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Creating a ‘Gap fill’ activity within Microsoft Word 2007

Gap fill activities created within Word are relatively low level interactivities, in that they don’t give the learner feedback, and are really only good for lower order thinking skills, however they are a very simple way of converting an existing ‘static’ word document into something with an element of student engagement. These video clips have been produced using Microsoft Word 2007 – the principles are similar in other versions of Microsoft Office, but the way of doing this is actually different.

This first video shows what the output will look like.

The second video will show how we create this effect in Microsoft 2007. The techniques may be slightly different in other versions of Word (or other Word processing packages) – but the principles will be same..

If you want to take this technique further, then my suggestion would be to switch to Excel, which then gives you options of providing the learners with feedback, simple scoring mechanisms and validating their entries etc. I blogged about this previously at https://davefoord.wordpress.com/2010/05/20/using-excel-to-create-a-matching-pairs-activity/

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Better ways to format a table within a Microsoft Word teaching resource

Although I use Excel and PowerPoint more than Word when creating teaching and learning resources, there are a few things that we can do in Word to improve its use when creating resources.

One area that often causes problems, is the use of tables within a document, as creating a table using the default settings will look OK initially on the screen, it will be OK if the resource is printed, but often doesn’t work well if the resource is accessed and edited online by the learner. When I create a table in a teaching resource, I want it to work well in all situations, so I have learnt a few tricks to help me with this.

This first video clip shows what the problems are, and what the solution may look like.

The next video shows you the steps required to create this effect.

Simple changes to the way that we use Microsoft Word can make a big difference to the output.

Using Word to create a ‘launch page’ within Blackboard

There have been various debates over the last few years about the use of VLE within education, and without going down that road at this point in time, there is one thing that I do find frustrating with VLEs – and that it the way that people getting sucked into ‘dumping’ resources and links into the VLE in a purely linear fashion. Moodle isn’t too bad if you learn to use the book, lesson or webpage tools but Blackboard isn’t as good at this, and once you have added more than about 7 items within a folder you are forcing the student to do lots of scrolling.

So if I am using Blackboard what I do instead is to create what I call a ‘launch page’ for each topic or week that I am teaching – where I provide links to the resources as before, but rather than them just appearing in a linear list – I provide a narration around the links, guiding the students through the resources in a more logical way, and in my opinion a more attractive away.

A launch page is just a simple web page (html) that you are upload into the VLE – if you have html skills and software you could use them, or if like me you don’t then you can use either PowerPoint or Word (or Excel). The next 2 video clips will take you through the process using Word, but the principles for PowerPoint are the same.

The first video shows how to create the launch page.

The second video shows how to upload this package to Blackboard 9.

At first this method may sound slower than the conventional method of upload files directly, but with practice it can become quicker – however if you need to change any of the content then you do need to edit the word document, resave it as a webpage, zip it up again and re-upload to Blackboard so doesn’t work well if the resources are regularly being changed or updated. A huge advantage of this though is that it is very easy to move the whole topics worth of resources from one system to another – so great if you teach at different organisations, or different courses within the same organisations, and if you need to work offline for any reason you can just easily copy the whole folder onto a memory stick and it will work from there.

Another thing to note is that you cannot track the access to individual files from this method, only access to the topic as a whole.

For me though, the additional pedagogical benefits that this method brings in terms of providing a sound narration around the resources, and the re-usability of the resources in different contexts is why I choose to use this method in my teaching.

 

Using technology to create paper based games

This is the 7th entry in a series on ‘putting the fun back into fundamental learning’.

As a lecturer, I quickly identified that traditional ‘chalk and talk’ was not an effective method of teaching especially for someone like me with a monotonic voice and really bad hand writing. It was this that guided me into the area of using technology in my teaching, but I also looked at different ways of creating little activities to do, and over the years I produced dozens of non technological resources out of card, paper, wood and laminated sheets.

Most of these were very bespoke to a particular topic, but 2 of my ideas are transferable to other areas.

The first I have called ‘multi-choice’ patience, The tutor enters 36 multi-choice questions and the answers into an Excel grid, which then converts these into a 36 card activity, where you pick a card out of the pack, answer the question, then choose the card identified by the answer. You keep doing this until you have answered 6 questions, if you have all 6 questions correct, then the 6th card should point back to the first card in that set. You then pick another card and try to complete the next set of 6 cards.

Multi choice patience

Screenshot of the multi-choice patience activity

The difficult part of this is thinking of the 36 questions, but once they are created, very easy to print out the cards, cut them up (and laminate if used more than once).

The template can be found at http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources/MultipleChoicePatience.xls with the worked example (anatomy and physiology based) being http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources/MultipleChoicePatienceEXAMPLE.xls

The second activity that I created is ‘Buzz word bingo’, and was originally for myself and colleagues to use at boring meetings, to make them more interesting, but they can be easily used in a teaching and learning situation.

All you need to do is add a list of buzz words (which could be the answers to questions) into an Excel grid. This will then convert these into different bingo cards of different sizes, which you print out, cut up and give to the learners. Very easy to do especially as an end of topic revision activity, or something to do in that last week before Christmas.

Buzz Word Bingo

Buzz Word Bingo

Buzz Word Bingo can be found at http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources/BuzzWordBingoGenerator.xls

All of the resources listed here can be found at http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources_class_management.php which also contains links to resources that can be used to split classes up into random groups, and allocate topics to students.

Simple drawing techniques in PowerPoint

I have been called many things in my time (some pleasant, some less so) including perfectionist, obsessive behaviour, pedantic. Now I don’t think that I am a perfectionist (if you saw the state of my house, office, car – you would see why), but in one area of work I am certainly pedantic, and I think I have developed an obsessive disorder. This area is the way that people create images in Word or PowerPoint:-

I often see high level presentations, keynote speeches, websites and even expensive glossy printed literature advocating the use of technology – where they have created sloppy drawn images – now this frustrates me, and when I am sat in the audience and someone is ‘training’ me – I look at their badly drawn image on the screen, and think ‘You cannot even run a spellchecker, you can’t draw 2 boxes the same size, and why is there a gap in that bent arrow? – How can I trust your expertise on……’

Although others may not react in the same way to me, I am sure that all will agree that a well constructed diagram or image will have a far better impact on learners than a sloppy image – and the sad truth is that it is very easy to do (unfortunately though the skills are often not taught).

So in order to right the wrongs I have produced this sequence of 5 screencasts, showing how it is possible to quickly create a professional looking flowchart in PowerPoint (or Word or Excel).

The first video was the introduction seen above

The second video looks at how to create the shapes, making sure they are all the same size, all formatted the same.

The third video looks at what has to be the best kept secret within Microsoft Office – and that is the align and distribute tools, if you haven’t used them before please have a look – they will save you lots of time and make a huge difference to your output.

The forth video, shows the second best kept secret within Office – the connectors tool, which will again save lots of time and improve the quality of output.

And the final video, shows the group, and ungroup tools within Office.

I hope that these videos will make a difference to the quality of presentations that are used, and will help me to overcome my obsessive behaviours and PowerPoint rage!

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

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 http://www.a6training.co.uk/resources/HowToRecordSoundIntoWord.doc

The ‘Align or Distribute’ tool in Microsoft Office

There is a brilliant tool within Microsoft Word, PowerPoint or Excel, that allows you to easily align objects (e.g. shapes or pictures) so they are evenly spaced and perfectly aligned. When producing diagrams (e.g. flowcharts) – having objects neatly aligned makes them look much smarter and more professional, and using this tool, makes it very quick and easy to do.

All you need to do is select the objects that you want aligning (the easiest way to do this, is to hold your finger on the shift key, and then left mouse click on each object in turn)

Then go to (These instructions are for Office 2003, or Office 2000)

  1. Draw (usually bottom left of the screen)
  2. Align or Distribute
  3. (and then select whichever option you want)

The image below, shows the steps that you would go through to space the 3 rectangles out evenly – f you click on the image below, you will get taken to Flickr, where there are some hover over noted explaining what each of the options does.

AlignOrDistribute

Originally uploaded by Dave Foord.

For Office 2007, the align or distribute tools appear in the top right corner, when you select the shapes.