Every once in awhile, I run into a video that refuses to play on my computer or it won’t import properly into a PowerPoint document. A solution that works for me is to convert the video file to an MP4 file format. I use a University supported tool called MediaHub to convert videos to a usable format.

How it works:
  1. Go to MediaHub.umn.edu
  2. Upload one or more video files at once
  3. Select the type of video file you want for playback: IOS/Android/Mobile, PowerPoint or Web. All of these options will produce an MP4 file but in the appropriate size/resolution for your playback choice.
  4. A download link will be emailed to you in a short time. Files are stored for 15 days and not recoverable after that.
You may not use this tool often but it sure is handy when you need it!




A couple of weeks ago, I was part of a brainstorming session where some people couldn’t attend in person. Our in person plan was to bring different colored post-it notes and use an in-room whiteboard. I set out to find us an online solution so everyone could participate.

I’ve used a few sticky note apps in the past, for organizing my own work and for online collaboration so I looked at those apps first. After considering Google Keep, note.ly and Stormboard, I settled on RealtimeBoard for our meeting.

RealtimeBoard is an endless virtual whiteboard that can be accessed from anywhere. You can:
  • Add files, notes, stickers, icons, draw, comments, images, video
  • Collaborate together at the same time or on your own
Here is an example of our whiteboard (zoomed out):



You can start with a blank board or from a template:



Once you are on your board, use the toolbar to add files, text, notes, boxes, arrows, lines and comments. You can upload documents from your computer, Google Drive, Dropbox, capture a web page, create a chart, add wireframes, icons and images:



I was able to copy/paste an entire column from Excel and it created notes for every single cell. That saved me a bunch of time!

When you add a sticky note, you can change the size, format text, change color, add tags and emojis. You can layer your notes or drag them anywhere on the whiteboard.



You can view a map of your whiteboard and use the zoom tools or your mouse to move to different parts of your board.



Use this app for your projects, visual planning, building wireframes, consensus workshops, presenting, creating infographics, brainstorming and visualizing ideas. I downloaded the app for my iPhone which will be great for times I don't have my computer with me. Check it out for yourself! It’s an awesome tool. Best of all is that it’s free for educational use.

It worked great for our meeting. I'd love to hear how a tool like this could help your work. Share your thoughts in the comments.




Quick Bytes Live! Podcast

#20:  The New Google Sites, Canvas update, and Tech Finds

(recorded July 18, 2017)
Karen and Amy talk over the features and limitations of The New Google Sites, as well as answer a listener question about Canvas. We also share our Tech Finds of the week.
 Links from this episode:
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Earlier this year, the New Google Sites was enabled for our University domain. They are pretty different from what we are used to, and in some cases that is a good thing!

To refresh all of our memories on why we love having Google Sites in the world:

Google Sites' strength is in its collaboration. Multiple people can be in charge of it. You can setup a site for a committee you're on, and everybody can add and maintain stuff. It is common for committee and project work. Below you'll see an example of using it for education--a great way to set it apart from the main website as a self-contained chunk of curriculum. ("Self Contained Chunk" is a very technical term!)

Here are two GREAT examples of pages made with the new Google Sites:

(the first one is just a screenshot since it's only supposed to be for Master Gardeners and you possibly aren't one of those)

Master Gardener "Flowers for Pollinators" teaching package resource site:



OMGosh. SO PRETTY!! And there are embedded google docs and presentations all over the place. It looks great.

Here's the new Google Site for Extension's big web re-design project:


You can see on both of these how you can add a little branding. I show that in the video below too.

Old Google Sites was very unique looking

Just Tell Me What's Different Already!

  • Less distinctively weird looking. More modern.
  • Looks good on mobile
  • Add anything from Google apps (Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, Charts, Videos, or Images, Calendars, Maps, and YouTube videos). All of these show a preview of the file, with the full content viewable after a visitor selects the file. The Old Google Sites did something similar but it's just nicer now.
  • You can drag content around and it snaps into place
  • You can publish just to your organization (umn.edu) or the world. The World! Mwahahaha!
  • You can customize the url (a bit)
  • If you want super granular permissioning (like picking what specific people can see specifically), it is possible in the Old Google Sites but I haven't found a way to do that in New Google Sites
  • As far as I can tell, you can't convert an Old Google Site to a New Google Site.

In which I demo making a site in less than 5 minutes





The University’s z.umn.edu URL-shortening service recently added some great new features that you should know about! Back in March 2016, our article How to Shorten a Link (URL) and Track It described what z.umn.edu is and why you would use it. Today I want to highlight what is new in Z and share a short video that shows you how to use the new features.

Transfer Ownership

You now have the ability to transfer ownership of your links to someone else. This feature is great if you are leaving your position or if you no longer need to manage the z-link for a project, event, document, survey, website, etc.
  1. Under My Z-Links, select one or more URLs
  2. Click Give to a different user
  3. Enter the name or Internet ID of the person you want to transfer to
NOTE: The person you are transferring to must accept it. You can revoke access until they accept.

Organize and Share Collections

You can group your URLs into collections to organize them (e.g. projects, events, documents). Collections can be shared with other users to edit, view stats and add URL’s.

Create a collection:
  1. Under My Collections, click Add New Collection
  2. Enter a name and description and click Create Collection
Share a collection:
  1. Under My Collections, click the under the actions column and select Members
  2. Enter a name or Internet ID and click Add member
Transfer a URL to a collection:
  1. Under My Z-Links, find the URL you want to transfer
  2. Under the Collections column drop-down, select a collection

Departmental Accounts

You can use a departmental account to log into z.umn.edu to create and manage URLs. You can also share collections with departmental accounts.

Tweet

As soon as you create a URL, you can click the Tweet button to quickly share the URL via Twitter.

QR Code

A custom QR code is automatically created with any new z-link. When you create a new URL, you can click the QR Code button to download a QR image to your computer. 
Existing links:
  1. Click the under the actions column
  2. Select Share and QR code
  3. The QR code image is downloaded to your computer

Stats

You can still view statistics about your URLs by clicking the under the actions column and selecting stats. The page layout has changed a bit and they’ve added a place to manage the collection for your link, and buttons to tweet and create a QR code.































Quick Bytes Live! Podcast

Ann Fandrey and IT Goldy, ready for podcasting

#19:  Don't Call my Slides PRETTY

(recorded June 19, 2017)
We welcome the lovely Ann Fandrey, Academic Technologist at UMN, on the show to talk about her research and recommendations in academic slide design. She talks about bullets, clip art, stock photos, charts, conceal and reveal, and lots more about how and when to use these tools. 
 Links from this episode:

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Do you need a slide? flowchart, as described verbally in the podcast


Image uploaded from iOS.jpg
Ann Fandrey, Academic Technologist, U of MN College of Liberal Arts
Last week at the Innovate! Teaching with Technology conference in Morris, I attended a workshop about academic slide design led by Ann Fandrey, Academic Technologist in the UMN College of Liberal Arts. Ann’s interactive session provided lots of examples, research, practical tips and a space to discuss challenges people have with visual design.

Below are a few of my takeaways from this workshop. Be sure to also listen to the Extension Quick Bytes podcast discussion we had with Ann this week!

We aren't born with visual literacy skills. 

  • Analyze lots of examples
  • Practice making visuals
  • Practice collaborative critique with other people and iterating your own designs. 

Try to be intentional with your design.

You should have a reason for every slide and for every element on each slide.

People cannot listen and read at the same time.

When you are doing a live presentation, people are watching and listening to you. If you show slides that are too text-heavy, you force your audience to divide their attention between reading your slides and listening to you.

Do you need a slide?

Slides that try to do 3 things at once (teleprompter, speaker notes, and visual aids) end up doing none of them well. To decide whether you need a slide, ask yourself whether your slide is meant to
  1. Clarify
  2. Help them retain information
  3. Sustain interest
Look at this awesome decision tree!

Photo of a PowerPoint slide titled "Do you need a slide?". It includes a graphic of a decision tree about needing a slide or not.

Bullet points may still be the most efficient design choice.

For example, use bullets only when:
  • You want people to recall items from memory
  • Items map directly to your learning objectives
  • You need a list
TIP: use progressive disclosure: conceal parts of your slide and reveal them when you want to talk about them.

Use assertion evidence technique.

People remember more when you put your main point (short sentence at the top) and use an image to prove it in the body. Don’t assume everyone can see/read the slide or understand the use of an image. Here is one of Ann's before/after examples:

Before:
Poorly designed slide example with the title "Buffer strips" and several long sentences bulleted.
Fandrey, A. 2017. Academic Slide Design: Visual Communication for Teaching and Learning. Mpls: Scale + Fine
After:
Redesigned slide with an aerial photo of a field with large text and an arrow showing Buffer strips improve soil, water and air quality.
Fandrey, A. 2017. Academic Slide Design: Visual Communication for Teaching and Learning. Mpls: Scale + Fine

Use a style guide.

A style guide is a set of micro-agreements you make (with yourself) at the start of the slide design process. Making these decisions with colors, fonts, animations, pointers, alignment, shapes (use round or hard edges), etc., helps you stay consistent within slides. Consisten slides create a more cohesive deck, which makes it easier to learn from your slides and adds up to your professional credibility.

Other tips.

  • White space is the best tool to focus attention 
  • The big thing or the bright thing on your slide get looked at first 
  • Eyes follow lines. Lines divide content

My notes barely scratch the surface of this workshop but I highly recommend you check out Ann Fandrey’s book Academic Slide Design: Visual Communication for Teaching and Learning. that was just published in April 2017!  It will be available in mid July at the UMN library and of course available to purchase online on Amazon. It is full of examples, tips and an excellent resource. Thank you Ann for a great workshop, podcast conversation and sharing this great information!


Quick Bytes Live! Podcast

Kari Robideau and her pal, IT Goldy

#18:  Remember these 7 things in your teaching webinars 

(recorded June 5, 2017)
This podcast is a special edition with an extended discussion of the criteria for good webinars, not to mention our special guest! Don't miss it! Amy, Karen, Alison, and special guest Kari Robideau (live from Moorehead, MN) go over the seven components of the Delivering High Quality Webinars "rubric." We also talk about how you could evaluate your own webinar performance. Spoiler alert, one way is watching your own webinars! Eww!
 Links from this episode:
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What is digital accessibility? 

According to whatis.com, digital accessibility is the ability for a website, mobile application, or electronic document to be easily navigated and understood by a wide range of users, including those users who have visual, auditory, motor or cognitive disabilities. People who have disabilities navigate websites using technology that helps them understand the content on the page. For example, a blind person uses a screen reader that will read the content to them; a person with no use of their hands may use a head pointer; and people who have difficulty typing may use text input software.

Example of a Screen Reader

** In this Quick Byte, I will only be discussing website accessibility.

Who does it affect? 

Disabilities affect a large part of the population – 15-20%. These can be temporary disabilities such as a broken arm or eye surgery; permanent disabilities such as deafness or blindness; or it could be an invisible disability such as ADHD or dyslexia. All of these types of disabilities will affect the way a person interacts with the web.

What can content editors do? 

When adding content to the web, be mindful of the people who use our websites. Here are some basic rules to follow:

Content

When writing content, be clear and concise. Scan-able content is very important for people who have trouble reading. Use headers, shorter paragraphs, lists, and plain language.

Headers

The header HTML (ex: H1, H2, H3, etc.) is not just used for looks. Screen readers will scan the page for all the headers and read them back to the user. Think of using headers as the outline of the page. They should always go in numerical order, do not skip headers and go from H2 to H4. Here's an example of what it should look like:

H1
     H2
          H3
               H4
     H2
          H3
     H2

Lastly, only include one H1 on each page. The H1 should be the topic of the entire page.

Images 

Images on websites can be used to add context to content or they can just be decoration on the page. Someone who is blind cannot see these images which is why alternative (alt) text is important. Alt text are words used to describe what the image is displaying. These words appear in the code, but not on the page. When a screen reader comes across an image, it will read this text to the user.

The only images that need alt text are the ones that add context to the associated content. If they’re used as a decorative addition, only include alt=”” in the code and the screen reader will pass right by it. If the blank alt="" is not included, the screen reader will read the image's file name back to the user.

diagram for when to use alt text on images

Photo Source: Adrian Roselli from his Selfish Accessibility presentation at MinneWebCon 2017. 

Links

Many times, links are denoted with a different color. This may not work for someone who has trouble seeing color differences. Adding an underline or a specific icon to the link helps all users understand that they can click on the words and be taken somewhere else. The underline should be included in the style sheet by the web designer or developer, so this isn’t something a content editor should have to worry about.

Example of what a colorblind person sees on our site with underlines (left) and without (right).
Screen shot of U of M Extension webpage with underlined links Screen shot of U of M Extension webpage without underlined links
When writing words that will become links, remember to be descriptive. Do not use ‘learn more’, ‘read more’, or ‘click here’. Screen readers can scan a page for all the links and read them back to the user. ‘Click more’ does not tell the user where they will go. Instead, you could use ‘learn about Extension’ and add the link to the whole phrase.


Summary

Creating websites that are accessible to all people takes work from everyone on the team. The more you consider how all users of a website are navigating around, the more people you will be able to serve.


Quick Bytes Live! Podcast

Episode 17:  Phishing, Google Photos, and more

(recorded May 24, 2017)
Amy, Karen, Alison, and Billie go over some ways you can be on high alert for Phishing attacks. We also have a tech tip about using Google Photos, and we all play Karen's Quiz Byte game, which this week is a fun idea for a meeting warm up.

Links from this episode:

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When I help people first learn WebEx, it’s hard for me not to overload them with all the great things you can do in a webinar. Most people learn the tool quickly and after hosting a few sessions, they are pretty proficient. But having a high quality webinar is more than just knowing how to use the software.

Kari and Karen.jpg
Karen and Kari, MN eLearning Summit 2016
Kari Robideau, Extension Educator in Youth Development and I have presented a number of workshops called “Sharpen Your Webinar Teaching Skills” where we focus on the research related to teaching and engaging participants in distance learning environments and we demonstrate/share techniques for distance learning. Between Kari’s experience teaching with webinar technologies and my experience supporting and teaching Extension employees how to use the tools, it has been a great collaboration.

Our workshop introduces participants to a webinar evaluation rubric for Extension. This is an evaluation tool that will assess the effectiveness and quality of extension staff teaching online. It can be used as a reflective practice tool for the teacher and/or as a peer review by a colleague.

The Rubric

The rubric includes 7 key webinar components and each component has 3-5 indicators. Examples are provided with each indicator. The 7 components are not a checklist that need to be completed in any order. As with any rubric, you know that if you have high marks in these areas, you will have a high quality presentation.
  • Technology: Tools, Distractions, Supplemental Materials
  • Content: Presenter Information, Goals, On Task
  • Organization: Direction, Online Accuracy, Information Chunking, Structure
  • Delivery: Variety, Reflection, Transitions
  • Visual Aids: Purpose, Readability, Scaffolding Information, Visual Relevance, Visual Variety
  • Participant Interaction: Active Learning Approaches, Expectation of Participants, Questions
  • Evaluation: Evaluation Provided

Example of the Technology component scoresheet:



Kari and I are very interested in feedback about anyone who uses the rubric to score and evaluate your webinars or even if you use it as a reflective practice tool or peer review by a colleague. Also, if you have suggestions for improving the tool, please let us know that as well!

Did you know...


  • It takes hackers only 9 minutes to crack an 8 character password.
  • You should use unique passwords for every account you create.
  • Passwords are not enough - you should use two-factor authentication (2FA) whenever possible. 
These are a few of many messages shared by Jenny Blaine at a recent Stay Safe Online presentation. Jenny is a Security Analyst with the University’s Information Security office. She reminded us that scams are nothing new except now they are more sophisticated, online, on your phone and on social media. Her presentation was not meant to scare us but rather inform us about ways we can protect ourselves.

Here are more resources and examples of what she shared:
Jenny is presenting her Stay Safe Online workshop at Extension staff conference this Thursday. It will be well worth your time!

Extension Technology at Staff Conference

We are looking forward to seeing you at staff conference and hope you join us in one or more of our workshops:

9:45 - 10:45 a.m.

Extension Quick Bytes Technology Demonstrations, Room 155
Join us for a look at several new tools you can use for collaboration, productivity, teaching and work/life balance. We will provide simultaneous small group demonstrations and use cases, giving you the information you need to decide if it would work for you. The open format will allow you to choose which demos you want to see, or see them all! This fun session will give you dozens of ideas and reboot your brain for fresh perspectives on how to enhance your work

10:55 - 11:55 am

Extension Quick Bytes Technology Demonstrations, Room 155 (repeat)

2:00 - 4:00 pm

Editing Educational Videos: Hands-on workshop, Room 230 LES
If you have ever taken video on a mobile device or camera and would like to learn how to edit and share your video, this workshop is for you! This hands-on workshop will teach you how to produce fast and easy educational videos. The primary focus here is on the editing and publishing piece of production. This workshop is intended for people who have previous experience shooting basic videos on mobile devices. Laptops provided. Limited to 30. Pre-registration required.

3:05 - 4:00 pm

Advanced PowerPoint: Slides that are compelling, creative and quick, Room 156
Would you like to raise the quality of your presentations and visuals? Learn advanced PowerPoint design best practices and easy ways to improve visualization of your numeric and non-numeric data. We'll show makeovers of different types of visuals (visuals donated by your Extension colleagues!) that will demonstrate how to improve your data visualization with quick changes using basic Microsoft Office software.




Quick Bytes Live! Podcast

Episode 16:  Infographics and e-publishing

(recorded May 9, 2017)
Amy, Karen, and Alison chat about one of Amy's favorite online tools, Piktochart. They discuss good uses of infographics and other similar tools. Alison answers a listener question about e-book publishing. And we all take her Quiz Byte!
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It's no secret around here, I am a huge fan of a free, online tool called Piktochart. I use it all the time to make infographics, usually shamelessly self-promoting our team. For example, this one!


I just have so much fun with these. You can upload your own images, so that's how I got little IT Goldy, our team pic, and even some branding on there. Then you can download as a PNG (image file) or share via a link (or even embed on the web with iframes, for you fellow nerds). Pretty handy.

Another one that our team has made for many years is our "By the Numbers" infographic (below). Infographics lend themselves especially well to this kind of thing. Numbers buried in paragraphs aren't as compelling. I embedded this one so the links in there are even live--nice, huh?



One thing to be aware of is that these infographics are very visual, and likely make their information difficult for visually impaired readers to get at. For this reason, I like these to be a supplement to the usual forms of information. Kind of a "cliff's notes" version of a real information source.

I've also used Piktochart to make presentations, which are super easy to create. You might want to be sure you have a good internet where you'll be presenting it. The presentations feature gives you a series of slide-sized infographics to page through.

Try it out and let us know what you do with it!

Quick Bytes Live! Podcast

Episode 15: Work Smarter(Arter) not Harder

(recorded April 27, 2017)
Amy and Karen chat about a long-time feature of Microsoft Office, Smart Art, and about how Karen is helping people rediscover this feature in today's "Data Viz" world. Karen tests her knowledge of Google tools, and answers a listener question about making screenshots. 

Links from this episode:

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SmartArt is a time-saving graphic tool, built into PowerPoint, Word and Excel. If you have never used SmartArt or if it’s been awhile since you explored it, you may want to take another look. With a few formatting changes to the plain vanilla SmartArt, you can quickly visualize your ideas with charts, diagrams, process maps and more. Tips for what type of graphic to choose are available right in the tool:

Using SmartArt in PowerPoint

SmartArt can be added on a slide from the Insert menu, or you can convert existing text to SmartArt. Here is an example of converting existing bulleted text to a nice visual design:

1. Right-click on some text
2. Select Convert to SmartArt


3. In the sub-gallery, hover the cursor over SmartArt to preview the graphics. Select a SmartArt graphic or click More SmartArt Graphics located at the bottom of the gallery to open the SmartArt dialog box.

4. In this example I chose the Picture Strips diagram



Some of the SmartArt designs include placeholders for photos or graphics. In this example, double-click on one of the placeholder boxes to add a photo.













SmartArt Design Toolbar


Use the SmartArt toolbar to make design changes to your graphic. Make sure you have your SmartArt selected (select the entire graphic, not just an element within the graphic):
Add or move shapes and text.  If you need to add a shape or re-order your shapes, use the tools in the Create Graphic section of the ribbon. Using the text pane is an easy way to edit your text.



Change the layout. If you want to change the graphic to something else, just click the drop down arrow to view more layouts.



Change colors. If you are using an Extension template, it will include Extension’s color palette.



Change styles. If you want to change the default style, click the down arrow in the SmartArt Styles section of the ribbon to view all of the available styles for your layout.






SmartArt can be cheesy and over-done so use your best judgement and don't go crazy, especially with the 3D styles and non-Extension colors. It's a quick way to transform your wordy slides into visuals. Here is the before/after of my example:

Before:


After:






More Examples:

Before:

After:



Before:


After:




Before:


After:
Have you used SmartArt to improve the design of your slides or help communicate your message? Do you have examples to share? We always enjoy your comments and questions.