• Dave Foord
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Using PowerPoint to manipulate images: Creating soft edges

This is the second tutorial in a series on ‘Using PowerPoint to manipulate images’. For people like me that doesn’t own nor has the graphical skills to use the high end graphics packages, PowerPoint is my primary image editing tool, even if the end location of the image is going to be somewhere else (Word, Excel, VLE etc.)

A lot of people when adding images to resources will find an image, and chuck it in without thinking about how the image looks, what size it is, what other images are visible alongside it etc. If I am using an image as a ‘decorative’ element designed to break up the text and to act as a ‘memory hook’ for the learner, then one technique that I sometimes use is to change the image to have soft edges. This (as the name suggests) softens its appearance, so it blends into the ‘page’ rather than having the harsh sharp edge that makes it stand out. If someone is going to be spending a lot of time viewing a particular screen, having soft edges can be easier on the eye than the harsh edge of a bordered image.

Here is an example of an image that I have used in a PowerPoint presentation:


Image of 2 carnival goes wearing skeleton masks and hats. The image is rectangular with a hard border.

Here is the same image that has been turned into an oval and had the edges softened (annoyingly the theme that I use for this blog, puts a grey border around the image that I don’t want!):

Image of 2 carnival goes wearing skeleton masks and hats. The image has soft edges and no border.
The following video shows how easy this is to achieve, note – it is possible to edit multiple images at the same time – if you hold a finger on the ctrl key whilst clicking on the images you can multiple select those images, and then any changes that you make is applied to them all consistently.

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Adding file type icons to Moodle

In my previous post on ‘Adding files into a Moodle 2 content area’ I described how files can be added into the middle of text, so that they appear as links with a narration around them.

One downside of this, is that sometimes the links aren’t as obvious as they could be (depending on the theme being used and any personalisations to the CSS) – and also the student doesn’t know what type of file they are downloading – which when accessing on things like mobile devices, can be a useful piece of information.

Screenshot showing how icons are added before the hyperlinks to denote the file type So what I often do to make the links to files stand out , and to give the user an idea of what sort of file it is that they are downloading – I add the hyperlink on a separate line and add an icon before it to identify the file type. This improves the layout of the page, works really well on mobile devices and increases the usability considerably.

There are various sources of icons, your Moodle administrator should be able to locate the icons used by your system, so that they match – or I often use the following website, which helps search for creative commons icons:

Internet icon https://www.iconfinder.com/

Once you have your icons, you can keep adding the icon the same way that you add any other image, or another option which I have used with a few projects is to upload the icons to an area of webspace, then add this once to Moodle by adding an image by URL. I then set the ALT text (e.g. set this to “PowerPoint icon”, or “PDF icon”. I then go into the html view, and copy the piece of code that relates to that icon – and I paste this into a word document or similar. Then in the future when I want to re-use the icon, I can just go into the word document, copy the code for the desired icon, and paste this into the html editor in Moodle.

e.g. the code that I use to keep re-using the internet icon above looks something like:

Screen shot showing an example of the code can be added for each icon

 

 

This may sound a little complicated but it is actually a much quicker way of doing this, and you will know that everytime you add an icon, it will have the correct ALT text associated with it, which is really good for consistency and makes it a lot easier for a visually impaired learner to navigate around the area.

Using Google Docs (Drive) to create a collaborative learning activity

Google Docs or Google Drive as it has changed it’s name to, is a suite of office tools that work via the internet and store the different files in the cloud (on the internet) rather than locally onto the computer. This has huge advantages in terms of the files are backed up automatically, can be edited on a variety of different computers (including Smart phones) and they allow multiple people to contribute or view the files.

It is the ability to allow multiple people to edit that makes Google Docs an excellent collaborative learning tool, as it is possible to set up activities where different learners are accessing and editing the same document at the same time – this means that they can see and respond to what each other is doing in real time.

An example of such an activity is one that I ran recently used at a training event as part of the Advanced Teacher Learning Coaches programme. This took me about 10 minutes to create and set up, so nice and quick, and the learning experience was far greater than doing this in a non-collaborative way. If you want to use the activity above (possibly swapping in your own websites for your particular area), click on the link above, then save a copy of this (from the file menu) – you can then alter the sharing settings to allow other people to edit it. A video showing how to do this can be found below.

Using Google Docs for collaborative activities – is a great way of working with higher order thinking skills. What I will often do is set a simple task where each person or small group of people have to edit an area within the document answering a question or questions. What I then do is ask everyone to swap areas (e.g. so they are looking at someone else’s contribution) – I can then ask a more challenging question – such as critique the other person’s responses, or present a counter argument to their point, or ask them to identify which of the points made by the first group would also be examples of….. etc. and if time allows, then I sometimes set a third question where they look at a third different set of responses and answer another challenging task or question.

Another really useful feature within Google Docs, is that you can see the revision history – so you can identify which people have contributed most (and when) – which can be useful if doing this as part of an assessed activity – and you can roll back to earlier versions of a document, so if someone does something very damaging (e.g. deleting everything, writing something defamatory, or using it to cyber bully) you can roll back to an earlier version (or restore point).

The fact that these documents will work on most if not all Smart phones makes this a really powerful, versatile and truly mobile opportunity.