Archive for the ‘Windows Education’ Category

Computerized testing made easy

Monday, January 10th, 2011

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of iTest

In the beginning was the Blue Book. Then came the Scantron card. Now there's iTest.

Test taking used to involve wrangling a bunch of pieces of paper that had to be handed out, written on, collected, organized, scored–the list just goes on and on. But with computers, it's possible to make test taking, and test administration, a fairly easy undertaking.

With iTest you can create a database full of questions (and their answers) that lives on the system's server. Categorize them, organize them, even annotate them so you'll remember just why you worded that question in that particular way. When it comes to test taking day, each student sits down in front of the client app and takes their exam. You've chosen the parameters of the test: which questions, how many of them, and all that. Along with formatted text, you can even include images in your questions. That way you can refer to diagrams in your questions–figuring out this angle or that length can be much easier when your student gets to see what you're talking about.

iTest is a free download. It's right at home on Linux, Mac, and Windows machines.

Download iTest

Cousin Calculator

Tuesday, October 12th, 2010

runs as Online Serviceruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Cousin Calculator

Genealogy is an interesting hobby. When you trace your family line, you gain insight into who you are and where you come from. It can also be a bit confusing, especially after you've gone back a couple of generations. How are all those people related? You can see the lines on the family tree, but what exactly do you call those people?

Cousin Calculator helps you figure out what your relationship is to others in your family, or relations between other members of the clan. By looking back to find a common ancestor shared by two individuals, you can see what kind of "cousin" you are. It can help take away some of the mystery of trying to figure out the difference between first cousins, second cousins, and the always elusive first cousin once removed.

The Cousin Calculator is available in several different versions: online as a web page (JavaScript required), as a download for Windows (or MS-DOS), or even for Mac (PPC only).

Download Cousin Calculator

Electronic flash cards

Sunday, October 10th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Anki

While sometimes change is good, other times it makes sense to rely on old, reliable processes. Like memorizing stuff. When you come right down to it, there's nothing like drilling over and over again to learn those multiplication tables, vocabulary words, or any of zillions of other facts. More times than not, that has meant using flash cards. The same is still true today, although flash cards have been updated.

Anki is a tool that lets you use your computer as a big flash card—or several of them. Enter the questions and the answers, and then let your computer drill you on your facts. It supports text, audio, images, and even video, so you can study stuff you never could on plain old index cards. And along with your mastering the content, the app keeps track of how often you're quizzed on a particular card—and how well you've answered—so that it can tailor your studying to emphasize the things you need more work on.

Anki is available on just about any platform you'd care to name, including Linux, BSD, Mac, Windows, and even as an iPhone app. Time to get smart.

Download Anki

Flash cards go high-tech

Friday, June 18th, 2010

runs on Linuxruns on Macruns on Windows
screenshot of Mnemosyne

Any third grader drilling away on number facts knows all about flash cards. This time-honored pedagogical tool has gotten more people through school than probably just about anything else, for one simple reason: it works. There's no substitute for drilling on facts like you can do with flash cards. So how do you improve on a technology that presumably is as old as the written word?

The Mnemosyne Project has one answer, with their automated flash card-like tool. Like traditional flash cards, you can enter the question and answer and then drill on those facts until you master them. Going one better, though, it also leverages off the smarts of your computer. After all, it can keep track of how well you are learning the stuff you're working on, and make sure that it cycles the trickier stuff through more often, letting you hit the hard stuff harder. It also supports pictures, sounds, and three-way flash cards, that can ask two different questions at once.

Mnemosyne is a free download. The latest release is available for Linux and Windows, and a previous version for Mac is also out there.

Download Mnemosyne

A free program to learn music

Thursday, February 18th, 2010

runs on Windows
screenshot of LenMus

If you enjoy music, you may want to know more about it. For some folks, making music means firing up their iPod or turning on the radio, but for others, they'd like to participate instead of just watching the process as a spectator sport.

You can read a lot about music and learn tons about its history, but when it comes to actually making music, it's often easiest to learn with a teacher or tutor working with you. Things like recognizing intervals by ear require that you listen to somebody play a piano or some other instrument so that you can actually hear the difference between a Minor Third and Major Third, or correctly identify a Perfect Fourth ("Here comes the bride…") or a Major Sixth (N-B-C). You can't do that yourself, because you're learning, so you may be out of luck. Or you can try LenMus.

This free application can help you to listen and identify intervals, chords, and more. In addition, it's got a built-in score editor, so you can practice such things as writing key signatures and simple musical lines.

LenMus is a Windows application.

Download LenMus

Jeopardy-like game for classroom use

Friday, August 28th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Stu's Double Jeopardy

I'll take "Potent Potables" for $200, Alex.

If you understand that cryptic remark, then you may be a candidate for Stu's Double Jeopardy. It's a free downloadable adaptation of the popular TV game show for use in educational settings. While there is no affiliation between the publishers and the Jeopardy folks, the game is quite similar. Choose from different categories, and given the answers, contestants come up with the questions. You can play as individuals, or as teams—up to six at a time.

Teachers can create their own question files, choosing categories and questions that serve to reinforce classroom learning, or general knowledge areas. You can get started by downloading selections from a list of prefab questions as well. There are "Daily Doubles" that allow players to wager points on upcoming questions. Incorporate MP3 files to add sound to your questions. If you don't have time for a full game, you can create scaled-down versions that include only ten or twenty questions instead of the normal 30.

Stu's Double Jeopardy is a Windows application.

Download Stu's Double Jeopardy

Welcome To The Wonderful World of Chemistry: Periodic Table

Saturday, May 30th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Periodic Table

The most prominent item on the wall of any high school (or college) Chemistry classroom or lab is a great big Periodic Table of the Elements. Even though the chart itself is huge, the amount of information it actually conveys is pretty small. After all, with well over a hundred elements, the overall space is cut up into relatively small slices.

Periodic Table is a free Windows application that gives you a lot more info than that great big chart. Along with the expected chemical symbol and atomic number, you can check out all the vital stats: atomic weight, boiling- and melting point, electron configuration, and more. In addition, it has built-in search capabilities as well: look for elements based on name, symbol, or even properties like its atomic radius.

Periodic Table doesn't cost anything—financially—to download and use, but that doesn't mean it comes without responsibilities: you're required to embrace personal growth, act responsibly toward the environment, and treat others with respect.

Download Periodic Table

Free Vocabulary Builder

Saturday, March 7th, 2009

runs on Windows
screenshot of Interlex

The easiest way to learn a language is to be born into a culture that speaks that language. That's fine, but not so flexible. You can sit through hours and hours of class, or spend a small fortune on tutoring or even software tools that can help you. Are there any alternatives to these?

How about the free Interlex tool? A Windows application, Interlex lets you create vocabulary lists in any of several languages. Not just a listing, it then allows you to drill on your newly-learned words. The authors claim that just 20 minutes use a day will dramatically improve your mastery of your new language. You can also import word lists from any tool you may currently be using. It supports multiple keyboards, so you can easily use non-English keyboards, or you can add language-specific characters on your English keyboard.

You should be able to run Interlex with any Win32 version of Windows, from Win95 on up through Vista.

Download Interlex

Phun 2D Physics Sandbox

Thursday, November 13th, 2008

screenshot of Phun

Did you sleep through high school physics class? Did you even show up? Physics isn't everybody's cup of tea, but that may be because it wasn't taught right. Unlike biology, where dissecting frogs is part of the drill, or chemistry, where evacuating the lab because of some foul smell is a regular occurrence, physics should be fun. After all, where else can you play with toy cars and watch springs for academic credit. But we digress.

Phun is a 2D physics sandbox that lets you create a virtual workspace to play with simple machines and forces applied to them. Build your own contraptions and see how they work. Make them go faster or slower. See what happens when you change the load on your machine. It's so much fun you might forget that you're doing real physics here. Oh yeah, you can let the kids work with it too. Who knows—maybe by the time they get to high school, they'll be eager to get into the lab.

Phun is available for Linux, Mac, and Windows systems.

Download Phun

FunBrain makes thinking and learning fun

Friday, September 26th, 2008

screenshot of FunBrain

While FunBrain is a web site, in some ways it's more like a collection of games and tools for kids. Whether you're looking for math games, reading activities, or just plain fun, there's probably something here to appeal to you. Play games like Math Baseball (practice your arithmetic while scoring a home run), help Pearl and Flora with plural forms of words, and more. Web books and comics help with reading practice. There are also activities for younger kids, so everybody can have fun and learn at the same time.

FunBrain features a fair number of advertisements, so parents will want to keep an eye on their kids as they move through the site (but you already monitor your little ones when they're online, right?). They've got a good Privacy Policy in place, so you can feel safe while you're on the site.

FunBrain is a free service. Most of its content should be available for visitors with modern web browsers. Certain activities may require Flash or other extensions to your browser.

Download FunBrain