Tag: book writing with students

Curious DavidDesignrrebook software

Curious David Redux: Mastering Designrr

As Dr. Simpson works on revising his past blog pieces, he gave me the task of testing out different eBook software. The promises of Designrr.io (found here) intrigued us. It allows authors to easily display their written work (blog pieces, articles, etc.) and uses their URLs to combine this work into one big eBook.

Dr. Simpson suggested that I create a basic guide to Designrr.io in order to help aspiring authors in the future. Then he would attempt to use my Student Guide to Designrr to pull together an e-book from a subset of his blogs.

Here’s my first draft:

Getting Started:

Once an account has been created, one can start a project by clicking “Create A New Project” button. The author can then name their project and import their URL. After this, the author can then choose a template they desire. The author can always skip this step or choose a different template later on while creating the project.

After following these simple steps, Designrr.io should automatically create a default book of the content the author just downloaded. The author can choose to publish this eBook immediately or choose to make some minor edits.

Before the editing process begins:

This website includes a feature called that will automatically save one’s work over a period of time. To enable this feature, click on the Settings Tab, then the subcategory Auto Save, and finally the Enable AutoSave button. Below this button, one can set the autosave delay. I usually have mine set on 5 minutes; however, the time ranges from 5 minutes to an hour.

Changing Background:

To change the background image of the cover of the book, click on the Inspector Tab and then the subcategory called Background. By clicking on the Image then Media Manager box, one can either choose a picture on their computer or search for a photo. The Textures option, located right below the Media Manager box, will help the author change the rest of the pages’ backgrounds. However, make sure to select one of these textures on the desired page, not the cover page.

Editing Text, Headers, and Footers:

By double-clicking on the text of the header and footer, Designrr.io will bring up two tabs (inspector tab on the left and simplified tab located near the text). In both tabs, one can change the font’s size, color, style, and border. I found that the Inspector Tab was the easiest to follow.

Changing Font Using Inspector Tab:

Start by double-clicking on the desired text one wants to change. One should be directed to the Inspector Tab and the subcategory Text Styles.

1)    Size- Manually type in the size font by clicking on the box under the italicized box. The box one should look for should have the label px (Ex: 28px).

2)    Color- Click on the long grey rectangular box under the box one just used to change the size. Then choose or create the desired color using the color wheel.

3)    Font Style- Click on the top left-hand box, next to the G box, to look and pick the default styles Designrr.io offers. By clicking on the G box, one can view a variety of fonts from Google.

Changing the Border Using Inspector Tab:

Start by double-clicking on the desired text one wants to change. One should be directed to the Inspector Tab; however, one needs to manually click the subcategory Border. I highly suggest editing the borders in this order.

1)    Style- Click on the box that reads None in order to choose the style of the border.

2)    Color- Click on the long rectangular box next to the None box. Just like the Test Style Color box, one can either choose or create a color they desire.

3)    Size- Use the slider above the two previously mentioned boxes in order to change the thickness of the border.

Adding More Posts to A Generated Project:

To add a new post/URL onto an already generated project, one must first click the Element tab and then the subcategory Components. Click on the New Article box and drag it to the desired spot. After this, paste the URL and it will automatically generate one’s blog piece into their eBook. In this tab, one can also add new pages and create a table of contents.

After the Editing Process:

If one wants to preview their work before they publish, click on the eye box located on the bottom left-hand corner. After the author is satisfied with their work, to publish the eBook click on the box to the right of the preview box. Desginrr.io gives authors the option of converting this draft into a PDF, .mobi (Kindle), and an Epub. Click on the desired format and press the Export box. If one wants to export their work into multiple formats, they must repeat this step.

Although there is an abundance of other features on this program, the ones mentioned in this piece seemed to be the most useful in the creation of an eBook. By following these simple steps, one can successfully use Designrr.io.

Here is what Kristen and I were able to produce using the Designrr.io software. Though there is always more to learn (I would have it no other way), it may prove useful in my tool kit. (Click here). Not bad for two beginners.

Curious David

Musings While Settling Down to Write

As I attempt to bring the semester to a soft landing, I thought that I would try creating a screen cast of some of my book-writing efforts using an earlier version of some screen casting software. Odd how sometime an earlier version of software (Voila) better fits my needs than the new improved version. Forgive the lack of editing. I am burning candles at both ends today. I am probably over ambitious trying to write three books simultaneously using three different pieces of self-publishing software. Ars longa, vita brevis.


Curious David

Curious David Redux: Exploring Designrr as an Ebook Writing Tool


Today my new student assistant Kristen and I explored using Designrr as an ebook-writing tool.

Here is what we were able to do. It is in a pdf format. Next, we shall master Lulu, CreateSpace, and Pressbooks.

Not bad for two freshmen  (one being me!)

Click the first link to take a look at what we are able so far to do. You will download a pdf.

Exploring+Different+E-book+Writing+Software_155752 (1)


e-bookScreencastingStudent research Team

Curious David Redux: Searching for the “Best” Screen Casting Software

What is the “best” screen casting software? The answer is always “it depends” on

  1. how much you are willing to spend.
  2. how much learning time you have.
  3. what your particular needs are.
  4. the operating system you are using.
  5. whether you want numerous bell and whistles.
  6. the day of the week (as software is constantly changing).

As I continue to “declutter,” refocus, and wind up and wind down, I (re)discovered over 50 screen casts my students and I made and stored on Vimeo or YouTube. At the time I just was learning about Jane Hart’s technology learning tools, and I was experimenting with screen casting as a teaching/learning tool. Below are some of my adventures and misadventures with screen-casting software and the informed opinions of my student research assistants — whose advice I always seek. The videos are also a documentation of my clearly getting older!

Here is a hodgepodge of those earlier productions that might be of interest to alumni or, especially, to former and present student assistants. I may use the footage in an e-book examining the relative strengths and weaknesses of iMovie, Capto, Screenflow, Camtasia and “TOBenamed later”.


Robin the Newf taught me so much—as does Leo the Great.


 I’m moving in the direction of trying some Facebook live broadcasting. Time to review what we’ve learned about screen casting and discover how the process has advanced since we last wrote this:


When I am especially busy, I encourage my student research team to use their creativity to surprise me. Here is their preliminary work for an e-book we are writing that will give student guides to software we are using. I am delighted by their work. For other guides to Screencasting tools see the excellent compilation by Richard Byrne and his Free Technology for Teachers blog.

Group Photo

As a student research team for Dr. Simpson we always try to find the best software to use on the task at hand  which allows us to be most efficient and successful. Here we are going to compare three different screencasting tools we have become familiar with over the past few weeks: ScreenFlowVoila, and Camtasia. All have the same purpose, but have differences. Which screen casting tool is best for you depends on the type of screen cast you want to make.We will show you screen casting examples from each of the different softwares.

When we used Voila to create a tutorial on how to use SurveyMonkey, we realized we were missing some necessary additional software. Without the additional software we could not hear our voice recording in our video. As a work-around solution we converted our video into ScreenFlow. To resolve the problematic issue with Voila,  Tia, Arianna, and Dr. Simpson later downloaded the necessary additional software which automatically presented itself upon our request to record using a microphone. Once this software was installed we ran a trial video in order to ensure sound could be heard. Success, at last. Having discovered how to properly use Voila, Dr. Simpson asked his research team to make a video in order to compare Voila to the video made using ScreenFlow.

Voila is a great screen casting software that can be downloaded on your iMac, iPhone, and iPad. Since Evernote is getting rid of the software, Skitch, this new feature was created in place of it with more features that are very beneficial.

When using this app you are able to take a screen shot of your full home screen, or capture a certain section of your home screen with the different screen shot tools. You are also able to overlap multiple screenshots in the software as well. In addition, if you would like to record your voice or anything on the computer while using the device you are able to do a recording. After you have taken the recording, it will open up in Voila and you can trim your new video and have the recording play over the screen casting. One flaw of Voila, is that you must download an additional app to have noise with your recording. You also need to export your recording to an app like Imovie to complete and edit your recording.

Voila allows you to edit your screen shots in multiple different ways. Some really nice features that Skitch doesn’t have is that you are able to add stickers to your screen shots as well as add a spotlight to a certain part of the screen shot. The spotlight helps a section you select stand out and blur out the rest of the background of the screen shot as much as you would like. Another feature that you are able to do that Skitch can’t do is blur out in different ways. You can do motion blurs, the static blur, a pixellated blur, and etc. Also, there are different kinds of arrows you can use in Voila to lead someone from one spot of your screen cast to another to show them instructions, like where to go from point A to point B, and etc. Voila allows you to marquee the pictures as well. This means that with any of the shapes they have or what you create, you are able to put that shape on a certain part of the screen shot and duplicate it. So that part you’ve chosen can be more bolded, or put in another screen shot. Below is an example of the different effects and borders that Voila has available to us.

Below is the video we started out by using Voila, but turned to using ScreenFlow.

ScreenFlow is one of the first screencasting tools we have used as a team since the the announcement of Skitch being discontinued.  ScreenFlow is the most simple screen casting tool out of the three when you are directly recording. When creating your screen cast, you can have as many or few screens open while you are recording. There are also options to have a window showing you creating your recording as well. ScreenFlow is primarily used for Mac users whereas Voila and Camtasia can be used on many different types of computers. The best way to start and end your videos in ScreenFlow is by using shortkeys, which holds true to Voila and Camtasia as well.

In addition, Voila has many perks to it. Instead of just creating screen casting recordings, you can also create snap shots of your screen. They have many editing options for both photos and videos. With your photos, you can edit both your screen shots as well as photos in your library. Voila has the best organization for your photos and screen casting videos you create. They have many folders you can organize your creations into with easy access to all. One cool thing you can do is while in Voila, there is a button where you can go on the web. In reality, you do not even need to leave the application to take screenshots of a certain webpage you would like to add to your screen cast, which also helps maintaining organization.

Camtasia is more similar to Voila in complexity of the software. While using Camtasia, it is more used for the video aspects of screen casting. You can add many different types of transitions or text boxes as you go. One cool thing with the different transitions is that you can have them fade in and out at any time frame in your screen cast. This helps create a more exciting and organized screen cast. One thing that Camtasia has that neither Voila or ScreenFlow has is the ability to layer both videos and pictures into one screen cast. Also, Camtasia is accessible on either Macs or PCs. Camtasia allows one to film a video using their software, which will then automatically be accessible to edit. One does not have to save the video and download it to another software to edit.

On the upper left hand side of Camtasia, there are the categories Media, Annotations, Transitions, and Animations. The Media button allows one to access all the videos filmed using Camtasia or download videos saved onto the computer. Under the Annotations tab, text bubbles, arrows, shapes, highlight, symbols, or keyboard keys are located and can be added to the video. Theses options come in multiple different colors which can be adjusted on the video to be different sizes and in different locations on the video. The Transitions tab allows one to add effects at the beginning or the end of a video. Animations can also be added to the video to zoom in or zoom out, fade in or out, tilt left or right, and even create a custom animation. As a side note, if one applies the zoom in feature, to return to the way the video was originally, a zoom out animation must be applied.

The other features that one can apply to the video are Video FX, Audio FX, Cursor FX, and Gesture FX. To change the color of the screen, add a glow to the screen, add a device frame around the video, and many more are features that are located under the Video FX tab. Audio FX allows one to change the volume of the video, the pitch, reduce the background noise, and change the speed of the clip. Cursor FX will highlight, magnify, or spotlight where the cursor is throughout the video. One can also highlight right or left clicks that are made using the computer mouse during the video. Under the Gesture FX tab, one can double tap, pinch, swipe, and tap certain areas during the video.

Each of these features can be customized to show up for different lengths and times throughout the video. Camtasia has two lines of recordings on the bottom lines to edit. The first line is the Webcam recording while the second line is the video of the screen. If you want to add an effect to the entire video, such as a transition, the effect needs to be added to both lines.

Tonight I am “rediscovering” teaching/learning tools: specifically Skitch (for screenshots and annotating screenshots, Screenflow for screencasting, and YouTube).

How do you use YouTube? How might it serve as a learning resource in your job? What are its unrecognized or under-utilized capabilities? Here is what student research assistant Lizzie wrote when I asked her how she used it.

Uses of YouTube

YouTube is an internet source that has multiple uses. Personally, I use YouTube a lot when I am working at Dr. Simpson’s office for background music. YouTube does not only have music on their site, but educational videos, silly videos, podcasts, etc. Since my time being here at Carroll University, I have had multiple professors’ post YouTube links in their slide shows and assign YouTube videos as assignments for student’s to watch at home. When I struggle using a certain software, I am able to go to YouTube and search what I am looking for in the search bar. Multiple videos will pop up on the screen that go through step-by-step instructions on how to do the task I am looking for.

YouTube is useful for posting videos as well. Dr. Simpson has posted videos in the past with his student research assistants and discussing certain issues. I have had to watch podcast of others on YouTube that are discussing a certain issue we are dealing with in class or about a certain software we are trying to use, such as SPSS. In class presentations, 90% of the time students are required to post a visual image or video in their slides. YouTube is very useful in this circumstance. One is able to find certain media coverage of an issue on YouTube as well as scenes from past TV shows, news broadcasts, radio shows, etc. A great example of how YouTube is useful in my field, psychology, is research. YouTube has multiple videos of famous studies that have been done in the past, such as Pavlov’s, Little Albert, and the Bobo Doll study. All these videos are accessible to people, like us, on YouTube.

YouTube is a great source, not only for education, but also for others to express themselves. There are many podcasts on YouTube of people’s life stories. Some of them involve people dealing with issues such as cancer and mental health problems. However, there are podcasts of people discussing their experience sky diving, cliff jumping, in a different city, making covers of songs, etc. People in the 21st century are becoming “YouTube famous” because of their podcasts on YouTube. Many famous singers like, Justin Bieber, became famous by starting on YouTube and working their way up. In addition, people will post weekly podcast updates of their lives on YouTube and have millions of fans because of this method. An example is a couple named, Cole and Savannah, who have a YouTube channel and post videos every other week of what is happening in their lives.

YouTube is an amazing media source. YouTube allows one to find what music they are interested in, express talents that they want to show the world, show others their life stories, gives education to people, helps people stay up to date on certain issues going on in the world, etc. I would highly recommend YouTube as a source that everyone should look into and explore the different options that it has to offer the public.


Agingbook writing with studentsbrain fitness trainingCarroll University USACurious David

Brain Fitness Training: Fact vs. Fiction


There is much interest today in using technology to improve one’s brain power,  one’s health, and one’s well-being. Take a moment to conduct an online search on the topics of “brain fitness for seniors,” “brain fitness games,” “brain fitness apps, “and “brain training.” You’ll  be overwhelmed with the number of results. Unfortunately the social media and advertising claims are far removed from the science upon which legitimate claims can be made. How can one decide which claims are “snake oil,” which represent vaporware, and which are based upon  well-done research? Which programs are merely entertainment? Which make false or unverifiable claims? Which claims are patently wrong? Are there some vaild brain training interventions that are appropriate and proven effective for special populations? How can one protect or improve one’s brain heath?

In part because a number of Carroll alumni have been actively involved in research involving aging and memory (e.g. Michelle Braun, John DenBoer and Mark Klinger), and in part because I am approaching the age of 70, I’ve taken an increased interest in memory research.  I’ve always been fascinated by the too much-neglected research of Harvard’s Ellen Langer exploring concepts of mindfulness and mindlessness. I found especially fascinating her book Counterclockwise, though I am still skeptical about its implications for age reversal. [There IS empirical evidence (needful of replication and extension) that subjective perceptions of age can be affected by the mere process of measuring variables related to aging].

A day doesn’t pass when I am not flooded with emails about  “brain fitness training opportunities” that I am implored to explore.  Brain U Online gives me a friendly reminder of the availability of a brain training session invitation.  Blinkist suggests that I read a synopsis of the book Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect your Brain for Life.  I am alerted that Episode #4 (of 10) “Six ‘Brain Hacks’ to Enrich Your Brain” from a gohibrow.com course awaits my viewing.  An interesting NPR story invites me to explore the brain-enhancing benefits of bilingual education. I receive an invitation to take an AARP approved  (and United Health Care supported)Life Reimagined”  free online course on “Brain Power: How to Improve Your Brain Health” taught by Wendy Suzuki, Ph.D.  Posit Science urges me to become a “Smart Cookie” by joining their “…unique braining program … which unlike others… is backed by more than 100 published scientific papers”… I think that I’ll send them all  a copy of the recent review of brain training  research  n Psychological Science in the Public Interest (here is the link).

How does one separate the wheat from the chaff of these claims? Which avenues are promising and which are merely advertising promises? Will I really get smarter with five-minute lessons delivered to my inbox every morning? Do I want to? Would I be well-served by following my heart and attempting to (re) learn long forgotten Spanish? Would I be better served by exercising more? Learning how to play an instrument? Should I become involved in creating an Elder hostel educational experiences? So many questions. What fun to begin systematically answering them with talented students, data, and critical thinking.

Meet my Fall  2017 Carroll University student research seminar team. Jeff, Alexis, Sami, Abbey, Antonio, Nathan, Alex, Alex, and Ricky.

We have begun developing answers to questions such as these and are in the process of writing a short book sharing our findings. What questions would you like us to answer? Stay tuned!