Edublogs Serendipity webinar overview – a lucky dip!


This was one of those sessions where we talked about several topics. As always the session was recorded and makes interesting listening. The consesus was to spend some time on each of several topics, these being: the vocational education system; online maths programs & making maths easy; and a quick chat about some iPad apps.

The Session

We used a whiteboard for each topic for a heading to help us maintain topic focus, but also to be available for ideas and sharing as needed. It was interesting that each of the topics was addressed differently in terms of the way we used BbC. This demonstrates well the capability of the platform as a learning space. The first topic (TAFE) was almost entirely discussed via audio and text chat. The second (online maths & making maths easy) made heavy use of the whiteboard for ideas and link sharing. Our third topic of iPad apps also used the whiteboard but to a much lesser extent mainly for sharing app names.

We were a small group – all Australian which  gave rise to one of the topics. Our public Vocational Education and Training system is currently the centre of much debate regarding funding. It is under pressure to compete for students with private trainers who do not have the same government imposed constraints – hence the heading of TAFE (Training and Further Education). I know I had far too much to say about this because it is my own sector and I care about it intensely! There were many comparisons to be drawn with other sectors and globally.

The maths topic – as is always the case with maths generated much activity. We had a whiteboard in two columns – for sharing links and ideas for making maths interesting. However so many links were shared that the second column was largely taken over by the first! If you access the recording and use the bottom scroll bar in it to scroll to about 3/4 of the way through you can access most of those links live from the whiteboard. These lead to a positive “treasure chest” of online maths!

Our final topic was a quick look, with short descriptions, at some of the apps that those of us with iPads have and find useful.


This was fun! As always (for me anyway) the great thing about our Serendipity sessions is that we never know where they will lead. Sessions where we range accross several topics are particularly interesting because of the diversity of information shared and views expressed.

Our Next Session

Our next Webinar is an Edublogs “Fine Focus” session.   Join us on Thursday May 31st at 23:00 GMT/UTC the time for you will vary depending on your timezone (check yours here) Thursday afternoon/evening in the USA, late night Thursday in Europe, and Friday morning June 1st in Australia – in the usual Blackboard Collaborate virtual room.

Using images to make instructions more helpful


Simple instructions don’t always need images to make them more effective. For example recipes often don’t have images, and if they do they may often just have a picture of the finished item. However to make your instructions more effective it often helps to include one or more diagrams or other images.

How can images help?

Instructions are more effective if the number of words used can be kept fairly small. The old saying that “a picture is worth a thousand words” is very relevant for writing instructions because using an image with labels can remove the need to write long descriptions. For example the labelled picture of a chain saw below would save many words in instructing how to find the “fuel filler cap” and fill the saw with fuel.

Including the picture and referring to it from the instructions saves writing a detailed description of the “fuel filler cap”, where to find it on the saw, and how to distinguish it from the “oil filler cap”.

It is possible to make instructions even more visual especially if you are writing a “how to” that involves a computer application. This can be done with numbered steps on screenshots as in this one for positioning and inserting an image in your blog.

Visuals are particularly helpful for anything that requires the user to:

  • locate something on a piece of equipment or a toolbar – particularly one unfamiliar to them
  • move something in a particular way
  • see that changes that should result from their actions at each stage in a series of steps

The “techie” bit of making and adding visuals

My own preference for adding visuals to instructions is to use PhotoFiltre and Powerpoint as described in the Slideshare below. I create and save my labelled/annotated images, these can then be inserted directly into: blogposts, presentations or documents with the mimimum of effort.


I use this process because I find it:

  • simple and quick to do;
  • easy to edit later if needed
  • provides me with portable visuals that I can use in other applications because they are saved as images

Audio-visual instructions

Audio-visual instructions are becoming more and more common using screencasts and/or video. However these have a major disadvantage in that it is difficult to refer back to one point somewhere in the middle of the instructions without having to replay the entire sequence to find the bit you want! Using audio-visuals is therefore best kept to VERY short activities such as this screencast on attaching files to emails.


There are many different ways of preparing visuals for inclusion in instructions. The one described above is the one I use because it works for me. Please comment on whether you think it will work for you – why or why not?


Edublogs webinar overview – Exploring story makers


This session, recorded as always was one in which we took a look at some online story making tools in one of our “quick and easy tools” explorations. These are occasional sessions where I put up a list of a few tools and each participant chooses one (preferably one unknown to them) to explore for ten minutes and then give feedback to the rest of us. The first time I did this the tools were a mixture of different functions however more recently I have chosen ones with similar purposes.

My personal rationale for “ten minutes to explore” is that if it takes too long to “pick up” the basics of using any tool then the focus of the “lesson” in which it is being used may change from the educational purpose to the tech being used. In other words we risk using “tech for tech’s sake” rather than as a tool to achieve the educational purpose.

The Session

The decision to explore story makers for exploration comes from the fact that I have been investigating story makers for use with my own students.  When looking for possible tools to explore I was surprised at how few there were that did not have a very heavy focus on using audio. I specifically wanted text and images both: to meet the needs of my adult literacy curriculum; and to keep the process simple. I find that  digital story making applications with audio can be time consuming for students to learn if they want (as they invariably do) both voice and music in the audio. So this session only looked at four tools – these were:

We started with a have you used it and to what degree on the four tools to be explored. This revealed that most of us had some awareness of, or familiarity with at least one or two of them and one participant was very familiar with two of the four.

The next step was for everyone to choose one of the story makers to explore and then investigate it for ten minutes with the following considerations in mind:

  • how easy to learn the basics
  • how engaging to use
  • a lesson/context in which to use it
  • whether they personally would use it with students

After the ten minutes everyone came back and took turns in talking about the ease of use and other features of the tool they had explored. There were also some great ideas for use in class.

We finished with some feedback and a look at our best takeaways from the session.


This was great session! These are always great fun and much enjoyed by all. I have recently shown Storybird to my own students who are taking part in the ELFADA project. One of their projects is an online story that they will embed in their blogs and they have been exploring some different types of stories made with applications they are already familiar with (PowerPoint/Slideshare and Toondoo) as well as Storybird which is new to them.

Next Webinar

Our next session will be an Edublogs “Serendipity” session on Thursday May 24th at 23:00 GMT/UTC (Afternoon/Evening USA) or Friday May 25th at 7am West Aus, mid morning Eastern States Aus depending on your timezone (check yours here) – in the usual BlackboardCollaborate room. This is one of our fortnightly unconference sessions where we invite you to bring along your “hot topics” and “burning issues” for our poll on the topic.

Planning and creating your digital story – Part 2


Once you have ideas for your stories and have decided (after some feedback from your fellow students, lecturer and others) on your topic it is time to move on to the next part of the storymaking process.This post is about the activities you will need to complete in making your story. When you complete your “Project Plan” for making your story you will need to think in detail about

  • what you need for each stage;
  • what activities you need to carry out in each of the  stages;
  • the time taken for each activity in each stage;
  • the overall timeline and fitting it all together – remember sometimes you will have to wait for feedback – so is there something from another stage you can do while you wait?


Checkout this link on Storyboarding – the focus of this one is on digital stories with an audio component but it works the same way for the type of story we are doing. This link also has a “how to” on creating your own simple storyboard template using Word. This would be a useful way for you to create your own storyboard for your story. You will need to make your storyboard and get feedback on it before you start writing your story


How many images will you need? This will partly depend on the length of your story but also depends on how many separate “points” there are in the story. You need one image per “page/slide”

If your story is being made in an online application with existing artwork images you will need to find images on the site that illustrate your points well and that you can use for each page of your story.

If you are using images that you find for yourself you need to consider where you will get them – will they be your pictures or from elswhere (remember copyright). How long will it take to find and edit images so that they will fit without making your file too big. Remember that you MUST credit image sources and creators.

Writing your story (script)

If your story was going to be an audio narration this would be called “writing the script” Because we are using text you will need to write your story as a “story”.  To help you think about the structure of your story you may need to look back at the story examples from the Symbaloo Webmix of Story Links. Also you can research on the Internet for stories about similar topics to your own chosen one and see how these are put together.


  • for Certificate I you need ABOUT 150-250 words (5-8 pages/slides)
  • for Certificate II you need ABOUT 250- 400 words (7-12 pages/slides)
  • for Certificate III you need ABOUT 400-600 words (10-15 pages/slides)

Once you have drafted it is time to get feedback and do the editing and redrafting process.

Think about how long each part of the story writing will take – you will need estimates for your project plan.

Putting it all together

Once you have planned your story, sorted out the sequence of images and written your text it is time to put it all together as a draft using your chosen application. This is a good time to add any page titles, and also to add credits – usually a page at the end acknowledging help and information sources. Again you will need to get feedback and “polish” your story before finally publishing it and either linking from or embedding in your blog.


The information in this post should help you in planning your story making project. You will need to plan and manage your own time for this project over the three weeks of the project.


Planning and creating your digital story – Part 1


Digital stories take many forms, often they are a series of images with music and voice over. However we are going to focus on making digital stories that use text with images rather than audio.

Story ideas

Some ideas for topics, your final story doesn’t have to be one of these, they are just to help you start thinking!

  • Illustrating an aspect of your life to send to family or friends who live a long way away
  • Describing a visit, holiday, activity, event in which you have taken part
  • A portfolio of some of your work eg plans, designs, photographs of a project you have completed with descriptions and explanations
  • Illustrating, describing, explaining a leisure activity, sport, hobby or interest in which you participate
  • Demonstrating and explaining a practical skill that you have

 Outlining ideas

To help you make a final decision on what your story will be about it is a good idea to share thoughts and ideas with others, you can do this through your blog. However you will need to write short outlines of your stories to share.

Here are examples to help you.

Story outline 1. A practical skill that I have is planting plants. The story will describe how to:

  • prepare the space for the plant;
  • correctly remove it from its pot;
  • plant it; and
  • then carry out any necessary aftercare.

Story outline 2. One of my favourite places to visit is the Avon Valley National Park near Toodyay.

This story will describe a visit to the National Park during the wildflower season. I will describe the Bald Hill lookout area and also the river valley. Images to illustrate the visit will include scenery and wildflowers.


Think about those examples above when you are writing your own brief story outlines. Now add a comment to this post that gives some feedback suggesting changes or additions to one of the stories above that you think would make it more interesting. Just saying it is a great idea is not enough on its own 🙂