Xerte – A Superb Free Toolkit

21 04 2009


Xerte is a suite of tools for rapid development of interactive learning content. The online Xerte tool is an effective way for staff with limited IT skills to create high quality, cost-effective and accessible learning materials. 

With Xerte you can create materials with the same quality as the NLN materials.

This toolkit provides a quick way for tutors to create presentations or interactive exercises, such as quizzes, with built in colour preferences, font size preferences, keyboard navigation and text to speech.

Xerte templates allow the content creator to make highly creative accessible learning objects in an extremely user-friendly way. You can integrate text, images, audio, video and animations, create interactivity, drag and drop and hot spot interactions.

Click to watch the video on MoleTV
Click to watch the video on MoleTV
How to get hold of Xerte?

Go to Xerte website – www.nottingham.ac.uk/xerte –  download and install the Xerte engine.    


OR  just use the online tool by going to http://www.techdisplayxerte.info/. To play with it you will need username: techdis and password: jisc. Try to create your own project. On the website you can find a very simple and fast demo, as well as Xerte examples.

This is a free open source that you can share with your students by uploading it as a SCORM (Sharable Content Object Reference Model) to Moodle.



17 03 2009


Quandary is an application for creating Web-based Action Mazes. You can create an action Maze using Quandary and upload it to your Moodle.

An Action Maze is a sort of interactive case-study where the student is presented with a situation, and a number of choices as to a course of action to deal with it. After choosing one of the options, the students are presented with another situation with another set of options. Working through these branches is like negotiating a maze, so that’s why it is named “Action Maze”.

These Mazes can be used for several purposes, such as problem-solving, diagnosis, procedural training, surveys or questionnaires.

Surviving on a desert isle, dealing with a difficult landlady, and creating a needs assessment are just a few examples of Action Mazes.

Creating an Action Maze requires well-thought-out planning in advance. The benefit of the exercise is its ability to help students think through the results of a variety of choices they can make

Quandary is easy and free to download – Go to http://www.halfbakedsoftware.com/quandary.php. It is only available for Windows at the moment. So no Quandary for Mac users for now.

Check some good examples here.

MAze Sample

Click here to see examples

If you have used Hot Potatoes before, you will find creating mazes quite straightforward.  If you are not sure how to start check their Quandary’s tutorials.


Click for Quandary's tutorials

Hope you will live up your Moodle with loads of Mazes. I am sure your learners will enjoy and appreciate.

AccessApps – Free Software

9 03 2009

 AccessApps USB

ACCESSAPPS is an inittiative developed by the Scottish JISC Regional Support Centres in cooperation wit JISC TechDis. It consists of more than 50 open source and freeware assistive technology applications that can be used from a USB memory stick on a computer.

All you have to do is to go to JISC website and download AccessApps to your USB stick. There are three download options: – The Works that includes all the programmes and guides which is a 2Gb download, – Go Lite a 64Mb download containing a selection of most popular apps, and – Pick n Mix  you can choose the applications you want.

Here is a list of  some of the guides and applications on AccessApps:

Guides – AccessApps Help, Accessibility Essentials, Aspire Learning.

Open Office

Planning & Organisation – Freemind -mind-mapping, Hott notes – sticky notes, Sunbird calendar

Reading and Writing Support – AMIS-Daisy reader, DSpeech – text to speech, PowerReader – dyslexia reading support, RapidSet – change font/background, TheSage – dictionary & Thesaurus, Typefaster – typing tutor, VuBar – read text one line at a time

Visual Support – QuickRes – change resoltuion, Sonar – cursor ring, Virtual Magnifying Glass

Accessible Browsers – Mozilla Firefox, WebbIE – text-based browser

Keyboard/Mouse Alternatives – Click-N-Type – virtual keyboard, Dasher, MouseTool – automated clicking

Multimedia Tools – Artweaver – art package, Audacity -record/edit audio, Audiobook Cutter – split mp3 files, GIMP – edit images, UnFREEz – create gif animations, VLC Media Player

Presentation Tools – Camstudio Portable, KompoZer – web editor, Scribus – desktop publishing

Utilities – 7-Ziop Portable – file archiver, ClamWin – anti-virus, Converber – converter, Sumatra – read PDFs, TopOCR – convert images to text

Games – Anagramarama – word puzzle, Jooleem, Othello – board game, Stranded – island adventure, Sudoku

Installable Software – Install Thunder screen reader

JISC website has all the instructions. Very easy to follow.



A New Way of Providing Feedback to Your Students

23 02 2009

“Screen capture software” allows you to record the screen of your computer as if you had a video camera pointed at it. Everything you do on the screen is recorded and can be played back as a video, and if you have a microphone connected to your computer your voice will also be recorded.

This piece of software has been mostly used for IT training purposes, as for example; teaching how to animate objects in PowerPoint (PPT). Trainers simply turn on their screen capture software, begin actually to create the animation in PPT and comment on what they are doing, adding notes and call outs. The video is then saved and trainees play it back, listen and watch how to animate objects and jump from the training video to actually creating an animation themselves.

Russell Stannard, principal lecturer and Course Team leader in Multimedia /ICT at the University of Westminster, realised that  “Screen capture software” could be used as an innovative way of providing feedback to students on their written work. This method is leading to a substantial interest in the academic world. THES and Guardian have already written articles about it. Many lecturers and teachers have started using this method.

This new method is really simple and basically works like this: Your students send you their written work as Word files (or other formats), you open their work on your computer, highlight mistakes or aspects you want to bring up, turn on screen capture software and start recording yourself correcting and marking your students’ work.  Once you finish recording, send the video to the students. The learners are able to listen and watch as you talk about their work. You can also tell your students to watch and re-do their assignments according to your feedback recorded on the video.

The key factors that drew Russell Stannard to this idea of  “live video feedback” were:

  • Offers a solution to the issues around face to face contact
  • Students normally don’t understand the feedback we give them and they are unllikely to do more than quickly look over it. Video feedback provides visual and oral information and helps the learners to overcome any misunderstandings
  • Gets students more involved with the writing process. A teacher can point out problems and suggest alternatives, and learners can use the video to write up a better essay
  • Combination of  the video and audio leads to a “deeper learning”

Click here to read more about the case study and watch some screencasts.

If you want to try this new method with your groups, you can get screen recorders by googling “Screen capture software”, or you can download free software, such as Camstudio or Jing.

Drop us an email if you need a hand.

Google Earth – “The World’s Geographic Information at Your Fingertips”

10 02 2009






I am sure that most of you know that one can fly anywhere on Earth on Google Earth. You can view sattelite imagery, maps, terrain, 3D buildings, from galaxies in outer space to the canyons of the ocean, you can explore rich geographical and Historical content, save record your tour and share it with others.

Google Earth is a fun Skills For Life resource, supporting Literacy and Numeracy skills development.


There are loads of different things you can do with your class using Google Earth, such as viewing a satellite picture of your chosen location by typing in an address; searching for colleges, museums, parks, restaurants, hotels; getting and giving directions; tilting and rotating to see 3D terrain and buildings; measuring shapes, space and distance; reading and writing descriptions of places; and also reading and printing out driving directions.


Google Earth is free and no registration is required. Visit  http://earth.google.com/ to download and install Google.


Text to Speech Tools for Students with Special Needs

21 01 2009

ICT can help meet many of the needs of learners with special needs. ICT can help our students accessing their course content by reading text to speech, increases their independence, ameliorates visual discomfort or stress, offers alternative forms of recording written information and helps them improving and practising Literacy skills.

With appropriate programs and ICT tools special needs pupils gain confidence, work independently, demonstrate what they know and can do, overcome frustration and raise self esteem and also become less tired.

Here’s a list of some good tools and tips to reduce learners visual stress:


ClaroRead is a powerful multi-sensory software solution for supportung computer users who struggle with reading and writing due to dyslexia or othe conditions. This software provides a high quality text to speech tool that is extremely easy to use.

Our learners can start writing and reading independently with the support of this software’s tools. By making the computer speak any text with a human voice, text documents can be proofed read out loud as well as web pages, emails and any other text.

There is a portable version of Clarosoftware on a USB memory stick, it speaks back text as it is typed, includes voices of over 25 languages, provides a single Check Button that combines a homophone dictionary, thesaurus, reference dictionary and spellchecker, making the checking of text and documents easier and more comprehensive.

Thunder on iBBC Player

Thunder on iBBC Player

Thunder is another screenreader talking software for people with little or no sight. Just go to www.screenreader.net and download the software for FREE! Watch Thunder users on iBBC player. 


Reading large amounts of text on screen can be difficult for those with literacy and visual impairments. Browsealoud is another piece of software that reads webpages aloud for people who find it difficult to read online.

Hope these tools are useful for everyone!

Create Your Own Podcast

11 12 2008

What is a podcast?



A podcast is a feed used to share out audio or video content, such as a weekly music show or video program. Like blogs, podcasts have many different formats and topics, from talk shows to cooking.


Podcasting has now become popular as an alternative way of providing content that can be listened to whenever, wherever and as many times as the listener wants. The idea that a podcast can be produced by just about anyone with access to the Internet has generated a lot of interest in educational circles.

The call is not only in providing supplementary listening input for students, but that students themselves can become involved in recording and producing their own podcasts.

How do you produce your own podcasts?

You can do this with a handheld MP3 with recording facilities. I have got one in my drawer, if you need it!

You can use the program Audacity on our PCs.



Using Audacity allows you to edit out the mistakes, change the order of students and add music and sound effects, creating a more professional show.

Don’t worry! Audacity is amazingly simple to use.

OR there is another extremely quick and easy way of creating your podcasts that is signing up podomatic website.


You will easily be able to make a recording, save it, find it, keep it nicely organised, embed it on EZone or send it to your students.

Signing up is completely FREE.

Once you log in, the site gives you lots of information about podcasting, you can search for podcasts on whatever topic you want, and if you go to My Podcast area you can create your own podcasts.

To produce your podcast just click on post new episode, click on Record with your webcam or microphone and hit on the record button. You can preview your recording or re-record if you are not happy with it.

After that you press on Use Recording, move on to Next Step, give your podcast a title and write a short description, you can add pictures to it, tag it and then punch the Post Episode button.

And that’s it! Really easy! Give me a shout if you need a hand.

Good podcasting! Enjoy!