Thursday, 11 November 2010

Google Presentation and Inclusivity

I'd like to expand on my post about Google Docs in my main blog ( I find myself using Google Presentations more than PowerPoint nowadays.

Key reasons:

1. It is instantly shareable. I don't have to upload my PowerPoint somewhere for delegates to access.

2. It allows multiple editors. This means that I have been able to use the presentation like an 'etherpad'. I have run sessions online and face to face now where I have asked people to edit a slide each.

Here's one I used with Chesterfield college:
(I have taken away editing rights now the event is over, but can turn it on again for another event)

This is a Hair and Beauty one:
The latter was edited simultaneously by people attending an online training event using Elluminate. Online conferencing software usually limits us to chat and clicking on a button to indicate you have understood something. By sending people to the Google presentation, I was able to involve them in the creation of a useful resource. People watching the recorded Elluminate session later will also be able to participate by adding to this presentation, making it a fantastic asynchronous resource (idea for this a result of following @tombarrett and participating in his shared docs)

Like etherpad, you have a revision history so you can go back to any version you like.
I always download a copy as well at the end of a session so I at least have an offline copy of the presentation should anything happen.

3. Download as pdf option means that it's easy to make this presentation available in an alternative format to suit people's needs. Better still, download as text makes this available as a document which can easily be accessed by any text to speech software. Speaker notes are included in this format. Cool!

4. You can easily create copies of the online presentation to be used by different groups of people, preserving your original as a template.

5. If I was to run this presentation as part of a synchronous online learning event, people viewing it at the same time as me can interact with me through chat.

thumbnail of google presentation screen showing speaker notes and chat windowClick on the graphic to see it full screen:
The slide is on the left with the speaker notes superimposed on top. On the right is the chat window.

This affords opportunities for people to access the document when they want to and to discuss the presentation with anyone else who is viewing at the same time.

Teaching and learning idea:
You could ask learners to work in groups to access the presentation and discuss questions you have posed in the slides.
(One downside is that for some reason, you are not able to select and copy the chat. That would have made it an even more useful tool, IMHO.)

6. One good thing about allowing people to access a .ppt rather than a .pps is that they can change the template if they need to to better suit their needs. Maybe they need higher contrast, or a particular font - sending them the .ppt would give them that control. However, most learners don't own PowerPoint at home. They could use Open Office (if they already have it or they would have to download it first) and adjust the settings that way.
Or if you've shared a Google presentation and given them editing rights, they can change the templates or background to suit them and download a personalised copy! You can always change it back using revision history ;-)

I'm sure this will sound like a nightmare for some teachers, but I think it's a real blessing for all learners! Remember, save a copy as a template if the controlling part of you finds this all too much! Or you can create the personalised copies quickly and easily and provide the personalised copies to learners who need higher contrast or certain backgrounds and fonts. You can also reset the link to 'lock out' previous editors.

7. Providing editing rights to the document allows people to zoom in as much as they need to on any text or graphic on a slide.

8. A fantastic by-product perhaps but you can create vector drawings with the drawing tools on Google presentations, and then ask people to participate in your efforts!
9. When you type a title into the slide eg View this video about Xerte Toolkits, then go to Insert > Video, there's a Google search built in and suggestions come up for the video that you might want to embed! Awesome! Don't get me started on PowerPoint and videos. Even @jamesclay struggled with that one recently ;-)

With that, I've run out of steam. But Google seem to be adding new functionality all the time so if I come across yet another good reason to be using Google Presentation over PowerPoint, I'll let you know...

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Useful Apple-related site

Speak it is a great app for the iPhone and is now available on the iPad. This site seems to have lots of useful advice on accessibility and the Apple range of products.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Listen to this site

Came across a great accessible site today for the Food Standards Agency:
At the bottom left, there is a Listen to this site link. This led to a link that looked like this:
An exploration of the DixerIT Plus logo led to this site: and is a hosted solution that gives any website text to speech functionality, making it more accessible. The voice is very human compared to those I've come across before. I was impressed.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

title attribute

I've been creating some onscreen tutorials (simple html pages with instructions) for Xerte. The idea is that the instructions are to one side of the screen and the software is running beside it so that you can just follow step by step instructions without having to look down at a piece of paper. I have found this method works well compared to paper-based tutorials.
To ensure that the tutorials are accessible, I have made sure to add tooltips to my images. Tooltips appear when you hover your mouse over images on a browser.
I have some simple graphics in my onscreen tutorials and I had added alt tags to the images. I tested these using Firefox on the Mac, and Internet Explorer on Windows. For some reason the tooltips were not popping up in Firefox although they were working in IE. Also, I wanted tooltips to appear on certain links and they weren't working on IE.

I did a little bit of google searching and find the following:
  • For years, I've been calling them "alt tags" and really they should be called alt "attributes".
  • Firefox doesn't use alt attributes, it uses the title attribute and this works on both Firefox and IE
  • Title attribute works for hyperlinks as well.
Now I know to use the title attribute for all my images and a href tags as well!

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Incorporating more audio in lessons

I've recently delivered some m-learning sessions at my MoLeNET colleges and one thing that really sticks in people's minds is how easy it is to create an audio recording using ipadio. With ipadio (, you simply create an account and register your phone. You are provided with a code (to prevent others from ringing up and using your ipadio account) and you simply call the ipadio number wherever you are and create a podcast. (Dave Sugden was the first person I knew to use this service.)
What makes a podcast different from an audio file on your computer, is the fact that a podcast is an audio file that is delivered via an RSS feed to someone's computer. So ipadio makes a recording that is on the web straight away, whereas using software like Audacity means that you have the audio file, but you then need to do something with the audio file to get it out to your audience.
In terms of mobile recording of audio, another good solution is Audioboo which works on the iPhone. This makes a recording on the iPhone which is then uploaded via wifi or 3G to your audioboo account on the web.  (, thanks to James Clay for highlighting this one many moons ago)
Many blog sites make it very easy to embed audio into a post. One thing I've done recently at home is to make a recording using the iPhone's native voice recorder (voice memo) and then emailing the file to This means my .m4a file on my iPhone becomes an mp3 on the web, making it much more accessible to a wide audience, and again, making an offline file into an online one. This is also possible using the native voice recorders on other smartphones - the key is having internet or email access to send the file up to a blog site like Another method is to use dictaphones and to upload the files on to a blog or to a podcast site like
If you're recording using a pc or mac, then you have some software options like audacity. One downside to Audacity is that you have to download the program from one site, then download the lame.dll from another site to ensure you have the mp3 option. If you create an account on, you can download a free simple podcast recorder that has a more user-friendly interface and after the recording, your sound file is published to your account. With Audacity, you have to decide where to send the file. Some people upload it to a moodle, but this isn't podcasting and the file doesn't stream over the net either. The learner ends up downloading the file in order to listen to it, and has to know where the file is to transfer it to an mp3 player. So for simplicity and ease of use for both learners and tutors, I would recommend:
1. ipadio (if you can put up with phone call quality audio)
2. audioboo
3. record on mobile + email to blog
4. record on computer + automatic file upload to podcast account
5. record on computer + manual upload/email to blog/podcast site.

When using methods 4 and 5, this gives you a little less flexibility in the classroom as you will have a mic attached to a computer to make that recording. A mobile device can easily be passed around the class, allowing you to create more interesting podcasts, engaging the learner in the process. One way to get around being tied to the pc at the front, is to pair it up with a Bluetooth headset, and then to pass the headset around like a mic for recording. I have managed to do this quite successfully a few times in training sessions.

Audacity does give you a lot of options for editing your sound files. You can cut out any unwanted sounds, enhance the audio, add a musical intro or jingle or even have that running in the background if relevant. You do have to find some copyright-free music to use, though, and I would recommend searching on for these. Another good thing about using Audacity or Podcast Recorder is that the application can run off usb sticks, so you can bring the recording software with you anywhere you go and use it on various machines.

On my Mac, I find Garageband is the best native application for recording my podcast. I have built-in options for jingles and sound effects and there are fool-proof settings for recording a male or female voice, music etc. On top of that, there is the option to create an enhanced podcast which works like a slideshow with audio on the right mp3 players (like the ipod nano, iTouch or iPhone). My learning journey on this is recorded here:

It's possible to do this on Windows machines as well and I have to thank @mrmackenzie and @damoward for their help via Twitter on a Saturday night for their support!

So, all the above is the basics of what to use to record audio in a lesson. What are some of the ideas for using audio? Deep breath.. I think I'll leave that for another post!

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Training at Epping forest

Delivered training at Epping Forest yesterday and showed the staff how
to download the apps from Highlighted Studybar.
Showed them Audacity, DSpeech, CamStudio, Typefaster and Vubar. The
latter always interests people because it is so simple yet so
functional and helpful to many who need to read documents on a screen.
Wish there was a free Mac version. I have taken to opening Textedit
and using the top of the programme window as a reading guide!
We used Freemind to plan out what there was to cover and the delegates
chose the themes in order of their priority.
Discussed issues around running exe files from a USB stick. IT will
discuss possibility of another layer of rights for learners who want
to use the software and will sign another form/contract on use.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Robotic voices

Just thought I'd remind myself about what Alistair said at the online meeting about how people who rely on text to speech tools would prefer the robotic voices because they can actually get to information a lot quicker that way.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

TTS and symbols

Have been working on some material for MoLeSys and researching TTS and symbols. Thought I'd best keep the links here before I forget where to look for them!

Have downloaded Browsealoud for the Mac to test it. Amazing that you can get this stuff for free. Original product by Texthelp. The Irish O2 web site is Browsealoud friendly, apparently. I tried it but didn't manage to get Browsealoud to work on it. Might have to try again another time.

symbolic communication software

Monday, 15 March 2010

Screenr tutorials

I have been showing tutors at a college how to use Flickr, PhotoStory, iTunes and YouTube recently. To help one particular tutor remember the steps, I started making a Word document, then gave up on that because it seemed to be taking more time than simply recording the screen and creating a video tutorial. I used ( and I might actually create some of these in front of an audience next time so I am teaching them the software and creating a tutorial at the same time. It does depend on how fast the connectivity is though - you do have to pause while the screenr site loads the java, and you do have to have a mic attached to the PC.

Again, to save time and improve the way we share links, I have introduced the tutors to The relevant links that I come across are stored there for each department so they can easily access it. for one example.

They now have a YouTube channel set up so they can easily capture and upload video clips. Have discovered that YouTube has a function similar to Veotag in that it allows you to annotate videos and pause as well if necessary. This is going to make communicating techniques and underpinning knowledge that much easier compared to using handouts! Learners have the option of reviewing these at a time and place to suit them, and many of them can access YouTube on their phones. The YouTube channel has also motivated staff to produce more video material for their learners.

text to speech

Some discussions I've been part of recently on using text to speech (TTS).
The first link is part of the RSC YH Excellence in Inclusivity event held at Sheffield's The Source:
I chaired the sessions where we were pulling together people's knowledge of text to speech software. I was also able to show them text to speech apps or software on mobile devices: the google android phone, a windows mobile phone and an iPhone.
Di held an online Instant Presenter session on text to speech for those of us undertaking the ITQ for Accessible IT practice. I found the exercise of looking at various TTS software/websites with headings to push my thinking an excellent way of stretching understanding. Di mentioned the RNIB protocols, using headings. More on this here.
I looked at Fireflox Click speak but it didn't play on my mac. Not sure why - have to explore further. Also looked at and my comments on this are one this etherpad (, but will pull my contribution together for my portfolio.