Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Brainstorming/Concept Mapping Tools

I am a very visual person. I love scrapbooking and so I’ll play with the page layout several times before finally piecing it all together. Digital scrapbooking is very popular now among scrapbookers, and so I’ve drawn a connection between brainstorming/concept mapping tools and scrapbooking. Isn’t this what we want our students to do; create connections and use prior knowledge??

For another ETEC class, I used Inspiration (which is an example of this type of academic software) to create a visual representation of what my understanding of diffusion of innovations looked liked. Inspiration was fun and easy to use. I teach at the secondary level so we don’t have this software available to us for student use. Inspiration reminded me of old concept map handouts copied from books or made by teachers. In this age of technology, we can put the computer to use in how we make connections, relationships, and organize our thinking through graphics and text.

I hadn’t thought of using Inspiration for cooperative learning like the book mentions. I really like this idea. Brainstorming is an important tool when generating ideas together in a group. Even Word, Excel, and PowerPoint have visual diagrams and clip art that can be inserted similar to commands/options in Inspiration.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Desktop Publishing Software

This type of academic software is becoming more popular in the classroom today. Desktop publishing is combining text, graphics, and artwork on a page to create an effective publication. Microsoft Publisher is commonly used in the classroom by teachers and students alike.

This academic software is very relevant to me because as a BCIS teacher, I spend an entire six weeks teaching my students about Publisher. As a teacher, I have created several publications using DTP software. For example, my BCIS syllabus was created using a design set from a newsletter template. I have also used Publisher for creating extra credit coupons, restroom passes, and certificates with the same design set for a consistent look.

Every year, my students look forward to our unit on Publisher. This allows some the chance to “shine” and show off their creativity skills for designing publications. Some projects my students complete in Publisher include: flyers, advertisements, calendars, brochures, and newsletters. A very special project is when my students use a greeting card template to create a “Note of Encouragement” during TAKS time to give to other students who are taking the test.

When using DTP software, I think it is important to know who your audience will be before creating a publication. I share with my students examples of things that have been created using DTP software. We look closely at what type of graphics were used, the type of font, and the page layout. I have them ask questions as to “why” they think the creator of a publication used a certain font or graphic. We also compare different publications and rate them on their effectiveness.

Publisher is a software that you can really explore over and over and still find something new. I encourage you to “explore” Microsoft Publisher if you haven’t already to see what it can do for you! I know it will become one of your favorite type of academic software!