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Tools for the Technologically Enhanced Class
Studies of experts -- grand masters, maestros, gourmet chefs, and sports stars -- all suggest that these outstanding performers were once novices, but through weeks, months, and years of practice they acquired the behavioral and information skills that others now admire. Professors, then, can become technological whizzes by using technologies extensively in all aspects of their teaching, research, and service. Most already have basic computer skills: they can use e-mail, word process a document, navigate their operating system such as Windows, and use a Web browser. But they may need to add a few new skills to their repertoire before they become full-fledged High Tech Profs (HTPs). The following links describe the basic tools that High Tech Profs should have in their teaching tool kits. Readings, activities, and examples are located here.
Presentation Programs: Professors can use many types of programs to deliver multimedia presentations to their students, including Corel's Presentation, IBM's Storyboard, Hyperstudio, or even a common Web Browser, but Microsoft's Powerpoint is fast becoming the default in a technology-ready college classroom.
Mail programs. The HTP (High Tech Prof) must use a modern e-mail program that downloads messages from the mail server to the local computer rather than one of the older programs typically found on many colleges and universities mainframe computers. Such programs help with organizing messages, sending out messages to multiple recipients, and spelling.
- Powerpoint Guidelines: This tutorial site, located at the Department of Computer Science at The University of Rhode Island, may be freely copied and used providing that acknowledgement is given to the URI Dept. of Computer Science.
- Megatsite for pages: 2learn.ca offers a megasite filled with links for those who want to explore various presentation programs, and some daunting examples of the use of this software created by teachers and by students.
Browsers. The HTP must be proficient in the use of a good browser, such as Netscape or Explorer. He or she should use browsers for routine tasks, such as locating information about psychology on the Web, downloading materials from the campus library, searching databases of abstracts and articles, and buying good books on a commercial bookseller's site. They also need to tune up their browsers so that they can use all the cool features available on the web, such as automatic translations and searchers.
- Strouds CWSapps site describes many different types of email clients, and ranks them from most to least useful. It also provides links to where these programs can be downloaded.
- Back-up email. Get a free email account on one of the dot.com sites, such as Yahoo or Excite to gain some sense of control in case your university system is down.
Web-authoring programs. Many programs generate files that can be posted on and downloaded from the Web. Some require no more skills than a word-processing program. Indeed, Web pages can be written using a simple text editor or the word-processing program you already use. Others, such as FrontPage and Dreamweaver, are more sophisticated and complicated to use, but they also have more functionality. In other words, one can built more interactive, interesting, involving pages with them. These programs also ease one of the major headaches of Webpage authoring: transferring files from the computer where they were developed and tested to the computer that is connected to the Internet.
- Strouds CWSapps site evaluates the most popular browsers, including Explorer and Netscape.
Plug-ins: Download and install all the "plug-ins" needed by the pages you visit. Shockwave sites and files saved in the PDF format, for example, won't run or can't be read unless you install their plug-ins. This site, provided by WebCT, has handly links to RealPlayer, Quicktime, and Microsoft viewers, and much more.
Other programs. Many unique or small-scale problems can be solved by using specialized programs that have been developed to meet these needs. Graphics programs, for example, can be used to manipulate pictures; FTP programs (File Transfer Protocol) move files from one networked computer to another. Simple, easy-to-use programs to perform all these functions can be downloaded for free from various sites on the Web.
- The NCSA's Beginner's Guide to HTML: This page is an excellent starting point to understanding the hypertext markup language (HTML), and should be briefly reviewed even if you plan to use some authoring tool to create your pages and want to avoid actually learning HTML.
- HTML help pages: This site, by Susan M. Brumbaugh, Ph.D.
Aphids Communications, offers extensive information about all aspects of web-based authoring, including developing forms, embedding graphics, etc.
Word-processing programs. Professors who wish to hone their information-technology skills should learn to type well and quickly with one of the standard word-processing programs, such as Microsoft's Word or Corel's WordPerfect. Most programs can generate and modify the Web's most popular document type (those that are based on a html, hyper-text mark-up language, format). They also accept plug-ins (secondary programs that interface with the primary program) that permit you to create documents formatted as portable document files, or PDFs.
- Graphics: In some cases you'll need to manipulate images, in small ways, before you can use them in class or on the Web. Various programs that can be used to make changes to images, and programs that just let you view images easily, are linked to this site.
- FTPing: What is FTP? The acronym stands for File Transfer Protocol. You'll need to FTP to move your files from computer to computer.
- General Programs and Information: CNET.com offers a wealth of information about programs and utilities needed to get computers running efficiently.
- Viewers: When students or colleagues send you files that are written with software you don't own, you can still view them by downloading the "view-only" programs. This link send you to Microsoft's download page.
- Wordperfect and Word: The word-processing world is dominate by these two programs, both of which can be used to generate webpages and other sophisticated, hypertext documents.
- PDFs: Most Portable File Documents are created with Adobe's Acrobat. This program takes a document written in a word-processor, and then tranfers it into an uneditable file that can be viewed with the free-Acrobat viewer. For more information, visit the PDF Zone.