Category Archives: Site News

Academic Aesthetic Netcast 118

Leo LaporteI was on the radio today. Leo Laporte does, among other things, a weekend radio show about technology. I had a question, so I called in with Skype and asked away.

I’m thrilled that I got to talk to the Tech Guy himself. Steve Dembo may have inspired me to start podcasting, but I wouldn’t even know what a podcast was if it wasn’t for Leo’s radio show. I’m a fan boy, I admit it.

Mr. Laporte also netcasts all of his shows, which you can find in iTunes by doing a search for “Laporte.” You can also go to to see his many, many netcasts.

You may not have noticed it, but lately I’ve made a bit of a switch. From the beginning I’ve used a Mac program called GarageBand to edit my podcasts, or netcasts, or whatever, and I’ve always been happy with it. I don’t have the latest version, but what I have has worked very well.

And yet I’ve started using Audacity instead. Why? Two reasons, really.

Chris Craft doing an interviewFirst, I think my friend Chris Craft has been rubbing off on me a bit. He’s seriously into open source software, and has been using a lot of it in his classroom. You can follow along with his adventures at,,, and I’m sure he’ll eventually register

… um, I’m pretty sure that last address is a joke. I think.

The other reason has to do with the presentations I gave last month.

Audacity ScreenshotMore than once I recommended a free, open source program called Audacity to people who either didn’t have Macs or didn’t have Macs that were new enough to run GarageBand. That was all well and good, but those people still had a bit of a learning curve ahead of them. I had barely used the program myself, so anyone asking questions more advanced than “Where do I download it?” didn’t really learn much from my responses.

So now I’m playing with Audacity for all my audio recordings. My last two Academic Aesthetic netcasts were recorded and edited in Audacity, and my new Art Club netcast is edited in Audacity as well. The students use an old Creative MP3 player to record their audio, so I can’t give Audacity all the credit for that one.

I still use iTunes to convert the whole thing into an MP3 at the end, since I’ve already plugged my presets into it and I like the results, but the rest is done with a marvel of open source ingenuity.

[tags]Leo Laporte, Chris Craft, podcast, netcast, KFI, KFI640, Audacity, GarageBand[/tags]

Oops I did it again!

Now if I can be forgiven for the rather lame title, I have two new blogs.

The first is hosted by Vox. I decided to check out this social blogging service and it’s not bad, although there aren’t enough teachers using it.  I’ve had it for a while now and  I think it just might replace Furl as the main place for me to post interesting links.
The second is on my own server, and is dedicated to my Art Club.  You can go there to hear what my students are up to.

Academic Aesthetic Netcast 114

It’s convention time!

Or at least it will be, soon. On the 13th of next week I’ll be giving an after school workshop on blogging. If you’re in the Maryland or DC area and want to attend, check out the details here.

Powering Up With Technology LogoI’ll also be going to the Powering Up With Technology Conference on the 18th, where I’ll be giving one presentation on blogs and podcasts and another on good PowerPoint design. Last year’s Powering Up conference was the first ed-tech event where I was the guy standing up in front of everyone, and I liked it so much that this year I sent in two proposals instead of one.

Silly me, they accepted both of them.

Well, if you’re reading this it’s most likely that you already know about blogs and podcasts, netcasts, or whatever we’re calling them these days, but do you know how to make a great PowerPoint presentation? If you do, then .. um, well, I don’t have much to offer you. Go listen to the podcasts from the K12 Online conference instead – there’s some good stuff there.

If you WOULD like to know the difference between a good PowerPoint and a confusing one, keep listening.

Good PowerPoint TitleFirst of all, the term “PowerPoint” is a bit of a misnomer. We often use it to refer to any computer program that helps us give a presentation by throwing text and multimedia up on a large screen. It’s sort of like how some New Jersey residents still call every brand of pork roll “Taylor Ham,” and how some people refer to every cola as “Coke.” Microsoft Office’s PowerPoint is the most popular of these programs, but you could just as easily use OpenOffice, Apple’s Keynote, or any one of a number of web based alternatives.

Ok, let’s get down to business – the biggest mistake I see people make when creating a PowerPoint is that they confuse it with Microsoft Word. Word is for writing lengthy reports, and if you shrink the font size down to 9 point font then those of us with weak eyes can hold the paper closer or use a magnifying lens of some kind.

But PowerPoint is meant to be shown to a large room full of people. If you fill a single slide with so much text that it has to be reduced to even a 12 point font to make it all fit, the people in the back won’t see anything except maybe a texture on the screen.

Good PowerPoint Rule 1It sounds cliché, but less really is more in this case. I used to tell my students that they needed to assume their slide was a billboard alongside a highway. How much information could they put on that billboard without causing an accident? They could always add another slide if they wanted to include more information, after all.

Later I heard of something called the 6x6x6 rule, which is not as evil as it sounds. Essentially, it means that your slide should have no more than six lines of text, no more than 6 words on each line, and the average viewer should be able to understand the main points within 6 seconds. That doesn’t leave a lot of space for stuff, but really your slides should be reinforcing what you’re doing up there, not the other way around.

Some of the best presentations I’ve ever seen consisted of less than 5 words per slide, and in many cases no words at all. Why were they the best? Because they didn’t take the emphasis away from the presenter.

And there you go! You’re now on your way to being a better presenter, whether it’s to your class or your colleagues. There’s more to it than that of course, but I have to save some for later, don’t I?

Academic Aesthetic Netcast 111

Adventures with oekaki (otherwise known as forums that let you draw things). .. I haven’t had any yet, but I think I’m ready.

This is only a test, and I’m sick.

Sorry to get your hopes up. I’m not really dead, just distracted.

New podcast on Monday.


Edit: It seems I was a little too ambiguous with this update. Sometimes when I don’t post for a while I put up a “I’m not quite dead yet!” post just to let people know I haven’t abandoned my site completely.  The apology was because I’ve had people tell me they look forward to my podcasts, and since this update gives you nothing new really I can see how it would be a bit of a letdown.

The back story is this:  After visiting Quiet Valley Living Historical Farm‘s Harvest Festival last weekend (an annual event I try to never miss), I came down with a cold which I apparently still have.  It’s not enough to keep me home from work (I have too much of my father in me), but it is slowing me down and I need to save my sore throat for telling Kindergarten kids that oil paints aren’t lipstick.

I’m hoping I’ll be back to normal (or at least my usual grade of abnormal) by Monday, and if I’m not I’ll still have SOME audio for you.  I might even find a guest podcaster, but we’ll see.

Blogged with Flock

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 110

Web based open source educational games are harder to find than I thought.

A Few Good Games

I want to make my art club site a little more fun, so I’m trying to find some games I can add (among other things).

My Dreamhost account gives me unlimited MySQL databases and lots of space, so games that need that are fair game.

I don’t just want to put any old activities on my server, though.  This weekend I’ve been trying to find games that are fun, educational, open source, and KID SAFE.  I’ve actually found a couple of open source games written in PHP, but one of them was overly complicated and the other one was not in my opinion appropriate for students.  (Although it was still more tame than any of the GTA games, but that’s besides the point.)

So I thought I’d ask you, my more-or-less loyal subscriber base.  Do you know where I might find some web-based games I could host on my server?

Academic Aesthetic Podcast 109

Goodbye to the forum, hellooooo, photo gallery! Time to show off more art lesson photos than Flickr will let me do for free.