Tag Archives: 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 https://www.wordclouds.com/. 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. 

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!

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Getting Started with Zoom

by John Travers

I first heard of Zoom on the 22nd of March, which we all know is a very long time ago. Since then I have found out that it is an internet phenomenon that has become the dominant video meeting service, crucial for family, friends and business commu­nic­a­tion during the Coronavirus crisis. I have hosted a dozen or so meetings of family and friends and it is very easy to use and very powerful. However this ease of use has led to some security weak­nesses and Zoom has now changed its rules to shut the door to many of the vandals and nuisances who live on the internet. It enables a host to schedule a meeting, send invit­a­tions by email and have the meeting in progress with everyone able to see and hear everyone else within five minutes. 

A guide to getting connected. 

How does one get started? First, download the Zoom App on your computer or tablet from zoom.us. It is a good idea to sign in and create an account but not essential to do so. Your Zoom identity is your emal. Without an account you cannot host a meeting. You actually don’t have to download the app in advance. Once you accept an invit­a­tion the app will download it auto­mat­ic­ally, but it is more efficient to to so in advance. 

To initiate a meeting a host opens the app and clicks New Meeting usually to begin some pre-arranged time. Then the host clicks Invite, selects Email as the means of inviting , and adds the addresses of the invitees, just like any email. 

When the meeting members Jill, receives her invit­a­tion she are asked to click the link at the top of the email. This opens her Zoom app, and in a minute or two she is asked to wait for the host to admit her. She is also asked to choose her audio input (Internet Audio) and she also switches her camera on. 

Meanwhile, the host sees a notice that Jill is ready to to join the meeting clicks Accept. And the meeting can begin when all the invitees are onboard. 

Computer Menu

The computer menu (above) and iPad menu (below) show the Mic and Camera on/off switches. If you don’t see the menu, move the mouse over the screen. The Gallery view is best, which shows all the parti­cipants side by side. The tablet menu is essen­tially the same, but at the top of the screen.

Computer Menu

A most valuable feature is that indi­viduals can share their desktop screen, so can show others in a meeting documents and images and point to and talk about these. Very powerful explaining and teaching. 

Do your friend a favour with just in time computer help

by John Travers

The current health crisis is making one thing very clear. If you have poor computer skills you are going to be at an increasing disad­vantage. The avail­ab­ility of the internet is one of the saving graces of the ‘stay at home’ rule. It allows us to keep informed, keep in touch with friends and family and go about our daily business. For example, Supermarkets are setting up large scale home delivery services aimed at the elderly and disabled people. These services depend on online ordering. 

I have been a computer nerd for a long time and in recent years have been taking classes for mainly elderly people in how to use the iPad and iPhone. My customers are a very diverse group. They all have the initi­ative to seek out help from a class. They are largely women. Men seem reluctant to seek help. Some are confident in them­selves and soak up new inform­a­tion. Many lack confid­ence in their own ability. Many say that getting help from their children and grand­chil­dren is frus­trating. The helpers, they say, are in a hurry and tend to take over and then disappear. I suspect that often the learner only seeks help when in a critical situation, so are frus­trated and angry. Not a good learning situation.

If you are reading this article you are probably quite good at using the internet, because you have found your way here. You no doubt have friends who have quite poor skills and who are left out of conver­sa­tions about getting inform­a­tion from the internet, finding enter­tain­ment and using tech­no­logy to keep in touch with family. I urge people to intervene to help friends who lack skills. This means gently prodding people to learn. Often people don’t know what is possible. 

The trouble with classes like mine is that they pack a lot of inform­a­tion into a session which can be over­whelming. The best learning is ‘just in time’ learning. When there is an immediate need and and oppor­tunity to have support. So if you find a friend who doesn’t know how to do something, it is doing them a real favour to intervene and test whether they are willing to learn and be there to provide it. Following up later is valuable because the learner has had a chance to try the skill by them­selves then get help if they ran into a problem. Just in time learning with follow-up  is powerful. 

Becoming colourful

by John Travers

This is a modest practical contri­bu­tion, that popped up in my email yesterday. The website MyHeritage which hosts a gigantic collec­tion of family trees recently offered members a tool to colorize (US spelling!) photos. So I gave it a go, and it is very impressive. The photos below show the effect: my paren’t wedding in 1933.

Generally the colour is very realistic. The news yesterday was that MyHeritage is making this service available free for an unlimited number of photos. So, if you have time on your hands and black and white photos, you can go to myheritage.com join up and give it a try. You might also be inspired to create an online family tree.