Using Cool Iris to present podcasts, diigo and the VLE

I was asked recently to provide a talk to another school in the town where I work on how the work I have been doing relates to the concept of developling Personal, Learning and Thinking Skills (PLTS). I approached this from the angle of how I have been using multimedia to develop reflective learners – and by that I am referring to both staff and students.

This blog post therefore has 2 purposes – it shows you how to use the freely downloadable program cooliris to provide a rich multimedia presentation and also I will talk about the content of the presentation and how it reflects the practices I have been developing in using multimedia.

My presentation. You can view it @

Cool Iris. My tools for this presentation came from these three blog posts. I was particularly wanting to use cool iris for a presentation because it enables you to switch between ‘slides’ (actually pictures) easily. I had a selection of images that I thought enabled me to frame what I was trying to say and a few powerpoint slides for moments of building on / concluding points. Cool Iris is great primarily because of how it is activated. When browsing with it installed, all you need to see is the little triangle/arrow () that lights up in the bottom left corner of an image, click it and you automatically launch the cool iris browser.

My intention was to move away from the ‘death by powerpoint’ thing that can sometimes happen when people give presentations about technology. Moreover, I wanted my philosophy of using innovative, engaging forms of multimedia to colour the the tools that I used to present my noticing (Mason, 2002) of it. I hoped this would provide a genuinley engaging way of presenting to staff who may or may not have an interest in multimedia.

1. Putting the slides together. I started by putting the images I had into a test folder called ‘reflectivelearners’. I then opened my PowerPoint slide and selected ‘save as and then ‘other file formats’ – here you can save PPT slides as jpgs or pngs – these then went in along with the other jpgs in the folder. I suppose a disadvantage at this point is that you have lost the ability to now easily edit these slides – so I would possibly still want to use ppt for some work in the classroom. But for a presentation I know I’m doing then I believe it’s worth taking the little bit of extra time to do something like this – where it’s more of a multimedia text in itself because of the ease at which you can switch between lots of differently presented information.

2. Pic lens. Like Cool Iris, piclens is a free, easy to use program. It makes your folder of pictures into something pretty neat that can then be used for the purposes of a presentation. Putting my folder through the pics lens program resulted in a new folder containing:

  • The original images.
  • Thumbnail versions of these images, so they could be easily previewed on the internet or browsers such as Cool Iris.
  • A gallery.html page, where all of the pictures can be displayed at once (see here).
  • A ‘photos’ .rss feed – where you can edit the finer points, such as the title of the slides and the links they ‘click-out’ to when you leave the cool iris browser. There are other neat little tricks that you can do with the RSS feed, but for that I reccomend you can read the blog posts I linked to at the start of this post.

Once I had this folder, it was just a question of uploading it to my website so the people could access the presentation independently once I had given it. (This isn’t totally necessary though – CoolIris supports internal browsing and you can just view the files on your computer without having to upload them onto the internet).

3. The use of video. I had originally wanted to insert flash videos into my presentation, but a subsequent blog post alerted me to the fact that this was no longer possible. (we’ll ignore the fact that I only found it after trying to do the damn thing for two hours!) What I settled on doing was giving a series of short videos that I recorded using the very funky (not to mention, free) Jing. I had debated using screentoaster, which is also free (and also gives you the option of saving a hard .mov version onto your hard drive), but Jing just looks a little neater and works a little more seamlessly. I used my Samson C01u condenser USB microphone to record narration to these videos and what I hoped this achieved was an element of ‘what the hell’s he talking about? Ah! That’s what he’s talking about!‘ – I didn’t want to talk about the benefits of these multimedia without giving practical (albeit quick) demonstrations of how I had accomplished it. You can see all three videos I made by heading here.

4. Concluding reflections

I felt the presentation was stronger than a similar presentation I gave to my own school.I got positive comments from people on the day, with a fairly neutral observer commenting that those attending had found the session thought provoking. Subsequent evaluations seem to have revealed that participants would have preferred to see the presentation focus more strongly on PLTS. I did assume that developing personal learning thinking skills and reflective learning were pretty synonymous concepts, but evidently a lesson to be learnt from this presentation is that I needed to make more of a critical argument at the beginning before launching into practical demonstrations.

As a result, I feel almost there when it comes to presenting to an army of caffine addled teachers on a thursday evening (as much as one can be anyway!), the thing that I am most passionate about in teaching.


Mason, J. (2002). The discipline of noticing. London: Routledge.


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