All posts by john travers

Word clouds… word art

Word clouds are an enter­taining way to play with words by making a graphic display of the words in a passage of text. The following word cloud is based on a list of the topics of all the courses at U3A plus descriptive words that list some of the types of course, such as ‘games’ and ‘computing’. The more numerous a word is in the text, the larger the word becomes. 

This word cloud gives an attractive easy to read overview of the course coverage at U3A Adelaide.

There are lots of free word cloud gener­ators on the Web: this one is generated by It is a simple process to make a word cloud. Simply copy the text from an article into the site and the word cloud is produced. The more numerous a word is in the text, the larger the word becomes. You can change many settings for shape, font, colour and so on the get the effect you want. Words like 

This one is taken from a NYTimes story on Trump and conspiracy theories. You can get an idea of the content of the story from the most used words. Conjunctions and like words are ignored. 

Email Safety

Following the startling high­jacking of Sue Garforth’s email account recently, many people are thinking about the safety of their own email. The following are some tips on how you can protect yourself. There is a lot of inform­a­tion on the web that goes into more detail. These days one’s email account is a critical service. So it is worth being careful. 
Some of the elements of good practice are:

1. Have a good password and only use it once. Everyone knows this, but it is difficult when one has so many passwords to keep track of. A good method to remember one or two most important passwords is to think of a sentence that is easy for you to remember and the password is the first letter of each word. For example: “In Athens we paid 3 $ for 9 loaves and 2 fish”. The password is: iAwp3$f9la2f. If you are prepared to invest some time to make the problem go away, get a password manager app. Best ones are Dashlane, LastPass and 1Password. 

2. Only use an email service that has two-step veri­fic­a­tion. This means that if you change your password or make any signi­ficant alter­a­tion to your email service, a number is sent to your phone or email that you enter to verify that you are the owner of the account. Sue had this facility and has regained access to her account. Yet to be determ­ined if it is safe though. 

I think that having a large and well known email provider is important. In case things go wrong, go to your email and look for the help functions to report what has happened. Large services like Gmail are very responsive to reports of fraud or hacking. 

If you have more ideas please make a Comment below.

What is a Webinar?

The term Webinar has been around for a while, meaning a ‘web seminar’. Now, with the pandemic and improved tech­no­logy they have leapt in import­ance. Essentially a webinar is a well organised web meeting, commonly used by companies and organ­isa­tions to get inform­a­tion to large groups. For our AGM we will use a webinar licence from Zoom to have a meeting of up to 100 people. An email invit­a­tion will go out in advance inviting regis­tra­tion for the meeting. Members complete this simple form and that’s it. Each will get a zoom invit­a­tion on the day. 

In the webinar there can be a number of ‘panelists’ who appear via video and present inform­a­tion and visuals if necessary. Participants will be able to send chat comments and questions and they will be able to vote on resolutions. 

Those who do not want to parti­cipate from home will be able to attend a group zoom at the Box Factory. There will not be any wine and food, but there is talk of the Board organ­ising Uber-Eats to deliver these to each parti­cipant’s home. 

Podcasts make you live longer

John Travers

This is an incon­tro­vert­ible fact: espe­cially if you are elderly. That is because podcasts listeners generally are listened on a phone while walking, exer­cising, gardening, painting so they keep fit and therefore live longer. A bonus is that podcasts generally engage the brain so the podcasee becomes smarter and able to have more inter­esting conversations. 

Apple Podcasts

A podcast is a series of audio record­ings that one can subscribe to on a podcast app on a phone. A new podcast appears on one’s phone as soon as it is published. It is in effect on-demand-radio. There are over a million podcast available. Podcasts are generally free and have become a major publishing industry because people like to listen to people’s stories and opinions. A spec­tac­ular example is the ABCs Richard Fidler Conversations. Nearly all Radio National is available on podcasts. 

How do you get podcasts? 

Google Podcasts
  1. Find the podcast app on your phone. You don’t have to listen on a phone, but they do have the advantage of being very portable. Connect your ear-buds.
  2. In the app, search for topics that interest you and Subscribe to those you want to try. You can try out as many as you like.
  3. Choose the option to only keep, say 2 episodes, so you don’t fill up your phone with old podcasts — audio files are large. 
  4. They will auto­mat­ic­ally download at home via wireless as they become available. (Make sure your podcast app is set NOT to use mobile data otherwise it will download while out and about and eat up your mobile data.)
  5. Think of all the tasks you find tedious and consider listening to a distracting podcast while you are doing it.
  6. Consider getting cordless earbuds like Apple AirPods. They remove the annoying cords.

These are some of the podcasts that I listen to. You can find podcasts in whatever you are inter­ested in because people have found it a very cheap and effective way to get their message out. 

If you enjoy podcasts you may find that listening to audio-books is also appealing. You can get free audio-books from Libby, the SA public library app. 

Podcast can also be an effective insomnia aid. You can quietly listen, and can set the sleep timer to stop after a set time. 

Security update for zoom

There have been reports that Flinders University does not allow Zoom on its system. It appears that Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and UniSA are all using zoom extensively. 

Zoom has upgraded its proced­ures and now the default setting is for people coming into a meeting to go into a waiting room where the host admits them, checking their name. The latest upgrade to Zoom 5.1 includes increased encryp­tion and Roger Bills advises members to check that they have the latest upgrade. To check if you have the latest, do the following. 

Open your account button (top right, with green dot) and go to Check for Updates.

A changing U3A?

by John Travers

A tale of a neglected veranda that made good

We have lived in our house since 1976. It has a nice veranda which we have rarely used. But over the last five weeks (due to you know what) we have had our morning coffee there, saying g’day to passing people, and watching the honeyeaters zooming around the garden. Out of necessity, we have also safely hosted visitors on the veranda for a coffee and precious personal contact. It is very pleasant out there. Who knew!

Of necessity, in a similar fashion, U3A Adelaide has since early April adapted a number of courses to be delivered online and created another batch of new online courses. Out of curiosity, I spent a little time recently exploring other U3As around Australia to see how they have adapted to Corona-19. I did a search for u3a and zoom — the now famous video meeting app. The first three results were Port Phillip which is offering about ten Zoom based courses. Melbourne City and Deepdene (Melbourne) have converted a majority of their courses for the year to be delivered by Zoom, a quite remark­able trans­form­a­tion. It seems that they both decided to be proactive, put together a team to help train tutors to adapt to the new, and made the change. As the restric­tions on social contact reduce, no doubt they will return to a largely face-to-face U3A, but I suspect not entirely, because there are some advant­ages in not having to travel to a class and be able to engage with each other by video. Attendance will probably improve online.


In the same way that necessity led my wife and I to discover our front veranda, necessity has caused us to look for different ways to do the business of U3A. Our family has for years kept children and grand­chil­dren in close touch by video, while inter­state and overseas. I had never thought of it as a practical tool for group instruc­tion and discus­sion because the available tools weren’t good enough. Now they are. Interesting how necessity creates opportunities!

Comments are open on this post

Tutor Meeting: what we said

Summary of the Tutors discus­sion via Zoom, May 7 *

*This is the final version of the summary origin­ally posted on May 8

Last week’s Board meeting (via Zoom) agreed to an invit­a­tion to Tutors to take part in a meeting via Zoom on coping with the shutdown. Nearly 30 met via Zoom nearly two hours. The following is a summary of the meeting.

It is unlikely that U3A will be back to normal for some months. The risk to elderly people in small rooms will deter members from returning to classes for some time, even when this is permitted. Room 4 has space for social distancing.

A modest number of estab­lished courses have continued since the shutdown with a majority of these using Zoom video meetings as their main platform. A small number of new online courses have opened with all but one using Zoom. There were strong support of the use of Zoom by tutors who have used it sofar. It is relat­ively easy to learn and parti­cipate. Some members are quite resistant to using it, and felt threatened by tech­no­logy. Some tutors find that Zoom is not suited to their class. In general newcomers to zoom quickly become comfort­able with it and enjoy the inter­ac­tion. Members should be encour­aged to join the class Come Zoom With Me which provides an indi­vidual intro­duc­tion to Zoom. 

It is likely that in the long term at U3A there will be a mixture of face-to-face course and online ones and hybrid classes

U3A should actively promote online learning and assist tutors (current and future) to manage classes online. It would be a good idea to have a forum or collec­tion of helpful comments, guides etc on how to use Zoom, and other means, effect­ively and effi­ciently… using the website.  [Done: see  Zooming category on this blog].

U3A should invest­igate getting a Business subscrip­tion to Zoom which may be cheaper than paying indi­vidual licences. 

An extensive tutorial was provided on the online enrolment and member­ship system, demon­strating how tutors can display enrol­ments, email a list and generally manage their class. Tutors were also reminded of the detailed guides for tutors and members that are on the website.

by John Travers

Reading, German, Movies, Books, Zooming along

Four courses just started with Zoom…

Tric Topsfield  The Pleasure of Reading

Our group has met twice using Zoom. The first time with only four parti­cipants went very well in terms of clear commu­nic­a­tion and good quality of sound. The small number obviously demands that each parti­cipant needs to be well prepared to contribute to the discus­sion in order for the meeting to proceed smoothly.

The second time with eleven parti­cipants provided more of a challenge with echoing causing diffi­culty with hearing for me as a hearing aid wearer but that seemed to vary with each person. I suspect I had the most diffi­culty and even so I managed well enough to enjoy the exper­i­ence. Feedback from members having their first Reading for Pleasure on Zoom was that the meeting went well. Conversation was engaging with every parti­cipant contributing.

A further challenge is accessing scheduled books with restricted library services  so the order of books has had to be altered to meet this challenge. Meetings with Zoom will continue until we can all rejoice in seeing each other in actuality rather than on screen.

PS  A plus for me has been learning how to use a new IT commu­nic­a­tion skill which I may need to use in the future.

Renate Tonks German Advanced Conversation

Dace Darzins is the Tutor and I manage the class on Zoom. We have a Pro licence paid for by u3a so we can go for longer than the standard 40 min.

Unfortunately the group is quite small, maximum so far have been 8 parti­cipants, but this makes the group quite manage­able.  If the group were any larger I think we might struggle to have spon­tan­eous conversations.

Each week we agree on a topic and each person has an oppor­tunity to express them­selves, which generates questions from the other parti­cipants.  We have found that a relaxed conver­sa­tional style session, as compared to a formal present­a­tion followed by discus­sion, works best when using Zoom.  Once everyone got used to giving one person at a time the floor and not inter­rupting the sessions now flow very smoothly.

I don’t believe that we need the white­board in Zoom as most people are taking their own notes and asking if they don’t under­stand something, whereby Dace will explain the meaning and spelling of words. 

Kay Bennetts Free to Air Film Club

We have just had our first session and it went very well indeed. The film was chosen from the enormous number available on SBS On Demand.

There were eight parti­cipants who engaged in lively discus­sion. Everyone felt that seeing each other all the time was very important in this time of social distan­cing, and that 8 was the perfect number to enable a natural relaxed conversation.

Everyone is keen to continue and was impressed with how easy it is to have a conver­sa­tion in this manner. People like the fact that you can see everyone in the group all the time. 

[Enrolments are still open for this group and for a number of the other new online courses.]

John Travers Book Club

I recently lead a book club discus­sion of twelve in Zoom and we asked each person to hold their hand up if they wanted to speak. This worked very well, better than a regular discus­sion, because we were all looking at each other and could see if someone had their hand up. The Chair simply said a name, and on the conver­sa­tion went. It was a more orderly conver­sa­tion than usual and more personal, surprisingly.

A short history of video meetings

How necessity drives innov­a­tion faster than technology

by John Travers

In mid May our lives were turned slightly upside-down by the world pandemic. I started to set up a video meeting with a group of men I regularly meet with and someone suggested that Zoom was better than Skype. I did a quick look at reviews and found that Skype was similar and better known. A week later several other people mentioned Zoom so I thought I had better have a look at it. Within a week I was a regular Zoom user and since then have hosted or taken part in multiple meetings of our Old Men Group, my wife’s discus­sion group, my book club, my wife’s tennis group, a class I conducted on Apple Photos, and another on writing a blog. U3A’s next Board meeting will be via Zoom. Our grand­chil­dren are now spending their full school day online, in class. As one ruefully commented, “The teachers seem to think we have nothing else to do.”

As a long time promoter of tech­no­logy in education through by work and in retire­ment this is a quite amazing change. Have people suddenly decided that tech­no­logy is wonderful? Has the tech­no­logy suddenly got better? No to both questions. Necessity has pushed us forward, and don’t have an doubt that it is forward. 

The members of my Old Men’s group and of my wife’s tennis group are not all tech­no­logy enthu­si­asts, but they have been presented with a choice: do you want to maintain face to face contact with your friends even though it might mean some tech­no­lo­gical discom­fort? The feedback has been over­whelm­ingly positive, not because everyone found it stress free, but it seems that all have found it a satis­fying exper­i­ence once they get over the initial awkward­ness. Our book club has met for years and had very good discus­sions — and long argu­ment­ative lunches. But last week’s meeting was generally thought to be one of our best discus­sions ever, via Zoom, and as a bonus, a couple of people who could not attend were sent an audio of the discus­sion. I missed the lunch, though. 

“You can get a personal Zoom intro­duc­tion from Roger by enrolling in Come Zoom with Me.”

So, from this very short history I think that the lesson is that necessity, oppor­tunity and a bit of confid­ence take us forward. A consid­er­able propor­tion of U3A members have been using Skype or FaceTime to talk to their children and grand­chil­dren for some time. Many have in the last month taken the next step into group video meetings. Give it a go. Experiment with someone who can help. Humans like to talk and interact, and these tools help.

A number of classes at U3A are thriving with Zoom. U3A Board has agreed to pay for licences for the extended time version of Zoom for tutors who need it. There is a very simple guide to getting started in Learning Stories A Guide to Zoom, below on this blog, . There is a much more detailed guide by Roger Bills at Come Zoom with Me, in Course Notes. And more important, you can get a personal Zoom intro­duc­tion from Roger by enrolling in the course, Come Zoom with Me.

Milking the Internet

by Joelie Hancock Email

Two years ago I set myself the task of docu­menting all the insti­tutes we have had in South Australia. Institutes provided our communities, both suburban and rural, with a library, a reading-room and a meeting place — for enter­tain­ment, debate and instruc­tion. Originally from the UK in the 1820s, they were called Mechanics’ Institutes. We in South Australia had 440 of them — at least that’s how many I’ve located so far.

The internet has been invalu­able in locating them, finding out about them and their towns, and tracking down a photo of each. I’m confident it will even­tu­ally help me to make the inform­a­tion I’ve gathered available to others. 

Many of the sources I’ve used could well be useful for others in finding out about ancestors, people of interest, halls, schools, towns, organ­isa­tions such as Lodges, events, churches, War Memorials, and Libraries. Here are my sources:

Trove: ‘Newspapers Advanced Search’ in Trove gives me access to digitised versions of all Australian news­pa­pers up to 1959. I select South Australia, type in eg ‘Goolwa Institute’, if I want I select a decade, then look for items of interest, which I can then click to open.

From Trove

Mechanics’ Institutes of Victoria Inc: This organ­isa­tion has been dili­gently collecting materials and inform­a­tion about Victoria’s insti­tutes for decades and has led me to books, news­let­ters, helpful people, SA inform­a­tion, and even a conference.

State Library of SA: The catalogue has books about towns that include inform­a­tion on Institutes, to photo­graphs of Institute buildings with inform­a­tion attached, and the South Australian Institutes Journal. I view the photos at home; and read the others in the library.

I am careful to check and record the inform­a­tion with each photo.

Local Library: Libraries SA Onecard catalogue online has turned up many histories of SA towns which I reserve online. Sometimes I can only read a selected book at a partic­ular library, but at least I know which to go for it.

State Records SA online has led me to records of all SA’s early Institutes as well as an index to the Institutes reported on in the Institute Association’s journal from 1900. To read the journals I need to reserve them online and read them at the Gepps Cross Research Centre.

Historical Societies and Councils: I Google the name of a town to locate a contact. My emailed questions have always received a reply – promptly and gener­ously. Of course I explain my interest and don’t ask for too much.

Monument Australia: Currently it has 34,124 monuments recorded, with photos and inform­a­tion about Memorial Halls, which were often Institutes.

Wikipedia: for the location and brief descrip­tions of partic­ular towns and suburbs.

flickr: a site with photo­grapher contri­bu­tions. I Google eg, ‘Glossop Institute photo’ and up comes a stream of flickr photos to search through. Some flickr photo­graphers specialise in old SA buildings, and I now receive by email new photos from selected photographers. 

Bridgewater Institute — Google Earth

Google Earth: Download the free app, type in an address, then manoeuvre the arrows to locate, then to get a good view of the building. You can then take a screen photo of a by holding (Mac) Command with Shift then tap 4 or (Windows) Windows key + Shift + S. You then shape the frame around the building by pulling the shape. Lift your right finger and the photo will appear on your screen. Take care to name and file it.

Sands and McDougall online for addresses of SA homes and busi­nesses, 1864–1899 and 1900–1973. Access through the State Library’s online resources: then select ‘Postal direct­ories and almanacs’. Searching the direct­ories takes time but can turn up some gems.

Local Government Association SA: SA Councils listed alpha­bet­ic­ally by Susan Marsden can sort out the many Council boundary changes up to 1936.

Flinders Ranges Research:

I came across this site by Googling ‘Georgetown History’. Similar requests will often bring up length histor­ical research of towns and buildings. Link

Exploring computer programs: Google your interest, eg, ‘Free websites’ and you’ll find many options. Explore these with your needs in mind eg, Includes footnotes, 440 entries. You need patience, so that’s a job for Ken, my husband.

John Travers: John is an invalu­able and patient resource for Adelaide U3A members and has a passion for commu­nic­a­tion technologies.

I am sure there’s much more for me to discover and to learn. Do remember to thor­oughly record your sources – finding them again can be such a time waster.