Both Podcasts and Vlogs are a form of digital creation. A Podcast is basically a series of episodes, that have been programmed and formatted, focusing on a specific theme or topics like technology, sports, or anything else. They are often just delivered through audio, but they can be visual as well. Podcasts are generally free and widely available on a variety of platforms. You just need a device and an internet connection to listen to Podcasts.
What are Vlogs?
A Vlog is really just a blog but for video with a series of entries that can often combine embedded video (or a video link) with supporting text, images. Entries can be recorded in one take or cut into multiple parts. Vlogs are popular on platforms like YouTube. In recent years, it has spawned a large community on social media, becoming one of the most popular forms of digital entertainment. This popularity is likely because as well as being entertaining, vlogs can deliver deeper context through imagery as opposed to just written blogs.
How to create content for a Vlog/Podcast?
Many of us now find a lot of our time listening to podcasts or watching content creators on platforms such as YouTube. Here we’ll bring you a few videos showing how people go about creating such content to hopefully show you that it doesn’t always require technical wizardry or extensive knowledge. First, let’s look at podcasts. The American website Castos gives a great breakdown of things to consider when creating a podcast and as you can see most of it depends on your ideas and planning, rather than any technical know-how. Most of the software required to create podcasts (or video content) can be sourced for free. All you might need to buy when starting up is your hardware (such as a headset).
How to Vlog?
So, if you have a burning idea/topic/hobby that you’d like to share with the world, why not consider doing it via a podcast or vlog. As you can see from these videos even when creating content for YouTube, just getting started and giving it a go with the technology you have (such as your mobile camera) is as important as anything. And as with podcasting, plan plan plan.
Blogging is a great way to display your knowledge about a subject that interests you, for example, I have a music blog. So, as you can see it doesn’t have to be purely academic but if you are aiming to increase your employability it would be beneficial to write about something that links to your desired career path or industry. For example, the blog I created was very helpful in securing the role I have now and has provided me with some good connections in my field.
You may not have much experience in your chosen field, so blogging is a great way for you to establish yourself as an expert in your particular subject as well as display your passion and personality. There is never a bad time to start writing a blog. Though as a student I would say it is probably the perfect time for you to begin creating and writing your own blog.
This is all part of forming your digital footprint. A good blog can set you apart from the competition as it can show off several skills that employers are looking for such as social media skills and written communication. It gives an employer the opportunity to learn about you and your opinions before they ever meet you. It will also help you learn about things like search engine optimisation (SEO) or website customisation and maybe even writing some code. Self-improvement and personal development are not only beneficial to you, but employers will also value these traits. And of course, writing about a topic will inevitably help you learn more about that topic whilst developing your critical reasoning skills.
Writing and sharing a blog also provides a fantastic opportunity to network and meet new people. Engaging with your audience could potentially lead to all sorts of possibilities, ranging from job opportunities to collaboration on projects. If you are a research student, blogging is also an effective way to develop ownership of your research area and to connect to others in your field.
Name your blog
Once you have chosen your platform you need to decide on a domain name (the URL that you purchase), this could be your own name, or something related to the subject you have decided to write about. This could be someone’s first impression of you, so take some time to think before you decide. The name should be short professional and to the point. You ideally want a “.com”, “.net”, “.org” or “.co.uk”. If these aren’t available maybe re-think your domain name so you can use them.
You can use a tool like NameMesh which lets you enter 2-3 keywords and generate some available potential URLs. Be careful when choosing keywords as this will affect your search engine optimisation (how often your website appears in searches). Once you have selected your domain your next step is to look for the best price to buy it.
Selecting a domain provider / host
It is useful to look around as prices on domain names/hosting are always changing and there are many different deals available. Also bear in mind you don’t have to buy hosting from the same place you bought your domain.
There are a few things to consider when selecting a hosting provider. For example, to make it easier it would be helpful if the host provided something like 1 click WordPress installation. This makes the process much simpler sort of like a website installation wizard, there are just a few pages to click through where you enter some information. Then when you are done your website will be up and running on your URL and ready for customisation. Here is a guide for how to use WordPress and set up your site.
Installing WordPress for blogging
WordPress is one of the most common host providers and it is what the University library uses for their blog. Here is a quick guide to installing WordPress.
Writing your first blog post
Now your website is up and running, it’s time to write your first post. The first post should be introductory, you want to explain who you are and what you are writing about, and why you started a blog. Additionally, you need to decide who your blog is for (your target audience) and what you want to achieve by writing this blog. The rest is up to you just keep writing and have fun blogging.
Understanding how the digital world has changed society over time is something that I think more people should know about. As this will be the last post before Christmas, I thought it would be interesting to see how digital advancements have changed our lives, not just at Christmas but every day. This is where I get to let my former history student out and look into the past to see how the digital world has changed and developed.
Where it all began
Despite what you might think Christmas was not celebrated widely even as recently as the 19th century. It was only near the end of the century when it became an annual celebration that started to spread across the whole world. In England, this change can be attributed to Queen Victoria, who married the German, Prince Albert in 1840. Prince Albert introduced some of the most prominent aspects of Christmas along with his influence in embracing emerging technologies. These influences then pushed England into the first Industrial Revolution.
1840 marked the end of the mechanical age, which began in about 1450. It was also the beginning of the electromechanical era, which continued until 1940. Many new technologies emerged during the mechanical and electromechanical eras. For example, Telecommunications, which became important for sending handmade postal cards for Christmas, started in the electromechanical era.
Christmas past, present and future
Since then, transformation, adaptation, and the influence of important technological advancements have reshaped not just Christmas but our whole world. I thought it would be fun to view this like the ghosts of past future and present from Charles Dickens’s timeless tale, A Christmas Carol, quite appropriately published in the 19th century in 1843. Now we have just looked at the past and how it all began, so let’s now move into the present.
How has Christmas changed?
Handmade Christmas cards used to be quite a common practice but have now been replaced by commercial cards, and by e-Cards when the Internet became a key aspect of society. Another evolution is also how people send Holiday Greetings via video. With video becoming widely used and accessible with the advent of smartphones.
In-store shopping replaced homemade gifts with all sorts of things one can buy. The Internet has made possible what many consider a shopping dream with online shopping and next-day home delivery. Christmas shopping is a few clicks away. There is even an option for sending a Christmas gift card by email, for those late shoppers who ran out of time. You can also play some Christmas songs on Spotify, have some hot chocolate, and online Christmas shopping has most of the traditional elements without the crowds.
Technological gadgets are the most wanted Christmas presents expected by both adults and children. There are rarely handmade gifts, like in the past. Mobile communications made it easy to send text messages and WhatsApp friends and family around the world. Video calls make it possible for family members to join from anywhere in the world.
Twitter and Facebook have also influenced Christmas making it even easier to send a single greeting with a photo of the family tree nicely decorated to hundreds of people simultaneously. With just one click a Christmas greeting can reach thousands of people.
Though some may complain about how technology has changed us as a society there is no denying the benefits. Postal delays are less of a problem as many receive digital greetings in perfect time, paper-free. Technology has made it possible to bring families and friends together in times when travelling was not an option. Video calling and chats allow families to virtually be together at the Christmas dinner table when members of the family live scattered around the world.
How we can use these developments now and in the future?
Technology has also allowed us to be more creative in different ways. We can still create our own cards but in an easier and more efficient way and we have better ways to plan what is quite a hectic time of year. Below you can see how you can easily use digital software to create a Christmas card. In addition to this, there are also digital planners you can use which can help you plan out your Christmas.
You will notice all these developments also have a usage outside of Christmas, shopping, communication and creation amongst many over things has never been easier. We can plan ahead and organise our day which is helpful for a student or in the workplace and digital creation can be used for projects and presentations. We can also easily talk to family and with fellow students or work colleagues. Also, the internet whilst being useful for shopping has created so many benefits when it comes to studying and working. Almost every day of your life as a student and when you go into the workplace involves some use of the internet.
This is a very exciting age to be living in and it will be interesting to see what developments come next.
Previously we have covered digital creation basics through PowerPoint and Word. Depending on what you study and your interests there are more advanced digital creation software’s which some of you may wish to explore. Here are a few useful beginners guides for these software’s some of which you may be able to pick up more easily than others. You don’t need to go through all of these videos as some are quite long but if you are interested in further advancing your digital creation abilities why not give one of these a try.
Suggested digital creation tools/software
These are just a few recommended tools to develop your more advanced digital creation skills. That isn’t to say these are the only tools there are several others you could look into here. You could also learn about these tools or software through MOOCS which are online courses that will be discussed more fully in a later post.
Adobe Photoshop is a software that is often used for image editing, graphic design and digital art.
Adobe InDesign is a software that focuses on layout and page design for print and digital media.
Sketch is a digital design app from Mac. You can use it for UI (User Interface), mobile, web and even icon design.
Adobe Illustrator is a vector-based graphics software. It lets you scale down your artwork for mobile screens or scale up to billboard size
Blender is a free and open-source 3D computer graphics software used for creating animated films, visual effects, 3D models, and many more. This is a fun tutorial that I have tried myself, it tells you how to make a 3D realistic donut whilst teaching you all the basics of Blender.
How will these tools help in my future?
The ability to use just one of these tools can be tremendously helpful for jobs in any of these fields and more:
Digital creation/design permeates much of our society delivering information, product identification, entertainment, and persuasive messages, which is something we will cover in a later post. Having a good grasp of how to use one of these more advanced digital tools may also help you stick out from the crowd when it comes to your job search after University. Employers will like these skills as achieving the speed and agility necessary for competing in today’s work/business environment requires that organisations advance their digital capabilities and creativity.
PowerPoint is an important part of your digital creation skills. Today we are going to discuss how to use it effectively and create great presentations.
Most of you have probably given the odd presentation at school and you are likely to give more at university and possibly even more in your working life depending on your career path. You may think well my particular field doesn’t really involve presentations so I don’t need to bother. You likely will have to give one at somepoint. For example, even though my main role is writing content like this I did have to give a short presentation when I first started just to introduce myself.
Slide Transitions and Effects:
Transitions and effects often become the focus of attention, which can greatly distract the audience. In addition to this when a presentation contains several of these effects and transitions runs on a computer much slower than the one on which it was created, the result can be slow and often look silly. These effects rarely enhance the message you’re trying to communicate leave the fade-ins, fade-outs, wipes, and dissolves to Hollywood filmmakers.
PowerPoint Graphics (don’t use Clipart)
As PowerPoint is so widely used if you go for clipart graphics it shows a lack of creativity. If you want to use graphics, use your own photographs or better-quality graphics from free image sites like The Noun Project. Screen captures can also add realism when presenting information about a Website or computer program.
PowerPoint Templates are distracting
Templates should be avoided as it forces you to fit all your originality into someone else’s mould. The templates are often distracting and use poor colour combinations. Create your own distinctive look or you could use the university or organisation logo in the corner of the screen. Could you really concentrate on what someone was saying if you were looking at this?
There’s too much text
Slides are great at depicting an idea using graphics or providing an overview. However, they are not good for detail and reading so you should avoid paragraphs, quotations and sometimes even complete sentences. Try and keep to at most five lines of text and use words and phrases rather than full sentences. The audience will be able to retain the key points more easily. Don’t use your slides as speaker’s notes or as a script to read from. You don’t want to write something that ends up looking like this.
Take the audience into account
Many people will often scan a table or graphical image directly from material that was designed to be printed and red off an a4 piece of paper not as part of a presentation. The results are at best mediocre. Print visuals are usually meant to be seen from 8-12 inches rather than viewed from several feet. These images are too small, too detailed and may often have too much text for an effective visual presentation. This also goes for font size for example 12-point font is too small aim for a minimum of 40-point font though sometimes a bit lower may be okay. Remember the audience and ensure all elements of any slide are large enough to easily see
Technology can go wrong
This is relevant for anything you store on your computer. You never know when equipment will malfunction or maybe you will have to give your presentation on another computer. You should be prepared by having a backup of your presentation on a USB, a compact-flash memory card with an adapter, or even a CD-ROM. In the worst-case scenario, nothing works, and you have no visuals to present. You should still be able to give a good presentation if you prepared correctly as the slides should just be a visual aid, not the main focus. So, make sure you familiarize yourself with the presentation, practice it and be ready to engage the audience regardless of the technology at hand.
Now we’ve explored how to make your PowerPoint presentation more effective and what can go wrong why not check out some useful tips for you to use in your next presentation.