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Teaching Hacks.com

Smart Notebook Hacks

Ye Old HackerI have been super busy over the last few months and will be writing more often in the new year. I have a few big projects to finish up and a course that will be ending this month. Just another quick post.

Smart Notebook, is free software that you can use if your school or district has purchased the Smart Board brand of interactive whiteboards. Here are a few alternative ways to use Smart Notebook software.

Turn Any Document into a PDF
Many district networks are locked down from installing free software or don’t include software that will generate a PDF for you. Sure you can use online PDF generators but when you install Smart Board software you have a PDF generator built in.

Open up your document and print to the “Smart Notebook Print Capture.” This will pull your document into the Smart Notebook. Then go to the File Menu and Export your Notebook file into a PDF. You can play with your settings until you get a decent PDF version of your original document.

Need a FLV Player
If you don’t have a Flash Video player on your computer use Smart Notebook. It has a built in FLV player so that you can play Flash videos that you download for video sharing web sites directly in Smart Notebook. http://javimoya.com/blog/youtube_en.php

Open Promethean Files
Just say you wanted to use a lesson that was made for the Promethean brand of interactive whiteboards and has the .flp file extension. No problem, go to file import and change the “Files of Type” to “All Promethean Files.” You can import those lessons into your Smart Notebook.

Download Flash Content for Offline Activities
You can use an SWF downloader to move flash web site content from a web based artifact to an item in your Smart Notebook gallery. (Beware of copyright infringement – always ask permission don’t assume).

1-Use an SWF Catcher (I use the SoThink Add-in for Firefox)
2-Go to your favourite flash web site and Hit Alt+C (if your using SoThink)
3-Download the file to your computer.

The SWF file can be embedded into a Smart Notebook file or your library. This will only work for stand-alone SWF files that are not connected to a database.

My First Scratch Remix

I created a Scratch game by building off the game of another user. The information on how to embed Scratch projects into your blog is here.

This particular game was created as a humorous (my own brand) response to a podcast that I had just listened to at PDTOGO.com

Learn more about this project

Update:
Instructions would be helpful.
Green Flag – To Start
Red Stop Sign – To Stop
Use your arrow keys to make Ben Jump.

Scratch Resources

A few Scratch resources that may help you to experiment.

Scratch Educators Page  contains some interesting resources and research.

  1. Scratch Video Tutorial
  2. Getting Started Guide (PDF)
  3. Scratch Interface Diagram (PDF)
  4. Scratch Cards
  5. Scratch Reference Guide (PDF)

The Educator’s Forums is just starting up as well.

Scratch Help Screen was also a nice quickstart primer.  Another few resources might be helpful:

  1. Creating with Scratch
  2. Learning with Scratch
  3. Programming with Scratch

And some neat possibilities in the future with the Scratch Board – “Connect real-world sensors to your Scratch projects.”

Scratch

Small ScratchScratch is a free software application that allows anyone to program, create and share animated stories, video games, and artwork. The software was created by Mitchell Resnick at MIT’s Media Lab.

(Via BBC News)

You can download and review the software at http://scratch.mit.edu/ There has been some heavy traffic to the website, so keep trying. There is also a screenshot of the web site, if you are interested in getting the feel of how users share there content – found here.

An introductory video posted on YouTube.

What do you do with those old computers in your classroom -Live Kiosk

What do you do with those old classroom computers when they are becoming outdated and are not working properly? One solution is to keep them online, but throw away your hard drive. You can reuse all those old computers and all you need is a mouse, keyboard, moniter, P2 and up processor, 128 MB of RAM, a network card, a motherboard and possibly a CD ROM. (I'll explain a little later)

Live Kiosk2I first heard about LiveKiosk at a meeting that I was at where the product was demonstrated. It was being used in staffrooms, libraries and classrooms in a pilot. LiveKiosk was born out of the need to take advantage of the city of New Orleans free wireless access program after the hurricanes. Currently they are deploying up to 100 of their workstations to health clinics and libraries in area where there may be limited access to computers by the general public.

What is really neat is that like many other Linux installations, LiveKiosks EZWebPC runs from the CD Rom. It loads up a customized version of Firefox, to create a web browser only system. You can throw away your hard drive and you can still use the workstation for accessing the internet. EZWebPC runs from the CDRom and can connect to the internet through a local or wide area network. It runs from the RAM on the computer and the CD ROM – so there is zero maintaince. (Your IT people should love that) If you are worried about the CDROM you can get rid of that too. They offer a Disk On Module(DOM) that plugs directly into the IDE on the motherboard.

DOMDisk On Module connects to IDE

Basically it turns your P2 into an internet kiosk based on the MAC Address of your Network Card. It uses the MAC address to lock down the computer to a particular start page that can be created by you and refreshes after 15 minutes of inactivity. You can even lockdown the workstation to a particular web site. (You could create start pages that link into all those web 2.0 apps through internet access.)

All the MAC addresses of the workstations are controlled by a central database where the start page is controlled, the only way to change the database right now is to contact LiveKiosk. They are very flexible and willing to work with schools and school boards. There is also the future potential to run printer drivers, statistics and other goodies from this database.

LiveKiosk offers a 60 day trial version of EZWebPC. Just make sure that the boot order on your bios is set to hit the CD Rom first and you are good to go. You can download the ISO and burn it to a CD to give it a try. http://www.livekiosk.com/kioskimages/

Take Office, MSN and Firefox Anywhere

At our school board, we only have Internet Explorer available on our networked computers. I wanted to use the operating system and profile of the networked computers, but didn’t want to use IE. I am a Firefox lover, so I had to do something.

I downloaded a portable version of Firefox from PortableApps.com and I can put it on my usb Thumbdrive. It was about 6mb, so great for 512mb drive. I then exported my bookmarks from my desktop version of Firefox and put them on the mobile version. I can now take my browser and booksmarks with me where ever I go.

I also added a portable version of Open Office and Gaim (chat client) to my thumbrive. What’s nice about OpenOffice is the ability to produce a pdf version of my document, we use MS Office at our board, so creating PDF’s on any Networked computer is not so easy. Now, I can just import my MS Word document into OpenOffice and convert to PDF anywhere.

I can also jump on my MSN chat at any computer too, and get some social networking in as well.

There are quite a few apps at PortableApps.com so if you have a 1 gig usb drive, you can pretty much carry around a lightweight version of many of the apps that you commonly use on your PC.

Hypertranscribe

This is a neat tool to use when you need to annotate a screencast with test. This tool allows you to play a video and then transcribe it within a textbox beside the video. It allows you to make a selection of a part of the audio or video and then loop it, so you can easily transcribe that portion of the video.

You can check out Hypertranscribe to download a demo.

Gamemaker

Gamemaker is a great bit of software that will allow students to create their own video games without having to learn a programming language. The software also includes six editable games in order to get students started. You can make games with backgrounds, animated graphics, music and sound effects, and even 3d games! And when you’ve become more experienced, there is a built-in programming language, which gives you the full flexibility of creating games. There is also an online community that has sprung up around this software to help support its use as well as encourage the educational uses of this product. There is also a teachers section that includes teaching and reference materials.

Ontario elementary teachers might consider connections to the Science, Language, and Mathematics curriculum, while secondary teachers in Media Studies might also find this program useful.

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