, it seems it has a lot going for it to encourage people to work together and learn together more easily and, they stress, securely. I haven’t taken a really close look or opted for the free trial but here’s a low-down on what Huddle offers:

    File sharing and management
    Collaboration
    Real-time collaboration with web conferencing and phone conferencing
    Project management features that sound similar to Outlook
    Security features which allow you restrict or open up elements
    Customisable for a corporate look and feel
    Tracking activity of members and assign individual priviledges and permissions
    Individuals have their own profile area
    Mobile connectivity across various smart-phones with the ability to access Huddle via other social networks such as LinkedIn
    Huddle is cloud-based which means less strain on internal IT infrastructure

With the increase in emphasis on working and learning smarter by enabling channels for collaboration, sharing ideas and best practice, experiential and on-demand learning for improved performance from a bottom-up approach, Huddle may be one solution for organisations out there who see the need for such working and learning practises but are sceptical about using the open social tools.

I’m not so sure they’d be convinced by the name of the product alone. It does seem some social tools out there have been given some strange nom-de-plumes that do little to help sell their benefits to the more serious minded potential user. But that’s a whole different story. If we want to get past the quirky handle, we’re going to have to sell the benefits ourselves.

Huddle, themselves, have given us a good head start.

I was impressed by the list of testimonials and case studies on their site which include organisations who, from my own experience, are very strict about accessibility and security. I’ve taken the list from Huddle’s testimonial page.

    Kia Motors
    Akqa
    NHS East of England
    Dept for Business Innovation& Skills
    Kerry
    Liberal Democrats
    Belgian FPS Social Security
    Aggie-Lance
    Berkshire Community Foundation
    Boots
    Rufus Leonard
    Bright One
    Care for the Family
    British Institute for Facilities Management
    Cheltenham Brough Council
    East of England IDB Ltd
    Distinct
    Fulham Football Club Foundation
    Inform
    Government Skills
    Plymouth Mind
    Post Office
    Traffic Management Solutions
    University of London Computer Centre

So if you want to get past the sales pitch, how about checking out some of the case studies or even contacting their customers and find out what it’s done for them.

I’ll be very interested in hearing from anyone out there who has implemented Huddle, either tried it out on the free trial or is already up and running with it. How have you found it useful and any tips you might have to help others who are thinking of using this or any similar application.

After I’ve taken a look at the free trial, I’ll share more thoughts here.

Reflections on making a video interview – 2

Preparing for interview

In a previous post I shared with you my accidental learning – quite literally – when travelling down to Brighton to interview Clive Shepherd on his recent book The New Learning Architect.

Here I carry on the tale and summarise with some tips for preparing for interview.

I woke up bright and early, excited and looking forward to the day. I was all prepared and armed with a Google map and directions, I set out in plenty of time to find the studio which apparently was a 5 minute walk from the hotel. That is it would have been a 5 minute walk if I could match the streets with the map! My plans had been to arrive the day before at a reasonable time in the evening to wander around and find the venue but the unexpected incident at the service station had put pay to that. Nevertheless, I had, afterall, given myself ample time that morning so wasn’t unduly worried.

This was my first trip to Brighton and it was a superb warm sunny morning the day before Good Friday. As I wandered through the little streets following my map I was teased with the rich smell of coffee and pastries from the abundance of little cafes. If I closed my eyes I could have been wandering through the streets of Italy. No time for a coffee and pastry for me though.

Even at that early morning, the sun was hot and I began to wish I’d travelled a little lighter but even with some retracing of my steps finding the studio, I was still in plenty of time and found a shady spot to catch my breath and ring home for best of luck wishes.

The studio was small but very light and airy. There were two chairs positioned almost opposite each other just off-set a little. There was a very large piece of board, white on one side which was used to reflect the natural light from the window back onto Clive and me during the interview process.

There was one large camera on a tripod and what looked like an over-sized hand-held microphone.

Before the interview began, there were a few tests to do.

  • A little footage was taken to test the light
  • where best to position us
  • checking camera angles
  • checking sound levels

Because there was only one camera and one microphone used, this meant we had to film various shots out of sequence. The idea being to cut and edit the filming for a smooth final viewing.

First we recorded Clive answering my questions. This was the easy bit for me. Because the camera was on Clive, I could read my questions. The microphone was held close to Clive so my voice became almost a whisper when being filmed but this would be edited out later.

Then we recorded my questions. This time, I couldn’t read these out but had the benefit of checking them before each cut. It was still difficult though because I need reading glasses so needed to pop these on and off. Oh how I wished I had memorised the questions a little more. Either that or be less vain and keep my varifocals on! Although I would have still needed to take a quick check before each question.

Then we recorded what I call the noddies. This is where you film the people involved nodding whilst listening intently to the other person at different distances and angles for variety of shot. This is done all without sound as the idea is to edit these in over the talking so the interview has some visual variety.

Finally, we recorded me introducing Clive.

It was all a very interesting but odd process and seemed very disjointed but you’d never guess from the final edit.

The advantage of filming this way is that you only need one camera and microphone. In this instance, a quality camera was used, but it is feasible you could do a great job with a more affordable camera with a tripod and good quality external microphone. You’ll need some editing software too and there are some great affordable if not free tools out there that do a great job which I’ll explore another time.

The disadvantage from my experience here is the natural flow of the interview can be affected. For example, after asking my question, I was listening intently to Clive’s answers and was able to add little improvised comments. Unless you’ve got an excellent memory (not one of my strong points), this natural conversation style is very difficult and often lost when having to record all these as separate sequences.

If we had more time, perhaps we could have listened back to Clive’s previous question before recording my next questions thereby allowing me to provide a more natural link without it being too controlled. But as with anything, we have to work within the constraints we have and we had little time and would have needed something to play this back with.

With all the filming complete the next job was to turn that raw footage into a polished product.

I’ll continue to explore video interviews in future posts adding some tips along the way as well as sharing some thoughts on how these could be incorporated into a learning solution.