Monthly Archives: April 2012

Battleship Movie Review

Just back from seeing the film Battleship. Despite mixed reviews I have been wanting to see it since I saw the trailer. The film stars Liam Neeson, Taylor Kitsch, the lovely Brooklyn Decker and Rihanna.

I emerged from the cinema after the film with a smile on my face. Forget the storyline. This is an action movie with amazing special affects. Basically, we have been sending signals to a planet that we think may have life on it and some time later the inhabitants of this planet decide to pay us a visit and they are not friendly !

It just so happens that the US navy is conducting war games in the Pacific and they come across several alien space craft that have landed in the sea. After several US ships are sunk and they started  the movie looking like their technology was far superior, and they were just about invincible, the US navy decides to start firing missiles. Why they didn’t fire those to start with is a mystery! The alien ships suddenly start to look vulnerable!

Meanwhile, the aliens, having lost their communications system they try to use Earths satellite system to communicate with their home planet, presumably to ask for reinforcements. In a race against time they bring the US Missouri battleship out of retirement and the only crew that are available are a group of retired sailors. So, the final part of the film is a group of old men up against a far superior alien force in their retired battleship.

There can, of course, be only one ending but the film is a masterpiece of CGI special affects and it is virtually non stop action. Forget the storyline, because this is good old fashioned action film and as long as you don’t take it too seriously you might actually enjoy it. I really enjoyed the movie. It’s almost a Top Gun movie on water and I can highly recommend that you go and see it.

It’s fun and it should put a smile on your face!

Why a business should have a social media strategy

About a month ago I discovered Empire Avenue and since then I can’t stay away from it. Every evening I spend about 30 minutes playing the game. Or is it a game ? I suppose the best way to describe it is a game with a reason ! I do it because social media is one way of promoting a website and raising your brands profile.

I have 5 websites, at least four blogs, two Twitter accounts (one with 2,700 followers), two You Tube channels, a Flikr account, a Tublr account, two Facebook pages, a Foursquare account, a LinkedIn account, an Instagram account, and two Google + pages. I also have Audioboo and Sound Cloud accounts. All those accounts take some maintaining !

The main reason I have these accounts is to promote my travel agency, Global Holidays and also because I enjoy writing. The more writing I do the better I get, although I suppose my readers will be the judge of that !

I have been calculating the size of my audience and its fairly impressive. My websites get about 4,000 page views a day, sometimes more. Add in my blogs and other stuff and I would think my overall page views and exposure on a good day will be about 5,000 a day. I recently registered with Klout and my Klout score is 37. Klout meaures your influence through your social media efforts. The maximum Klout score is 100 but not many reach that score, and Klout tells me that I am fairly influencial, so my aim is to increase that score which will mean my influence is increasing.

Back to Empire Avenue. In a way it’s similar to Klout but far more complex. You start the game with a pot of virtual money, called Eaves and you can use this money to buy shares in others. It’s very similar to the real stock market because you have to judge whether you will get good dividends and if the share price will increase. Now here is the interesting bit. Your share price increases based upon your social media activity. Just like Klout, you register all your social media accounts with Empire Avenue and they measure your influence by looking at how many interactions you have through Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc etc.

I started with a share price of 10 and 3 weeks later my share price has gone up to 43 so I am heading in the right direction. The long established players have a share price over 500 and a portfolio value of £161M so I have a long way to go to catch up, if I ever do.

The reason I like the game is because I think there is a way to make money from it. You can use your virtual currency to buy advertising and also to reward people for “liking” your Facebook page, following you on Twitter or even watching a You Tube video. This, of course, is good if you have something to promote or sell but also, Google is using social media in its search algorithm so the more influential you are in social media the better your website will do in the search engines.

So, Empire Avenue encourages you to create good blog and other content which drives more traffic to your blog and web site. Give it a go. It beats Farm Town or Farm Ville !

Social media for a business is all about creating avenues of communication with your customers and potential customers, building your brand and driving traffic to your websites. It takes hard work to make it work. I don’t see that many brands have got it perfectly right yet but it’s still early days.

There is no doubt though that if a business does not have some sort of social media strategy they risk being left behind.

X-Factor vs The Voice

I was a big fan of X- Factor when it first started but the format became tired, in my opinion, so I stopped watching it. The best part about the X-Factor was the contestants who thought they were good singers, when in fact they were rubbish.  Then the show began to take advantage of these people and also it relied on the tragic life stories of some of the shows “it’s all I ever wanted” contestants.

In my grumpy opinion, if you are a good singer you will get noticed and you can go on to have a good singing career. Once the live shows started most of the singers were nothing special but there had to be a winner and most went on to do nothing, apart from featuring in celebrity magazines.

Then the “The Voice” came along and showed us all how many good singers there are out there. With a refreshing format based upon listening to the singer and avoiding the life stories the show has shown us all that we don’t need the X-Factor to discover new talent, because we already have lots. Just about every singer on The Voice has been good but some have been fantastic. Tonight’s show with  Jaz, the final contestant, left the best until last, as we all knew would happen !  He must be a clear favourite to win in my view.

The judges on The Voice have also been great. From Sir Tom Jones to WILL.I.AM and of course Jessie J. I love the way Jessie J chair dances and sings. She is a natural !

Simon Cowell seems to have admitted defeat. Simon….It’s time to move on !

Coffee Shop Owner Bans Mobile Phones

On the phoneThere is an interesting news story on the BBC website about a coffee stall owner banning customers who are on their mobile phones. He has taken a dislike to customers who try to order whilst they are on their mobile phones to someone else!

Well, I have to agree with this guy and well done to him for putting a sign up about it. Mobile phones have taken over a lot of peoples lives and they can’t live without either speaking to someone or texting someone every few minutes. Next time you walk into a bar or restaurant take  a look to see how many people are using their phones rather than actually speaking face to face with someone. You will be amazed how many people seem to be losing the art of conversation !

Watch the BBC video about this news story here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-17687054

Using free video clips in Movie Maker for teaching.

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Following on from my blog article about how to make a simple You Tube video I have made another video from PowerPoint slides which I think is an improvement on the first one.

These videos were made using PowerPoint slides and then saving them as JPEG’s and importing them into Movie Maker. The good thing about Movie Maker is that you can import short video clips as well, to add to the storyboard and this adds a touch of professionalism to the video. You can find short video clips on several sites and many of them are free. Iused video clips from stockfootageforfree but there seems to be quite a few sites out there that do this. Search on Google to see if you can find free video clips that suit the subject you are making the video about.

One tip when making the PowerPoint slides is not to add too much text as it can be difficult to read the slides before the video moves to the next slide.

I would recommend teachers and tutors try making videos and uploading them to You Tube. They can be viewed by your students inside or outside college and they can act as a reminder of a previous lesson and probably help with their assignments.

I also think that it is worthwhile for tutors to encourage their students to make videos. They could be used as evidence for an assignment and, of course, they are learning a new skill. Skills like video producing are going to be very useful in our digital age.

One of the courses I teach in the Travel and Tourism department at Leeds City College is marketing and I’m going to encourage students to make videos rather than posters for their assignment.

This is the new video I have made and the video clip near the beginning is the free video I previously talked about.

It took me about 1-2 hours to make it. Hope you like it and if you have any comments please let me know.

Review of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Movie

I went to see a really good movie this week. It was The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel starring Judy Dench, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith and Dev Patel as well as several other well known actors. With a strong cast and an excellent Indian setting it’s about a group of ageing people who find themselves on a trip to India to stay at a rundown hotel run by Dev Patel, of Slum Dog Millionaire fame.

The film is very simple and makes easy watching as the guests settle in at the hotel and each guests story of their past and what they get up to outside and inside the hotel is told. The film is fairly fast paced as all the guests think that they are past it, but events tell a different story!

About 15 minutes from the end of the movie the fire alarm sounded in the cinema so we ended up missing the final few minutes. I had to ask someone who had already seen the movie what happened in at the end. Needless to say I can’t say what the ending is !

Poll Everywhere in the classroom

I have been using a great system called Poll Everywhere in some of my lessons in the Travel and Tourism department at Leeds City College. I have made a short video about how to set up an account and how to use the system in the classroom.

Poll Everywhere can be used to set a multiple choice question that your students can answer using their mobile phones or other mobile devices. Answers can be sent by text message or using an Internet connection. You can also use Poll Everywhere to set a question that is not multiple choice but that can be answered using a message.

The teacher or tutor can display Poll Everywhere using a projector in the classroom and the results appear live on the screen as they are sent by the students. As the answers appear they can be discussed by the class.

I think that Poll Everywhere is a great system for use in the classroom. It engages students and lets students use their mobile phones for learning. In the lessons I have used Poll Everywhere it has been well received by students. Give it a go and see what you think. Click this link to sign up for a free account Poll Everywhere

Watch this short video that I made about how to use Poll Everywhere.

How to make a simple You Tube video

There are several ways to make a You Tube video. You can use a video camera or webcam to film yourself, you can use screen capture software or you can use PowerPoint slides.

The video you see below was made using PowerPoint slides and here is how I did it.

1. Produce your slides in PowerPoint. Add the text, images and anything else you want.

2. You then need to save your slides as JPEGS. To do this all you do is click on “save as” in your PowerPoint and then select JPEG.

3. This saves your slides as images that you can import into your movie making software. In the video below I used Windows Movie Maker, which is a free program within Windows.

4. To add a professional introduction to my video I used a free service called Flixpress.com. This lets you create introductions using various templates that you can customise yourself. I downloaded the completed movie file from Flixpress and then imported it into Windows Movie Maker. You can also save it as an MP4 if you want.

5. For the music I wanted royalty free music so I paid about 50 pence for some music from Jewel Beat and again imported that into Windows Movie Maker.

The video below was made for travel and tourism students at Leeds City College for their Responsible Tourism course. It was fairly easy to make and is pretty basic but I hope that they can use the video for learning about Responsible Tourism and that they can watch the video wherever they may be.