Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Laptops Update

I currently have 29 of the donated laptops in use in the classroom.  I would like to get two more of the laptops functioning for my classroom, then I will pass on the rest of the laptops to Brian Conklin, the science teacher, and Mike Squires, the computer tech.

I counted 19 Dell Latitude D600's and 10 D610's that are in use.  The D600's have built in microphones, which will be very handy with the voice recordings that speech and English classes will do.  The D610's do not have microphones, but have a faster processor speed.  I am not sure why Dell downgraded the lcd panels on the D610's, but I did notice that all of them have a lower screen resolution than the D600's.  While the D610's have a faster processor and some have larger hard drives, I think the built in microphone and higher screen resolution makes the D600's more usable for the classroom.

The laptops have been used by the English, yearbook, and speech students this quarter.  They will be also used by the photography students next semester as we get into digital photography and photo editing using Photoshop.  Students have enjoyed the flexibility of using the laptops at their assigned seats rather than moving to the computer counters along the walls of the classroom.

The only setup that I have left on the laptops is to map them to the classroom server folders and to connect them to the printer.  Currently, all 29 laptops in service have internet capabilities with a secured connection using the classroom wireless router.

Creating a Podcast Using CamStudio

I used CamStudio to create a demonstration podcast for the speech students.  CamStudio is a software that is designed to create a screenshot video so you can effectively show others how to use software.  CamStudio is extremely easy to use, and created a sleek video of how to create a slideshow podcast.  For the Speech class semester exam, students are using PowerPoint to create the slides for the podcast.  It was a breeze to create a video to demonstrate how to save the PowerPoint presentations as jpg slides.  I was then able to show how Audacity is used to record the voiceovers for the podcast - I recommended that a separate audio file be created for each slide.  I used CamStudio to show how Audacity files are then exported as mp3 files.  Finally, I was able to demonstrate how both the jpg slide files and the mp3 files are imported into Windows Movie Maker where the audio and pictures are matched up and a final product in the Windows Media format is created.  I did make the initial mistake of creating a demonstration video that is longer than 10 minutes.  As I was reminded this morning, YouTube has a restriction on length of videos for it's regular accounts.  I resorted to a quick fix of using Windows Movie Maker to cut the video into two segments saved as wmv files.  While the original CamStudio format is an avi (much better quality format), the two part wmv files turned out okay.  I did lose video quality, but am still happy with the results.  Below are the two videos, let me know what you think:


Josh reminded me about etherpad.com a few days ago.  It is a really interesting web tool for collaborative notetaking.  I used it for the first time in one of my classes today, and it worked out pretty well.  We used it for semester exam review.  I did forget at first that only 15 people can collaborate on one etherpad notebook page, but soon remembered when a few students mentioned that they got bumped off.  After I introduced it to the class, and we played with it for a couple of minutes, we used it successfully to create a semester exam review document together.  We then copied the document into a Google Doc and shared it with the class so they can utilize it to study for the semester exam.  Etherpad has a function that is supposed to export to a Word doc, pdf, or Open Office doc, but none of those would work.  The only export functions that worked were export as html and export as text - both acceptable, but a Word doc or pdf were preferred.