IT Consultant…who woulda thunk it?

It has been quite a while since I posted to the site. The good news is that I still work at home but now I split my time between client offices and my home office (where my four-legged assistant provides reminders about my schedule).

Here are some professional highlights:

  • I graduated with the degree in Instructional Technology (yay!)
  • I started working as an IT Project Manager and Business Analyst (the Lord just plopped me down into that role and it seems that it’s the path I’ll follow!)
  • I started a corporation and I have a few corporate clients, one primary and a few infrequent (making hay while the sun is shining…)
  • I am nearly finished with a degree in computer science (odd that I started a business in a field BEFORE getting the specific university education?) — two classes remain for fall 2016!
  • Earned Project Management Professional and Microsoft Project certifications
  • I’ve increased my fluency in Spanish and Portuguese (and I’m still waiting for the break-out opportunity that will allow me to use the languages along with the other skills!)

So what can be expected for 2016 and beyond? Well, I’ll get back into the practice of posting to this blog some of the neat technology I’ve come across for personal and business use that I hope will be as useful to you!

Let’s continue to share ideas!

Collaborating via Wiki sites

One major assignment in my university course was collaborating via a course wiki.

The site has turned out quite nicely, save a few problems with the overall organization, which is the issue I would like to address today.

First, one student took charge of the initial site organization and after a few changes, the main topics were established. Somewhere along the way, students started veering off course and there was no consistency. If I were to collaborate via wiki in the future, I would definitely assign one person  to enforce page hierarchies, and categories. If the site is difficult to navigate, it’s pretty much useless to the community.

If you’ve ever collaborated via wiki, how did it turn out for you and your group or organization?

Let’s share ideas!

Website for Instruction

One of my final assignments for my university class was setting up an instructional website. I toyed with the idea of creating a brand new site “from scratch,” but then I realized that there’s no reason to try to reinvent the wheel: rather, just use tools already available to me.

With that in mind, I decided to use webs.com. Perhaps you recall geocities.com from Yahoo? Well, webs.com offers free web space with options to upgrade to a pay site.

After registering on the site, users have the option of selecting from templates or using their own html code. There are several free, useful apps such as calendar and store to enhance websites, which eliminate the need for users to develop their own.

After developing the content (text, images), it was quite easy to use the templates and site up the site. My instructional site consists of internal and external links:

  • Home
  • Registration
  • Calendar
  • Discussions
  • Resources
  • Assignments
  • Moodle
  • Wiki Site
  • Database Intro
  • Blog
  • About the Instructor
  • Contact

Which free website services have you used? Webs.com? Others? How did they work out for you?

Let’s share ideas!

In the studio: podcasting

This week I will create a podcast, an assignment in my university class.  Though I have created podcasts before, I must admit that they were never really organized well. Well, I decided to do a better job at organizing this time!

Podcast topic: Data Mining

Goals: Introduce data mining and its use in the business analysis context

Outline:

1. Musical Introduction

2. Speaking topics:  Definitions of data mining, business analysis, the professional business analyst, software used

3. Examples, Business cases – benefits for companies

4. Questions, Related Information

5. Conclusion

Timing: 5-7 minutes

My plan is to learn to use the Adobe Soundbooth program while working on the project; however, I will turn to Audacity if Soundbooth proves to complex for me to be able to meet my deadline.

Are you a regular podcaster? What are some helpful techniques to get others started? What’s your technique for scheduling recording on a regular basis?

Let’s share ideas!

On a quest for knowledge

Ever heard of a webquest? Well, today I submitted my first webquest as a part of my online course.

Webquests facilitate learning.

A webquest is an inquiry-based online activity that students typically work on in groups(en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WebQuest). Generally, these tools are used in K-12 environments; however, depending on the content, they can also be applied to college courses.

I registered for a free 30-day membership on questgarden.com, selected a quest template and quickly starting building the webquest. Fortunately, I had planned my activities in advance and was able to copy and paste text. When learnng via webquest, students actively participate in the learning process: they do more than read an instructor’s notes and ‘regurgitate’ what the instructor has provided. If you are an instructor, perhaps the webquest methodology might be useful for you. Try it out and share your experience.

Let’s share ideas!

Website Planning

This week, one of the assigned tasks is to write a brief proposal for a website. Thinking back to the numerous online sites that I have created, I realize that in most cases, I did not do much planning as I probably needed to do.

I always sketched a navigation plan for how I wanted visitors to view my site; however, I did not give much thought to the purpose for the page, or the type visitors I hoped to attract.

My instructor’s requirements for an instructional website proposal included:

  • Purpose of the Web site (why would someone come here?)
  • Target audience for the Web site

What other requ1irements have you considered when desigining a website?

Let’s share ideas!

Following and subscribing to Twitter and Blogs

Like many others I know, I have set up multiple RSS feeds to news sites and companies. Yet, I don’t know many people who actually read their RSS feeds. Who really has the time to read it all?

Today, as a requirement of my university class, I subscribed to about ten blogs and followed 10 tweeters. The Twitter experience left me wondering whether there would be an easier way to follow others.

I did a quick Bing search and found links to articles about apps called TwitterMass (posted in April 2009), Twollow (2008 posting), and the Twitter auto-follow option, which apparently was eliminated sometime in 2009.

The existence of these apps helps to explain how some individuals had large followings, and why I often receive messages that users with strange names were following my account.

What has your experience been with subscribing to blogs, following, “liking” and linking with other users?

Let’s share ideas!

eLearning: Are you Captivating or Articulating?

Okay, I realize that the title lacks true wit but I wanted to discuss eLearning software today, particularly Articulate and Captivate. But first , I hope that everyone was able to honor our soldiers today, Memorial Day 2011.

As my career in training and facilitation evolves, I am incorporating more and more technology to produce training materials. Recently I purchased Adobe Captivate 5 (as well as Adobe CS5) and I signed up for a review copy of Articulate Presenter ’09.

I have not had a chance to install the Articulate Presenter (compressed file is still resting in my downloads folder); however, to start getting some return on my investment in the Captivate software, I started by experimenting a little on my own and then following instructions from a tutorial book from a company called Iconlogic. As such, this blog will cover my learning brief experience with Captivate to date (ease of use review), and I will add a review of Articulate at a later time.

In my first venture without the training book, I decided to create a new Captivate project from a PowerPoint. I chose a presentation I used when teaching a Microsoft Project class. The program read my PowerPoint presentation fairly quickly and I was able to select which slides I wanted to include in the Captivate project. I added audio to several slides and everything seemed to go well

However, before I could continue with this practice activity, I had to put the program to use with an actual client.

The project: Create a demo for two associates who would be required to import spreadsheet reports and create a monthly management summary.

I proceeded to use this new software in my usual way (hunting through menus and attempting to use my basic knowledge of menu organization logic) before I resolved to open the help files. I was successful in recording from the spreadsheet program, along with the audio recording of my instructions.

However, when I attempted to publish/export the captivate project to Flash, an error message appeared. The file exported but when I played it, the video played at lightning speed, which meant the audio was incomprehensible. After multiple attempts to adjust the settings from hints I found online, and the second and third takes of the recording, I decided to walk away from the computer, which has the Windows Vista operating system installed.

I picked up my Windows 7 computer and recorded a quick demo and I delighted to see that the project exported without error, and played correctly in web browser, at the correct speed and with audio. I recorded the full version of the demo, posted all the files on the web and my client acknowledged that everything worked.

I have not had time to investigate but I suspect that my newer version of Captivate may not be supported on my 32 bit version of Vista, which would indicate that I did not read the requirements completely when I purchased the software!

Has anyone else had problems with Captivate on Windows Vista? What techniques did you use to resolve them?

Let’s share ideas!

Glogster!

I recently used an online technology called Glogster (glogster.com) to create and teach an online lesson. It was actually an interview for a contract training job that would involve teaching of online classes so I thought that it would be a good time to try something different.

First of all, I signed up for glogster.edu, which is the glogster site specifically for teachers. The main glogster site appears to have some social aspects and the site’s creators decided to delineate between the two sites.

The site was very easy to use. I completed the sign up steps within a few minutes and was ready to create my glog and add student users (with password access).

Creating the glog

This the tool menu visible on the design page.

Graphics – There are hundreds of available graphics (similar to clip art) and text styles available.

Images – I was able to upload my own images in one format (see “cons” below).

Videos – Attaching videos was simple via upload or linking to videos on Youtube and other video sites.

Data – I also attached a pdf document that the attendees could download and view on their computers.

Draw – The draw tool is a simple pen tool for which the pen size and ink color could be changed.

Wall – The wall tool is used to add a background color to the glog, which should be used sparingly, if other images and graphics are already on the page.

Audio – Upload or link to audio to teach an entire class

Cons

  • The navigation is not complex but it is not easy to edit the glog after logging in. The user has to click through several steps.
  • Preset graphics and text modifications are limited to re-size, rotate and re-color.
  • The site only accepts uploaded images in the .img format. I worked around this limitation by changing the file extension of the image I wanted to upload.

Despite the aforementioned limitations, Glogster is an easy web program for creating websites and online classes.

How are you using Glogster to teach or communicate? Let’s share ideas!

Downsizing…

Update: I went back and purchased a different netbook, this time from Sony. You will notice that I deleted the reference to the previous one. The original screen size was just 1 inch too small. The 11″ Vaio is much better for my production needs!

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Well, I finally caved in and purchased a netbook this week. Hence, I am downsizing, at least for the days that I am working away from my home office.

I have been working on a contract for the past several months and my laptop, an iBook (oldie but goodie), doesn’t have the software I need on-site. Thus, I have been at the mercy of the client’s PCs. This week I received a laptop from them to be able to work in different offices. Yes, the same week that I received my netbook. Great timing, eh?

The XXX that I purchased is pretty standard and runs on Windows 7. The keyboard is large enough for a full day or production, in my opinion. However, considering that I spend a great deal of time on my mobile phone keyboard (a nice LG phone) using Word and Excel, anything larger will seem almost full-size. So, check it out for yourself to see whether you agree.

The price was decent for the specs (under $300) so I’m pretty happy with my decision (i.e., I’m not likely to have second thoughts and send it back!).

I’m already looking for options to upgrade the memory from 1 to 2 GB. I’m not so much concerned with the storage since I store most of my files online but speed is always important. I will post again after I complete the upgrade.

Any other late adapters out there like me? Anyone still “holding out” for a big sale?

Let me know what you’re thinking. Let’s share ideas!