MITC 2010: Adobe Fireworks — What is it? What can it do?

Presenter: Mark Pennycuick

I already use Fireworks CS4 for a number of projects for EdTech, but I thought I’d stop by this presentation just to see what is possible. I certainly don’t use Fireworks to its maximum potential (few people do as it is a fairly complex piece of software).

I prefer Fireworks over Adobe Photoshop because it is much more intuitive for me to use. Photoshop, like most Adobe products, seems completely backwards to me.

Mark gave us a CD with the sample images, but I don’t have Fireworks installed on my tablet PC so I won’t really be able to follow along in a “hands-on” way. I suppose I could try to remote into my work machine, but that would be very slow over the network here–not recommended! Yep. It’s slow to do a remote desktop with MOREnet’s wireless network here.

It was so slow I eventually had to shut down my machine. Oh well.

Most of the information I already knew about, though there were definitely a couple of minor tips that may come in handy.

Mark did provide a useful description of Fireworks as a “hybrid” application that is part photo-editor (a la Photoshop) and part web-page creator (a la Dreamweaver). There are a number of things you can do with Fireworks to help simplify the web page creation process, such as creating mockups of web pages. A long time ago, I used a much older version to create a pretty slick mockup of a web site Mark Bookout and I were trying to create for our BrainTrax Project. As long as I clicked the Fireworks mockup in just the right place, it functioned very similar to our vision. It even had a version of the Algebra Brain in the web page.

Nowadays, I mostly use Fireworks as a simple image editor program for signs and other images that I create to support documentation. For instance, all of our Blackboard documentation was originally created in Word. The images were screenshots enhanced with Word’s own image functions (arrows and boxes). I then copied the combined screenshots, arrows, and boxes into Fireworks and saved them as GIFs so that they could then be uploaded into Documentum for final publication on the web. It sounds complicated, but it really isn’t.

TLT Conference 2009: Malcolm Hays

Challenges of Creating Online Content (2 HOURS)

[Evaluate this presentation]

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Creating online content can be a very daunting task. This presentation
will discuss the foundational knowledge needed to be able to create
useful and effective content online. Topics will include technical
communication principles, images, web page editors, and more.

TLT Conference 2009: James West

Incorporating Rich Multimedia Content into Web Courses: Video and Audio on a Budget

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How can we keep Web courses from being mere reading courses, and offer
the same multimedia Web resources to our Web students that we do in the
classroom? Moreover, how can we do it with little or no money? This
presentation explores how rich multimedia, including Web videos can be
easily and inexpensively incorporated into Web classes in a format that
even dial-up users can, for the most part, access. The inclusion of
audio in PowerPoint lectures is also explored.

Teaching Journal: Documentum Training (2nd Attempt)

logo-documentum-full.gifI am scheduled to do some more Documentum Web Publisher training in a few minutes. This will be my second attempt at doing so this semester.

Fortunately, the difficulties that we encountered last time appear to have been resolved. I came into the classroom earlier today to make sure that all of the machines would allow me to edit a web page. Since the last training session, we’ve experienced one significant technical glitch that has prevented people all over campus (including myself) from editing web pages. Fortunately, there is a really simple workaround, but it does require that the user have administrator rights on a machine. You simply have to delete a file that is put into the Documents and Settings root folder on a machine. After that, Documentum Web Publisher allows you to edit web pages. I’ve been told by our web support administrators that Documentum will be sending us a permanent fix for this problem in the very near future, but not soon enough for my class. So I went to every machine in the classroom and deleted the file in order to get the web page editor to work.

Another wrinkle I encountered while removing the problematic file was that all of the machines needed to have Windows updates applied to them. Our network is set up so that a series of Windows patches are released across campus every month. The machines receive those patches and then reboot themselves at or around 3 p.m. the next day. This can cause a problem when you are trying to teach a class using computers and all of the machines insist on rebooting themselves in the middle of class [users with “admin” privileges can opt to reboot at a later time, but general users are forced to reboot]. Fortunately, I was able to apply the patches to most of the machines and reboot them this morning, so we hopefully will not have that problem this afternoon.

In order to help reduce the amount of clutter on the training web site I requested that all of the content be removed with a very few exceptions. This way the students will have a “clean” environment they can use for uploading content to the training web pages.

Finally, I created a sample web page for them to use. We will hopefully be able to all download content from this web page and recreate the web page within the training environment. I strongly suspect I will see minor (and possibly major) variations of the sample web page, but it will be enough to get them started. The sample web page I will be using will require them to upload a PowerPoint presentation, upload one or more images, create lists, create links to absolute and relative pages/documents, show a pullout, and use a sidebar.

Teaching Journal: Documentum Training (After)

logo-documentum-full.gifYesterday I conducted Documentum Web Publisher training for a group of students. Four of the students were part of a project within the Information Systems & Technology department, tasked with creating an EcoCAR Challenge web site. This is an effort involving Missouri S&T and several other higher-education institutions to create the best, most ecologically friendly car (similar to the biannual solar car challenge, I suppose). The remaining student is working for the Civil, Architectural, & Environmental Engineering department.

It’s been awhile since I’ve taught Documentum. In the past, I’ve mostly had to deal with administrative support staff and a few faculty. This was the first time that I’ve had to teach a group of students. To make things just a little more interesting, I was the only native-speaker of English in the room. Everyone else was from India (I think–one of them might have been from Sri Lanka or a related nation in the same general geographic location).

At first, everything seemed to go pretty well. Some of the students arrived late, so I had to backtrack a little bit to get them caught up to the two students who were on time. I explained how the interface worked and what we would be doing during the class. Since time was limited, I really just focussed on the following:

  1. Upload an image.
  2. Upload a document.
  3. Create a web page.
  4. Web page should have the following features: external link, relative link to another page within the site, bookmark link to location on the same web page, at least one image, and at least one link to a document.

Unfortunately, when we finally got to the point of creating a web page, we ran into some technical difficulties. For whatever reason, Documentum was giving us some strange error messages when we tried to do anything. I didn’t have any difficulties on the instructor stations, but the students certainly did. I managed to get a hold of the web development support team. They all came over to investigate what was happening to the machines. Apparently, the Java Runtime Environment required to use the Documentum web page editor was experiencing some sort of conflict with another component that had mistakenly been installed on those machines.

We did manage to get a web page created for everyone in the room. All of the students were able to access their web pages through a web browser to see what they had done.

Even on the best of days, Documentum can cause issues and frustration.  It is even worse when you are trying to teach it to someone else who has never seen it before, especially when the technology refuses to cooperate.

Teaching Journal: Documentum Training

logo-documentum-full.gifOn Wednesday, October 15, 2008, I am scheduled to conduct Documentum Web Publisher (DWP) training for a very small group of students. Presumably, they are working for academic/administrative departments on campus and need to use Documentum to update web pages.

I have conducted this type of training in the past and so I am pretty familiar with the environment I will be working in. I used to do training in Engineering Management Room 235, but the IT Training group has moved their trainings to Library 103, which is a room designated specifically for training purposes. One of the major advantages to using that room is that the software installed on those machines does not change as rapidly as it may for a typical CLC room (like Eman 235). Also, it can be much easier to get into the Library 103 room simply because there are very few groups competing for that resource.

Since I will be training students instead of staff, I do not anticipate too many problems. Students seem to have a much better grasp of the technology than staff members in a lot of ways. I don’t mean that staff members are computer illiterate, only that many of them have had relatively little exposure to some of the technolgy that DWP incorporates. Within a limited time span, it can be a challenge to make sure everyone is keeping up with me. DWP doesn’t help itself by being somewhat finicky. I’ve seen it work on one system, and not on another, even when both systems presumably have identical software builds (we use ghost-casting to clone system builds, among other things–this allows for all machines in a room to have the exact same build in a relatively small time frame).

DWP can be very frustrating to work with. My goal for the training session is to help the students understand some of the “why’s” of the software. I also hope to give them a better understanding of the technical communication principles behind effective web design. DWP doesn’t support everything that students or departments would like to do on the web (we’ve encountered significant difficulties in embedding flash video), so I would like to help steer the students clear of the potential pitfalls inherent in DWP.

MITC 2008 — Challenges of Creating Online Content

MITC-2008-logo.jpgChallenges of Creating Online Content (PPT 2007)

On October 6-7, 2008, I attended the Morenet Instructional Technology Conference 2008 (MITC). It was an interesting conference focusing on the ways technology is used to enhance learning outcomes in the classrooms. The primary focus seemed to be on K-12 instruction, but there were a number of higher ed folks there as well.

How did we find out about this conference? Well, back in the spring, EdTech attended the Morenet HELIX/CONNECTIONS Conference, which is basically the spring version of what we attended earlier this week. However, HELIX has a broader focus on other areas related to Information Technology such as security, servers, networking, and so forth. MITC was only focused on instructional/educational technology. Morenet began advertising MITC shortly after we attended HELIX, and Meg, our director of EdTech, suggested that I submit a proposal to present at MITC.

After giving it some thought, I decided that I am reasonably knowledgeable about web content (it’s my job to create it, after all), so I figured that I could provide other folks who are curious–or intimidated–by the challenges inherent in creating web-based content. My goal was to guide newer web-developers to think about creating web content in a different way than they may have been exposed to already. I sent my submission into Morenet for review, and–to my surprise, terror, and Meg’s delight–they actually accepted. Furthermore, they decided that my chosen topic, “Challenges of Creating Online Content”, was expansive enough to devote over 2 full hours to. That’s right, they gave me a 2-hour block of time to discuss these challenges. As it turned out, that was just enough time to get through the presentation, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

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