Sound Seeing: Church Bells in Catania, Sicily, Italy [Audio]

Church bells catania

On one of our last evenings in Sicily, we walked around Catania Centro, taking in the sights, people watching and, in the case of this audio, hearing the church bells chime. We were walking on our return journey, headed back towards Villa Bellini, when the call to mass erupted from the bell tower. With a quick grab for my recorder, I caught these peals to share with you.

Play this Sound Seeing Audio Clip

Learn more about Sicily with these travel guides

Recorder used for this clip

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New Podcast: How I Wrote That from the Stephens College MFA in Screenwriting Program


I consulted on the technical side of this podcast and it is great to see it up and launched with 3 shows all ready for your listening enjoyment

“How I Wrote That is a podcast presented by The Stephens College M.F.A. in TV and Screenwriting, and hosted by Khanisha Foster. In each episode, we sit down with the top women in writing. They invite us into their homes and studios so we may ask how they got there. We discuss how they write, what they write, and the advice they would give to those listening. Stephens is dedicated to increasing the number of women working in television and film. How I Wrote That cultivates the relationship between those who have already made it and those who are dreaming up. “

Take a listen to learn about all sorts of screenwriters and “how I wrote that!”


Listen to the first podcast


In the first podcast with Carol Barbee, Showrunner for Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce, gives us an inside look at what it means to lead a writers’ room. “It’s not my job to have all the answers, but it is my job to recognize the answers.”


Word now! Stories Podcast – “Cold” – Listen Now and then come to a show! [Audio] (1:30)

Last Sunday we attended the latest performance of of Word Now! at the Fremont Centre Theater in South Pasadena.

The show is co-produced by a close friend and his wife was also presenting a story that evening, so we HAD to go, of course.

It was a great night out and the stories were absolutely amazing. We certainly plan on attending again!

Word now header


Word now cold readers

Each show works around a general theme and this month’s theme was “COLD.”

The stories approached it in a variety of ways. Cold weather. Cold People. Cold World and more!

You can listen to the entire show here and I also greatly encourage you to see the live presentation in South Pasadena.

>>> Listen to Word Now! Stories – Cold – Part 1


>>> Listen to Word Now! Stories – Cold – Part 2


Word Now! performs every 2 months, so watch the web site for their March dates!

Real World Example: Video Abstract for an Academic Paper

I recently produced this video abstract for my wife, Dr. Rosanne Welch, and I think it came out pretty well. I also think it is a good example of how you can use new media to share your work with anyone, not matter the subject. It is one of my goals to show everyone —especially those in the academic world — that there work need not be bland, obtuse or — at the worst — boring. They need to share their work in the most innovative ways, using all the amazing new media tools now available and give their work the audience it deserves.

A video abstract for Honey, You Know I Can’t Hear You When You Aren’t in the Room: Key Female Filmmakers Prove the Importance of Having a Female in the Writing Room.

This paper will appear in the special issue journal, Gender and the Screenplay: Processes, Practices, Perspectives (eds. Louise Sawtell and Stayci Taylor (RMIT University, Melbourne)).

Coming soon!

Honey, You Know I Can’t Hear You When You Aren’t in the Room: Key Female Filmmakers Prove the Importance of Having a Female in the Writing Room

Follow Dr. Rosanne Welch on the Web and via social media at:

Noted: People Are Already Finding Amazing Uses For Hyperlapse, Instagram’s New Time-Lapse Video App via Business Insider

Noted: People Are Already Finding Amazing Uses For Hyperlapse, Instagram’s New Time-Lapse Video App via Business Insider

People Are Already Finding Amazing Uses For Hyperlapse, Instagram's New Time-Lapse Video App via Business Insider

Last week, Instagram announced its latest app, called Hyperlapse.
Hyperlapse allows you to take time-lapse videos, without the need for fancy, expensive equipment. It’s really easy to use, and has a beautiful interface. You push one button to record the video, and then speed it up to various degrees using a separate button.

You can then upload the video you made to Instagram and Facebook at the touch of yet one other button.

Sound simple? That’s because it is. And people are using it to make some awesome-looking, creative videos.

Read More

“Noted” items are particularly good finds from my daily reading which I share via all my social media accounts.

Find more Noted items here

Real World Example: Share your businesses’ “House Music” with Your Patrons via Social Media

Real World Example: Share your businesses’ “House Music” with Your Patrons via Social Media

Businesses using streaming radio services like Pandora and iTunes Radio have one more great item to share with their patrons, customers, and community through social media

I have had several new, artisanal food businesses open in my neighborhood over the course of the last year. I love to support local, non-chain, businesses whenever I can, so I often spend a lot of time visiting, shopping, eating and sharing the business with as many people as I can.

One thing all business owners try to establish right away is the mood, setting or feeling of their new business. Music is often used to establish this mood — from the raucous beats of pop and rock for a teen clothing store, to the more eclectic sounds of hot jazz or bossa nova for a hip and cool coffee shop.

Real World Example: Share your “House Music” with Your Patrons via Social Media

In the past, most business owners would have simply chosen a local radio station to play and left it at that. The advent of Internet radio services like Pandora, Spotify and iTunes Radio has given business owners an entirely new way to establish music and mood in their businesses while keeping the advertising at bay or removing it completely. Even better, Internet radio stations can be fine tuned by selecting particular artists, particular tracks and particular styles. Using these tools each business owner can create their own unique house sound which grows and changes over time.

Sure, you could buy each piece of music you would like to use and create your own local music “mix”, but playlists with less than 100 or so tracks can quickly grow repetitive for your regular customers (and certainly for your staff). Such a playlist also stagnates quickly without the constant influx of new material — something that Internet radio stations can provide automatically as new, appropriate tracks are added to the overall service. You can also develop different stations for different times of day and easily switch between them to set the mood for the morning rush, the lunchtime crowd or the late nighters.

Real World Example: Share your “House Music” with Your Patrons via Social Media

Finally, one great advantage to using an Internet Radio service is that it is one more item, one more unique part of your business, to share with your patrons. You can share Pandora and iTunes Radio stations via Facebook, Twitter, your company web site, or by using the direct link, anywhere and any anyplace you wish.

For example, you could have a flyer in your business that says,

“Enjoy our music mix in your car or home! Check out the MacLeod Ale Brewing Co station on Pandora – http://url/macleod”

You can, and also should, share this same information via all your social media accounts. You can even share each time you “Like” a new song or a new station and add it to your playlist or when you create an entirely new station to meet each particular mood or time of day.

All businesses are looking for unique things to share on their social media accounts and your Internet Radio stations are just one more piece of your unique brand and personality to add to the mix. Let your customers take a little piece of your business home with them and subtly remind them that they want to return again and again.

Why should you blog, podcast and share? – End of the Day for March 11, 2014

End of the day Logo

This post originally appeared in My Word with Douglas E. Welch

As you can tell by this blog (and my others) I have been putting a lot more time into writing new content and sharing content from others over the last several months. Partially, this is because I now have more time to create content since I am no longer doing day-to-day computer support, but also because I have a great need and desire to share my interests with others. It is so fun when someone comments on a recipe or gardening post, finds a TechnologyIQ post that solves their computer problem or enjoys one of my photographs. There is certainly a lot of reward in that, but I also blog for another reason — to share what I do and how well I do it with others.

Photo-A-Day for October 13, 2006

The writing and sharing that I do is directly designed to provide what, I hope, is a good real world example of how blogging, podcasting and social media (in fact, all the New Media tools available) can be used to improve your life and the lives of those around you. This improvement then leads to money-making projects and consulting contracts where I can go even deeper in helping others share their (and their company’s) story with the world. This is exactly how I came to work as a blogger and representative for Troy-Bilt back in 2011 and 2012. They discovered my work on the web and when they had an opportunity to hire people to represent them, my name was already in their mind. This is a great example of “attracting opportunity” instead of spending your days looking for work.

These “End of the Day” blog posts are a bit of departure for me. They are much more personal and reflect not only on my work but also my life in general. This demonstrates another idea I cultivate, too, though. A blog is really just a reflection of your life and work, not matter what the topic. The best blogs use real life as an opportunity to illustrate important concepts and teach important lessons. On several of my blogs I even have series entitled “Real World Examples” where I highlight just this idea. When anyone comes to me asking how they can get start blogging I always say “start with your life.” What interests you most? What are your biggest questions? What questions do you get asked most? There is much knowledge (and blog content) to be found there. Even more, their is an audience out there waiting for your to share your ideas, your thoughts, your questions with them. All you need to do is speak to them.

In an effort to attract more opportunity to me in the coming months, one of the best ways you can help is by sharing my blog posts, my podcasts, my shared items, everything I do with those people you think might be interested. Share a link via Google+, Facebook or Twitter. “Like” on Facebook or YouTube. Email a blog post to someone you think needs to see it. Opportunity is a numbers game. The more people who “stumble upon” my work, the more opportunities that will appear. If I help you in any way with my work here, please help me, yourself and your friends and family by sharing it further. This allows me to continue creating more useful material for all of you!

Check out the share buttons at the bottom of every post on every blog here at This makes it easy and convenient.


Previously on End of the Day:

Video: The Ox: A documentary on Eric Hollenbeck is a master woodworker who owns and operates the Blue Ox Millworks in Eureka, CA.

Excellent short documentary by Ben Proudfoot about Eric Hollenbeck is a master woodworker who owns and operates the Blue Ox Millworks in Eureka, CA. Eric talks about work, life and finding a place to fit in when it seems you don’t fit anywhere.

The Ox  DEC 11 2013

Discovered via

News: Google releases new YouTube Capture app for iOS/iPhone/iPad

Just saw a Google+ post linking to the announcement of this new YouTube Capture app for iOS. (Film and share videos instantly with YouTube Capture for iPhone and iPod touch) It is designed to allow you to quickly capture videos, add stabilization and color correction and then upload it to YouTube. Additionally, it also can send links to Google+, Facebook and Twitter announcing your upload. 

I just did this quick test of the app. The lighting was a little low, but it is a Real World Example of how the app would work in general use.


Can’t see the video above? Watch “YouTube Capture Test Video” on YouTube

Download the YouTube Capture from the iTunes app store

Real World Example: Lorilyn Salamanca hosts “Foundations for Healthy Generations” on Hawaii Public Access

Lorilyn salamanca

Lorilyn Salamanca has been a close friend of ours since she was completing her Master’s Degree at nearby Cal State Northridge (CSUN). She was originally the student and friend of our friends, Helen and Enrique, but quickly became a close friend in her own right.

Lorilyn has heard me preaching the New Media gospel for years now, and I have been coaching, consulting and cajoling her to use her own talents to get the word out about those issues which most concern her. Since moving to Hawaii over 8 years ago, she has worked for the WIC program, helping underprivileged families raise healthy kids.

Just today Lorilyn let me know that she had stepped up her New Media “visibility” — as I have been pushing her for years — and is now the host of “Foundations for Healthy Generations” on the Hawaii Public Access channel, ‘Olelo. Like all good Public Access programs, ‘Olelo also makes all their shows available, on demand, from their web site. They can also be easily shared and embedded in blogs and other web sites.

It is so great seeing Lorilyn extend her influence using a combination of traditional media and new media on the island. I wish her great success! This is exactly the type of Real World Example I would love to see other’s pursuing.

Foundations for Healthy Generations – Episode 4

Get Microsoft Silverlight

Can’t see the video above? Watch it here!

Watch more episodes of “Foundations for Healthy Generations” with Lorilyn Salamanca

Real World Example: Moving to a new podcasting web host and why

As you may have read a few weeks ago, when Apple released its new Podcasts app for iOS devices, I discovered that my long running podcast, Career Opportunities, had disappeared from the iTunes Podcast Directory. When I looked at the listings for my other podcasts, I noticed that they seemed to be having issues updating their information and logo graphics. When I tried to re-submit Career Opportunities to the iTunes Podcast Directory, I also found that my GoDaddy Shared Hosting did not provide the byte-range request feature that iTunes now required to register a podcast. This set in process a whole series of actions which have now all been completed. This post is an attempt to catalog what I needed to do to repair the situation and put my web site and podcasts on good footing for the future.

Career op itunes

Career Opportunities in iTunes Podcast Directory

New Web Hosting


First, I needed to find a new web host that could support podcasting, hosting my own media files and also 5 WordPress blogs. Based on the recommendation of (fellow Friends in Tech member)  Steve over at the GeekCred podcast, I decided to move to Dreamhost. I contacted Dreamhost with a few questions and they confirmed they did indeed support byte-range requests on their server and could also deal with the more the 20GB of data that make up my web site.

One Dreamhost feature that made my web site move easier than ever before is that they support shell access for their web hosting accounts. This means I am able to login to a command line on my web host and use that command line for various functions. In my case, this meant I could use the WGET command to mirror my entire web site directly from my GoDaddy server to the new server. The reason for doing this, of course, is speed. To upload just one podcast, A Gardener’s Notebook, from my home computer to the new web host was estimated to take almost 7 hours at the full speed of my cable Internet connection. Because the web servers are on higher speed connections, though, I was able to move the files directly between the web hosts at 3MB/sec and accomplish the entire move in about 1.5 hours. This dramatic difference made me realize how critical shell access is to anyone is who moving their web site to a new host. I understand from others that Dreamhost is one of the few web hosting companies that provides shell access, but I would find this to be a critical need for any podcaster who hosts their own media files. We simply have too much data to be troubled by uploading our entire library from a standard Internet connection.

WordPress Database Move

Since I have 5 WordPress blogs on my site, after all the static files had been moved to the new web host, it was time to consider moving all the databases that hold the content for these blogs. This is not something I am experienced with, so I called on another Friends in Tech member, Kreg from the Technorama podcast, to help me move those files. Kreg wasn’t available immediately, so I began to poke around in the process and see if I might be able to do it myself. As it turned out I was able to export all the data from the old system and import it into the new. A few quick changes to each wp-config.php file on the blogs and I found that everything was working on the new site. It was a great learning exercise and also means I won’t be so leery of moving databases in the future. Once again, Dreamhost’s Control Panel and help files made it a straightforward and easy process.

Re-submitting to the iTunes Podcast Directory

First, as a word of warning, if your podcast is dropped from the iTunes Podcast Directory, you will be able to re-submit it, but all your ratings and reviews will be lost. Your podcast will also receive a new, different, ID number and link in the iTunes Podcast Directory. This could be quite damaging for a particularly popular podcast, so do everything you can to make sure it doesn’t happen to you.

Mainly, make sure that iTunes can easily and regular access your RSS feed. In my case, it appears that GoDaddy is doing such aggressive traffic management that external services like iTunes, Feedburner and others are refused connection to your web host on a regular basis. I found this to be especially true when trying to re-submit my podcast. I would get 10-12 error messages of Connection Reset before iTunes was able to access my RSS feed. Conversely, when re-submitting from Dreamhost I received no Connection Reset errors. iTunes immediately recognized my feed.

One big issue when re-submitting your podcast is that you cannot submit the RSS URL that you are currently using for your podcast. If you do, iTunes will tell you that it is a duplicate podcast. Instead, I took my existing RSS feed, saved it to a static file (in my case, I named it index-fix.xml) and then stripped out all by a few podcast entries. Then I used this URL to re-submit the show to iTunes. Since my feed already contained all the appropriate iTunes XML entries (since I use Blubrry Powerpress to generate the feed) iTunes recognized all the settings and re-addded the podcast. Career Opportunities then reappeared in the iTunes Podcast Directory in about 1 day.

Of course, you want iTunes to use your old RSS feed as the main feed for its listings, so you need to re-point  iTunes back to your original feed. Once the podcast had reappeared in the iTunes Podcast Directory I was ready to take the next step. iTunes provides an XML tag that allows you re-point iTunes to a new, different RSS feed. This tag  is


Of course, you should use your own RSS URL in place of mine above. You place this tag immediately after the <CHANNEL> tag in the RSS file. I edited the index-fix.XML file and added this tag using a text editor. Within an hour or so, iTunes had seen this change and re-pointed the iTunes Podcast Directory listing back to its original feed.

Don’t forget email accounts and subdomains

On my web site I had quite a few email aliases and 2 subdomains on my old web host. Remember that these will need to be set up fresh on your new web host. I prefer to set all of this up before pointing my domain name at the new site. Every web host will provide you a temporary domain name for your new site so that you can test out nearly all functions before “throwing the switch” to send everyone over to the new web host. In my case, everything seemed to be working well at this point, so it was time to reset the DNS servers to point to the new web host.

Switching your domain

In my case, my domains will remain hosted at GoDaddy for the time being, although I will probably move them in the future. I prefer to take one step at a time so I don’t create multiple problems for myself. The process of moving is complicated enough without adding additional, simultaneous issues on top of it. Dreamhost provided me with the IP addresses for their Domain Name Servers so I only had to visit GoDaddy and enter those numbers for each domain to point it away from GoDaddy’s web servers and off to Dreamhost’s. 

It can be a bit difficult to tell when the switch over has occurred as, ideally, the sites should function in exactly the same way. In my case, I added a small notice to my home page telling visitors that I was moving web sites. I only added this note to the front page of the new web host. Every so often I would reload my main page in my web browser. When I saw that the page included the web move notice, I knew I was looking at the new web host and not the old one. Within about an hour I noticed that visits to were already pointing over to the new web host.


I has now been about 3 days since I made the move and I am quite happy with how it worked out. The new web host at Dreamhost seems a bit faster and, more importantly, it doesn’t seem to throw up the Connection Reset errors I was seeing with GoDaddy. I have also noticed that the listings for my other podcasts now have been updated and include the appropriate logos and a current list of episodes available. I am fairly confident now that I shouldn’t have any on-going issues with my podcast listings down the road.

If you have any questions or comments about my experience, please add your comments below. I would love to hear them!

Real World Example: Garden videos from A Gardener’s Notebook

I have many facets to my work life, including my garden blog and podcast, A Gardener’s Notebook. Below is a playlist of the many garden videos I have posted to the blog in an easy-to-browse YouTube playlist. You can also find other content on careers and technology on my YouTube channel.

This is just one example of how I am using New Media to get the word out about my blogs and interests. It doesn’t take a significant amount of time, but it is important that you capture events and activities as you are doing them. Having to set up a special time and place to shoot your videos is often enough friction to prevent you from creating them at all. Capture what you can, when you can, and you will early create content for your sites.

I have been spending a lot of time woking on my YouTube Channel lately as I think that this is where a lot of attention is focused at the moment. My son got me interested in Minecraft and after watching how some of the most well-known Minecraft people use YouTube as their main social media presence (and income generator) I have been applying some of their lessons to my own channel. Using Google Adsense, you can monetize your YouTube views using both on-page and in-video advertising. It takes a large quorum of viewers to make more than a few dollars, but those few dollars could help you cover hosting and other costs for your blogs or podcasts.


Can’t see the videos above? Watch “A Gardener’s Notebook Playlist” on YouTube.

Please like this video and/or subscribe to my channel on YouTube. Your LIKES directly effect how many others will see this video.

Real World Example: Sharing with others – Blizzard video

When I discuss New Media with folks, they often say “What do I have to say that is interesting to other people?” This video gives a great example of how all of us have something interesting to put out there in the world.

I think this video is a great illustration of how much snow fell and how it effects everything.

What small events can you capture and share with others? What is important in your life? If you find it important, interesting, funny, touching, chances are someone else will too.

Now get out there and make some media!

December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse from Michael Black on Vimeo.

December 2010 Blizzard Timelapse. Canon DLSR on tripod with remote timer taking a photo once every five minutes.

Approximately 20 hours in 40 seconds.

Facebook: Mike Black Photography

Question: How do I make automatic backups of my WordPress blog database?


I get a lot of questions every day and here is a one from today…

  • Q: How do I easily backup my WordPress database (the file that holds all your posts, comments, etc). Why should you backup your WordPress Database? If not, am I in danger of losing all my blog posts due to hacking, upgrade issues or other technical mistakes?.
  • A: Yes, failing to backup your WordPress database could lead to the loss of all your blog content if there is an issue. There are a variety of ways to backup your WordPress database. The usual method is to use the database manager page at your web host’s site to manually run a backup to a text file and then download the text file. Doesn’t sound very easy or fun, does it. When I switched over to WordPress a few years ago I was determined to find an easier, and more automatic way, to do backups.

    Enter WordPress Database Backup, a free WordPress plugin available from

    On each of your self-hosted WordPress blogs, download and install this plugin and then activate it via the WordPress Dashboard. Once installed, you can force an immediate backup that can be downloaded to your local computer or, and I prefer this method, an automatic backup which wakes up and then emails the backup file. I keep a separate Gmail account just for this purpose.

    Now, whenever there is a WordPress upgrade, I check to make sure there was a recent automatic backup and then proceed with the upgrade, secure in the knowledge that all my content is safe.

Do you have a question? Why not drop me a line? Use the Comments link above, send email to or call the voice mail line at 818-804-5049

Question: How do I set up a WordPress blog with a static page as the home page?


I get a lot of questions every day and here is a one from today…

  • Q: How do I set up a WordPress or blog to use a static page as the opening screen instead of a list of blog posts?
  • A: I first turned to the WordPress Codex to give me some guidance on this. You can read more in this here – Creating a static front page.

    Basically, you create the WordPress Page you would like to act as the front page for the site. Put your home page content here. Then, create another page and name it Blog, Posts, or whatever else makes sense to you. You need not add anything to this page, as it is only a placeholder to contain the usual posts you would see in a more typical WordPress blog.

    Next, from the WordPress Dashboard, select Settings, Reading. Under the first option on that page (Front page displays) select the radio button next to “A static page”. Then in the popup menus immediately below that, under Front Page, select the page you created to act as the new front page. Under the Posts page, select the second page you created named Blog, Posts, etc. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click the blue “Save Changes” button.

    Now when people visit your blog, they will see the static page you defined. You will need to include a link to the Posts page in the sidebar or header in order to allow people to access your blog posts.

Do you have a question? Why not drop me a line? Use the Comments link above, send email to or call the voice mail line at 818-804-5049

Tread carefully when editing WordPress themes (and how to recover when things go awry)

wp-appearanceI received a WordPress emergency email from a friend/client last night and I wanted to share both the problem, and the solution, with you. Now, I am far from a WordPress expert, but having faced some issues myself, her problem was one that I could solve.

The Problem

My friend was trying to modify an existing theme on her WordPress blog and one thing she really wanted was to expand the theme to include 3 column, instead of just 2. I have often had the same desire for more sidebar space, so I could understand why she wanted to do this.

Using the WordPress Admin interface she had entered into the Appearance area and clicked Editor to access the php and HTML code that underlies all WordPress themes. In editing one of these files though, she made a coding mistake, or a typo, and suddenly she could no longer access the Admin pages for her WordPress blog and trying to access the blog itself resulted in a terse, one line error. Oh Oh! Of course, having “been there and done that” I knew what had to be done to get things working again.

First, let me offer a word of advice that can help to limit the effects of a problem like this, should you ever want or need to poke around in your WordPress Theme files. When you are editing these files, you are editing the LIVE files on your existing web site.  This means any changes you make take effect immediately. Since some of the theme files effect the Admin pages as well, you can find yourself locked out of your own, now broken, blog.


Whenever you are editing a file, ensure that you have a clean, unedited copy of the file somewhere on your hard drive. Usually, if you downloaded this theme, you will still have the original files there. If you are making a series of changes, you can also keep a local copy of the file as you make changes. This can be down by downloading the file from your web site, or copying and pasting the contents of the file into a text editor on your system. Doing this gives you a fallback point should anything go wrong.

Now, what do you do when things go wrong? First, you should still be able to access your web site via ftp (File Transfer Protocol). This is the same method you used to upload the theme file originally or upload photos, audio and video to your web site. Since it is only the WordPress theme that is broken at this point, using a lower level method of accessing your site, i.e. ftp, should still work fine.

Log into you site using ftp and navigate to the folder that contains your WordPress install. This might be at the the top level of your web site or inside of another folder. In my case, my WordPress installs exist in a sub-folder, so I am looking for something entitled /career/wp-content.

The wp-content folder holds all themes and plugins you have added to your site. Inside of that folder you will find a folder named “themes” and inside that folder you will see sub-folders for every theme you have uploaded to your WordPress site. Locate the folder for the theme you are currently using i.e cutline is the one I am using. Inside of that folder will be all the files that make up that WordPress theme.

Now, you replace the file creating the error with your clean, backup copy of the file. In this particular case, my friend had been editing functions.php, a particularly important file. To repair her site, I renamed the bad file to functions.php.old and then uploaded her original, clean, functions.php file into the same directory.

Immediately the WordPress blog was available again and the changes she had made to functions.php were gone. This then allowed her to acesss the Admin pages for her blog. Now she could attempt to make her changes again, hopefully with better results.

This is a pretty geeky post for most of the readers here, but one take-away is that it can be relatively easy to recover from, what looks like, a major problem with your WordPress blog.

If you are editing your theme files, tread lightly, keep a original, clean copy of the file you are working on, and you will be able to put things a-right on your WordPress blog when something goes wrong.

Using New Media to teach from afar – A Real World Example

Interactive whiteboard at CeBIT 2007

Image via Wikipedia

I received an interesting call from a friend yesterday that is leading me down an interesting New Media road.

Our friend is also a teacher at my son’s school, so when her son was preliminarily diagnosed with the H1N1 flu virus, there was a bit of concern. She showed no symptoms herself, but the school administration was concerned with her being in the classroom while she could potentially be carrying the virus. That said, losing her time and skills, when she was not herself sick, pushed them to try something a little different. That fact is, what they asked me to implement has been possible for years, but this particular situation was enough to push them into action. This is probably a familiar situation to anyone who is an new media consultant. People have to come to the decision to investigate New Media on their own. It is nearly impossible to push them into it.

In the classroom

The software and hardware we are using is nothing special and many other systems could be substituted for what I am about to describe. First, all of our classrooms are outfitted with Smart Technologies interactive whiteboards. These are projector based systems where a computer screen can be projected and also “drawn on” electronically. Since these screens can project anything on the host PC, it was a simple affair to load Skype (, create a user id and login. In our specific case, a microphone for their desktop PC was located and tested. The built-in mic on a laptop or a USB headset would also have worked.  We are going to try and bring in a simple webcam to allow the remote teacher to see the classroom, but even one-way video would work for now. (An assistant will monitor the classroom locally and act as an intermediary between the students and the remote teacher A webcam, though, would allow the remote teacher to interact more closely with the students — watching for hands raised and confused looks)

In the “studio”

The remote end of the connection, set up in my home office for this first run, includes a standard Windows laptop or Mac Mini desktop computer. On the laptop, we can use the built-in webcam for video or connect my Digital8 camcorder to either computer to use as a more functional camera. A camcorder is a bit better as it has better quality optics and also allows for zooming in on materials and demonstrations. This would also allow you to record a high quality video of the presentation as it happens for later use.

For the audio portion, I am equipped with both lavaliere mics, like you see on television news shows and a shotgun microphone, like those used to record on location for television and film. You don’t need any of these, of course. You can use the audio coming from the camcorder or web cam, the microphone built into your laptop or a USB headset.


Most presenters typically want some way of writing or drawing information for their students and, in some ways, this becomes even more important for remote teachers. I have several solutions ready for this.

1. Flip chart and stand

I happen to have flip chart pads, stand and markers which I use for my own presentations, so we could simply set up one of these and point the camera at the pad. These are available at any office supply store. If you were teaching from an actual classroom, you could also just use the blackboard or whiteboard provided there.

2. Computer applications

On my Windows laptop computer, I have the program ManyCam which not only allows me to select a webcam or video camera, but also allows me to display whatever is on my computer screen. In this way, a teach could use a word processing program to type out whatever she wanted to present to her students, including pre-designed pages, Powerpoint presentations or anything else they might wish. CamTwist is a similar program for the Macintosh.  Both are free.

3. Graphic and drawing programs with digitizing tablet

To take it a step farther, I have a small Wacom drawing tablet and pen connected to this computer. This allows me to load any graphics or drawing program and use the computer screen as a virtual whiteboard.

Again, you can make this as simple or complex as you wish within the bounds of the technology you have. In our case, I think I am going to start out with the flip chart and maybe use the other technology if we think it might help.

Further information

We are supposed to conduct our first sessions this Wednesday, so I will right up another report to let you know how it went — the good, the bad and the ugly.

As you might imagine, this same setup could be used to bring in virtual guest speakers for your class, group or event. I am amazed how few people take advantage of this technology and the access it gives to experts across the country and the world. It matters little where you teach or live these days. You can still bring amazing people to talk to your class or even set up virtual “sister classrooms” all over the world. Imagine helping your students learn with another classroom in the UK, Australia, Europe, Africa, — wherever.

If you would like to know more about using New Media tools like these, leave a comment on thie blog post or post your questions to the New Media Interchange Community site. Finally, I am also available to come to your school, business or group (perhaps remotely) and show how New Media can be used to further education in all its forms.

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