Educational Technology

Thiagi's Four Doors

A Charge Towards the Finish Line

I’ve had a mad dash of a week, working to get my final project for the excellent UCI E-Learning Certificate Program. I’ve been working my way through the course for about 18 months now. I must say, I’ve met some really inspiring educators, I’ve worked really hard, including juggling the birth of our third child, and have learned A LOT. I think I’ll have to do a separate post about my learning journey.

Thiagi's Four Doors

Thiagi’s Four Doors

  • So first of all this week, I handed in my mega (slightly over-ambitious) e-learning course on Presentation Design. I wanted to do something that would really engage learners, so I went for something which was ambitious both technically and pedagogically. Our task was to design an e-learning lesson lesson, and I guess I ended up designing about 4-6 lessons, with about another 16 to go if I want to complete the course! My lesson is based on Thiagi’s Four Doors approach, so it includes library, café, play and assessment elements. Check out the first of 4 lessons here: 
  • While I was doing some voiceover recording for the piece, I discovered an amazing plugin for the (free) recording software, Audacity. Often in the past when I have recorded myself, I’ve been annoyed by the hiss and hum you hear in the background between when one spoken sentence and the next. A noise gate helps you to record much better-sounding speech, by cutting this out. It’s great for podcasts and school projects as well as better e-learning, of course, being part of the audacity project, it’s also free:
  • Here’s a recording of the Noise Gate filter in action if you’re curious. Bear in mind, that most normal people wouldn’t record a podcast with a fan blowing right behind them, so the effects are a bit exaggerated in this recording.

  • I’ve been tweeting about education since….  2007 I think My Twitter tag  is @sethdickens if you’re interested. In the beginning I tweeted a LOT, but then lost interest a bit, as Twitter became a bit, well, too full of noise. However, in the past 4 weeks, I’ve started getting interested again, especially after my conversations with Microsoft. It was so strange to be chatting to a software behemoth. They must have an amazing social media team.

      • The Office folk then told me about Office Mix. It’s a free plugin for PowerPoint’13, which seems to do a similar job to Articulate. It looks brilliant. I’m definitely going to give it a try.
  • I was also invited to become a Beta Tester for Articulate Presenter 13 v4. I love the Articulate software and would love to know how a Beta testing program works, so I’ll definitely be getting involved there, too.
  • I spent the last part oif the weekend fighting with Moodle’s SCORM Settings. Horrible! No matter how I changed the settings, it really spoiled the look and feel of my beautifully, lovingly crafted Courseware. Hrrmpph. Okay, well I did find a super guide which helped me figure out the best of the awful settings to use:

Is Edublogging Back In Fashion?

…”normal” blogging is, at least it is according to one of the net’s longest running blogs written by Jason Kottke. He links to a great post idea by Michael Sippey. Michael wants to get rid of:

the daily pressure of a capital B Blog, or the content pressure of a the capital E Essay. Start a new draft post on Monday, dump things in it over the week, rewrite and cull along the way, what’s left gets published on Friday. 

I also have been following a blog by an Instructional Designer Zak Mensah, who does a good weekly blog about the sorts of things he’s been up to each week. He says it helps him keep his thoughts organised.

That sounds like a pretty good idea to me. So I’m going to give it a try. I’ll draft things throughout the week and post every Monday morning.


Open Source E-Learning ToolsI developed the presentation as a part of my UCI E-learning Instructional Design Course. I reviewed three open source tools: Moodle, Audacity and Adapt Learning.



Erickson RImini Conference HAll

Erickson Congress Rimini 2013

Erickson RImini Conference HAll

Last Friday I was really delighted to speak at the “Qualità dell’integrazione scolastica e sociale” conference in Rimini. The bi-annual conference is a huge event in the Italian education calendar. Something like 4000+ teachers attend each time the conference is held, so you can imagine I was more than a little bit nervous to be invited to speak there. Thankfully I had a significantly smaller room than the huge hall you see here.

My workshop was called “iDidattica” or iTeaching, where I was basically trying to get across the point that simply “digitising” lessons won’t change their quality or pedagogical effectiveness at all. Instead, I tried to argue that we need to adopt a more student-centred approach to our teaching methodology and then apply whatever digital tools suits our needs. One methodology that might achieve this I argued is Project Based Learning. I suggested four key tool categories to allow students to create interesting “final products” for their projects: a note-taking app, an audio recording app, a video editing app and an webpage annotation app.

I tried to make the workshop a bit more interactive, by using a few tools like to provide a “backchannel” where the 150 – 200-odd teachers in the room could discuss what I was talking about, disagree, add new ideas and so on. Reading back though it today, it seems like they were enjoying themselves -yaay!

Anyhow, I promised all the teachers present that I would upload the slides form my presentation so that they could go through the links and re-read what I’d been talking about.
In the next few days I’ll also add a second post with a few of the fun things we did like recording podcasts during the workshop, using a chatroom for a backchannel, sharing links with Diigo and a few others.

Anyhow,without further delay, here are the siides:

Cheap, good quality mic for E-Learning

Review: Samson Go Portable Microphone

I’ve been playing around with some e-learning software recently. One of the things I noticed that I really didn’t like was the awful quality of the sound from my cheap headphone/microphone combination.

I read a bit about the Samson Go Portable Microphone and how it was really recommended for high quality DIY recordings. I tried a back to back comparison and podcasted it to AudioBoo earlier. I think you’ll agree that the sound is noticeably nicer in the second part of the recording when I’m using the Samson.

The Samson Only costs €60 from, even less from For the good build quality and excellent sound quality, I think it’s a great deal!

Cheap, good quality mic for E-Learning

Cheap, good quality mic for E-Learning



iDidattica- iPads in Schools

Just before Easter 2013 I gave a talk at the Erickson “Scuola Nell’Era Digitale” conference in Trento, Italy. It was a huge pleasure, and I met some really fabulous teachers. They were a really dedicated bunch, working hard to improve the quality of education in Italy – often with the odds stacked against them.

I decided to forgo the usual conference “presentation-style” approach and do a more – hands-on workshop. It was ever-so-slightly chaotic in places, but we learnt a bunch, got through everything intact and had a load of fun. These are the slides I showed during my presentation. They’re in Italian – so I hope you get the gist of them!

Death By PowerPoint? No Thanks! – Digital Storytelling Using PowerPoint

PowerPoint has the ability to utterly, utterly destroy your soul with boredom – and yet it can totally engage your students’ attention and draw them into a digital story plot if used well. And how should you use it well? These slides will show you! 🙂

I have posted these before, but this is a slightly updated version that I made for the teachers and trainers at Bolzano Free University’s language department (a tri-lingual University in the north of Italy!)

I had wanted to upload this to VoiceThread so that you, my dear readers, could ask and answer questions and see how effective Voicethread is – unfortunately, Voicethread allows a maximum of 50 slides per presentation and … well… this has several more slides than this. Anyhow, the first slides are the digital story part. If you’d like to skip straight to the  PowerPoint hints and tips, go to slide number 48.

Hope this is helpful – if you have any questions, leave them in a comment. I’d love to hear from you!

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