Archive for the ‘Windows Education’ Category

Create your own world with Crayon Physics

Thursday, March 13th, 2008

screenshot of Crayon Physics

Have you ever read the children's book Harold and the Purple Crayon? Armed with only a simple crayon, Harold creates a whole new world, where what he draws comes to life. You can have a similar experience with Crayon Physics.

With Crayon Physics, you create a world on your system that responds to forces as real objects do. Draw a box on the screen, and it "falls" toward the bottom of the screen, as if pulled by gravity. You can have free-falling objects like this, or by inserting pivot points, you can create levers that redirect forces in directions you want them to go. As a game, you move a ball around on screen, allowing it to collect stars. Create ramps, drop things to push them along, the sky's the limit of what you can do to manipulate your new world here. You'll probably have best results with a stylus, although you can still draw things with your mouse.

There is a deluxe version in the works (watch the video to see what's in store) that hasn't dropped yet.

Crayon Physics is a Windows application and requires Win98 or later.

Download Crayon Physics

It's the end of hunt-and-peck typing: Stamina Typing Tutor

Saturday, March 8th, 2008

screenshot of Stamina Typing Tutor

Everything's all about computer keyboards, but does anybody really know how to type? Back in the day, you could take Typing in high school, although as a guy, you might have been looked down as taking a class "for girls". In retrospect, that's probably the most important class I ever took. With the importance of typing, the most significant method of data entry out there, it's amazing how many people still use the tried-and-true methods of hunt-and-peck, or two-finger typing. Certainly not the most efficient way to get things done.

You may be beyond the age where the remedial typing class is an option for you, but you would still like to become at least a bit more proficient at typing. Maybe you'd like to give Stamina Typing Tutor a try.

Stamina Typing Tutor supports multiple languages and layouts, so whether you're trying to wrestle the traditional QWERTY keyboard to the ground, or want to try something more exotic like a Dvorak layout, it's all here for you. There's even an alternative method that they suggest that they claim will lead to a reduction in hand stress. Drills are provided to help you focus on particular skills. It keeps track of how you're doing, so you can watch your progress over time, and see how much faster you're getting.

If you're tired of thinking faster than you can type, Stamina Typing Tutor maybe just they help you're looking for.

Stamina Typing Tutor is a Windows application, and will run on just about any Win32 platform, from Win95 or NT on up to Vista.

Download Stamina Typing Tutor

Moodle: a new way to approach online instruction

Monday, December 17th, 2007

screenshot of Moodle

Over the past several years, there has been a rapid increase in the amount of online course material available. Many colleges have dramatically increased the number of classes provided online as a way to stretch resources, as well as allowing more independently paced study. Re-entry students who have full-time jobs, for example, can "attend" class during evenings and weekends, whereas they might not be able to come to a physical classroom during the day in the middle of a work week.

There are many challenges that come up in making online classes informative and relevant for the needs of their students. One way to try to make the online learning experience better for students is through tools like Moodle.

Moodle calls itself a "course management system." It provides a framework for creating Internet-based courses of instruction and the supporting web sites. Based on a philosophy called "social constructionist pedagogy", which takes advantage of interactions among the community as well as content provided by the instructor, Moodle allows instructors to create opportunity for rich interaction, including elements such as wikis, forums, and blogs, as well as quizzes, surveys, and other activities.

There is extensive documentation available on the Moodle website. If you are responsible for the design or execution of online instruction, it may be worth your while to take a look and examine in depth the types of resources that Moodle can make available for you.

Moodle is available both for Windows and Mac systems running OS X, as well as systems running various flavors of Linux–basically any system that can support PHP, and requires a database such as MySQL or PostgreSQL.

Download Moodle

iTALC – Intelligent Teaching and Learning with Computers

Monday, November 26th, 2007

screenshot of iTALC

Computers have added a whole new dimension to teaching. The abilities to drill for mastery of content, provide instant feedback, and work interactively between students are just a few of the opportunities available with computers. There is a potential downside as well.

Assuming that "no good deed will go unpunished", having students working on computers adds a whole layer of administrative attention that must be brought to bear. You don't need much tech support with a paper and pencil, but computer systems aren't so easy.

iTALC, the tool that provides Intelligent Teaching and Learning with Computers, can help make this part easier. Its ability to control machines remotely means that teacher can "look over the shoulders" of students, to examine their work and help coach their efforts. iTALC can also flip that around, putting the teacher's screen in front of each student at their remote workstations, making it an ideal platform for demonstrations. This functionality is not limited to a shared subnet, so remote systems can be included as well, great for students who are at home rather than school.

It can also lock workstations, so that students are paying attention to instruction, rather than being distracted by their systems. And at the end of the day, teachers can power-off an entire lab full of computers, saving lots of time.

iTALC is a free download, and runs under both Linux and Windows (Win2k or better).

Download iTALC

Get Free Math Worksheets from Math Drills

Wednesday, November 14th, 2007

screenshot of Math Drills

Math got you down? Kids having problems with their homework? Are you having problems with their homework? Maybe you need to do some math drills.

Math Drills is about a zillion free math worksheets–over 6,000 in reality. If you can imagine it, they probably have a worksheet for it. Addition, subtraction, multiplication, division to be sure. How about integers, decimals, and fractions? Base ten blocks, order of operations, geometry and algebra. They've even got themes for different holidays–who know that St. Patrick's Day had so many math tie-ins?

These worksheets are great for teachers to supplement classroom instruction; for parents to give their young students extra practice. Use them over the summer to keep from getting "rusty".

Worksheets come with instructions and (importantly) with answers! They are all available as .pdf documents, so anybody can use them regardless of the platform you're running.

All the worksheets are free to download and use as long as they are "…helping you or someone else learn."

Download Math Drills

Earthquakes, storms, fires: stay on top of it all with Earth Alerts

Saturday, June 23rd, 2007

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Planet Earth is a restless place. Between severe weather, active earthquake faults, and erupting volcanoes, there's always something going on out there. We're all curious and like to know what's happening; sometimes, it's more than that and we really need to know.

Earth Alerts takes information from many different sources and conveniently puts it all in one place, making it easy to stay on top of what's happening out there. Calling on resources such as the US Geological Survey, the National Weather Service, and more, this app keeps you up to date on what is happening out there.

You can specify the type of information you want to track, and let Earth Alerts do the heavy lifting, keeping an eye on the data–much of it in real-time–coming from these trusted sources. You will be among the first to know when storms hit, the ground shakes, volcanoes erupt, or any of the many other events you choose to track.

Earth Alerts is a Windows app and requires WinXP or Vista.

Download Earth Alerts

You don’t have to start from scratch

Wednesday, May 30th, 2007

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Scratch may be the ultimate object-oriented programming language. Developed by folks at the MIT Media Lab, Scratch is a programming language where you literally snap objects–blocks–together to build applications. Rather than procedures or functions, you drag graphic "blocks" around on screen and the order in which you hook them together determines how the resulting activity behaves.

Scratch includes blocks to move, turn, and bounce on-screen "sprites". You can speak and make sounds, draw, resize, and more. Control blocks allow you to loop and branch, test variables, and even follow your mouse.

With Scratch you can do interesting things without having to be a hard-core programmer. Designed for kids as young as 8 years, there is a large community for sharing activities. Scratch is designed to help users become familiar with the design process, while learning mathematical and computational ideas.

Scratch is available in both Windows and Mac versions, with work underway to release a Linux version by the end of 2007.

Download Scratch

And dance by the light of the moon

Tuesday, May 29th, 2007

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Moonphase is a cool application that, as its name suggests, shows you the phase of the moon on a given date, incorporating NASA photos to get you up close and personal with our celestial neighbor.

By entering your latitude and longitude, you can get precise moon rise, transit, and set times, as well as rise, transit, and set times for the sun. You can set your timezone, with an option for adding an extra half hour where appropriate. A checkbox allows you to adjust for daylight/summer time.

And if you really, really need to know, now that you've entered your location information, Moonphase can give the exact distance to the moon from your location.

For anglers, Moonphase can also show you "good fishing days", as listed in the Angler's Almanac.

For those south of the equator, or the curious in the north, there is also a Southern Hemisphere version.

Download Moonphase

Everything you ever wanted to know about Macintosh (*but were afraid to ask)

Thursday, April 19th, 2007

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If you have a question about a Mac, you’re going to find the answer in MacTracker. Processor speed, original operating system version, expansion slots–it’s all here.

MacTracker is the ultimate resource for all things Macintosh. Starting with the Lisa (Macintosh XL), you can see every computer and Apple-branded Mac-compatible device, such as printers, displays, scanners, operating systems, and extras (remember the iPod, kids?) that came out of Cupertino: pictures, specs, and even room for your own notes, with links to relevant Web sites and documents. There’s even a section for Mac clones. You can create your own “Smart Categories” to search and group information based on your own criteria, including your notes.

Along with the nitty-gritty specs, there are some cool images included with MacTracker. The info page for each system has a picture of the system, and for the computers, you can play the “Startup Chime”, and for some of the older systems, there is also a recording of the “Death Chime”–not a happy sound, that. Interesting historical tidbits are included also.

MacTracker is available in versions for MacOS 8.5+, OS X, Win2k+, and even iPod.

Download MacTracker

Learning can be a game with Math Games Level 1

Thursday, April 12th, 2007

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One of the great things about using computers in education is that with carefully crafted software, children can think they’re merely having fun, when in fact they are actually learning. Making any subject matter fun and interesting can go a long way toward engaging children in the education process, and help to reinforce the lessons they learn through teacher instruction and working through textbooks.

Math Games Level 1 for Windows, presented by the folks at Quiz-Tree.com, is a way for students to work with addition and multiplication with numbers from 1 to 12. Rather than just a rote memorization of facts, Math Games has learners interact with the computer in learning how to put numbers together. With a couple of clicks, users can select two numbers and an operation–addition or multiplication–and see what the resulting answer is. Images and controls on the screen are big and bold, so this application is especially suitable for younger students.

Math Games Level 1 for Windows is free for personal use.

Download Math Games Level 1 for Windows