How to use DSpeech to convert text to audio

DSpeech is a free piece of software which can be downloaded to a computer, or can run from a memory stick as part of the eduapps suite, and it allows a user to convert text to audio in MP3 format (so they can listen to it on computer or music player)

I like this piece of software, as it puts the learner in control of their adaptions rather than having to rely on someone else to either dictate for them, or to do the conversion, and this isn’t just useful for students with disabilities, but any learner who may not want to read a long piece of text, they can listen to it instead – and if they listen to it a few times (e.g. whilst doing something else) then they can pick up useful information that they would easily miss if just trying to read the information.


Using Excel to create a ‘drag and drop’ activity

Regular followers of this blog, will know that I am a big fan of Excel and use it lots as a teaching and learning tool. One way that I have used it, is when creating drag and drop activities.

I think this technique is excellent – as:

  • It is very quick for me to create
  • It promotes higher order thinking skills
  • It can be printed, used on a computer, or an Interactive Whiteboard
  • You can introduce an element of self-marking, by simply giving the learners a completed example by an expert (you) for them to compare their responses to.

These 4 videos will take you through the skills that are needed to create a simple drag and drop continuum activity.

The first video is an introduction showing, what is possible

The second video shows the skills required to draw the continuum

The third video shows the skills required to create the dragable shapes

The final video shows how to finish off the activity.

The videos above although produced by myself belong to the JISC RSC SE

Integrating Optivote Voting Systems with Moodle

There are many Colleges and schools in the country that own voting pads sets, and alas many of them sit in cupboards gathering dust as staff haven’t been given the time and support to leOptivote Handsetarn the software and to develp the activities.

However – one of the voting pad companies (Optivote) has come up with a very clever idea – to integrate their software with Moodle.

I like the idea of this for various reasons:

  • It means that a tutor has less systems to learn
  • If a student misses a session they can still partake via Moodle
  • It will encourage staff to use the Groups tools within Moodle which I think are excellent but about 90% of the people that I come across don’t use them
  • The Moodle will hopefully have all the student names already in the system in the correct class so no problem with having multiple systems, or having to export and import CSV files etc.

There is a cost associated – which for small providers may be an issue, but for medium and large organisations it works out very cheap – so for people that have lots of sets of Optivote (green voting pads) or CPS (Blue ones – previoulsy sold by eInstruction)

Here is a video showing how it looks.

Using Score Ladders in PowerPoint

My background is as a lecturer of sport science. Sport science students have a tendency to be energetic, lively and not always the best behaved – they also have a tendency to be competitive. I often used this competitive nature to my advantage to try and channel their energies into the desired work, rather than disruptive behaviours, and one tool that I used was score ladders which I dropped into a PowerPoint presentation – this is a simple mechanism for keeping score between 2 to 6 teams on any activity (who can solve a problem first, or answer a question quickest etc), and these ladders can be used by anyone in education – and all they need to be able to do is copy and paste. This video will show how.

The resource and others like it can be found at

Using Countdown Timers in PowerPoint

PowerPoint often gets a bashing as being a bad tool, but that isn’t the case it is a very good tool that unfortunately gets used badly. Something that I try to do in my work is help educators to see PowerPoint in a different way, and to start using in an engaging and active manner, rather than the passive tedious way that so many seem to favour.

One technique that I have used over the years is to use timers in my presentations – these are simple mechanisms that countdown a certain time increment when setting the class any sort of activity, question or anything like that.

The reason I use timers, is it helps to focus the learners on the task in hand so they don’t drift off into other conversations, this helps with class discipline. It also helps me to stay on task and stick to the timings that I had planned.

The timers are available to download for free (for educational use) from and the only skills that they require you to have is the ability to select, copy and paste – so can be used by any tutor.

Using hyperlinks within PowerPoint

In an earlier blog post, I linked a series of screencasts showing how to use drawing tools within PowerPoint to create a well formatted diagram such as a flowchart, I then showed how to use animations with this diagram.

This next sequence of screencasts will go through the principles of hyperlinking and how the diagram created earlier can be converted into a highly effective, highly versatile learning object.

The first video shows what is possible

The second video shows how to add a simple hyperlink to a presentation

The third video shows how to link to other files, including how to link to a specific part within the file (e.g. to a certain page in a Word document, a certain slide in another PowerPoint presentation or a certain sheet in Excel)

The forth video shows how to link to a different slide within the same presentation. In this case I am linking from the diagram produced in an earlier series, but the principles work with text, or photos.

The fifth video shows a similar technique to the previous video, but the diagram remains visible at all times, which when created correctly looks very professional.

The sixth video shows how to add hotspots over a photo, so when you click on parts of the photo, it takes you to a slide based on what you clicked on.

By applying the skills learnt in the above sequence in different ways, it is possible to create very effective, engaging learning objects.

The videos above although produced by myself belong to the JISC RSC SE

Inspirational Speakers 4 schools (and the power of Twitter)

Last week I was followed on twitter by @lonkwantes who runs the website which provides inspirational speakers and trainers for schools and colleges.

We entered into a communication exchange and Lon discovered that I had skills (uses of technology in education) that would compliment her site, so it was agreed that I would be listed as one of her speakers/trainers.

Then the very next day she had a request from a school wanting training providing which fit my bill, which today we have finalised and all set up for a day in November.

This shows the power of services like Twitter, putting me in touch with Lon, which instantly lead to work for me (and hopefully other future dates as well) thus giving me an opportunity to work in the school sector, and an opportunity for the school sector to benefit from my abilities.

This form of marketing and networking, interest me far more than the various sites, and directories that want me to pay to be listed (which I don’t do).