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Andy Walker

Open source software equivalents

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Many schools are considering spending small fortunes on commercial web authoring software such as breeze, articulate, captivate etc.

Does any one know of the development of any open source or shareware options of similar products??

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I'm a Mac user, so this isn't a problem - you get the iLife suite of programmes free with a new Intel-based Mac and it's got everything you need in it. Admittedly they're slimmed-down versions of the 'real' programmes (a bit like the relationship between Photoshop Elements and Photoshop), but that's probably all that most teachers can cope with at the moment.

I'm finding the impact of these new Macs (that run Windows and MacOS at the same time) fascinating. Our head of IT (a PC fanatic if ever there was one) has just bought himself one of the new laptops, and our department are also getting one for general use. Our reasons are firstly to be able to check the useability of web pages, Marratech, etc straightaway on the same machine, and secondly for visiting speakers, academics, etc.

My turn comes in January (new financial year), and I'll use mine for similar reasons. Programmes like Marratech, which have different features in different operating systems, will be very much enhanced. Right now, we exploit these features by having two teachers on two machines work together, but we'll be able to do the same thing on one machine in the future.

So, in this, as in many other computer questions, my advice is: get a Mac!

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So, in this, as in many other computer questions, my advice is: get a Mac!

My first computer was a Mac and I loved it. Eventually I was persuaded to buy a PC. I think it will be a very difficult task to persuade schools and teachers to by Macs.

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So, in this, as in many other computer questions, my advice is: get a Mac!

I have a dark brown overcoat :lol:

Seriously though the original question was about flash web authoring software not the sort of stuff that might be bundelled with a Mac on purchase.

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John wrote:

My first computer was a Mac and I loved it. Eventually I was persuaded to buy a PC. I think it will be a very difficult task to persuade schools and teachers to by Macs.

Our business database of 5000-plus secondary schools in the UK shows that fewer than 5% are using Macs as their main machine, so there's not a lot of point in talking about Mac software in this context. My business has phased out developing and selling Mac software for schools - no money in it!

Macs are wonderful machines, the sine qua non in the print and design business. My daughter is a professional graphic designer and runs a small all-Mac business. It's a niche market in the UK.

Are we talking about open source equivalents of Web authoring packages such as Dreamweaver (which I use), Front Page, etc?

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Are we talking about open source equivalents of Web authoring packages such as Dreamweaver (which I use), Front Page, etc?

No

I am more interested in whiziwig multimedia authoring packages in the style of Articulate and Breeze both of which are hideously expensive

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OK, Andy - understood. But who needs this kind of stuff anyway, regardless of whether you pay an arm and a leg for it or get it for free? Having read John Simkin's message regarding the Technology Guardian interview with Web guru Jakob Nielsen, of whom I have been a great fan for years, I think it is high time (to borrow a phrase used by the interviewer) to "turn the music down". The final paragraph of the interview was revealing, where Nielsen says:

"There was a study done at the Open University found that in elementary

schools, for every £100 spent on books, students grades improved by 1.5% -

and for every £100 spent on computers, grades improved by 0.7%. So books

are twice as good as computers for this... So it's not necessarily that I

should study history by clicking on some Web pages, but that we should

teach about these electronic media forms and how to use them. The value of

that education would be immense."

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OK, Andy - understood. But who needs this kind of stuff anyway, regardless of whether you pay an arm and a leg for it or get it for free?

Perhaps I should have told you the context. I am mentoring a group of teachers involved in a web authoring project. I wish to gather the best tools available for them to use.

Incidentally I suspect the view that 'books are more effective than electronic resources' says more about the preferences of most teachers and the dubious quality of most commercial electronic content than it gives meaningful insight into student learning.

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Point taken, Andy. Most educational materials, whatever their format, are mediocre. This just underlines the point that content rather than form is more important - a basic premiss that seems to be overlooked in these days of technical gee-whizardry. I find it rather alarming to see the emergence of a new generation of educators whose axiom appears to be "If it ain't on the Web it ain't no good". Personally, I still prefer to read text from a book rather than from the Web, but (in line with Nielsen's recent findings as reported in the Technology Guardian interview) I use the Web mainly to search for information and resources.

OK, I'm being cynical and playing my usual role of Devil's Advocate. Having been involved in computer technology since 1976, I have seem a lot of "new" approaches to the delivery of educational materials come and go and I have been involved in numerous development projects, including the following, where I played the role of evaluator. Most "new" approaches are nine-day wonders in my experience.

It sounds like MALTED may be what you want. MALTED is the outcome of a project funded under the Educational Multimedia Taskforce initiative of the European Commission. It's free!

MALTED stands for Multimedia Authoring for Language Tutors and Educational Development and consists of a set of authoring tools for developing multimedia courseware for language learners. The coordinating institution of the project is University College London, which maintains the main MALTED website:

http://www.malted.com

Although MALTED was developed for the creation of language learning materials, it can be used in any subject area - and has been already. It offers quite advanced multimedia authoring tools.

Our DfES has shown little interest in the project even though the MALTED package has been offered to British educational institutions free of charge. (The DfES prefers us to pay for outrageously expensive VLEs and authoring systems recommended by BECTA.) The Spanish Ministry of Education, however, which is part of the partnership, has embraced the project with enthusiasm and the MALTED software can be downloaded free of charge from this site:

http://malted.cnice.mecd.es

The Spanish version of the package is the most advanced version. It has been widely trialled in Spanish schools. It will work in any language, but the instructions for authoring are mainly in Spanish - which shouldn't be a problem in this country, which is renowed for its expertise in a wide variety of foreign languages. :blink:

Technical support is available from University College London if you get stuck. One of the key developers of MALTED, Paul Bangs, is based in this country and spends a lot of his time demonstrating MALTED and training people to use it. Here is his website:

http://members.aol.com/bangspaul/

His EUROCALL 2001 paper is worthwhile reading on the pros and cons of using the Web as a delivery medium. It's entitled "Will the Web catch enough flies? Where Web-based learning cannot yet reach" and can be accessed at:

http://members.aol.com/bangspaul/EurocallPB.htm

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MALTED stands for Multimedia Authoring for Language Tutors and Educational Development and consists of a set of authoring tools for developing multimedia courseware for language learners. [/url]

Thanks Graham I will look into this :lol:

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Many schools are considering spending small fortunes on commercial web authoring software such as breeze, articulate, captivate etc.

Does any one know of the development of any open source or shareware options of similar products??

This is an area where open-source is lagging behind the commercial houses, I guess because the standard format for most of this stuff, ie Flash, is proprietary, and the Adobe-Macromedia and their partners have an advantage; that said there's some interesting work being done - a good starting point to explore the field is http://www.osflash.org/, although this is fairly geeky stuff at the moment. It's worth stepping back and reflecting on whether your objectives can't be accomplished in good old HTML, as this makes for standards-compliant, accessible content, and there are a whole host of good authoring tools around, like NVU.

Although it's perhaps not quite what you're after, skypecast might be one easy way to get the audio (and video?) conferencing aspects of Breeze for free, and VNC can do remote desktop sharing, although it's nowhere near as easy as Breeze.

If you do want to go with Flash, then the following may be worth investigating:

  • OpenOffice.Org has flash export from its presentation program Impress, which also has PowerPoint import; the resulting .swf are pretty basic, but it may be possible to edit these elsewhere.
  • Wink is a freeware Flash screenrecorder, a bit like Captivate, but it doesn't have audio support
  • Red5 is, I suspect, going to have a huge impact on this area eventually, although it's still in its development phase at the moment - the intention is to provide an open source equivalent to Macromedia's Flash Communication Server, which is the engine that drives Breeze. Watch that space!
  • Gemin-i plus is worth investigating.

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Many schools are considering spending small fortunes on commercial web authoring software such as breeze, articulate, captivate etc.

Does any one know of the development of any open source or shareware options of similar products??

This is an area where open-source is lagging behind the commercial houses, I guess because the standard format for most of this stuff, ie Flash, is proprietary, and the Adobe-Macromedia and their partners have an advantage; that said there's some interesting work being done - a good starting point to explore the field is http://www.osflash.org/, although this is fairly geeky stuff at the moment. It's worth stepping back and reflecting on whether your objectives can't be accomplished in good old HTML, as this makes for standards-compliant, accessible content, and there are a whole host of good authoring tools around, like NVU.

Although it's perhaps not quite what you're after, skypecast might be one easy way to get the audio (and video?) conferencing aspects of Breeze for free, and VNC can do remote desktop sharing, although it's nowhere near as easy as Breeze.

If you do want to go with Flash, then the following may be worth investigating:

  • OpenOffice.Org has flash export from its presentation program Impress, which also has PowerPoint import; the resulting .swf are pretty basic, but it may be possible to edit these elsewhere.
  • Wink is a freeware Flash screenrecorder, a bit like Captivate, but it doesn't have audio support
  • Red5 is, I suspect, going to have a huge impact on this area eventually, although it's still in its development phase at the moment - the intention is to provide an open source equivalent to Macromedia's Flash Communication Server, which is the engine that drives Breeze. Watch that space!
  • Gemin-i plus is worth investigating.

Thanks Miles - some fantastic advice which will keep me busy. If you are interested in the authoring project I refer to in the thread click the following url

http://www.teachnet-uk.org.uk/index.htm

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