Using Excel to create ‘tidy’ learning resources


Originally uploaded by Dave Foord

I often use Excel to create simple learning objects, especially ones that have an element of drag and drop. Having created my resource, I then tidy it up, so that when viewed over the internet (e.g. if accessed from a VLE) the user wouldn’t realise that it was Excel at all.

To do this I go to the Tools menu, then Options, I then make sure that the View tab is showing before unticking the following options

  • Formula bar
  • Row and Column Headings
  • Gridlines
  • Sheet Tabs

Then clicking OK – will turn the sometimes cluttered look of Excel into a clean simple tidy learning object


Podcast on Skype conferencing

Similar to my previous blog posting where 5 of us met up virtually via Skype to record a podcast, the discussions that took place before we ‘officially’ started recording were actually recorded and turned into a podcast.

Full details and the podcast itself are available on

This is certainly less polished than even the previous podcast, and there is laughing at times were an unitiated listener may not get the joke – but what this does show is that having a ‘natural’ discussion (and all bar James didn’t realise that we were being recorded) can have educational merit – and it would be possible to use something like audacity to pull out a few key quotes from this recording that could be used elsewhere.

And finally – appolgies to anyone from Sheffield – it is just unfortunate that it was Nick’s connection that let him down, if it had been mine then the joke would have been based on Loughborough.

Podcast on digital immigrants, natives, visitors and residents

A few weeks ago, I took part in a 5 way Skype conference along with James Clay, Lisa Valentine, Nick Jeans and David Sugden. The idea was to discuss the possibility of people like us holding regular recorded podcasts on different educational topics. We didn’t set out with the intention of recording this first session, but part way through felt that our conversation may be of interest to others, so we hit the record button, as we discussed the issue of digital natives or immigrants and a new take on this model called digital visitors and residents. The sound quality isn’t as smooth as some podcasts but the 5 involved were all scattered around the country, using Skype.

The beauty of this podcast is that unlike some of the official podcasts from the major organisations, (which are very good) – we can give our personal opinion (rather than the organisations opinion) and the fact that it is a natural conversation with the addition of some humour makes it a different listening experience. I don’t know whether people will be interested in what we have to say or not, but as a concept this is relatively simple to do, and shows a different educational medium that can be used.

If you have 15 minutes to spare, and want to listen to my 15 minutes of fame then listen here.

Recording sound directly into a Word file

The Voice Recorder icon in Word

The Voice Recorder icon in Word

Something that I often show people at training events, that is very easy but effective, is the ability to record sound directly into a Word file. Which if you are marking work that has been submitted electronically, this is brilliant as it is much easier to give feedback verbally than to try typing feedback into comments boxes in Word, or speech bubbles or as text where you then change the colour. It is much quicker for the person marking, and various studies on the use of audio for feedback, have suggested that most learners prefer it.

Some notes on how to do this, including an example of how it works, can be found at

PBwiki is getting even easier to set up accounts for learners

Of the different free wiki providers out there, pbwiki at the moment is still my favourite, as it is powerful yet easy to use and by choosing education when signing up, there are no ‘dodgy’ adverts appearing.

One problem that it used to have, was the way of giving people permission to edit – if you wanted the wiki to be private and only visible to a few people (e.g. your group of learners) then it was hard work putting in all the learners email addresses, or getting them to set up accounts, etc.

However – I am just setting a wiki up to use in a training session tomorrow and notice that they have streamlined the process, so that you can quickly create temporary user accounts for the wiki, and it will create passwords for you, and print it all out on a sheet, that I can then cut up ready to give to the learners. For someone like me running training sessions, where I often don’t know in advance who will be attending this is brilliant.

Accessible Apps – the best thing this year!

Accessible Apps

Originally uploaded by Dave Foord

A few weeks ago something called Accessible Apps was launched. This is a collection of free tools, that you have on a pen drive, so when you plug the pen drive into the computer, all of the tools are there to be used, without any problems with profiles, downloading software, permission etc. This is brilliant for learners with disabilities, but could be used by any learners – for example it has audacity on it – a program for creating sound recordings.

the only cost associated is the buying of the pen drives, which nowadays are very cheap, and if you buy in bulk can even be stamped with the college, university or school logo, so I think it is viable to give every learner one of these pen drives when they start a course. To download your own version of accessible apps, you will need a 2G memory pen (for the full package) and then go to

The ‘legitimate’ use of YouTube

The video below showing IT support through the ages has done the rounds a bit after first appearing on YouTube over a year ago, but as James Clay references in his blog this originally broke copyright, but the owners wisely published this legally on their own YouTube channel.

This was a sensible and pragmatic solution, as it has done the owners no harm (they haven’t lost any income by releasing this).

In terms of providers of education, I think there is a strong case for each college or university to have their own channel (some already do) – where teaching staff can upload videos that they have taken that they want to use with learners. There would need to be some element of quality control to check that videos being uploaded didn’t break copyright or infringe on learners rights (e.g. videos of learners would need their permission) but for the college or university – yes other education providers may use these resources, but knowing now that a lot of learners when choosing a place of study are swayed by the influences of facebook, youtube and the like – the amount of money gained from this must out-weigh the perceived loss of money from other people using ones videos.