Compressing images in PowerPoint (or Word)

With digital cameras taking pictures at higher and higher resolutions, people are ending up with very large PowerPoint presentations, or Word files (if they include pictures) which often causes problems when trying to upload it to say a VLE, as well as increasing the time it takes for the student to open the file when accessing it from home.

In earlier versions of PowerPoint and Word there wasn’t much you could do with this, unless you edited the images beforehand in some graphics software. However in Office 2003 and later, there is a quick and easy solution as follows:-

Save your presentation somewhere safe with the images full resolution. Then save it again (e.g. file, save as. choose a different name) so you can create a lower resolution version of the file.

  1. Click on any picture in the file, you should see a picture toolbar appear (it may be floating, it may be at the bottom of the screen) – if it doesn’t then go to View, Toolbars, tick next to ‘Picture’
  2. On this toolbar there should be an icon called ‘Compress Images’ – it is an image of a picture with 4 inward pointing arrows.
  3. Compress Picture Option in PowerPoint
  4. Click on this icon – it should open a new window.
  5. Select the option for ‘All images in document’ – this will compress all the images, not just the one that is selected.
  6. Lower down it asks you to choose what to compress it to, choose Web/Screen – then click on OK
  7. Save the file, and see how much smaller it now is. You should also notice that when viewed on screen, or via a projector you won’t be able to notice the difference the resolution.

Improvement to my PowerPoint Score Ladders resource

Following a few requests from people, and having sat down to work out how to do it, I have improved the Score Ladders resource, to include the option of having ‘cumulative’ ladders. With these when you click on the ladder, rather than a single block moving up the ladder, you get that block and all the ones below it highlighted, and a number appears in each block giving an actual score rather than just a visual one.

The resource can be found at

The learning design paradox

I have spent the day at a JISC event looking at learning design tools (tools that help a tutor to design learning activities), and I have come to realise that this area is a victim of a self inflicted paradox. From what I can make out, most of the tools were developed by universities so by this very fact have (not deliberately) developed to suit the HE style of learning and teaching rather than the FE style.

The sector that would benefit most from ‘good’ learning design is the FE sector where differences in the design of the learning can make a huge difference to the learning that takes place. Unfortunately the people teaching in the FE sector do not have the time to engage in these tools whilst teaching 25ish hours per week, as well as doing all the other things that they are doing.

In the HE sector on the other hand, the staff involved in teaching do have more time (and I can make this comment having worked in both sectors) – however the benefits to the students are less than for FE.

Secondly (in my opinion) the only way that learning design can really work is if it replaces current practices in terms of lesson planning. In FE lesson planning is a major part of the process and although the range of detail in ones lesson plan varies from not very much to very detailed, lesson plans are accepted as being a major part of the inspection process. In HE on the other hand, lesson planning isn’t the norm so they are better positioned to receive a new process like learning design, but the fact that there is in the main a reluctance (and some HE lecturers are clearly insulted if you mention lesson planning to them) to adopt lesson planning then I guess there will be a similar reluctance to accept learning design.

So in summary

FE would benefit most, and would be more receptive to this idea, but the staff won’t have time, the tools are not aimed at them, and adopting them would require someone to challenge the way that inspection looks at lesson planning

HE would benefit (but not as much), and the tools are better suited to them, and they have more time, but there is likely to be a reluctance from many people involved.

This may sound like I am being negative about the whole thing, but I am not personally I am keen on anything that raises the standards of learning teaching and assessment, I just feel that the tools nor the sectors are ready for each other yet. It is important for research in this area to continue and maybe in a few years time, the tools and the sectors will be ready.

DimDim – a web-based conferencing tool

Over the last few years I have looked at various web-based conferencing tools, to see if any of the ‘free’ ones could be seriously used for teaching purposes, and generally there has always been something about the tools that has held them back. Yesterday a colleague of mine introduced me to this tool (currently in Beta) called DimDim and my initial thoughts are that this looks good.


You don’t need to install any propriety software (it may need a few java applelets) and once set up, one person hosts the meeting – they then invite attendees who access it. It has the usually features of being able to show a presentation, show a desktop, share a whiteboard (for doodling), chat etc. When we were trialling it yesterday, we could both speak simultaneously without any breaking up or interference, and I was running from a wireless network.


Obviously need to test it further, and see if there is any reason why college security settings would stop it from working, but so far it has got my thumbs up.

Concept Mapping training session

Ran a session today for Blackpool and the Fylde College on “The uses of concept mapping in education”, which went pretty well. The first half of the session we looked at Inspirations which is the concept mapping software that they have, and most people were very impressed, including one tutor who during the course of the session was converted from being a sceptic, to loving it – not bad in a couple of hours!

The second half of the session I looked at with them, as a free web-based collaborative concept mapping tool, which some thought was OK, but a few weren’t as keen as bubbl doesn’t have any where near the full functionality of Inspirations, so the staff were a little disappointed with it. On reflection – next time I run a session like this, I’ll do the bubbl training first and hopefully get people excited about some of the concepts and benefits that it can bring to the learning experience – then move up to the Inspirations training.

A couple of attendees had used Mind Genius previously and agreed with me, that although Inspirations has some good features, and out performs Mind Genius (my weapon of choice) in some areas (images in particular, and the ability to drag branches to any position) – overall Mind Genius was the more versatile and powerful of the 2

Towards the end of the session, one of the attendees through the wonders of found another collaborative concept mapping tool, that I hadn’t heard of called MindMeister – on initial inspection it looks pretty good – has the benefits of being web based and collaborative but much closer to the functionality of commercial packages than Bubbl. With MindMeister you can create up to 6 basic maps for free – after that you need to pay a monthly licence – which although very cheap, most people won’t want to do.

All the same the exciting thing is that computerised concept mapping is starting to become mainstream, which is great, and hopefully as more and more free tools come along, more people will use them, and the commercial providers will look at their pricing structures to make sure that they remain competitive.

If anyone is interested in a presentation on the uses of Concept Mapping in education, then one can be found on my website

YouTube rolls out filtering tool

This looks interesting

There is some great stuff on sites like YouTube, which can be used so effectivewly in education, its just a shame that to find it you have to soft through all the rubbish, offensive stuff and blatent copyright breaches. Hopefully this tool from YouTube will have 2 effects.

  1. Reduce the amount of content breaking copyright
  2. Increase the amount of legitimate content

‘Life after Death By PowerPoint’

Whilst searching for some resources on YouTube to complement a training session on Embedding videos into PowerPoint I found some videos of ‘Life after Death by PowerPoint’ by a comedian called Don McMillan, I think he quite brilliantly through the use of comedy highlights some of the key points to do with the effective (or ineffective) use of PowerPoint.

Details (including how to buy the video) can be found at

and the video is viewable by clicking here

This should be a compulsory resource on any teacher training course!