Wideo….going for a W (in video) [UPDATED]

Name: Wideo [UPDATED: This is the new link]
Cost: Free for 45 second videos [UPDATED: no free version available]
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 4/5

Wideo logoAs mentioned often on this blog, there are many more options than PowerPoint when presenting text and graphics (and audio) in a video format. To be honest, if I am pressed for time, I still go old-school with PowerPoint and Camtasia to create videos based on slides saved as graphics and transitioned together. This is especially useful for longer videos since most other tools require subscriptions for videos over a minute or so. Wideo provides templates so that I don’t have to put thought into the overall design or animation/transitions when creating videos. I am forced to keep my stunning and enthralling messages to 45 seconds (for the free version), which is probably appreciated by my students.

UPDATE: Ugh! Wideo is no longer available free. Which is disappointing, but even more so that the videos I created are now gone unless I pay for the subscription option. So, my review hasn’t changed except that it is no longer is as accessible for those of us who rely on free versions of software. Considering there are other options that are partially free on the internet, I’d suggest playing around with a free option than investing in Wideo unless you have a budget you need to spend. I’ve edited some of the review content to reflect the change.

Wideo pricing options

Since the free version is no longer available, I thought I’d provide the list of prices and features.

Wideo pricing options for education

For those of you who can prove you’re in education (teacher or student), there are cheaper options. Again, I’m not a big enough fan of this tool to even pay the cheaper prices.

Goal: Create videos with some text (not much) and visual interest that look (almost) professionally designed.

Wideo workspace view 1

This is what the workspace looks like when using a template.

Benefits:

  • Blog and newsletter provide tutorials and insights.
  • Templates are provided to get you started. They seem to be within the 45 second (free) time frame.
  • Templates have guides built in (e.g., Insert Image Here)
  • Provides photo editing tools, including special effects, frames, lighting, resizing, touch-ups, stickers, and meme.
  • Guidelines appear when moving textboxes so that you can line things up.
  • Upload your own voice over files or choose from three background music options.

Drawbacks:

  • Limited to 45 second videos, which might actually be a benefit if you’re like me and tend to cram too much information into one presentation.
  • Wideo.co watermark appears throughout video
  • Editing can be a bit tricky. You have to slide the marker on the time line to see all the items in a template slide. So, if five items are animated on the slide, you may only see the first three when editing, but you can reveal the next two by adjusting the timeline.
  • Without watching any tutorial videos, I can’t readily figure out how to animate graphics I add to the video. They appear in place (rather than flying in like the template’s text).
  • Cannot download the completed project in the free version. This means the video is shared on the web (can be reused and seen by the public).
  • Cannot change the color of objects from the icon library (e.g., a light bulb icon only appears in black outline).

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PowerPoint with Audio (Tutorial)

I’ve been skirting around PowerPoint thus far on my blog so that I can explore other digital media options. Yet, most of my students prefer PowerPoint because they’re familiar with it. (A special thanks to K-12 teachers who have PowerPoint assignments so that students are familiar and fairly confident in the technology by the time they reach college/workplaces.)

This tutorial is my process for adding audio to a PowerPoint slide presentation. This is not a video version of the presentation, which is a different option in PowerPoint. Also, this set of instructions was done with PowerPoint 2016, which is similar to PowerPoint 2010 and sort of similar to PowerPoint 2007. I prefer to use Audacity to record my audio clips since it gives me more control over editing out the parts I don’t want in the final version of each audio clip. You’ll obviously need access to a microphone unless you intend to use prerecorded clips/music already saved to your computer.

The process:

  1. Create your slides in PowerPoint.
  2. (optional) Add notes below each slide to detail what you’ll say when recording the audio. (See graphic below)
  3. Save the file as .pptx. It’ll need to be this format to save the audio/video clips within the presentation.
  4. Open Audacity. (See graphic below)
  5. Record an audio clip for each slide; save each audio clip to a folder on your computer.
  6. In PowerPoint, click on the slide you want to add audio.
  7. Click the Insert tab on the top menu.
  8. Click the Audio icon (at the end of the menu, in the media category). (See graphic below)
  9. From the drop down box, select Audio on my PC…
  10. Choose the correct audio clip you that saved to your computer. A speaker icon will appear in the middle of the slide; you can click and drag the icon to different parts of the slide if you don’t want it in the middle. (See graphic below)
  11. Repeat steps 6 – 10 for each slide with audio.
  12. Save the completed presentation (as .pptx, if you skipped step 3 earlier).
  13. Save the files as .ppsx if you want the audience to only see it as a slideshow.
PowerPoint workspace with notes

This is the PowerPoint workspace. Below the slide featured, you’ll see the Notes section. If this isn’t apparent in your view, click and drag up on the gray bar below your slide; you’ll see a double-arrow when you hover over the bar that needs to be dragged up.

Audacity workspace

As you can see in the Audacity workspace, you have different editing options. I like to edit out the pauses at the beginning and ends of my clips.

PowerPoint Insert Audio view

You can see the insert audio clip graphic to the far right of the menu options

PowerPoint Audio clip icon

Towards the top right corner of the slide, you can see the speaker icon, which indicates to the audience there is audio available. I moved the icon out of the middle of the slide, which is the default placement.

Insider View: Keep in mind the file size will increase with the addition of audio clips. Also, this is not a video file, so it can’t be uploaded to YouTube or the like. You can distribute the file as you would any other PowerPoint file (e.g., email, cloud storage, assignment submission through online classroom) as long as there aren’t file size restrictions. The file I created for my class was 144MB, which exceeded the 25MB restrictions for Hotmail and Gmail.

Advanced Insider View: Don’t read this if you’re fine with the .pptx file or the .ppsx file formats. You can create a Flash (.swf) version of your presentation by using iSpring Free 7. I haven’t done a review on this software yet because I haven’t figured out how to get the .swf posted to my blog as an example. iSpring wants me to upgrade to the pay version in order to save the file in a video format that’s easy to distribute. That said, the .swf file created with iSpring maintains the audio clips and transitions of the presentation.

Final Thoughts: There are other recording options built into PowerPoint, but this one was easy and produced the type of presentation that I had in mind. All my previous videos have been created using PowerPoint, but I save the slides as .jpg files, and then use Camtasia or Movie Maker (or the like) to add the transitions and audio, which is all saved as a video file that can be uploaded. I will stick with this process for all my videos, but students may not prefer the extra steps and software needed for the video creation.

Padlet…new school bulletin board

Name: Padlet
Cost: Free (subscription plans for $29/year)
Type: Internet (plus app)
Rating: 5/5

 

Padlet logoThere is something old school, yet appealing, with bulletin boards. Growing up, I remember looking forward to the beginning of the month since that was when the teachers would change their bulletin board content–new graphics, text, colors, and sometimes even new layouts. Some of the posters on the board might be funny, while other content might be a preview of what we’d focus on for that month. Ideally, the bulletin board would have “gold star” assignments posted for everyone to marvel at. I was always hopeful that mine would be up there, though I was more like a silver/bronze star student at the time, so my stuff was only posted if there was room or if it was parent/teacher conference week. Since I teach in a virtual environment and a college classroom on campus, I don’t get a bulletin board, which is probably fortunate since I’d obsess about what I would do with it each month. But, there are a few Internet options for creating a bulletin board sort of webpage, and Padlet is one of the more popular options. Padlet is an Internet tool that not only allows you to “post” text, graphics, and URLs, but also allows your users to add their own content. We used to get punished in school for “adding” to the bulletin board!

Goal: share text, graphics, and URLs in an engaging webpage (that would allow users to also post content, if I needed that feature)

Padlet workspace

This is a blank Padlet workspace. The “portrait” is just the icon that appears before the title and description at the top of your Padlet that you create. Wallpaper, Layout, and Privacy are the more important features under the setting icon.

Benefits:

  • Each “post” allows for a heading, whether the body of the post is text or a graphic. This allows me to label my graphics so the audience recognizes their significance.
  • There is a blog with insights and ideas.
  • The Padlet board can be exported to a file (e.g., PDF, JPG), which kind of takes away the appeal of the board, but perhaps it might make it easier for grading or offline distribution.
  • There is a Firefox add-on so that you can post Internet material to your Padlet boards as you explore the Internet.
  • Supports “audience participation” since you can allow users to post their own content to the board. For example, you can allow for classroom introductions, where students can post a photo and/or text about themselves; or groups can brainstorm ideas and post research for group projects.
  • The completely free-form, post-anywhere layout of a canvas makes me a little crazy, but some may like that chaos. Fortunately, I can choose a layout to be “stream” (one post under the next) or grid (lines them up in even rows). Even if you start with free form, you can change to stream or grid and the posts will be realigned accordingly.

Drawbacks:

  • This is just a reality of this type of tool, but you have to monitor what is posted since anyone can post anything (depending on the privacy setting). So, if you have students who cannot be trusted to act responsibly when posting, then you’ll want to have the “monitor” feature checked to approve additions before everyone can see them.
  • I can’t figure out how to change the font/style of the posts. I think it’s pretty much set for every type of Padlet to be the same. (There are some formatting options, but not as extensive as I’d like in the way of color or font style.)

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Haiku Deck…writing an actual Haiku is more fun

Cost: Free (pay versions are available)
Type: Internet tool or iOS app
Rating: 1/5

 

Haiku Deck LogoI’ve been on a kick with making single graphics that convey all the information needed, whether an infographic or just a JPG with an image and some text. But, there are times when I need to convey several related ideas and allow the audience to “click” through the ideas at their own pace. Yes, like a slide presentation. Okay, exactly like a slide presentation since I cannot (yet) afford the software that creates cool interactive training videos. I first encountered Haiku Deck as an app on my iPad. By “encountered,” I mean that I downloaded the app and then couldn’t figure out what I was going to use it for since I did all my work on my PC or laptop. Once I started my blog, I tracked down any presentation tool I could find with the hopes of finding the “perfect” tool. (There could be a unicorn out there waiting to be found by me.) Well, Haiku Deck is not my unicorn, though it’s simplicity might appeal to those who are easily distracted by too many options. While the name of the tool, Haiku, implies this level of simplicity, I find that Haiku poems have great depth and interest that is not constrained by the brief structure of the poem. I have not tried the app version yet, so this review is just the Internet (PC) version.

Goal: find an alternative presentation tool for online classroom announcements that needed more than one slide

Benefits:

  • No distractions from bells and whistles because there aren’t any.
  • There is an app version for those who prefer working with smaller devices.
  • There are a variety of share options (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, email, Pinterest, etc.) or you can get the link/HTML to embed it yourself.
  • It has a cool name and logo associated with the tool. (Sorry, that’s all I’ve got.)

    Haiku Deck workspace 1

    This is the workspace before you start adding content. You can choose a theme and layout from here.

Drawbacks:

  • There are few layouts provided, and you cannot modify them. For example, I had wanted a block of text that was left-justified, but took up the whole slide (not half the slide). I could not change the justification unless I chose a different layout, which would squish the text to one side or the other.
  • No undo button! I had to start over when I tried playing around with colors and couldn’t get back to the original coloring. I got in the habit of creating a copy of the slide I was going to change so that I could go back to the original if needed.
  • Free version allows public access and sharing of your slide decks.
  • There is a “sneaky” (technical term used in tutorial video) button at the top of the workspace for changing fonts, but I can’t find any specific button for making text bold, italicized, or a different color.
  • The Internet version does not always play well with Firefox (Flash), and may crash when going to preview the slides.
  • Cannot import PowerPoint slides directly as PPT files (you need to save them as images and put them in the Haiku deck)
  • There aren’t blank templates. Rather, you copy someone else’s presentation and swap out their text on each slide.
  • Haiku Deck adds a slide to the end of your presentation to advertise creating a deck and “featured decks” (which aren’t related to what your deck is focused on).

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Random Tip #5: Free Power Point Templates

FPPT.com logoThis website wasn’t extensive enough to be categorized as a tool and warrant a full review, so I opted for a Random Tip. You do need to be familiar with PowerPoint (and have access to that software) in order to find any value in this post. The FPPT website (www.free-power-point-templates.com) provides access to a variety of PPT templates that can be used in almost every situation (e.g., business, education, medical, religious, etc.).

Some things to be aware of:

  • There are advertisements on this website–some in the form of links that look like they’re part of the website’s content, and others are annoyingly flashing. The ads also slows down the loading process of the pages.
  • You need to download a zip file to obtain the template.
  • Although text can be added/changed on each slide, along with modification to the layout, you cannot change the graphics on the slides. For example, there was a beach graphic on a slide that I wanted to swap out with a different photo, while still keeping the same overall design.
  • Most of the templates don’t have the diversity in slide design that is available through MS PowerPoint. In other words, you get a title slide and text slide (i.e., two slide designs) versus MS PowerPoint templates. There are exceptions, where the FPPT template will have a few different slide designs for the template, but you don’t know that until you download and open it.
  • For several of the templates, you can remove the FPPT logo/website. I didn’t see any mandates on the site that you need to give the website credit for the template.
  • There is a blog with some interesting insights about using the different templates. There isn’t an indication as to how often the blog is updated.
The highlight of this website is that it provides backgrounds for slides that might be more professional or graphically designed than what you might be able to do on your own. The zip file you download will have the JPG version of the background graphics, so you can add it to an existing PPT you’ve created if you don’t want to copy/paste all your content into the PPT template file you download. This is especially good for those folks who can create their own templates (modifying font and layout as needed).
FPPT.com category view

To find the categories of all the templates available, either click on a “tab” at the top of the screen, or scroll to the bottom of that first page to see these buttons.

Slides.com…simple slides–no twists and turns

Cost: free (limited options)
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 2/5

Slides.com LogoAt this point, you may be asking, “What’s wrong with PowerPoint? Why keep reviewing different slide presentation software options?” Honestly, I like PowerPoint (even the older versions). But, I fear that my use of PowerPoint for many many years has stunted my creativity and design abilities. I don’t often even try different features in PowerPoint any more. It’s not the software’s fault, but my “shortcut brain” taking the easy route every time I open PowerPoint. So, I keep looking for different tools on the Internet. It’s kind of like looking for a new job when your current job isn’t so bad….job searching helps you appreciate your existing job (at least for a few months). Slides.com is a free tool, but probably doesn’t meet my needs as a way to engage student interest or further develop my design skills. To me, it seems like this tool was developed for a specific group of users, though the website is not clear on the group they’re really trying to appeal to.

Goal: Create “inspired” presentations

Slides.com Workspace View 1

This is what the blank workspace looks like

Benefits:

  • Allows you to add math and programming code. I teach writing (English), so I don’t have use for these features, but perhaps math and IT instructors recognize the value.
  • Forces me to consider simplicity in design, as the themes are not graphically focused (e.g., colored background with white/black font).
  • Although I have not tried this feature, you can use your smart phone to advance slides while giving the presentation. Kind of a cool idea if you are not standing next to your laptop when giving a presentation.
  • I really like the gridlines in the workspace to help me line up graphics and text. I’m not very good at eye-balling it without guidance.

Drawbacks:

  • There is a quick tutorial when you first open the workspace, but it really doesn’t provide many insights. If you know what you’re looking for and why, then the blog and support pages are helpful, though not detailed.
  • No media library to draw from. It’s BYOM (bring your own media). And, there is a 10MB file limit on what can be uploaded.

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Focusky….shifting focus from PowerPoint and Prezi

Name: Focusky
Cost: Free (pay versions available)
Type: Download software (PC and MAC)
Rating: 3/5

Focusky logoI didn’t want to like Focusky, as it seemed to be just another version of PowerPoint and Prezi, which reminded me of the Emaze fail when I put a lot of work into a presentation that I had to remove from my classroom because students couldn’t get it to work right. Focusky, what could you possibly offer? Animations. Not like Disney or Dreamworks animations, though. I had thought that I’d be doing some cool animations with talking characters and the like, but no. Focusky animations are what I call transitions, where text and graphics can be timed to enter the screen at different times and different methods (e.g., slide down from the top). If you’re a PowerPoint guru, you’re probably saying, “Hey, PowerPoint can do all that.” Yep. But, PowerPoint doesn’t have the “dip and roll” transition; in other words, as you move to the next slide, the presentation zooms out and then pans over to the next slide to zoom in on the content. If you’re a Prezi guru, you’re probably saying, “Hey, Prezi can do that.” Yep. Focusky effectively merges many interesting qualities of PowerPoint and Prezi in order to create a more dynamic presentation.

Goal: Find another (free) option for presentations other than PowerPoint and Prezi

Focusky workspace view 1

Here’s where you can choose a template, though you can start with a blank version or upload a PowerPoint

Benefits:

  • There is a help document and tutorial videos
  • There are several free templates to choose from; they seem unique, as compared to what’s available for Prezi or Emaze, though limited for the free version
  • The workspace looks much like Prezi, so if you’re familiar with Prezi, then the same principles can be applied to Focusky, except that Focusky has an animation tool in its workspace
  • Once saved to the public cloud for sharing, a transcript is automatically created.

Drawbacks:

  • As you can see in the pricing comparison, there aren’t many option for the free version.
  • Although software is downloaded, templates are online…so you need an Internet connection to get started; it takes a minute or so to download the template and the fonts.
  • The thumbnail for the template is small, and once it’s loaded, I can’t find a button to change the template so I just start a new project to get back to the choose a template page
  • Making modifications to the template’s text can through off the other slides in the presentation, as the slides are all in the same general area of the workspace. So if I add a paragraph of text, it may overlap on to the next slide. (It took some maneuvering and editing text to get the look right.)
  • Editing the text in the template is temperamental…clicking, double-clicking, voicing commands, glaring at the computer screen, clicking again, all don’t yield a response sometimes.
  • The presentation “play” screen doesn’t always respond as expected. You have to click the Play button, and then click another semi-hidden play button to see the presentation as a video. The arrow graphics don’t always move the presentation ahead. I used the arrows on my keyboard, which were mostly effective.

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Emaze….not as amazing as I’d hoped

Name: Emaze
Cost: Free (pay version gets storage and more templates)
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 2/5

Emaze logoPowerPoint? Been there–done that. Prezi? Tried it–liked it. I was ready for something new, and more dynamic, if possible. I also wanted to impress my students with my ability to show them “new” tools they could also use to be just as cool as me. Ultimately, the tool should rely on my existing PowerPoint content, allow me to add audio narration, and then up my cool factor by including video game like animations and transitions. Emaze seemed to be a good option, as it looked like PowerPoint and Prezi had a baby and called it Emaze. (There have been worse baby names by celebrities!) I took my PowerPoint slides and uploaded them, then had to significantly edit them to get them to fit the templates. I spent a few hours getting the look, transitions, and audio just right. I reviewed the final version and noticed a few glitches, but thought it was okay. Nope. EPIC FAIL. One of my students very politely told me that the presentation was “not working,” which was a nice way of saying: “Professor, the presentation is really screwy. The audio for different slides starts playing at the same time, and the content moves too quickly to understand. Going back to review previous slides sends you on a Dr. Who like journey where you won’t land where expected.”

Goal: Dynamic and engaging presentation that allows for transitions, audio, and embedded links

View of Emaze workspace

After setting up your account, this is what your initial workspace looks like.

Benefits:

  • Accepts PowerPoint files to base the presentation on
  • Several free templates with interesting graphics and backgrounds
  • A sort of 3D feel as the view swings around to the next slide, which my audience liked
  • Supports embedded links

Drawbacks:

  • Audio would not consistently sync with the slides. There were no audio controls during playback; in other words, I could not pause the audio for a slide once it started. The audio would overlap and play at the same time if the audience decided to go back one slide.
  • Firefox was quirky with this tool. For example, at one point it would only represent text in upper-case even though I didn’t have the Caps Lock set. I had to exit the browser and log in again.
  • No further dynamic features beyond transitions, such as animations that reveal or highlight information on the slide.
  • Some color themes are nice looking, but may be difficult to read for those with visual impairments

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Prezi….pushing me past PowerPoint

Name: Prezi
Cost: Free (pay version available, reduced cost for educators)
Type: Internet tool
Rating: 5/5
 Prezi logo

Death by PowerPoint (PPT). It happens. Prezi is the answer to a slide presentation that doesn’t look like a slide presentation. Caution….if you get motion sickness, then Prezi might not be a great option, though the zooming in/out and around is not as bad as other tools (e.g., Emaze).  I suspect the animation of zooming out and over to the next “slide” is the most appealing feature, but it does also allow the audience to see the whole presentation at once and then choose a direction to head in (or just use the arrows to take the path you set). Prezi is fairly popular with students and educators who are familiar with PPT, but seek a different way to navigate. Having PPT experience is helpful, but not required. So, if anyone has ever suggested that you need to “think outside the box,” give them a Prezi presentation and see if that does the trick.

Update, February 2016: I had recommended Prezi to students, but they reported back that it was too expensive to use. I really thought it was free for everyone, not just educators. It takes some work to find the free version since you keep getting flipped to the free-trial version. Here is the link to the “public” version that is free: https://prezi.com/signup/public/

Goal: Create a dynamic presentation that is mostly text driven (no audio, few/no graphics) and can be embedded in an online classroom

Prezi Desktop view

This is what the prezi workspace looks like with a theme applied, but no content.

Benefits:

  • Many templates and styles to choose from, especially with the pay version, but still enough to choose from in the free version
  • Allows embedding of media (e.g., video clips, webcam video, graphics)
  • Can link to online version or embed in website with HTML code
  • There is an app, so audiences can access presentations on mobile devices
  • Can be downloaded as a whole presentation or saved as PDF

Drawbacks:

  • I get a little frustrated when I deviate from the templates and want to add/delete sections. I have to remember the nuances of each step to building a new section, which might be overwhelming for someone with limited experience with Prezi.
  • The printed version of the presentation isn’t as well designed as PPT. I inherently wanted a “whole” view to print of one my shorter presentations, but the text became distorted or too small.

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