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Nothing lasts for long

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The new normal in education is constant change. Nothing I learn to do lasts long before a new, better, faster more intuitive way of doing the exact same thing comes along. 

Today I am:

shooting video with a gimbal on my iPhone

learning how to use Pear Deck

trying to take some time off work

trying to get reimbursed from some expenses

And as if these are not equally challenging, 'Estates' decide to lock me in the LRC. Thankfully I have learnt to keep my keys on me at all times - it has happened before.

That and just to make life a challenge I have applied for a job at the Open University ... and at Coventry University Online, and King's College London, and UCL, and ...

Well, you get the picture.

I like change and a challenge.

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All change for a new academic year

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I'm left looking like a bit of a miserable git. And what's with the eye-liner. And there's another falsehood here - I stand at my desk and have two screens. [Five if you include the iphone, ipad and imac also scattered around my desk].

The new normal? More like 'same as before'. I've been working at home since 17th March and long may it last. I have a better setup than they have ever been able to provide at college. 

Will Covid-19 really be seen as the watershed that at last sets us apart from the 20th century? You you have to have lived some of the 20th century to know the difference - at least 20, if not 25 or 30 years of it.

It's odd to feel in demand, even to have head-hunters calling. I am biding my time though. And in truth, do I want the anxiety that comes with a job change? There's a job going at the Open University; that would be an odd one. Back after 10 years. I should never have left?!

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Art History? Or squeeze in further units to gain an MeD

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 20 Oct 2020, 10:39

Do I need a fourth or fifth degree? Would I enjoy it? Of course.

Art History because I want to put this focus on my interest in the history of the First World War - it is artists of this period that would be my focus.

The MEd to keep my hand in. Or an MRes.

Or start a PhD to complete over several years while doing a PGCE at the other end.

All of these or just stick with the garden, Netflix and a bit of light reading. 

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It gets better

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Google Certified Educator Level 1 and Level 2

These have taken time to gain. It has been a real struggle for me - like learning French! It has required a little and often then some tightly structured learning with a lead educator, homework, support and repeated testing my skills. I even had a check list. Most tasks I had wanted to have done FIVE times before I sat the two 3 hour exams.

These are intensive and against the clock with the webcam open to check you say you say you are.

26 multiple choice questions followed by some 12 scenarios to complete, most with 2 to 3 parts, some more, some less.

My natural goal is to gain Certified Trainer in the next few months and pick up and retain Google Innovator in 2021. 

Thank you John Sowash for getting me there!

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Google Certified

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There was quite a bit about badges during my MAODE back in 2010-13. Have they taken off? No trivial achievement but these are being given out for Google Educator and many others. I have picked up certification for Thinglink and will be able to add further badges from Screencastify and Planet eStream. They have more meaning and have been better tested than almost all the MOOCs I have done with FutureLearn and Coursera. 

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The new learning and upskilling is relentless

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Thursday, 23 Jul 2020, 09:53

The Google Certification Academy by John Sowash

You have to embrace it. THIS is the new 'normal'. Resistance is futile and will result in your becoming and being made redundant. I struggle to sympathise with certain senior academics who want to be fast-tracked to retirement because they have no desire to learn how to change the font size on a PowerPoint Presentation. This is not the problem. It is the unwillingness and lack of interest in EVERYTHING that is teaching and learning in the 20th Century.

As some punter said the other day, Covid-19 has surely kicked the old way of doing things back into the last century. 21st Century learning required this: online and digital. It requires proficiency with G Suite for Education, or the Microsoft or Apple equivalents. 

It is no longer any good to have your Grade 8 in music theory, even a degree or Masters without having at least a Grade 3 in music practice, better still Grade 8 or above.

Embrace it now.

And whatever you learn, expect things to change over and over and over again. Sometimes quite radically. It has taken me a good three years to adapt to 'blocks' used by blogs, sites and newsletter platforms for assembling content. But being the equivalent of electronic Post It notes they are easy to learn. Easier to learn from scratch perhaps.

But there are choices to make. Can I be as proficient with G Suite for Education, as the Microsoft equivalents. I have always had Macs; could I be was fluent with Microsoft.

And if you don't already touch-type, then find an app and learn. Or get used to using Voice Notes and transcribers - they're good to. I know people who do everything, texts and emails, using their voice.

Check out The Google Certification Academy 

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Google Certified Educator

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I'm a few days into working through my first couple of assignments from John Sowash. My goal is to get my off the starting block with Google Certified Educator 1 and Educator 2 so that I can more ambitiously pick up Trainer and Innovator recognition.

I far, far prefer John Sowash's approach than the formal Google Certified Educator online training. John is my teacher, my guide and even inspiration to get this done. 

This very uninspired header for my Class is because we're studying Ecology. I had wanted to add a bitmoji of me waving encouragingly at my students. Somehow I could not get the Apps to talk to eachother.

This is what I was after:

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Where do I start?

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Kineo Presenters discuss how to get students to do work before the course begins

I'm already doing a 7 x 1 1/2 hours studying to finally crack my Google Certification Level 1 and Level 2, wanting to get through to Trainer and Innovator.

Now I find that Coursera and FutureLearn are offering many courses for FREE. I've just signed up to an Introduction to Sustainability from Coursera. Usual cost £38, now free. And there are still plenty of goodies in OpenLearn ... which have always been free.  I'm finding out what else Coursera offer if GBMET (where I work) can be recognised and we share links to students.

Meanwhile I love this 30 Second tip from Kineo on how to get students to do prep-work. Simple. Call it module 1! 

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So much to report!

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In the last couple of weeks I have run x5 Google Meet sessions on using Screencastify as a means of delivering digital, online and remote learning. That has covered over 150 colleagues at Greater Brighton MET College. I have also done 4 sessions on the College TV Educational Licensing Platform Planet eStream - with another this week.

And I've been an attendee in 4 of these with several more this week.

Busy times indeed. And I have learnt so much by 'doing' rather than theorising.

I'll need to take some time out in the Summer to reflect on all of these. I ought to try and find the energy to right up things at the end of the day, if not at the end of the week This is a big ask. As it stands I keep a daily/weekly journal of what is going on ... in part so I also have a linear and chronological lay-out of what is going on for a point of reference. Otherwise I find with messages coming at me from multiple directions I risk getting lost. I do. I sometimes rely on people to remind me I was going to do a thing ... 

That is time and project management. 

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Gettting there? Or not? Where am I headed

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Will I pass muster as a Digital Scholar? 

A little less than a decade ago I wonder if others were already there and if I could meet the timeline. I know I am screaming through the platforms and pulling in theory. 

I am nothing academic. I would not call myself a scholar.  In fact my repeated experience is that far too many 'academics' are hopelessly divorced from the reality of how anyone is educated.

When did they run a few years of learning English in primary school in Tower Hamlets? When did they try to provide 300 Oxbridge Geography year two students with lectures online and all the other support needed to get them to an end of year formal exam?

The shift to digital has largely been facilitated by Covid-19, but there is fall out: tutors who disappear because they cannot handle having to admit to someone that they can barely use a mouse (let alone know what it is). Senior academics who would prefer to retire early than put their lacklustre lectures online. And they have always had someone else to type things up so thinking they know their war around a keyboard is ridiculous.

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Ask me :

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Planet eStream

Google Classroom 

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Payback after 10 years !

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From frontline trooper to recently commissioned, junior officer and rapid promotion.

Getting to grips with the tools for two years I am at last inching towards supporting senior lecturers, heads of department and management on what online learning looks like and how to implement it.

The nuts and bolts of particular tools is my daily activity, but there is at least awareness that what I have here over the last 10 years has value for learning planning and design.

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So much to say, so little time to say it!

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I am keeping a regular work journal. As I work in Learning Tech for an FE/HE College these are busy and educational times indeed!

I am online via Google Chat all day, with at least one, sometimes several Meets in a day. These include sessions with tutors/staff and students, typically on how to make the most of Google Meet or just digital literacy. I gave a team session on Screencastify last week and attend a weekly all staff session which has between 98 and 143 attending - so far.

Use of interactive platform ThingLink has become integral to our forthcoming online Open Day. There are now 360 degree images, many linked into 'tours' or with additional interactive elements, running for all five sites and a number of departments.

As the Digital Editor of an educational charity we have seen our followers double across social media, we use Facebook and Twitter. We have responded with seminars and quizzes by Zoom, more podcasts and videos and a monthly newsletter going out every week.

Local politics too has seen our first Full Town Council, alongside a weekly informal town council meeting - also on Zoom.

The swimming and sailing clubs are less active. Sailing on our inshore lake started again - but no rescue boats out. Swimming is down to land training and a lot of cycling.

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John Sowash

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I did a day with John Sowash who was live from his home in Brighton, Michigan. By chance, as the conferences he usually runs are done around the US. Because of lockdown he put it online.

It has taken me a week before I could take some time out to go through my notes. There is so much to pick up on, every day practicalities of using Google Suite for Education with short cuts and cool tips. 

It may be aimed at primary and secondary school students, but there is no reason not to have fun with FE and HE students and colleagues too. 

As well as mastering Google Classroom I need to make more use of things like Peardeck, Screencastify and Jamboard. 

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Too busy to blog

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Its a great place to be in some respects. But I barely have time to reflect or learning anything new as I am so busy having to do, do, do. This is G Suite for Education and in Meets several times a day with colleagues on the Digital Team, with staff or with students.

And then two or three times a week I will find myself back online doing a Zoom meet or quiz with different friends and family.  And even joined a Town Council Zoom meet. 

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A new horizon in online learning

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In my fifth week working from home the immediate realization is that I could easily have been limiting my time ‘at work’ to once or twice a week. I get more done, my commute is into the spare bedroom and my home office set up is vastly superior to what I am provided with anywhere at college. 

The greatest shift in behaviour is the amount of time spent in online meetings. Some of these lack the discipline that is required of a formal business meeting: an agenda and end time. Though a Zoom quiz with 17 family members spread between 3 corners of England ( South West, South East and North East), California and South Africa could have happily drifted on into the night - they weren’t going to bed in San Diego.

At least two ITC laggards in the family could finally figure out that they had a webcam and microphone. It strikes me as an excellent informal introduction to online learning that should be used with staff - break down the barriers and uncertainties by doing something that is collective, collaborative and fun.

It should be the mandatory icebreaker to do a quiz !

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A month at home - never been busier

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Asthmatic blowing on their Peak Flow Meter

As I'm asthmatic I started remote or 'distributed' working a week before my colleagues - some of whom stayed at college to man the phones.

The transition to working online, and bringing as many teachers and students up to speed, has been both swift and largely smooth. GBMET has had dedicated 'learning technologists' in a Digital Team for several years. We have been pushing to bring staff, educators and students online for the last two years. The last 9 months has seen a breakthrough with internal workshops and conferences, greater integration with internal marketing and more one to one coaching.

The current pandemic has made it all the more urgent. If we think of it in terms of the stages of 'diffusion of innovations' then in the space of a few weeks we've broken free to take in the 'late adopters'; a few so called 'laggards' remain. Not a term I like. Too pejorative. 'Late developers' or 'Traditionalists' might be better.

How are you getting on?

We use Google Suite for Education. 

I was thrilled when Thinglink announced yesterday that they were working closely with Google so that all Google assets can be directly embedded into Thinglinks or 'interactivities' - the term is evolving!! 'Thinglinks' are what we who use the platform call them. 'Interactivities' is the term coined by Jilly Salmon 12 years ago - it is less cumbersome that 'interactive activities'. 

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Distributed working or Remote Working?

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I could be doing most of my work from home, only going in when a face to face meeting is the only answer, or I need to be on site to video or take photos.

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An Introduction to E-Learning

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Edited by Jonathan Vernon, Tuesday, 24 Mar 2020, 10:03

I started my first online degree here. It was one of the first of its kind, the Masters in Distance Learning from the Open University in 2001. A false start, with crude online resources, and my own career in tatters. I picked it up again in 2010. I completed my MA in Open and Distance Education in 2013. Started at that time this blog is fast approaching 5 million views.

I have since completed a further MA (albeit entirely face to face lecture and library based) and between FutureLearn, Coursera and OpenLearn a further 27 modules on one subject or another. I’m a mentor on Coursera’s ‘Learning How to Learn’. I recommend those that have tutor, mentor and student interaction. The human element, at least for me, is a vital component for completion. Not all worked, yet again I quit a course on French (a BA with the Open University). Speaking of which I totally recommend Lingvist as the go-to language learning App (I have tried and reviewed all of them). Also, perfect in a world of social distancing, Tandem, which fixes you up with someone like a dating App. (Not that I have any need for or experience of one of those).

Where student interaction is slight we’ve always started our online groups on LinkedIn. The group I set up 10 years ago for swimming teachers and coaches has 1,600 members and is still active. Most endure the length of the module.

Take a look at these online courses, join up with a buddy (you are more likely to complete). Most are free, though the best, and the business orientated ones may cost between £35 and £300. A degree module is now something like £2,000. 

30 hours a week I am supporting colleagues and students at Greater Brighton MET. Google Suite for Education is our go to platform. Google Meets are frequent with Google Chat live while I’m at my desk. Last night friends did a 8 or 9 person quiz on Zoom. I promise to wake up my contributions to ‘scenario-based learning’. 

I’m keen to get an art class going. I took a set of 360 degree photos in the lovely barn studio at Charleston a few months ago - with the model’s permission to post online. It was a life class so the nudity might result in the thing being barred. I may give this a go ... though any drawing from a flat surface my late mother, an art teacher, would have been against. 

Finally, on reflection, exactly 45 years ago I broke my leg badly skiing. A 13 year old between schools I ended up at home for the entire summer term to prevent me from putting weight on my leg. I was sent a box of books with instructions to read them. Without any other efforts at support at all I didn’t do a thing. Instead I got out my Dad’s Readers Digest book on Gardening and spent the next few weeks pulling myself around the garden on a tea tray. By the end of it I was air-propagating specimen rhododendrons.

Take care. Stay in touch 🙂 

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Our time has come!

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Those of us with a background, academic interest in and experience with online learning now have an opportunity to bring everyone to the table. Working remotely for the last few days, and for the next few months I see a palpable change.

Google Meet and Zoom are the go to conferencing tools for College Staff and Students, and Town and District Councillors and staff. These, email and chat are now a stream of activity. 

People also know that I am at home, not 'on my travels' so I get a lot of straight phone calls too.

Coming out of the woodwork, belatedly, are people who have felt too shy to ask before on how to do some things that many of us by now feel are commonplace. On the other hand, I have always been surprised when with others what odd get arounds we all have, not knowing there is a shortcut to do this, that or the other.

I am wondering sometimes how much BETTER a conference call is for a meeting. It can be recorded, screens can be shared, and you can make a point even when others are talking by adding a note in 'chat' - useful, because some people do like to dominate the space. Online you can temporarily mute them, certainly hide their face smile Try that in a meeting face to face. 

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Play Time

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Osmo Mobile 3 Combo gimbal for smartphone videography

I'm at it again. Having upgraded my phone I couldn't resist adding a gadget that will allow me to recreate some movie style effects - or to simply track something or someone with ease. 

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Name that car !

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A set of 360 degree interiors of cars

Based on the interior only, can you name that car? There are 10 of them. I can't name most of them front the exterior. I can get the marque if the badge is clear.


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Ricoh Theta SC Guide

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Double fisheye stills

Double fisheye video

Double fisheye live streaming

See the Ricoh Theta SC User Guide 

With a protruding fisheye lens on both sides of the camera use the pouch to keep the camera in, and to lay it on when charging or uploading images to avoid scratching the lens. 


Only charge through computer USB, not a wall socket.

A red light indicates that it is overheating. Unplug immediately. 

Green light on for charge. Light goes out once charged. 

A full charge takes 4 hours. 

The camera can be operated on its own, though it works best when synched to a smartphone or tablet. 


Synch with smartphone or tablet through wifi

The wifi reference for the camera indicates the password.

For example for camera: THETAJAY30121126.OSC

The password : 30121126 (the numbers only).

This also appears as YJ30121126 in tiny print on the camera itself.

More HERE > Connecting to a SmartPhone


Choose a network

Turn camera on

Wifi icon lit

Device finds wifi


Wifi connect is meant to be 10m but is more like 5m and will be affected by walls.


Hand held

Desk tripod

Tripod with short feet (and weights)

While some of the image immediately below the camera is hidden when the two 360 images are stitched together it helps to use a tripod with a small footprint.


I recommend the Koolehoad Monopod with has tripod legs.

If used outside and it is windy a couple of sandbags on the legs will keep it in place - or use a normal tripod and accept that the legs will show in the bottom of the image. 

Camera Settings

The ‘Automatic’ setting rarely gives the best results. Shutter speed will adjust exposure for overly bright, or overly dim images. The White Balance also needs to be set - this ensures that ‘white is white’ whether under bright sunlight, or various kinds of artificial light. 

Via device (smartphone or tablet)

Pull on the camera - you will see the image it is getting.

Along the bottom are the settings. 

More HERE > on Theta SC Shooting Conditions

  • Automatic

  • ISO: (low light or too bright)

  • Shutter Speed: (low light or fast action)

  • White Balance: Sunlight vs artificial and all the variations through shadow, neon, lamps. A piece of white card and adjust in the camera.


You can only shoot in auto mode when shooting video. Settings such as the ISO sensitivity, shutter speed, white balance and exposure cannot be configured.


Unless you want to appear in the shot set the self-timer to 10 Seconds

When you hit ‘shoot’ you get a visual countdown on your phone/tablet and ni the last 4 second a ‘Bleeped’ countdown before the shot is taken. 

Shutter Sound

Countdown ‘ping’ and shutter noise to help you get out of the shot.


A double fish-eye lens is best in enclosed spaces and with the subject fairly close.

In the open sky can dominate.

If you want to feature people keep them close to the camera. 

Keep a record of the pictures being taken

Best practice to draw a simple lay-out of the room and plot where each 360 image is taken.


Even a small room might benefit from the following shots:

By the entrance door.

Centre of the room.

Each corner

Close to major features.

It makes sense to have the camera at eye level - so 1m 70+ in the room, or at head height on a chair or by a desk.

Any number of further interesting shots with the camera placed on, in or close to things can be added.

For close-ups it is better to use a standard camera and add this image as a ‘hotspot’ link.

Transferring Images

Downloading images

The Ricoh Theta App can be used to view images in 360

These will transfer to the device

Also on the camera

An image is around 3.5-3.8MB. 

Click through the Camera Icon Ricoh Theta to Fixed Storage to DCIM to 100RICOH 

Then drag and drop into an appropriate folder.

Can ‘Delete all images’ if loading into an image App (but college computers generally do not permit saving to the desktop - images have to be saved to the network). 

These images may look like peculiar, double fisheye or panoramic images until on a platform that supports viewing as a 360 image. 

Images are backed up on your phone/tablet and can be uploaded from there if images on the Ricoh are lost or deleted. 

USB to computer as for charging

Identify device

Select where images will be saved.


Select those to colour correct (if desired)

Adobe Lightroom to adjust: 







At this point poor images that can’t be rescued can be deleted, or simply not added to ThingLink.

It also starts to become clear where there may be unnecessary overlap, so an image may not be required. Best to keep it offline.

This might also be the time to ‘redact’ someone who is appearing inadvertently - students would need to sign a release form for content shared online. 



The 360 images can be viewed on their own on Facebook or Google Photos and as  video on YouTube. They can also be viewed through a 360 headset. An app for smartphones allows images to be broken into left and right eye.


We have been using the platform ThingLink which allows ‘tags’ or ‘hot spots’ to be added, as well as links made between a series of shots to create a VR Tour. This platform can also be used by students to annotate and tag images, whether 2D or 360. 

You can try the platform for free for a month, longer by negotiation. It can take a while to bring others on board.

It makes life easier to upload in the approximate order in which the VR Tour will be built and if there are a lot of images to add them in small batches. 

Numerous alternative platforms exist to create 3d Architectural spaces and models or tours. All will require a subscription at some point. 

Get Organised

List: Camera Ref or renamed.

Best down in landscape 

ThingLink URL

Once you have  loaded your images onto ThingLink create a ‘Channel’ and post all your images to this. 

The order in which they are added can facilitate the creation of a tour by keeping batches of images together, say for a room, and in the chronological order of a typical tour, or indeed the order in which the shots were taken. 

Any icons can be used provided by ThingLink though we have a set of GB MET branded arrows/links. 


Over a series of 20 shots, or use after 45 mins the link between the device (mobile or tablet) may be lost.

Turn the camera on and off - find the link and redo.

Loading images

Check the USB connection until your computer registers the device.

Shot Activation not working

Close the app and re-open until the 360 image appears and the button can be activated.

You keep appearing in the image!

The self-timer has to be reset if the App, phone or camera is turned off.

Updating Firmware

Intermittently the firmware on the camera will require an upgrade 

ThingLink are great at improving their platform. Lately this has facilitated creating tours to the point that I describe creating a tour as 'electronic PostIt notes'. You can add voice over narration to the shot directly. You can post content to Google Classroom for lessons. You can download to work or view offline. 

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Take a look and tell me what you think!

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Screenshort of part of a 360 tour of a bricklaying workshop

I've stitched together three tours which cover each of Electronics, Mechanical Engineering and Electronics labs. 

Electronics 360° Interactive  http://bit.ly/2uovM2U

Mechanical Engineering 360° Interactive   http://bit.ly/2w1imKy

Bricklaying  360° Interactive  http://bit.ly/2T9Q6xn

These can be used as they are, ideally if someone clicks around the space telling an audience what they are looking at. To use independently it is so easy to add this voice over. You just click on a scene and talk about it! 

As you have seen much more can be added depending on the intended use:

‘Hot spots’ where a video clip, or explanatory text and an image are used.

‘Hot spots’ that click to a close up.

Addition of ‘Interactive Activities’ – as demonstrated here in Catering.

Catering http://bit.ly/2w3izwN  

Any one of these ‘360 Tours’ can be ‘cloned’ i.e. copied in its entirety, renamed, and used for a different purpose, for example:

Health & Safety : we add further shots indicating a hazard and students must identify these and understand what to do

Teleport’ off site : 360 is wonderful for taking an audience somewhere out of bounds or inaccessible. With the right permissions I could get shots from a nuclear power plant, electricity sub-station, building site … you name it (In a former career I have produced training videos for all of these and many more!)

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Bricklaying 360 Tour and Induction

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A 360 interactive tour of a bricklaying workshop

The first set of colour graded photographs looked far too yellow - as if I had been taking photographs in Spain. A poor computer display, which I ahave still failed to calibrate, exacerbates the problem. Being a whizz I got on and re-graded 16 photos in Adobe Lightroom, rebuild the 360 tour in Thinglink and only then started to add, experimentally, some 'hot spots'. 

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