Random Tip #11: GCFLearnFree.org

YouTube…the chaotic bazaar of videos, where you can find quality and awful within a few clicks of each other. It really reminds me of the local video rental place we went to when I was young (…I know, I’m totally dating myself). It was a small shop, with poor lighting and shelves running all along the walls (with a set of shorter shelves running through the middle of the store). While the videos were somewhat organized by genre, with one step you could move from Labyrinth to Goonies to The Garbage Pail Kids Movie.

So, my point is, as an instructor, I don’t want to send my students to the sometimes unenlightening world of YouTube if I can avoid it by providing more specific recommendations. This is especially true when I ask students to use PowerPoint or Prezi to make their messages more dynamic. While many students now have been creating PowerPoint since they were in kindergarten, those without early experiences are panic stricken with the thought of clicking on the PowerPoint icon and facing a blank slide. Telling these students just to search YouTube for a PowerPoint tutorial might push them completely into technophobia. Lynda.com is also an option, but not everyone has access to the full video content, which can be frustrating if you get through the introduction and still need more information.

I recently came across a reliable and useful website that provides access to 125 free tutorials about technology (and other topics, such as Reading, Math, and career advancement). It’s the Goodwill Community Foundation: www.gcflearnfree.org. I’ve listed some of my favorite resources, but it’s worth sending students to browse the whole website to see what other useful tutorials and insights they can find. GCF Logo

My favorites include:

Most of the videos are short so that you can just review one video per topic, versus a long video with a variety of topics that you have to watch or fast-forward through. Not all the tutorials have videos, which is helpful for those who need to move through the content more slowly than what a short video can accommodate. I also like that there are share buttons (e.g., Facebook, Google +) buttons, along with a button to print or a button for a “single page view” (if the article is extensive). The content is professional, without being intimidating, and access is free.

GCF tutorial list sample

This is what a list of related tutorials looks like on the website. Clicking on a blue square will reveal the tutorial. Some tutorials provide further suggested links at the end of the article.

Create A Graph Tutorial

I have previously reviewed, Create A Graph, but I have created a very simple set of instructions for creating a Pie Chart using the tool. The instructions were originally designed as a sample assignment for my technical writing students, but I decided to re-purpose the text for my blog. It’s not as much of a tutorial than a set of instructions since there aren’t many insights included below. The tool is fairly easy to figure out, so I didn’t think a whole tutorial was needed.

Creating a Pie Chart with Create A Graph  Tool

The online tool, Create a Graph, allows users to easily use numerical data to generate various types of graphs. This set of instructions will focus on creating a pie graph.

  1. Open an Internet browser window (e.g., Firefox, Chrome, Edge).
  2. Access the following URL: http://nces.ed.gov/nceskids/createagraph/
  3. Click Pie from the graph type box
  4. Click on the radio-button to choose the type of Shading you want: Solid, Pattern, or Gradient
  5. Choose the Background color by clicking on the white box and then clicking a color of your choice
  6. Click the Data tab on the right side of the screen
  7. Add a Graph Title in the first box
  8. Add a Source if you gathered the data from a source
  9. Click the dropdown box to choose the number of pie slices needed for your data
  10. Insert text for Item Label
  11. Insert numerical Value for that item
  12. Click the dropdown box to choose a different color for the pie slice
  13. Repeat steps 10 – 12 for all items/values
  14. Click the Labels tab on the right side of the screen.
  15. Change the settings if you do not just want the default settings.
  16. Click the Preview tab on the right side of the screen
  17. Review the Pie Chart to make sure the colors, layout, and content are what you want
  18. Click the Print/Save tab on the right side of the screen
  19. Click Download to save the completed chart to your computer
  20. From the pop-up window, choose the type of file you want to save by clicking on the dropdown menu and then clicking Download

Now, you have a Pie Chart that can be inserted into a Word document, PowerPoint, or website, if you saved the chart as PNG, JPG, EMF, or EPS.

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.

Random Tip #1: Lynda.com access

Lynda logoThis isn’t a technology review post, but rather just a random tip about technology. Lynda.com is a great website for tutorials on popular software (and other technologies, skills, and concepts), but the free videos are often limited. I actually avoided this website until recently because I didn’t care for getting invested in a course just for it to end (with a prompt to pay for access). But, I was recently enlightened that my local public library has an account with Lynda.com so that my library card and PIN serves gets me into the pay version of the site. My property taxes at work! It’s really exciting, actually, to be able to watch my property taxes as I view the 3.5 hour Photoshop course. Not all the videos are quality or insightful, but the site certainly provides many quality videos beyond what you can dig up on YouTube.

So, check to see if your library or other resource (e.g., organization, school, workplace) subscribe to Lynda.com. If not, perhaps you may want to ever-so-politely ask your head librarian if that can be a possibility in the near future.