03/31/2010 | COLBY DEVITT
Cull has seen non-verbal, uncooperative children with no language skills enter their program and emerge reading and writing — an unheard of feat for autistic children. “We have a great track record — decades of success using this method and a community of parents, children and professionals who vouch for its efficacy. But until people see results they’re understandably skeptical.”
Cull needed to find a quick way to communicate some of the near miraculous results of their system. Her usual method was to provide prospective parents with written materials, show videos of the children’s progress and encourage them to talk to parents whose children were currently enrolled in the program. All this was time-consuming and Cull wanted to streamline this process. “By the time parents come here they’re often at their wit’s end. They’ve heard all sorts of cures and promises and they’re desperate, but skeptical. I wanted to allay their concerns quickly.”
Cull could not launch a Web site because most parents with children in the program were happy to share videos of their children with other parents and professionals, but did not want that information publically displayed on the web. She wanted to create a presentation that could be easily e-mailed, put on CD-ROMs, and displayed on the computers in their offices (with the option to put it on the Internet later). The presentation needed to combine video of the students, parent testimonials, and a plethora of information about the program.
Mary Beth learned about Wildform Flair from a colleague who uses it for e-learning presentations. Flair is a flash and video presentation software that easily lets people record video, combine their PowerPoint, video, image, audio and swf files, and add quizzes to create rich media projects. She liked the price and that it was easy to use, so she bought the software and started creating her project.
How She Did It
Inexperienced in creating multimedia presentations, she went to Wildform’s Web site and downloaded a free background template. She imported the template into Flair and then, wanting to keep things as simple as possible, used Flair’s Combine PowerPoint and Video Wizard.
“The wizards in Flair are fantastic,” Cull says, “They guided me through the steps so I could synchronize my PowerPoint presentations with video. In the past, I’ve tried combining PowerPoint and video in PowerPoint and it was a nightmare. Flair does it for you in about three steps.”
Cull also noted that the video quality in Flair is excellent and she even used transparency to take out the backgrounds of videos like they do in a news program. Not bad for a beginner. She then added links to parent testimonials and further information. Finally, she used the slide players in Flair which instantly created an attractive navigation system. When she finished, Flair put the video, PowerPoint and all the other elements into a Flash project that plays in the widely available free Flash player. She liked that her presentation works on Windows and Mac, especially since she uses Windows while most of the parents in the program use Macs.
Mary Beth Cull was thrilled with the results. She now had a 20 minute presentation introducing people to the program, which included parent and teacher testimonials, as well as video tracking the children’s progress. “The presentation explains key concepts in the program, such as supporting a child’s hand while writing. Instead of just explaining these concepts we can show them in action. It’s so much more effective,” she says
“Flair automates a lot of flash functions, which is appealing to both flash novices and experts,” says Trevor Hargrove, Wildform Flair product manager. “One of the benefits of creating presentations in flash is that you can make one project and distribute it in multiple formats — whether via email, CDROM, or the Internet. Flair also lets people save their project files, make changes to it at a later time and then easily republish it.”
Cull acknowledged that this is a great asset, since it enables her presentation to be a living document that numerous people in the program can work on. “I’m also ecstatic that I could complete this project so quickly,” Cull says, “Creating presentations is not my forte, and I was amazed at how easily I was able to do this. The great tutorials and online training videos on Wildform’s web site really helped.”
Nowadays when prospective parents ask if their program is too good to be true, Mary Beth Cull directs them to her presentation. Twenty minutes later they no longer ask that question. The answer is obvious.