Friday, April 27, 2012

How do you Edit a Photo?

Now that Digital Cameras have image resolution capabilities up to and beyond 18 megapixels what do you do when you want to edit those pictures after you have taken them.  How do you take an image that is 4000x3000 and reduce it or compress it so that it can be put somewhere else like a webpage, blog, etc.  What tools are out there to do this? There are programs out there that can help you out but what if you cannot afford to buy a program what is your alternative.  Well up until recently there was a website that offered the ability to edit an image on the fly for Free, Picnik.  The site offered more than basic editing features for images that some pre installed computer software could handle.  But as you know websites come and go everyday and Picnik was caught in that wave of passing websites recently.  So what do you do now if you were an avid user of Picnik?  What are your options now, some sub par or expensive software that will either not give you what you want or go way over the top and give you so much more that you will never use all of the it in your lifetime.

Recently Mashable put together a small list of viable alternative websites that will allow you to edit your images on the fly on the web, Free and without the need for a registered account.  I took a look at them and these are some really robust and feature filled websites to allow you to edit pretty much any aspect of an image you want to.  The only issue that I founds that might come up is that Thumba requires you to have the most recent version of Microsoft Silverlight.  I think that you will have a lot of fun editing images on any of these sites.

Now if you are a teacher and are going to use any of these in the classroom with your students then make sure that you take a look at the sites ahead of time.  Some of them do have ads along the sides which could be of questionable material out of the grade level you are in which could cause some questions to come up from your students.   Some even have Apps that you can download to your Smart or iPhone.  Not that I want to promote any of these over another but PicMonkey does not have any ad space on its site that I could find as I was using the site.  But you make the decision on which one will be the best fit for your situation and comfort level.

photo credit: austinevan via photo pin cc

Thursday, April 26, 2012

My First Edcamp Experience

This past weekend I was able to attend my first Edcamp in Raleigh, North Carolina.  I was not sure what to expect and really did not know how things were going to work since I was told that there was no agenda.  No agenda I thought to myself, how will I know what I want to do and where I am supposed to be throughout the day.  If you do not know me, and my co-workers and friends can tell you, I am a very strict timeline follower.  I am used to doing thing according to a schedule and when that is disrupted I am not one that can appreciate the change rather quickly.

I was told that there was no solid agenda with no specific content to be covered or topics to be discussed.  It was up to the participants to choose what was going to be discussed.  Choose, I said, what do you mean.  Well how things work is that there is an "Idea Wall" where anyone attending the Edcamp could come up and write down a topic of discussion that they felt passionate enough about that they wanted to have a session dedicated to it.  Then hopefully you will have enough topics to cover through the entire day with enough diversity so that people have lots of choices to pick from.  So I figured why not, so I threw a topic up on the wall for a session time.  I was not sure if anyone would even show up but that is also the catch at an Edcamp.  You may have a session that everyone wants to come to and you may have one that is not attended at all, and it is all OK.  You may have people coming in and leaving during your sessions and that is OK as well.  There are no hurt feelings and the opinions of everyone are valued and not squashed. 

I was prepared for the worst case scenario being that no one would attend my session.  I just was not sure that there would be any interest and I since this was my first Edcamp I would have been fine with no one attending.  But when the time came I was surprised that I had some people walk in to participate and the game was on.  I felt that it was a really good session with lots of discussions in it and I even got a round of applause from the few people that were there.  All in all it was a great day and I feel that I will attend more in the future and even sign up on the "Idea Wall" to present a session again.

I have a confession to share with you know.  I can now say that at one point in time I was very concerned and unsure of myself as a presenter.  Now I can say that after presenting at a number of conferences I am feeling more and more comfortable with being in front of people. 

Image provided by: @bethanyvsmith, NCSU

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Promethean Actiview 522: First Look Part II

Now that we have taken a look at the hardware on the new ActiView 522 Document Camera (doc cam) let's take a look at the software and how it can be used with your computer and additional software.

The software is ironically called ActiView to match up with the product and will look vaguely familiar after you launch it from your Start Menu, Applications folder or desktop.  Before you open the software you want to make sure that you have turned on the doc cam first.  The icon will look like the one to the right for you to click on to use the proprietary software that comes with the ActiView 522.  After you open the software you will see the icon appear on the desktop.  If you move the mouse over the icon it will open up to a 3 x 3 grid as seen here to the left.  I will briefly outline what each icon means but will also offer a link to my livebinder so that you can go and get a printable sheet with the full definitions.

In the first row you will see an Icon with a Light bulb, Car and Paper with Magnifying glass.  The Light bulb turns the dual lamps on and off.  The Car is the Auto Tune button which will focus, zoom and adjust brightness in one click.  The paper and magnifying glass displays what is under the lens in a window on the desktop.  In the second row are the Magnifying glass for you to Zoom in and out and the Sun which adjusts the brightness of the image in small increments.  The third row are the Hand, Snowflake and Papers.  The Hand opens the Annotation tools inherent to the software to allow you to write over the image being displayed.  The Snowflake will freeze the live image and the Papers open up the Advanced Menu options.

When you click on the Advanced Menu button the 3x3 grid opens up again to a 4x4 grid as seen here to the right.  There are just a few additional items here but they are the power features of the software.  Along the bottom row is the Camera Button which allows you to take still pictures and save them directly to your computer.  The Camcorder button allows you to record video and save it directly to your computer.  The button with the Circle with the Line through allows you to use the  Time Lapse photography feature.  The "X" button will shut down the software.  In the last column from top down are the Power button which will turn on and off the doc cam.  The Clipboard button shows the controls for the Audio and Video options within the software.  The the Menu button, which allows you to adjust the Camera settings.

When you click on the Menu button you will have an entirely different panel pop up on the screen.  In this panel you have a Basic and Advanced toggle button.  In the Basic options are the expanded options from the 3x3 grid.  With three additions, The "AF" button to auto-focus, which can also be done by pressing the two white buttons on the sides of the lens simultaneously.  The Spinning Arrows which allows you to rotate the image in 90 degree increments from 0 to 360.  And the Pan button which allows you to scan across a projected surface in small increments in all directions without moving the neck of the doc cam. 

When you switch over to the Advanced panel you have the doc cam options.  Some of the buttons here are the same as on the 3x3 grid, control pad and remote.  If you have the device setup as a pass through device you click the Source button to switch back and forth between the computer and camera mode.  The PBP button allows you to display a static image that you have taken with the doc cam, that is stored in the internal memory, with the live image right next to it.  The Slide Show will display all images in the doc cam memory in sequence either automatically or manually.  The Capture and Record buttons work just like the ones on the remote control but will store content in the doc cam internal memory.  The Photo/Text drop down just adjusts the doc cam to what type of resource it is displaying.  There are four different modes you can choose from, the default is Normal.  There is Slide mode which gives you a sepia haze to the viewing area.  The Film mode shows the negative aspect of the image.  Lastly there is the Microscope mode which allows you to hook the doc cam lens directly to the ocular of a Light Microscope with the provided adapters.

Now that we have taken a look at the ActiVew software I have an additional tidbit of information for you about the use of the ActiView doc cams with the ActivInspire software.  When you have the doc cam turned on but are not using the software you can open the ActivInspire software and go the Insert Menu at the top of the screen and select the Launch ActiView option.  When you do this you will see the Same Icon as you do when you launch the ActiView software from the computer but the icon is round.  When you hover over it you will see an expanded ring with option buttons.  Some of the buttons are the same as the free standing software.  The Photograph allows you to toggle on and off the display of what is under the doc cam. The Camcorder allows you to record video and use the Time-lapse feature.  The sprocket are your tools.  Zoom, Auto tune, Capture and On/Off Buttons.  The Hammer and wrench give you those Advanced features.  Brightness, Rotate, Camera Modes, Photo/Text and Focus options. 

Now that you have a basic understanding of the features of the software now you can take a look at my Livebinder to see how you can use the ActiView 522 in your classroom.  One quick way to integrate the doc cam is to use it with the ActivInspire software but you can also insert the images directly into MS Office products as well.  I have added a downloadable pdf to the livebinder so that you can see how this is done.  I have lots of web resources that will provide you with some insight into how you can use the doc cam in different subject areas as well as those specials classes too.  Ways it can be used in Professional Development and for behavior modelling.  Not only can you use the doc cam as a Digital Camera, Camcorder but you can also use it as a Webcam with many different webtools.  If you use it with Skype you will have to download version 4.2 which is the last stable download that will allow the use of the doc cam as a webcam through the Skype software.  I have even added in some information on how the doc cam can be used with QR codes and Augmented Reality.

Here is the Livebinder link.
Document Cameras

Images Created with ActivInspire Area Snapshot Tool

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Promethean ActiView 522: First Look Part I

I recently received the new Promethean ActiView 522 Document Camera(doc cam) and have been putting it through its paces.  After having the document camera for a while I have done a lot of work seeing how it stacks up to the previous 322 series and against other branded models of document cameras on the market.  I have worked through the software while hooked directly to a computer as well as having it setup with just a digital projector and even as a pass-through device to give you my review.

The 522 is the latest model to come out of the Promethean ActiView line up.  This unit boasts a longer goose neck than the 322 series to allow for more mobility when adjusting the Lens head to objects that you are displaying.  This doc cam adds an additional light for greater visibility in low light situations.  The 522 also has and upgraded square base to allow for greater stability.  One significant modification in the design of the 522 doc cam is that the positional alignment has been changed.  An object being displayed must be parallel to the base in order for it to show as right-side up in the projection.  The base also has an upgraded hard drive for storage of up to 128 images at 1024x768 resolution.  The Lens has also been upgraded to the V2 high definition series for better clarity and improved zoom and display capability.

You have a Remote Control as well as on the base you have a fully integrated keypad that allows you to control the document camera while using it as either a stand alone device or while it is hooked up to a PC or Mac system.  Along the top row of the keypad are the Power and Source buttons.  The Source allows you to switch back and forth between the computer and projector when the unit is set up as a pass-through device.  On the second row are the Lamp and Auto Tune buttons.  Pressing the Lamp button turns off both lights at once and this only an on/off feature.  The Auto Tune(Car) button will adjust Brightness, Zoom and Auto Focus all at once.  The Middle of set of buttons are the Zoom In/Out, Brightness -/+ and the Enter Key.  You will also notice that some of these buttons have arrows underneath them.  When you see these types of buttons you will have to press another button in order to activate this feature.  In the same area of the panel is the built-in microphone.  The next row of buttons are the Menu and Rotate options.  The Menu button only works when you are in the Document Camera Mode displaying through the digital projector.  The Rotate button will adjust the image in 90 degree increments from 0 - 360.  The second to last row has the Pan and Freeze button.  Freeze does what it says and locks the image in the display so that you can either change the information under the doc cam with out seeing the activity in the display area.  The Pan button allows you to put larger than 11x14 item under the lens which allows you to then use the Arrow keys to Pan across the object in small increments without moving the Lens neck.  On the bottom row are the Capture, Record and Delete buttons.  Capture allows you to take a picture of the displayed image same as a digital camera.  The Record button allows you to use the built in microphone to create a video of what you are doing under the doc cam lens.  The Delete button removes the stores images and video from the internal hard drive housed within the base of the doc cam.  The remote control has most of the same action buttons as the base, albeit in a different configuration, but there are a few items removed and some new buttons added.  There is the PBP button which allows you to display both a static image stored in the base along with the live image right next to it.  The AF button which allows you to Auto-focus, and the Slide Show button which allows you to display the content stored on the doc cam hard drive and use the arrow keys to move between the items similar to that of a digital presenter.

On the back of the base you have the Power in and VGA inputs and outputs.  You have the option here to set up the device as a pass-through with a digital projector and computer where the doc cam acts as a switch box between the two.  Which allows for the use of the Source button on both the doc cam base and remote control.  On the top side of the base are some additional plugin options.  One is an HDMI connector that will allow you to plug the doc cam into any HDMI device.  You have the USB connector that allows you to hook up to a computer so that the doc cam can just be a usb device only that will utilize the proprietary software packaged with it on the PC or Mac.  You have an 8-pin connector and an Audio Out to attach to an external set of speakers so that when you play the recorded video you can hear the sound as well.  And lastly you have the SD Card slot that allows you to expand on the internal storage within the doc cam base.  You can also setup through the Menu options for images and video to be stored directly on the removable SD card instead of the internal drive.

Now that you have the particulars of the physical hardware in my next installment I will go into the included software and some uses in the classroom.  Look for part II coming soon.

Interactive Sentences Unsing ActivInspire

Have you been trying to figure out a way to engage your students a little more while they are in their writing centers creating sentences?  Why not use your ActivBoard and ActivInspire to make creating sentences a little more fun.  There is a tool called Append Text that will allow your students create sentences by Appending (adding text) after a sentence starter word.

To set this up you will need to open ActivInspire and on a new flipchart create your list of words that you want students to use to create sentences.  Then in a blank area of the page put your sentence starter word, remember to put a space after it.  Move the words on the screen in an area where they are not in the way of the sentence they are creating.  You can also use objects to provide a visual component for your students.  This will allow you to reach from Pre K students and up.  

For the rest of the words: Watch the video to see this in action
  • Open Action Browser (View - Browsers, or CTRL+B)
  • Select the word
  • choose Append text from the Action Menu
  • Choose the Target Text ellipse button to select the sentence starter.
  • In the Text box type in the word you originally selected, "make sure to add a Space after the word"
  • Click Apply Changes button

Now you are finished with the set up.  You should now save the flipchart page so that you have a clean page copy for the students to work from.  This allows you to use the Reset Page button to clear what has been selected after each student comes up to write their sentence.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Quick & Easy Mapping Made Easy

While attending a conference recently I was in a workshop that was offering a lot of resources for Social Studies and Science and I was introduced to what I thought was a really great website.  As soon as I saw the website my ADD kicked in and I started thinking of all of the ways that it could be used for Social Studies mostly and as well for the other curriculum areas.

The site, oh yeah I have not told you yet, is Batch Geo.  This site gives you the ability to quickly create an interactive map from Spread Sheet data.  Yes you can create a map from a simple data sheet.  As long as there is an address field you will be able to create a map in three steps, yes three steps.  After you go to the Batch Geo website step one is to get your data sheet and copy and paste the information into the text box in the middle of the screen.  They even have a downloadable template which you can get so that you can just fill in the blanks with whatever information you want to map.  Step two (optional) is where you can set some parameters for the map contents.  Step three is just you pressing the Map Now button so that the website will create the map from your data.  Now depending on how much information you paste into the window will depend on how long it will take for the site to convert the data into a map.  It really does not take that long, I pasted in a five column by eighty row spreadsheet and it still took less than a minute total time to create the map.

After the Map has been created you have the option to Save & Continue which allows you to give the map a title, description, email address and to list as public or unlisted.  Once you Save the information you will be sent an email with the information about the map you have just created.  In the email that you receive is a weblink to the map, a link that will allow you to edit the map afterwards and the full embedding code so that you can place your map into a website, wiki or blog like I have done below.

View Colleges of NC in a full screen map

So now that you know how to create the map what can you do with it?
Here just a very few things that I thought about during the conference session:
  • Time lines
  • War Battles
    • BC
    • Medieval Times
    • Revolutionary
    • Civil War
    • WWI, WWII
  • Author, Scientist, Famous people time lines
  • Virtual Field Trips
  • Literature Trips
  • College Planning for HS Seniors
  • Disaster Events
Give it a try and see what you think about the website and then share some more resources on how this can be used in your classroom by commenting on this article.