This is the reflective (mostly) blog of Adam Sutcliffe, a teacher of Modern Languages at The Gordon Schools in Huntly, Aberdeenshire.
All opinions expressed in this blog are entirely my own. Any complaints should be expressed directly to the author.
May I be so bold as to suggest that if you are reading this you are probably a networked teacher, or on the way to becoming one. I find myself more and more a networked type and I have to say it suits me down to the ground. I have never thought so much about my job (vocation?) ever, and have never had so much contact with fellows world wide; at this particular point in my life when due to my ruptured discs I am not in my "Typical Teacher Network" it is really quite comforting and stopping me wallowing in too much of my own pity. For example I was ironing a few clothes on Sunday ( I can still do a bit of work) with Twitteriffic chirruping in the background and Ewan wanted some contributions for a piece he was in the course of writing. I had a few thoughts and so did a few of our mutual followers. You never know I might vaguely recognise something he writes in The Economist. Yesterday I caught a tweet from Lucy Gray asking for examples of presentations showing good practice in Global Ed. I sent her a link to one I did for our Welwitschia Partnership...lo and behold I discovered she has set up a whole network dedicated to Global Education.Fantastic. One BUT though. I put out a tweet for any GLOW monitors to ask about their role. Nary a tickle. Glass half full version, non of them are online tonight. Glass half empty version...they don't know about Twitter...oh dear, better not utter my true thoughts.
iMovie 06 I love this almost as much as GarageBand. Notice I have specifically mentioned the previous version of iMovie rather than the 08 one. I don't get the new one...well actually I've not spent enough time with it but it didn't leap out at me. iMovie 06 interface is simple and to my way of thinking, logical. You upload your film edit it and then export it in whatever way you choose. I had few problems a bit ago with it not transferring files properly to my usb storage drive but that seems to have been solved by an update. I enjoy mucking around with it and trying new things and this and GarageBand have released a (quite) creative part of me that I didn't know was there. I've even got some senior students using it for their drama project and they seem to find it easy enough. As it is part of Apple's iLife suite it fits quite happily with GarageBand, iPhoto etc, so you can add garageband jingles as part of the soundtrack (same for iTunes) or you can use pictures from iPhoto. There are all kinds of themes you can integrate into your projects but I've not investigated those as yet...one step at a time.
iPhoto The new iPhoto is great. No longer do you have to search through your library photo by photo, your uploads are automatically sorted into date organised events. The new editing tools are also miles better than the previous version; even though I know next to nothing about photography and editing even I can make a photo look better. I really like the facility to use your photos to create things such as calendars and card etc. I created 2 fundraising calendars for the school using iPhoto and a colleague's pictures. Dead easy and they look great. As I don't have a .Mac account its not that easy to email photos direct from iPhoto. I did try out the MailPlane app but gave it up when I had to pay and went back to Thunderbird...but this is why I have a Flickr account anyway.
iShowU iShowU is a screencast recording application. I tried out the demo version at first but wasn't all that impressed. Then I heard about Jing and tried that but I couldn't get it to record anything. So I went back to iShowU and started to muck around with the demo...lo and behold I worked it out, so I bought the full version. It seems to be relatively simple to use, but it took me some time to come out with a recording I was satisfied with. You can set the amount of screen you want to capture, and the quality of image you want (there's a huge choice and I found what I wanted through the old trial and error technique. You can record from the inbuilt computer mic or via a usb mic (recommended). Using this app I have produced a couple of tutorials for my Connecting Classrooms Partnership wiki.
iTunes Do I really need to write about the "best digital jukebox on the planet". Create playlists, upload and browse album covers, burn your playlists and let the grace note database do the work when you import your cd's. But thats not all. Of course iTunes links with GarageBand and it is here you can store and convert your podcasts, vodcasts etc.. Then of course there's the store, a great place for music but more so a great source of free learning resources in podcasts. Finally I like to use iTunes to "impress" my registration group with my wide and eclectic taste in music...it's not worked yet though, "Who are Bad Brains?"
iWork 08 (Keynote) iWork 08 is the new suite of presentation and spreadsheet tools from Apple. Pages is like microsoft publisher, Numbers is a spreadsheet application and Keynote is Apple's Powerpoint. I can't comment on Pages and Numbers as I haven't used them but Keynote leaves powerpoint languishing far far in the shade. It is stunning and so easy to use..the only difficulty is deciding what your presentation is about. The themes are amazing, as are the text effects and transitions. It simply looks superb. You can record your presentation and export it to post on the web or on dvd. You can import pictures, films, music, anything, because it all fits nicely with iTunes and the iLife suite. I love it, AND if necessary you can export to PDF, Flash or PowerPoint...but it just doesn't look the same. Here's what I produced (during my enforced absence) to promote a languages-based filmmaking project.
Mousepose 2 A very cool presentational tool from Boinx. It helps you highlight the particular area of the screen you want to show by spotlighting that area and dimming the rest. The new version also includes keystroke visualisation, enabling your audience to see which keys you are pressing. You can also visualise your mouse clicks. Look at this pbwiki tutorial I made to give you some idea.
Open Office As I didn't want to pollute (and have to pay for the privilege) my PowerBook with Microsoft stuff I decided to use Open Office as my word processing application. Put simply it is an open source office suite (as m/soft office) which includes a word processor, spreadsheet, presentation manager and a drawing programme. The WP app is very similar to other office suites and it works quite happily with M/soft Office. In other words I can write something on it at home, email it to school and open it up quite simply as a word document. It offers all the features you would expect from a WP app. (I haven't used the others in the suite.) I do quite like it but there are times when it (or more likely me) doesn't seem to be quite the same as Word which I am much more used to using. I can't really explain how or why, because I don't really know enough about it. But for my needs it works perfectly well.
PDFPen Not so long ago I had to download a pdf form fill it in and send it to someone (in Cameroon) via email. But you can't write on a PDF normally. So I thought I'd try this thing out. And it did indeed Smile on my Mac. It works. The form filling seemed to be a bit fiddly when I used it, but since then I have discovered how to lock the text filling tool on. Thats all I've used it for so far and I only have the demo, which leaves a not too obvious watermark on the document. In laymans (my) terms it seems to create another layer over the document on which you can then write. It served its purpose and who knows, I might need it again.
Text Edit When I just want to jot something down and can't be bothered opening Open Office I use Text Edit. Its a simple word processing app which lets you do quite a lot of fun stuff like importing music and film files. You can spell check, change fonts and format and create bulleted lists. Quite simple really.
Thunderbird As i use Firefox as my browser of choice and was looking for an email client to host multiple gmail accounts I decided to try Thunderbird. No complaints so far. I've linked 3 gmail accounts to it and it works like a dream...i.e. I don't have to do anything more than click. I'm not even going to go into all the other stuff it can do because I don't understand although it has good junk protection and as it is open source it is very secure (a strange but wonderful paradox isn't it?)
Twitteriffic My main Twitter client (I also use Twitterfox via my browser but that doesn't count for this post). I sings when a tweet comes in and there is a pretty looking blue bird in my dock. I use twitter but am not fully sure/convinced but can see its potential. I tend to use twitteriffic to advertise my latest blog posts. Oh yes its free if you are prepared to put up with 1 advert per hour otherwise I think it costs $14.95 to stay ad free...no prizes for guessing which version I have. The free one.