Friday, May 29, 2009

Keynote vs. Powerpoint

In addition to iLife, iWork is another suite of applications offered by Apple. This suite is very affordable for a school license (only a few hundred dollars). iWork includes Pages, which is a combination of Word and Publisher put together. Numbers is a spreadsheet program. Although functioning much like Excel, it allows for easier design of certain documents. Keynote is the 3rd component and perhaps the most powerful of the iWork suite. It is most often compared to PowerPoint. All the iWork applications come with some great templates that can be easily used by students or teachers to help them format their work more easily.

For those that have used it, Keynote is frequently said to be more powerful than PowerPoint. Their functionality is very similar in many ways. PowerPoint can insert media (photos, movies, sounds, etc.), but it isn't always smooth or easy. PowerPoint is designed and heavily used for text-based presentations.

Keynote is much more media-based. It allows for the fluid inclusion of media in many different forms, signifying the major difference from PowerPoint. Keynote smoothly incorporates many types of media in a polished look. It also has some very nice, professional-looking templates. And the difference plays out in important ways when we start talking about engaging students during lessons. It enables teachers to access the many digital resources available to them in our modern digital environment. And again, as previously mentioned, more time can be spent on content than troubleshooting or trying to polish the actual technology.

For example, teachers may want to show a clip from a video on the internet. They can bring that video into iMovie and edit it to the spot where they wish it to start and end. Then they can insert it directly into their presentation. Students do not lose time while the teacher cues the video/DVD but it is readily available, smoothly integrated into the presentation.

Keynote also allows the easy conversion of presentations into podcasts. This can be very useful for absent students or just allowing students to review their notes at home. Below is a presentation of our new campus as depicted by our architects. I already had the slide but in less than 2 minutes I converted it to a short movie to show the different aspects of the campus. (Note: I did not include audio but I easily could have.)


video

The ease of working with multimedia within Keynote or in other forms is beneficial for students and teachers to improve their lessons and classroom engagement.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Multimedia in the Educational Environment

In my previous post, I mentioned the role of multimedia in the educational environment. Teachers expect students to do different types of projects than they used to do. And in turn, students desire to do more complex projects for their teachers. Shifting a poster board presentation onto a PowerPoint slide was one step. However, now students and teachers are engaging in projects such as podcasts, movies, animations, slideshows, etc. that contain dynamic content. In Korea, we have huge billboards running TV-like advertisements. Multimedia is the norm.

Not all projects are best as multimedia projects. The goal of student work is a key ingredient here. Teachers want students to attain certain skills and standards in their work. Students need ways to display their understanding. In many cases, multimedia gives a much more rich, deep demonstration of understanding than other options. When applied in this context, multimedia helps students demonstrate their understanding more clearly to their teachers. So, overall, multimedia has changed expectations and changed the types of assessments students encounter in their academics.

The Apple platform is the professional grade standard for multimedia. KBS, one of the main Korean television stations, is not alone in the world of broadcasting to use Apple for their editing and multimedia needs. Whether it is editing photographs, creating feature length movie animations, or editing live television shows, it is common to see Apple computers in graphic environments.

The average student or teacher does not use these advanced applications. However, the iLife suite is useful for the more common multimedia functions. iPhoto organizes photos easily and can create slideshows and convert them into movies in minutes. iMovie allows even beginning users to edit movies in ways that look like quality products. GarageBand can be used to create podcasts or record music and audio. All 3 of these applications work together and integrate easily with one another. As these tools make quality products easier and quicker, more time can be spent on the content and the depth of understanding.

We do not want to just do multimedia because it is "cool." We want to use multimedia because it engages students in powerful ways and allows them to demonstrate an understanding of the curriculum in a clear and effective manner. Apple supports this multimedia environment more effectively than the Windows platform. (Again, I am not saying it cannot be done on a Windows machine, it is just easier and works better on the Mac.) In addition to be designed for multimedia, designers and creators of such programs like the iLife suite specifically consider how educators can use the software in its design. Education has long been another niche besides graphics of Apple and their partnership with schools all over the world continue to demonstrate their commitment in this area.

Friday, May 22, 2009

The Apple Move

Over this year, our school has decided to move to an Apple environment. We have been operating on Windows XP, largely via Dell computers for several years. We looked at Apple previously but Korea just didn't have the support we needed to make this happen. This initial exploration was actually before my work began in technology. However, after looking at this decision for over a year, we felt this was the right time to make a switch.

Some people argue you can do such and such with a PC or you can only do this with a Mac. I'm more of the mind that if you know what you are doing and have the right software, either one can really work for you. However, in evaluating the needs of our students and our teachers, we felt Apple was the way to go. As I have transitioned myself over the last 9 months, I see ways that I can be more productive, efficient and include more multimedia effectively in my work through the Mac OS, enhancing my ability to engage my audience and allowing more of my creativity to shine through. It is not that I can't do it on the Windows machine, it is just that it is much easier on the Mac and therefore I do things that I would not even try on Windows.

I mention multimedia and Apple is well known for their professional grade multimedia capabilities. Multimedia companies and education are two of the key places where Apple shines. And as we evaluate what we want students to do in school, more and more multimedia is required. In the same way, as we look at what engages students in teacher's lessons, multimedia can play a significant role. In my personal experience, I have included multimedia in presentations on the Mac that I would not have even considered on a Windows' machine.

Overall, the decision to move to the Apple platform is multi-faceted. I've only scratched the surface here. In the last couple weeks of school year, I will attempt to articulate some of the rationale behind our decision. I believe this rationale is the same reason why many schools continue to look to Apple to support their efforts to integrate technology throughout their school environment, particularly in their growing Asian market. Please stay tuned for more in this series and feel free to ask questions along the way...

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Twitter

For some of you, you love Twitter. It's a connection to your online network. You use it well. For others, you are experimenting with it and trying to decide whether or not you like it. Some have said it is hard to understand Twitter until you use it. For another portion of you, you have no idea what Twitter is. (If that is the case, then google it.)

I have read several commentaries recently on Twitter and observed as others have used it. For me, the jury is still out. I know Twitter is hugely popular and was valued at around 250 million USD in January 2009. The amazing part of this financial evaluation is that Twitter doesn't have any income. It is a free Web 2.0 service.

However, that digresses from the issue at hand. With Twitter, the user has 140 characters to share their thoughts and current actions. It is really much like the status message on Facebook or your chat program. For example, I could post to Twitter: "I am now writing a Be Literate blog entry."

I see Twitter like many other technologies--it is a tool. It can be used productively or result in a significant waste of time and act as a distraction. Some productive ideas that I have heard on how to use Twitter include the following:
1) Take minutes for a meeting--it time stamps everything and keeps statements to 140 characters. It allows multiple people to contribute to the minutes.
2) It is a way to take questions quickly during a live lecture session or Q & A time. I have also seen it used to comment on a big screen about what is being talked about--I'm not a fan of this.
3) I know of one service department that uses Twitter to communicate with each other versus email. It lets others in their department know where they are on campus and quickly communicates to multiple people.
4) In conjunction with #3, it could be used to network a group of people at a conference event, particularly if they are hosting it. The advantage of this over a audio network of walkie-talkies or cell phones is that everyone can see the same message at once and won't get busy signals.

If it isn't purposeful, I wonder if anyone cares that I am writing a blog entry at this moment. Does it matter? Is what I am posting about me or socially productive in engaging others? I am skeptical at some of the non-intentional uses and casual participants. I think it can, like Facebook, be a huge distractor time. For the record, I am not opposed to Facebook but I am amazed at the amount of time people spend on it.

In conclusion, we live in a culture of availability. We carry mobile phones because someone may want to reach us. We are constantly connected to social networks because we don't want to miss anything. Somebody may want me that I am not currently with. And as I reflect on my own practices, I recognize the need to make sure this culture of availability doesn't make me miss the present...the here and now. I embrace this culture in which we live but I see the need to discipline and balance my availability in light of it.

For some further reading, you may want to check out the following links related to Twitter:

Scientists Warn of Twitter Dangers
(CNN)

"Just Say No" to Twitter (I take no responsibility for any offense you occur in viewing this link)

The Culture of Availability
(The Thinking Stick blog post by Jeff Utecht)
So what do you think? Are you a Twitter user? I'm still debating whether or not to sign up...please give me some advice.