For a few months I’ve been on a quest to find a website which aggregates user-created software how-to guides / quickstart guides and tutorials. I mentioned this last night in my recorded iChat conversation with Carol Anne McGuire: Someone needs to create a website that is an open-content version of AtomicLearning. YouTube and other video sharing websites DO already include a wealth of “how-to” videos, but they also include a lot of other “stuff” which guarantees most U.S. school districts will continue to block those sites on their content filters for the foreseeable future. In addition to how-to videos and screencasts, many learners (especially older ones but sometimes younger ones too) want and need step-by-step guides to use new software programs and websites. It doesn’t make sense for educators around the world to reinvent the wheel when creating how-to guides about software programs, but where can we turn for help besides Google, our delicious networks and twitter networks? Those are great options, but I think there is an empty niche for a website which aggregates “just in time” open-content screencasts and printable how-to guides for learners. (No, teachers and others do NOT need to print all these guides, but let’s face it, in professional development workshops with teachers a MAJORITY tend to want/demand printable how-to guides that cover things step-by-step.)

Cheryl Oakes mentioned CustomGuides as her “Geek of the Week” in the latest Seedlings webcast and the site appears to be a step in this direction, although CustomGuide materials ARE still traditionally copyrighted and the site does not currently embrace Open Educational Resource (OER) licensing terms. While CustomGuides does provide a wide variety of Microsoft and Adobe quickstart guides, tutorials are NOT provided for PhotoStory3 or Audacity. Those two programs are the primary ones we use in our statewide oral history project, Celebrate Oklahoma Voices. Before our summer workshops, we revised both our Audacity and PhotoStory3 handouts and started uploading them to a shared Google site “file cabinet” page.

I’m glad to learn about CustomGuides. Hopefully we’ll see more websites like this develop in the months ahead which not only provide free access to tutorial/quickstart guides, but also invite user-submissions and remixes of submitted quickstart guides for different software programs and websites under OER licensing terms.

Open Educational Resources logo

For more about OER, refer to Karen Fasimpaur’s outstanding NCCE 2008 presentation “Free Content + Open Tools + Massive Collaboration = Learning for All.” Also note that the Seedlings podcast (one of my top favorites – Bob, Cheryl and Alice ALWAYS have great ideas to share with teachers) has become a new regularly scheduled webcast on EdTechTalk for Thursday nights when Lisa Parisi is not broadcasting her regular show. Yeah! Go Seedlings! 🙂

Check out the post on EdTechTalk about the Seedlings show and expected schedule for more details. Time for the shows will be Thursday nights 7:30-8:30 EST.

Technorati Tags:
, , , , , , , , ,

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, subscribe to Wes' free newsletter. Check out Wes' video tutorial library, "Playing with Media." Information about more ways to learn with Dr. Wesley Fryer are available on

On this day..

Share →

7 Responses to CustomGuides: Free how-to tutorials ready to use

  1. Robert Rowe says:

    I’ve been slowly working on one-page guides for social media sites. I haven’t released them yet, but once I do, they will be licensed under Creative Commons, BY-SA. It looks like the CustomGuides are more geared towards “software” and not “web-apps”, but is still an amazing resource.

  2. I recommended the CustomGuides in my blog after I was introduced to them this past May. They are very good and helpful for the applications they cover. However, many applications that we use in the classroom are not covered by CustomGuides.

    Jeff Utecht has created a wiki ( of software recommended by educators for educators for the Windows, Apple, and Linux operating systems and for web-based applications. This web site is developing into a resource where you can find the recommendations of other educators to use as office suites, photo, educational, video, FTP, VOIP, format converters, mapping software, podcasting, screen capture software, productivity applications, and miscellaneous applications in the classroom.

    It would be helpful to many of us to be able to go to a wiki where we could find free tutorials/guides for the software recommended on Jeff’s wiki.

  3. Mary Frazier says:

    Hi Wesley,
    We have been creating step-by-step tutorials for our teachers. We had notebooks of handouts and articles and samples of curriculum connections. We are now putting everything on our Buhler Tech wiki. When we add to it, we send an email to the teachers and announce what new page or tutorial has been added. This is a living document. When a teacher asks how to do something, we try to add that to the wiki. We are now experimenting with SnapzPro and have plans to add more short video tutorials.

  4. Wesley Fryer says:

    Awesome Mary! Thanks for sharing the link to your wiki. This is GREAT! Super use of a wiki to provide resources to teachers!

  5. Scott McLeod says:

    Wes, funny you should post this. In an Edubloggercon conference call right before NECC 2008, we decided to do this. I’ve even registered a domain name:

    I know that the folks at WeTheTeachers are interested in helping with this. If you or other folks are interested too, let me know.

  6. Wesley Fryer says:

    Scott: I am so glad to hear about this project– I would think a wiki would be the best tool to use to link these up. GREAT idea. (Like minds at work no doubt!)

  7. Cheryl Oakes says:

    Wes, thanks for beginning this conversation and thanks to others for continuing. In our Seedlings workshops for the past 3 years we have started a wiki where one person in the workshop takes notes, online for the group,we provide the outline and many people take turns during the sessions. We even build upon previous sessions at the wiki site. As presentors we struggle with how much information is enough, how much is too much when presenting to the wide variety of learners. We have found that the on the fly wiki notes hit the mark with the audience as they can tailor the notes to the audience and the event. Here is the example of our Podcasting with Purpose,
    Cheryl Oakes, Bob Sprankle and Alice Barr.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Made with Love in Oklahoma City