MySimpleShow

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Presentation applications occupy this strange space, used by some for live presenting and others for online videos and slideshows. mysimpleshow is definitely the latter, focused on quickly turning out video presentations. There are two primary routes for using the platform:

  1. Importing existing slide presentations in PowerPoint format and
  2. Writing narration for a whiteboard style video, à la RSA Animate.

When importing, the visuals will be lost, so, tending as I do towards highly visual presentation slides, this option is not useful at all for me.

However, the writing narration option detects keywords and connects them with visuals. The resultant images and their movements are customizable and fun, if repetitive. In the video below, created in about 5 minutes, I left all the suggested keywords and their images intact, as suggested. You can see the result is a little odd.

One particularly nice option in the final steps, especially for the camera (or microphone) shy is the audio. You can choose between two TTS voices or record your own voice over.

In either case, the process is straightforward and well-scaffolded. This is not groundbreaking in terms of either style or technology, but it does provide a simple and quick solution to present information.

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Multimedia Presenters

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Education is all about presentation. For however much we advocate for and create student-centered practices, sooner or later, we have to present information to students, receive information from administrators and consultants, and teach students how to effectively present information. Surely, we have all been on the receiving end of a Death by PowerPoint.

impress.js

By far my favorite solution to problem of dynamic audiovisual supplements to presentations is the impress.js framework, which leverages modern technology (JavaScript & CSS3) to create presentations in the style of interactive, 3-dimensional, kinetic typography. It is simple and lightweight, and portable to all modern internet browsers without any particular backend requirements. Best of all, it is entirely transparent and Open Source. impress.js is actually a scripting framework, and, as such, can be written (and edited) entirely from a simple text editor. While this is an advantage, it also makes scripting knowledge a necessary skill for its utilization. However, the Open Source nature of the project allows anyone to create a User Interface (UI) and a number of them are in active development. Each of the UIs listed below results in a downloadable package than can be uploaded to any website or transported on any media and later opened from any modern web browser on any device.

Strut

The impress.js UI that seems to strike the strongest balance between features and ease of use is Strut. This website gives users the ability to easily create professional-looking presentations, as well as the ability for advanced users to make detailed changes.

Impressionist

The Impressionist UI is still in the Alpha phase of development, and does not appear to be under active development. This means there are a few issues, and some usability options that could make it easier to use but probably will not be changed. For instance, text fields are currently limited to one line, although you can have more than field on each slide. Nevertheless, it does result in an effective and consistent product.

Dyapos

The strength of the Dyapos UI is its ability to quickly create a simplistic, although cohesive presentation in the impress.js framework. As can usually be expected, the simplistic approach to ease-of-use compromises customization. It is a fairly even trade, though, depending on the user’s purposes, and the code itself can always be further edited once it is exported from the website.

Some alternatives

  • Emaze – Presentations in the traditional 2-dimensional deck format, although with aesthetically interesting themes and transitions. Free accounts are somewhat limited, but should be sufficient for most users. Modification is somewhat limited, although that does keep the user somewhat more within the appropriate bounds of the design theme. PowerPoint import is an added bonus. Downloading is not possible with the free account.
  • Infogr.am – Presentations based on the infographic model, simple interface that creates a scrollable, interactive document especially suited for the web. Modern design, although repetitive themes, embedding is straightforward, although contextual linking is not possible.
  • Knovio.com – Not a replacement for the presentation software usual suspect, so much as a platform for addending and sharing. Knovio users can upload existing PowerPoint decks and then supplement them with audio or video tied to each individual slide.
  • PowToon – Billed as a presentation software and animated movie maker, PowToon has simple, playful but still professional graphics and interesting transitions. Integrated tutorials offset the significant learning curve. Google account integration is a nice feature, although tight YouTube integration might make sharing difficult. For non-YouTube viewing and sharing, use the “Preview” button which will reveal other methods. They have also recently launched an easier presentation slide creator, which is easy and gives polished and customizable results.

Meme and Text Generators

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WonkaSometimes the simplest of tools can be overlooked. In the ed tech world, it is easy to get excited about the amazingly powerful new whatsit, neglecting simple, culturally relevant, and socially leveraged tools like memes and SMS strings. (We both know your time online is punctuated with at least an occasional few mindless minutes full of “Y U No…” and “The 48 Funniest Autocorrects of 2013” threads. Your secret is safe with me.)

Memes and SMS screenshots are both prime examples of summary, with which most students are already very familiar.  One word of caution, though: Memes are a repository for a lot of different ideas, including those ranging from generally untoward to downright repugnant. You may be better off downloading the blank images and providing them to students with a direction to use their favorite generic image editor (like GIMP!) and the awesome power of Impact.

I will let you Google meme generators for yourself, to absolve myself of the culpability of links, but a great SMS spoofer I am not afraid to link to is iFakeText.

Audacity

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While fine tuning the audio track for a school video today, I got to thinking about Audacity, and just how powerful a program it is. It has often been one of my favorites to recommend to people. It is such a great feeling to connect people with resources they need, and few and far between are those who have never had the need, or at the least the desire, to edit a song or other sound file.

Audacity, however, is getting more and more difficult to introduce to people. The audio editing suite is saturating the market in a way that is unique for F/LOSS. It is easy enough to use for beginners, and yet robust enough for most serious users. It works on all three of the major computer platforms and is quickly amassing a sizeable library of useful plugins. Audacity is a simple, straightforward tool that can quickly produce professional-quality results. 

ChrisDynamicCompressorThat said, I am always looking to streamline the process of audio editing, and this video presented some challenges not at all unusual to those accustomed to creating school media. Students, teachers and administrators were all recorded in different locations, at different levels with different microphone setups and different ambient noise. Enter Chris’s Dynamic Compressor. A combined compressor (to get the quiet parts louder), limited (to get the loud parts quieter), and noise gate (to hush the ambient noise), this was exactly what the audio needed. After installing the plugin, I tweaked the settings to match the best settings from this page, ran the plugin, and all was good. Now to add some music

Nelson Mandela (1918-2013)

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On 5 December 2013, South African President Jacob Zuma made the following announcement: “Our beloved Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, the founding President of our democratic nation has departed. He passed on peacefully in the company of his family around 20h50 on the 5th of December 2013. He is now resting. He is now at peace. Our nation has lost its greatest son. Our people have lost a father. Although we knew that this day would come, nothing can diminish our sense of a profound and enduring loss. His tireless struggle for freedom earned him the respect of the world.” The importance of Nelson Mandela (full version) upon world history can hardly be overstated, and yet for those young enough to be spared exposure to apartheid, it can be hard to understand. Collected below are a series of resources to help understand what apartheid was and Mandela’s role in its dismantlement.

The Government of South Africa

The South African Government’s ongoing guide to tributes and press releases about Nelson Mandela and his final arrangements. This is a simple site, but there are wealth of resources, including a 13-minute documentary overview of his life story.

National Archives – Apartheid in South Africa

National Security Council, Central Intelligence Agency

A vintage documentary from the National Archive hosted at Internet Archive, “this film explores South Africa’s apartheid policy, focusing on issues such as race relations, political practices, and segregated dwellings. The footage includes several interviews with black leaders.”

Nelson Mandela’s First Television Interview

With notes from OpenCulture.com, this includes a notable explanation of his beliefs about peace and violence in the fight to end apartheid.

Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory

“The Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory delivers the core-work of the Nelson Mandela Foundation. The Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation established in 1999 to support its Founder’s ongoing engagement in worthy causes on his retirement as President of South Africa…The Centre focuses on three areas of work: the Life and Time of Nelson Mandela, Dialogue for Social Justice and Nelson Mandela International Day.”

Afropop Worldwide’s Hip Deep

South African Artists Celebrate the Life and Legacy of Nelson Mandela: “The extraordinary wisdom and forgiveness of Nelson Mandela as he led South Africa out of the hated apartheid system to a non-racial, democratic society is a deep inspiration that will long outlive him. Along the long journey to freedom, South African musicians offered vivid reflections of the emotions of the moment.”

Mandela Story

In is an interesting take on Madiba from the site for Nelson Mandela Day, in which young people give 67 minutes of their day to further the causes of equity and social justice, Mandela’s life is viewed through the lens of social media.