Friday, December 16, 2011

Embedding HTML into ActivInspire

Recently Promethean's ActivInspire program has had a fairly significant update to the software to provide a lot more versatility to its users.  The latest version of the software is 1.6.46087 and if you aren't sure what one you have you can click on Help in the Main Toolbar and then Click About to see which you are running.  If you are not running the latest version you are missing out on a lot of new improvements to the software.  So how do you update the software you might be asking?  Well it is really simple.  First you just go right back to the same Help button and then click Check for updates.  A window will pop up and say that there is a new update available and will ask you to Run, Save or Cancel.  The best thing to do is to Save it to your computer and then Run it after it downloads.

Now that is out of the way let me talk about one of the, at least I think so, Best New features of the latest update.  It's the ability to Embed HTML code directly into a flipchart page.  What a great concept to be able to embed content directly into the flipchart page so that you do not have to open up web browsers or office documents or even additional pdfs.  So how do you do this?  It's really easy as long as you have the update.  Click on Insert then Link and then Embed HTML.

After you do this you will see an panel box open and all you have to do is paste in the embed code and click OK.

So... you might be thinking, what would be the benefit of having this feature.  Well think of working on Fractions in Math with your 5th graders and need to show them a short video explaining the process that is on Schooltube or Teachertube.  Normally you would have to minimize ActivInspire and then open up your favorite browser and go to the video to see it.  All the while your students are getting restless due to the down time.  If in your prep work you go to the site and grab the embed code and Insert it into the flipchart page there is no down time because when you go to the page the video is there and all you have to do is click the Play button. 

Now the embedding is not just limited to video sources you can also embed documents and pdf's directly into your flipchart as well.  You can use an outside webstie called to store the files and then just copy and paste the embed code into the flipchart.  Then you will have a nice clean viewer for the document on the page and have the ability to both download and print from the presentation if needed. 

What else can you do, why not embed a map into your flipchart.  Yes I know there are maps already in the Resource Browser of ActivInspire but sometimes the map is not as detailed as you want it to be.  So just open up Google Maps and click on the Chain Link button to see the embed code to copy and paste into your flipchart.

Do you create Animoto videos or use Voicethread with your students in class?  You can take the student created work and embed it into your flipchart pages as well with the embed codes that are generated directly on the respective sites.

Wow there are so many choices of how you can use the Embed HTML feature in the new ActivInspire it can almost seem overwhelming.  My philosophy is to just start slow and do something easy like just adding a Google Map to your flipchart page.  Watch this following video to see how easy it really is.

Now that you see how easy it is I hope that you have fun embedding everything directly into your flipchart pages so that you can keep your students on task and focused with no downtime in the classroom.  If you are having any difficulties or need some additional assistance or maybe even some ideas there's a lot of resources and feedback in the Community Forum Section of Promethean Planet website where you can ask and gets answers to your questions.

Lumens DC 190 Part II

In looking at the software for the new Lumens DC 190 document camera (doc cam), you do not see any changes to the 3 by 3 or 4 by 4 grid.  The software itself has been updated to v.1.0.9 for Ladibug and there have been a few updates and improvements to it for use with your computer.  Again the software is available on both PC and Mac, however I did not see on the website the availability for Linux for this new version as of yet.  All of the buttons here work just like they have in the past with one new item.  If you click the Lightbulb Icon you are able to toggle back and forth between the regular lamp and the LED light on the head unit.  If both lamps are off the sequence is as follows as you click the icon; lamp, lamp and LED, LED, off.  Again the addition of the LED lamp is a nice feature because it gives you just enough light and is not as overpowering at the lamp. 

Before I go in any further I have to add in that one of the best new features that I have seen is that if you press the Menu button on the Remote Control you are able to see it in the viewing area after you have clicked the Display live images button.  And it is fully functional so there is no need to have the doc cam hooked up as a pass-through device were you are forced to toggle the source back and forth so you can make Menu changes for the doc cam hardware.

Nothing has changed in the button options when you click the Advance button.  The Capture still images, Record video and Time Lapse capture have not changed.  The Camera Settings button has changed slightly in the way that it looks for users.

I mentioned it in my first post but there are a new feature button changes, one is the PIP button which allows you to see the static images that are stored in the doc cam base along with the live image in the bottom left hand corner of the view screen.  Now a bonus is that you can use the arrow keys on the remote to move the live image around on the screen if it is needed.  Press one time to get in and select the static image and to get out you have to press it again and then the Menu button to get back to the full screen live image.  Another new button is Pan which is just a name change from the old Book button.  Nice thing is that it is a one click in and a one click out.  The Capture and Record buttons here will store the media in the built in hard drive in the base of the doc cam and not on the computer like the buttons do on the 4 by 4 grid. 

Now for what I think is the best new upgrade is that the Arrow and Menu buttons on the right side of the panel are now fully functional.  This is a big leap over previous versions where they seemed to be just ornamental and were waiting for technology and coding to catch up with them so they would work properly.

Now to go along with all of the good I have to give you my opinions on what I think are some of the bad things I have seen with the new DC 190 and software.
  • The Rotate button is no longer on the remote control, a staple that has been there for a while.  Now you have to go into the software Advanced tools or use the hardware Menu key on the remote.
  • You can no longer see the Doc Cam internal storage as a drive on the computer when the unit is turned off.  You will have to change the default menu options to save to a USB drive then take that to the computer to read the information that has been saved to the DC 190 base.
  • The built in microphone will only record to the doc cam.  It cannot be used as a USB microphone through the computer.  May just need to have a USB Audio driver upgrade.
  • The Microscope attachment has gone from a threaded design to a post attachment design.  To me this is a real design flaw that needs to be addressed.  Within the first month of installation many of our teachers have already broken the adapter because they have twisted it to far and the posts break off which are no more than a millimeter or two thick. 
  • No clear instruction for switching the light sources on the Doc Cam. 
Now I am not trying to be negative, I have spent a long time working with Document Cameras over the past three plus years and have figured out many ways to get around and make things work.  I welcome any input from people out there if you are using the new DC 190, share your comments below.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Google Earth Timeline

During a Planning meeting last week with one of my schools we were looking over some of the layers available on Google Earth and the information that you can get from them and we noticed something that was new to us.  It may not be new to anyone else but we thought it was very interesting. 

What we noticed was that there was a date in the bottom left side of the window when we were viewing our location in Google Earth.  When we clicked on the date (1993) in the upper left side of the viewing area appeared the Historical Time Slider.  It was very interesting to be able to go to a location on the map and then go back in time to see what the area looked like years before.  We were able to look at the school location that we were at and see what the area looked like before the school was even built.  There were even some photos showing the process of the school being built which the teachers thought was very neat and felt there students would enjoy it as well.

It was very interesting to show it to the students when they came back into the classroom.  They were wide eyed and happy to see that they could walk up to the ActivBoard in the classroom and move the earth to the area they wanted to see and then zoom into it or type in the location they wanted to visit and have the program pull back and then zoom back in to their destination.  They were able to then use the time line to go back in time to see what the area looked like in the past.  Now so far the limit for the time line is back to 1993 but in some cases that is enough to see what an area looked like 10 years earlier or before the students were born.

Again I might be behind the time in seeing this feature but we were all having a great deal of fun using it with the students in the classroom.

images taken using ActivInspire Camera Tool of Google Earth Time Line Tool