Listening to playlists on YouTube is a great way to check out new music for free, but you have to keep your browser open and you have to watch a bunch of ads. If you'd like a cleaner experience, tech blog Digital Inspiration shows how to play playlists in the VLC media player.
Despite the name, Google Type isn't a real Google product. The site generates fonts based on Google image search, hence the name. You type in words, the site digs through image search and regenerates your text using image versions of each letter.
This is all based on an interesting quirk of Google's image search. If you type in a single letter and search images, Google gives you a lovely collection of image representations for that letter. For example, plug in "Y," and you may see the "Y" from "Yahoo," an illustration of a guy with his arms up in a "Y" shape, and a hand making the hang-loose sign. Any of these could pop up in Google Type.
I got a DM on Twitter from a friend of mine in the Western Isles. He had been reading some of my #itr12 posts, and wanted to draw my attention to something pretty fundamental – he could hardly read the text! He suggested that changing the font and its size might be a good idea.
That’s gotta be prety simple, right?
I said “No problem” and headed off to edit my posts. Interesting thing though, my WordPress blog was offering me very limited font choices, and no way of selecting font size. Hmmmm. What’s a chap to do?
The solution (not so simple, as it happens)
The solution involved a number of things. It involved installing the Editor FontSize, FontMeister, Space Invaders, Text Control and WP Editor plugins for my blog (not just them as it happens, I tried a few others on for size too!). Basically, these all provide some sort of formatting help, meaning I can now choose my font size, line spacing and certain other features too. But the fonts are best of all.
What’s so good about these fonts then?
With any website, it has to take a gamble as it will never know what fonts are installed on the computer that it is being displayed on. Sure, Times New Roman is likely to be available, but apart from that it’s a lottery. Obviously there are some fonts which there is more chance of a computer having than other fonts, but esentially it’s a gamble. Websites get round this by suggesting a font family, or a list of fonts to try and an order to try them in. From an accessibility point of view, this isn’t great, as you can never be sure what font your reader will be seeing.
But all that is changing. Web Fonts are OpenSource fonts which are available from the web – that means that they don’t have to be installed on a computer to be able to be displayed on that computer. Using FontMeister I added some Google Web Fonts as options to my blog, and am currently trying the Andika font to see how I get on with it. There is talk of the Open Dyslexic font being available as a web font soon too.
How’d the 5 minutes go?
Turned out to be nearer 15, but that’s still okay for a post I reckon!!!!!
Scotland got beaten by the all blacks
How to improve accessibility…without really trying
I had never really given much thought to the structure of my documents until I started the ITR12 course. I don’t really know why, it had just never been something that had cropped up I guess. And that’s a large part of the problem here – PR. Making documents structured isn’t difficult or time-consuming and it doesn’t need any expensive software; all it needs is an increased awareness.
So, what’s the point?
Well, there’s the obvious answer to this question, and the less obvious answer too. The obvious answer is that by making your document structured, you make it easier for screen readers to ‘understand’ your document, and as a result make it more accessible to the person using the reader, thus giving them a better chance of understanding it. The less obvious answer is that there are benefits of structuring your document anyway – it is easier for anyone to navigate around; it can be a more dynamic document with hyperlinks to other sections; it’s portability is increased (eg for export to PDF or conversion to HTML) and apart from anything else after an initial period, it should be quicker to create than an unstructured document.
All that glitters is not gold
The most important part of making a structured document is formatting your document properly. For the most part this means using headings to break your document into sections. “Easy,” I hear you cry, “I do that all the time anyway!!!!” But do you really? When you are putting a heading into your document, do you select font size, type heading, select heading text, Bold, Underline, return, change font size back & Un-Bold, Un-underline? Yeah, me too. So that must be good, right?
Wrong. Whilst this may look like a structured document, there is no ‘metadata’ attached to this structure to allow it to be correctly identified. What you need to do is open your word processor up and have a look for a bit of the interface that you have probably largely ignored until now – the styles section. You know the one….
By using the style settings to apply styles, we can create a document that is capable of providing screen reading software with the information it needs to ‘make sense’ of the document. Now, this seems very simple – and it is. After an initial period spent setting your styles up the way you want them (choice of font, font size, font style), it actually makes it quicker to format your document than marking each heading out as you need it.
That can’t be it. What else do I need to do?
Well, that’s the main thing, but there are another couple of things to bear in mind too. The first of these is remembering to add alternative text (alt text) to any images that you put into your document. This will allow screen readers to provide a description of the image for a reader who cannot see it. Care needs to be taken with the alt text – if the filename is used as default for instance, this is likely to be something pretty meaningless and user-unfriendly, such as image (1).png. Providing a short but accurate description of the image (eg ‘style options from Word’ for the image above) .
The same principle applies to any links you add to your text. Hyperlinking to another blogpost on this site, the address to use would be http:is much more useful//h-blog.me.uk/?p=365. Now, if a screen reader reads that out, it isn’t going to mean much to the reader. The title of the blog post “EduBlogs Awards – My Nominations” would make a lot more sense. Adding this descriptive text to a hyperlink can be easily achieved by typing (or cutting and pasting) the desired text into your document, selecting it and right clicking and choosing ‘edit hyperlink’.
As well as these three main principles, font size needs to be considered, and should be at least 12 points. Underlining text should be avoided, as this can make reading text more difficult, as can using block capitals. Text should not be justified, as the differences in word and letter spacing can cause problems with reading; rather it should be left-aligned. Any bulleted or numbered lists should be formatted using the relevant tools rather than numbered/bulleted by hand. Similarly, columns should be added using the correct formatting tools rather than by ‘tabbing’. For larger documents, a table of contents should be considered – this should be easy to create for a document that is properly structured!
To help you out….
If you are lucky enough to be using the 2010 version of Word, there is a built-in accessibility checker that can help you spot accessibility issues in your document. It will highlight these to you, advising how important it feels the error is and offering advice on how to fix it. Similar extensions are available for OpenOffice and LibreOffice.
So why aren’t we all doing it? All the time?
That is a very good question. I think it is possibly a lack of education about the benefits of structured documents as well as how easy it can be to provide that structure at the time of writing. As excuses go, it’s pretty flimsy; so perhaps it’s time we all took a bit of responsibility for sharing the information with our colleagues.
Last week I attended the first Creativity Exchange Fife which was organised by Fife’s Creative Learning Network. The event was opened up by Ken Greer (Fife’s Executive Director of Education) who spoke about the importance of developing creativity with the young people we work with. He spoke a lot about the work of Sir Ken Robinson and in particular mentioned the RSA video Changing Education Paradigms (see below)
It’s also worth watching his TED talk Do schools kill creativity?
One statement that Ken made which I feel is very relevant as schools strive towards delivering a Curriculum for Excellence “Creativity is not subject specific”. This was certainly apparent in the next part of the session which saw all the attendees sitting at 10 tables where the presenters had 10 minutes to deliver their presentation before we moved onto the next table. Jon Gill (@onthesuperfly) has written a great blog post where he described it as Creative Speed Dating.
I certainly enjoyed the format because often when you go to conferences you only get to select a few workshops, it’s usually difficult to know which ones to select. Each presentation was only 10 minutes so if you were sitting at one you weren’t really interested in you weren’t there for long (this didn’t happen in my case because I thought all the presentations were excellent). At the end of the conference there was a networking opportunity so if there was a presentation that you wanted to find out more about you could go and speak to the presenters themselves.
Fife’s Creative Learning Network have produced a lovely publication called Creativity in Learning: Fife which has details of the workshops that were available and contact details for each of the presenters. You can download a PDF version here.
For teachers in Fife who would like to find out more and/or join Fife’s Creative Learning Network click here. (password required)
For teacher’s not in Fife but would still like to find out more click here for the public blog.
I came away from the event feeling very inspired and look forward to the next one with great anticipation.
Enabling the 3D building layer, we started at the skywalk, which we were able to experience first hand through the YouTube clips. It allowed us to get a feel for the landscape - the steep relief, the lack of vegetation, the depth of the canyons, the remote location and the arid conditions. This all stemmed from a decision making exercise where one of our group had wanted to flood the Grand Canyon. Using the GE stimulus, we managed to successfully debate the rights and wrongs of this proposal, using other incorporated tools such as the ruler to give an idea of scale.
We were just about erring on the side of not flooding the area when we switched location to the Hoover Dam. This was instantly recognisable, but the knowledge of the surrounding area was understandably less well defined. We were able to establish that this location had a much narrower canyon to dam and there were audible notes of surprise at the scale of Lake Mead behind it. The students were able to draw many conclusions on their own about the location of multi purpose dams before completing a sorting exercise. In terms of a plenary/ starter, we came back to this today via a pre picked location near Yuma, Arizona and established what we could about the suitability of the location before also deciding what the streetview and 3D modelling didn't tell us about the location. This has effectively covered a 10 to 14 mark part of the exam through critical thinking rather than bludgeoning by text and took probably the same time or less to complete.
Coming back to the title, my temporary colleague, Mr Collins, who is with us for a few weeks leading up to Christmas was very taken by the possibilities offered by Google Earth. He related it to his own school experience of detachment from the area that he was studying in Geography because of a lack of familiarity. Today, he recognised the wow factor that I sometimes forget about with Google Earth. We have the power to show students anywhere in the world within the four walls of the classroom. What a marvelous gift to have.