Friday, December 29, 2006

Scribus: Open Source Publishing

Most people get stuck buying an operating system they did not want because some program they had to have was only on that platform. Desktop publishing is one of those pieces of software that can determine the computer and operating system one purchases. Scribus is an open source desktop publishing application that works on all the major operating systems. It also claims to be lighter on the hardware requirements. Of course, it is less feature rich at this point in its development but that should not be an issue for a school computer lab or school newspaper.

People frequently claim that students need to learn on the systems used in the public. I find that this is often a unwarranted requirement because it's the task and procedures that are important. The menus and shortcuts are always changing even within a single product. Take MS Word, for example. Compare Word 2000 with the new Word 2007. Not much being transferred between those two versions. So, unless you are teaching graphic arts to soon-to-be professionals, make your decision on other factors.


Thursday, December 28, 2006

Creat PDF on the Cheap

Adobe's PDF is a wonderful tool for accurately transmitting electronic documents. Adobe's Acrobat program is a good tool for creating PDF documents but it is quite expensive. PDFcreator is a free tool that works in Windows to create PDF documents. If you just need to read PDF documents, use Adobe's free Acrobat Reader. They just came out with a new version with a number of valuable additions.


Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Teaching Markets to Students

Betocracy is a predictive market system. By "buy and selling" shares -- no money involved -- various alternative outcomes can be weighted. So, for example, if you wanted to predict the outcome of the next three basketball games, students could trade shares such that the own shares in the alternative they believe is most likely. Naturally, the more popular picks are the most valuable/expensive. This is a great system for learning about markets and economies. The system is in beta, but that does not stop you from testing it out now.


Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Search Engine for Kids

Quintura for Kids is one of more interesting search engines I've seen for kids. Most of the other search engines for kids are based on the application of strong filtering and some content reorganization. Quintura uses an associated search feature that I think kids will really like. You put your cursor over a word and associated words appear. Hard to describe in words -- go there and take a look.


Tuesday, December 19, 2006

AmberJack site tour

AmberJack is an open source project that allows you to create a guided tour of a web site. Essentially it is a series of screen snapshots with comments. This site is very useful for helping students learn a new site and for helping parents figure out your school's site.


Monday, December 18, 2006

University Podcasts

Open Culture has a list of university podcasts. While the list is not exhaustive, it certainly provides great examples on how to create a podcast. Certainly some good holiday listening.


Friday, December 15, 2006

Make Linux look like Windows XP

Here is a review of a version of Linux which is designed to look like Windows XP. While the newest versions of Linux look great, the cold reality of school life is that some people won't accept any form of change. Providing a version of Linux that does not appear to change things can help. Naturally, there will still be many differences, but hopefully your users will only find out about them after they fall in love with Linux.


Thursday, December 14, 2006

Fixing your photographs

Schools work with a lot of photographs. There are the school newspaper and year book, but students working on project in the computer lab also want to insert photos. This blog gives some great advice on how to fix photos with fairly common techniques.


Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Wikia: Having your own Wikipedia

Wikia is a project created by the same people who created Wikipedia. Basically, this site gives you the same type system they use for Wikipedia on a system that gives you all the storage space you want. All of this is for free. Here is a good news story on the new site.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Linux BIOS

The BIOS is the first operating system a computer user sees. While you may run Windows or OS X, you also run a BIOS. The majority of the time, no one ever changes the BIOS no matter how many times the operating system may change. The LinuxBIOS project replaces the operating system on the BIOS chip with one of its own design. Why should you do this? For one, it loads Linux in about three seconds. This is actually a very important factor if you have to restart your Linux computer for any reason. Another nice factor is that it allows you to use some services, such as redirecting the console to the serial ports. Rack mounted servers usually have this in their BIOS settings, but a converted old PC will most likely not have this feature. So for no money you can squeeze more services and performance out of your old hardware.

Of course, make sure your hardware is supported before installing and have a copy of your old BIOS just in case you want to go back.


Friday, December 08, 2006

Podcasting 101

Make magazine has a number of useful links for educators wishing to create a podcast or to find good educational podcasts. Check out the Podcasting 101 link. It's an excellent place to obtain further information.


Thursday, December 07, 2006

Video conferencing for multiple locations

Paltalk is offering video conferencing for groups up to ten people. In reality, you're not going to have more people unless you have a 50 inch screen.

This is a great solution if you want to have multiple classes work together from remote locations.


Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Academic Search Engines and Sources

Marcus Zillman, one of my favorite bloggers, has published a list of academic search engines and sources. This is one of the best resources I've seen on this topic. You should print this out and put in a place that your staff can easily find.


Monday, December 04, 2006

Finding your next school Wiki

While we know that Wikipedia is the best known wiki in the world, that does not mean it's going to be suitable for your next wiki project for your school. The good news is that there are many types of wikis available -- many of them for free. WikiMatrix helps you to determine which wiki is best for your purposes. Even if you don't plan on using a wiki any time soon, this site can help you to understand what wikis are.


Friday, December 01, 2006

Getting money for your school projectsD

Donors Choose is a very interesting site dedicated to matching people with small amounts of money with small school projects. If you cannot get a big grant for your next school project, this site may be a good way to get part of it funded.