Let’s talk about webcam lighting.

If you need something like this you are probably doing it wrong.

In general set up facing a window and have a 1100-1500 lumen (75-100 watt) “cool white” globe in the room. If possible try not to sit directly underneath it (to avoid eye brow shadows).

If you need more light (or the outside light is inconsistent) try a desk lamp with a 500-900 lumen (40-60 watt) cool white globe. Position it at about eye level or just above and just to the side (about 30 degrees) so it’s not directly in your eyes. Experiment with distances so you don’t get harsh shadows. Alternatively you can use a stronger globe and bounce to light off a nearby wall this will give you a more even light.

The set up in the picture has a desk lamp with a 500 lumen globe and 2 x 1400 lumen lights (from my workshop). One light is bouncing off the facing wall and one off the side wall. I use it to do tricky things in training.

Working from home (occasionally) – setting up your laptop

Working from home laptop set up

Working a few days from home is becoming more common but we don’t all have (or want) studies and specialised desks to work from. A lot of us just work off the most convenient table. Unfortunately working for long periods on your laptop is not ideal and it’s important that you get up and stretch regularly, particularly your neck and shoulders.

Ideally raise your laptop screen and plugin a keyboard and ,mouse so you can work without hunching forward. You want your screen at eye level and your forearms level with the table. You may need to fiddle with a few different boxes to get the screen height right. Try different chairs to get your arms right. Gas lift chairs are great but you may not want it living semi permanently in your kitchen or lounge room and they damage your carpet over time. If you have a little bit of spare space and a few dollars you could try a compact mobile computer desk that you can wheel out when you need it.

You can also plug a second monitor into your laptop. This video shows you how to set it up on Windows.

Techy places (like Jaycar) have a range of adapters to connect your old DVI, VGA or DisplayPort monitor to your laptop HDMI port (don’t worry if you don’t know what they are, just take a picture of the sockets on your monitor to show them).

Happy Relaunch Day

Happy Relaunch Day

I’ve been blogging about teaching, learning and technology for a number of years. A couple of years ago my job changed and the old eLearning Meandering edtech blog was unfortunately sidelined.

Well, I’m relaunching the blog on a new site, EdTech Pro. I’ll also post some how to videos on my new YouTube site and work up a few online courses.

There will also be a newsletter which will be a digest of the blog posts, info on any new videos or courses and maybe a couple of extra tips

My focus is more on software than hardware, and more on PD for teachers than infra structure. I’ll throw in some links to relevant stuff that comes through my feeds. So if that interests you come among for the ride.

Feel free to add comments or suggestions.

Shoestring review of some OMR software

We’ve been using Remark Office for a while to mark the MCQ component of our mid semester and final year exams.     Remark is probably the most commonly mentioned program when you go hunting on the net, and for good reason, it is a very good program.  Unfortunately their licence management can be inconvenient if you have numerous computer issues like we have had.  So I’ve had a look around to see if there are options that might be better.

This is what we are after (apart from the obvious i.e. it’s accurate and reliable)

  • Can be installed on a stand alone PC
  • Simple to install
  • Simple to use
  • Less expensive than Remark
  • Quick to correct student entry errors – this is the biggest time suck with OMR
  • Student ID validation – This is the worst of the entry errors.  We have large units 200-600.  We hand out copied sheets and students have to write in their own ID.  Remark Office links to a class list to help ID verification.

I have not done a comprehensive review of features,  I’ve just focused on the features listed above.   Some programs I have dismissed after skimming the website, others I have downloaded and tried out.

Remark Office – cost $1400.

Annoying – Licence management/transfer is a pain.  The initial learning curve is a little steep.

PC OMR – $500.

Deal breaker – If the student makes a mistake filling the square you have to edit the image and reread, you can’t just view the image and insert the correct response in the table.

LaCuritie Assessment OMR – $420

Annoying – No instructions.  You have to put the questions in the program.    You can’t do a bulk import of questions.
Deal Breaker 1 –  There is no verification of student ID against an an external list (ie there is no way to now if the student go their ID wrong or duplicated).
Deal breaker 2 –  BMP is the only accepted image format.  Our scanner doe not output BMP image files
Deal Breaker 3 – Might not pick up entry errors by students

Quexf – Free open source

Deal Breaker – Very complex installation process

TCExam – free open sources-

Deal breaker – needs to be installed on a server

Udai OMR – Free Open Source

Deal Breaker – Insanely user unfriendly

FormScanner – free Open Source

Annoying – very skimpy instructions.
Deal Breaker 1 – Form set set up not user friendly
Deal Breaker 2 – I can’t see any feature for verification of student ID against an an external list

ABBYY Flexicapture

Deal Breaker – Looks like it would get the job done but it’s twice the price of Remark

SmartShoot OMR

I didn’t get a price on SmartShoot, but it’s probably my favourite of the programs I tested.  When they get better English instructions it might be worth a look (assuming you don’t need student ID verification)

Very Annoying – No English instructions
Deal Breaker
There is no verification of student ID against an an external list

KaptureAll – cost $6,000

Deal Breaker 1 The error verification process is a bit awkward.  It produces a spreadsheet of results and a list of files that it detected errors in   The file shows the scanned image with the error highlighted and provides a field below the image to add the correct answer. There appears to be no quick way to check if the program misses an error.  With Remark (and SmartShoot) the document image appears when you click on a student result or correct an error.
Deal Breaker 2 – I can’t see any feature for verification of student ID against an an external list
Deal Breaker 3 – It costs more than Remark Office.

Password management

I have a small truckload of passwords

Keepass is the one that many password managers Tech Geeks recommend

Because the password database is on your computer not in the cloud, Keepass can be a bit fiddly if you use multiple computers.  There is a work around using Dropbox.


Hangouts are now a bit more useful.

“Starting today, we’re making this feature even more useful by removing the requirement that guests have a Google account in order to join a Hangouts video call. Here’s how it works: guests without a Google account who have been provided with the video call link by the organizer will be asked to provide their name and then request to join the call.”


Weekend funny – 6 second tutorial on how to use a selfie stick

There are many uses for selfie sticks and this video is certainly one.

selfie break


It’s interesting how polarizing these (it has to be said, quite useful) items have become.

I’m trying to think of other recent items that have been used (usually unfairly) as indicators of a persons personality and values.

So here’s my list so far 🙂

  1. Hummers
  2. Over priced Polo shirts (LaCoste, Hilfigger insert your brand bias here)
  3. Blue Ribbon beer (and fixed wheel bikes – seriously guys, get some gears).
  4. Ponytails (on men), Mullets (either sex)
  5. Hats of any description (except on the beach)
  6. Persistent Bloggers (how 2006!)
  7. Emoji over users