Since returning from Finland in 2013, I have gained my Master's in Online and Distance Education and have transitioned from teaching, via adult learning and management, into eLearning design.
Although I mostly design online training materials for government agencies, I still have a keen interest in all forms of educational technology and love learning new skills.
Edtech reflections on 2019
Wow! What a year 2019 has been! It's hard to believe that this time, last year, I was still working for the local adult learning service. I feel like I've been in my current role for much longer. This time, last year, I was desperately trying to learn Storyline 3, in preparation for starting my new job. Now, as I look back, I think I have learned so much more, both from a techie perspective and also as a designer.
I have learned so much about this amazing suite, that I could probably fill a whole book! So what are the highlights? What have I learnt, that is more than I expected to learn?
One of the most important things I have learned, is about compliance with assistive technologies. It's ironic that, as a Dragon user, I wasn't more aware of this before, but I tended to only use Dragon for speech-to-text. It was basically a dictation software for me, when writing assignments. I had also 'bumped into' JAWS, whilst studying for my Master's but didn't know that there was a link to Articulate. Over the last 11 months, I have become quite the expert on making Storyline products compatible with the various assistive technologies. It goes beyond just providing text descriptions for images. The navigation set up, and the ability to tab through the product is just as important.
More recently, I have learned how to make software simulations in Storyline 360. At work, I have a couple of projects waiting to start, where I hope to use these new skills. I've also had a brief glimpse into screencasting and a slightly bigger look at audio work, creating voice overs, and other such fun.
One of the highlights of the year at work, was introducing Review 360, another of the apps in this suite. It has changed the way we work with subject matter experts, and made the whole review process much, much easier.
I have to admit, I had no idea what Totara was until I started my new job. I'd had a fair bit of Moodle experience but hadn't met Moodle's cousin. Now, I've got the hang of the basics, and maybe a bit more and I've had some explorations into the world of reporting and creating dashboards, and a few other more complex bits.
Setting up Totara for our client happened before I arrived, but I'd like to think I have made a significant impact in terms of maintaining and improving it. Again, a huge focus has been on AT compliance, ensuring that people with disabilities can access it. We're not 100% there yet, but almost.
Adobe Creative Cloud
In terms of learning new stuff, this has been and continues to be my biggest challenge! The interface for the Articulate products, I found very intuitive and similar to other software that I've used before. Totara is Moodle-based, so that wasn't so tricky either. Adobe is like nothing I've ever used before. It has been a huge learning curve.
I would say I've become fairly good with Lightroom, and now depend on that for a lot of photo enhancing. I've made a pretty good start with Illustrator, Animate and After Effects, and can do some pretty cool things with those. Photoshop still feels like a vast continent that I've landed on, and only explored the beach and immediate surroundings. In the next year, I must learn more about it and get into some of the really useful features. One of my colleagues is really good with it, so I'll tap into his knowledge.
Other bits 'n' bobs
As well as the software that actually enables me to do my job, we use various techie tools in the background and some of these were new to me.
When I first started, we used Slack as a communication tool to enable the team to message individually and as a group. I really liked it but then we switched to Microsoft Teams. At first, I wasn't that impressed but now that we have the ability to invite people outside our organisation to dial into meetings on it, I find it more useful. I also like the way it integrates with all the other Microsoft apps.
Clockify is a more recent discovery. It's a way of measuring how much time you spend on different tasks. Because of the nature of the way we work, I find it really useful. What I like most, is being able to run reports that show exactly how much time I have spent working on a specific project, and then being able to compare that to the time originally allocated.
KeePass is a password manager. I tried it out a few months ago, and hated it. However, I stuck with it and now that I've got used to it, it's okay. The only thing is, you have to save the database somewhere and unless you save it in the cloud, you run the risk of suddenly needing a password and not having access to it. Once you're used to it though, it generates nice safe passwords but you only have to remember the one master password. Given the state of my memory these days, that can't be a bad thing!
Goals for next year
1. AT compliance - my next goal in this area, is in producing documents and particularly pdfs that can be read by screen readers. In an ideal world, I need to be able to take existing interactive pdfs and clean them up and make them work properly for JAWS users.
2. Photoshop - I would like to be able to use (with ease) the whole product. I know that is a huge ask, but a year is a long time, right? I can at least make some giant strides here.
3. Gamification - Storyline is great and I am fairly sure I can do most things that I need to be able to do. Now, it's more about having good ideas for making eLearning engaging and exciting. I'd like to make some game-based learning and assessments, something along the lines of choose your own adventure stories, maybe incorporating some video or animations.
I'm hoping to use these goals as the basis for my CPD objectives this year. Then I'm going to set out some mini-targets for each month, to ensure progress. Hopefully, this time next year, I'll have made some more big steps forward and be closer to the point of being able to consider freelance work eventually.
In my last post, I briefly touched on this subject. There are so many jobs where we may find ourselves searching for images online, that we want to include in some piece of work. When I was teaching, and making learning resources for my class, I frequently needed images to bring content to life. Can you imagine teaching children about life in Kenya without showing them any photographs or images of Kenya? Similarly, when preparing a PowerPoint presentation for a business meeting, you might want icons, logos, images or other graphical content. How do we do this in a way that is legal and ethical? Whilst there is a lot of information out there, most of it is not licenced for reuse and if we just help ourselves to it and use it for our own purposes, that is a big no-no!
The Creative Commons (CC) licencing system enables photographers and artists to upload their work and have control over how others can use it. There is a lot of information on their website and it is defini…
A couple of weeks ago, I signed up for a year of Adobe Creative Cloud. I'd been looking at it for a while, as a professional development activity, but the price had put me off. Then a special offer came along, which made it a wee bit more affordable, so I splashed out!
It comes with more than twenty apps, which is more than I can process in one go, so I decided I would start with Photoshop and Illustrator. I watched dozens of the online video tutorials, which were a great introduction to Photoshop. I haven't really touched Illustrator yet, though I will be doing. What I have discovered, which I really like, is Lightroom.
Lightroom stood out because, as well as the app, there is a web version of it, so I can use it wherever I happen to be. It will take a while of playing with the different sliders to know what works best, but it certainly helps solve one of my main photography problems.
I have a black dog. Black dogs are a pain in the backside to get good photos of. To make it …