Focus On: Productivity

In this month's Focus-On, we'd like to address the "behind the scenes" needs of teachers by looking at productivity software. What do we mean by "productivity," you may ask? Well, we see productivity software as anything that helps an educator prepare, plan, or generally enhance their classroom teaching. Following are some software tools that can help with things like organization, grading, creating materials for class and more. To begin, we'll look at a few titles that can help with the often daunting task of planning and maintaining a class.

 

To supplement their Kid Works Deluxe software, Knowledge Adventure has introduced Month-by-Month for Kid Works Deluxe, theme-based projects with lessons, templates, online clip art and ideas for teachers. It includes com-

prehensive, printed teacher materials with more than 400 scripted month and theme-based lessons, as well as matching activity templates and graphics collections provided on a CD-ROM.

Each of the 12 Month-by-Month chapters includes: Kid Works Deluxe activity templates; graphics collections matched to each monthly activity; recommended Web sites for exploration and research activities; activities for holidays and special events; a teacher's reference calendar and a students' activity calendar; monthly newsletter to send home to parents; and a vocabulary list and skills matrix.

As an example, the chapter for December begins with a list of 42 month-appropriate vocabulary words, such as candles, dreidel, gingerbread, snowflake and wreath. Next is a page that lists month of December honors, such as Winter Month, Made in America month and Read a New Book Month. Also listed are weekly holidays, events and more. Things like assignments, activities, and newsletters are also included.

 

MicroGrade version 4.6 from Chariot Software Group is an electronic grade keeping and class management system that enables instructors to plan course structures, establish grading parameters, post scores and provide individual student progress reports as well as record student grades. The program can keep accurate and complete files on as many as 480 students per class and tracks up to 128 assignments in 16 categories. The program also offers 14 preformatted reports that can be easily customized to match an instructor's class and teaching preferences.

It includes a file import feature called File Genius that automates the process of importing a student roster from virtually any text file. Instructors can import files from and export files to a school-wide computer system or to administrative software packages. Another feature quickly identifies students with low scores by highlighting all grades below a certain level in red. Confidentiality and security are always maintained. MicroGrade 4.6 is fully Y2K compliant.

 

All major unified messaging functions are managed by speaking in a natural way with Conversa Messenger from Conversa. Using its proprietary speaker-independent, continuous-speech recognition engine, Messenger allows for natural and accurate speech control for personal computers in a very complete voice mail, e-mail, fax and address book package. Messages and contact information can be accessed from a cell or landline phone, or directly at the desktop, thereby managing data and messages remotely and locally. A user can call Messenger and, in effect, speak with a virtual assistant.

Conversa's speech recognition system, CASSI (Conversa Advanced Symbolic Speech Interpreter) understands the utterance and, in essence, determines the context of the conversation. Key features include: the ability to receive and manage messages and contacts; local voice barge-in and remote touch-tone barge-in; remote access to voice and e-mail mailboxes; and directory service for inbound callers. It works with Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Fax and any other MAPI compliant software.

 

CE Software has introduced QuicKeys for Windows, software that saves time by automatically performing common but time-consuming computer tasks, such as opening programs, typing text, choosing from menus and many more. It also automates longer tasks that require several consecutive steps, such as compressing and sending files via e-mail. QuicKeys simply records the keystrokes and mouse-clicks involved in the task, then plays the entire sequence back, quickly and accurately, whenever the user presses the hot key or clicks the toolbar button designated for that task.

Other features include: Setup Wizards that automate any computer task in seconds; smart sequence recording and playback; a complete list of hot keys and sequences that are available with a single mouse click; Internet time savers and much more.

 

Teachers can plan their entire day, week, month, semester or year quickly and easily with FTC Publishing's Power Planner. Created by teachers to meet the demands of a busy educator, the scheduling section allows for input of all calendar date information such as birthdays, in-service days, deadlines, class schedules and more.

Using the Lesson Plan section, teachers utilize an easy to use template for entering lessons. These lessons can then be merged with the scheduling section to make a complete plan. There is also a Substitute Teacher section that enables plans to be printed and left when necessary. It is available in Windows and Macitosh formats.

Maintaining the classroom of tomorrow can often be an unnecessarily difficult challenge. The following tools can help make the life of an educator easier, more efficient and, most importantly, more productive.

 

Norton AntiVirus 5.0 from Symantec lets you quarantine infected files, get help directly from Symantec researchers and be automatically protected against viruses as well as malicious ActiveX and Java applets. As always, it can run constantly in the background to keep your computer safe from viruses that might come in from e-mail attachments, Internet downloads, floppy diskettes, software CDs or a network.

The new Scan and Deliver wizard makes it easy to send quarantined or suspicious files to Symantec for evaluation. The Symantec AntiVirus Research Center (SARC) staff will reply swiftly with advice and any needed virus definitions. A built-in LiveUpdate feature enables it to automatically retrieve new virus definitions as often as once a week. Also included is Bloodhound technology that "sniffs out" and eliminates new viruses that might arise between virus updates.

 

The new Microsoft Office 2000 line includes five suite options, offering a set of tools tailored for each type of Office customer. Office 2000 Premium is the most comprehensive of the suites and includes the FrontPage 2000 Web site creation and management tool, PhotoDraw 2000 business graphics software, Word 2000, Microsoft Excel 2000, the Outlook 2000 messaging and collaboration client, the PowerPoint 2000 presentation graphics program, Microsoft Access 2000, Publisher 2000, Internet Explorer 5.0 and Microsoft Small Business Tools.

Among the new technologies involved in Office 2000 is the Custom Installation Wizard, which makes the suite easier to deploy and manage. The suite is scheduled to be available to retail customers in mid June.

 

Inbit Inc.'s new FullShot 99 offers a quick and simple way to print screens from Windows or any Windows application. Just a click on FullShot's on-screen Snapshot Button sends the screen image quickly to any printer, local or networked. What you get is a printed picture of exactly what you're working on, whether it's words, numbers or images.

FullShot supports all Windows-compatible printers, no matter how they are connected. You can write image notes when you print, scale the image larger or smaller, print multiple images on one page and time stamp on the printed page. It allows you to capture and/or print a full screen, a single window, a mouse pointer, a dropdown menu, or even a command button. Captured images can be placed in all popular desktop publishing software, word processors, image editors or any graphics packages.

Not all educators are artists or designers, but the following titles will help you fool the best of them. This desktop publishing tool can help you spice up everything from handouts to newsletters to Web sites.

 

Coupled with original artwork from specially commissioned artists, the advanced desktop publishing capabilities of Broderbund's The Print Shop 6.0 Deluxe supplies all the tools needed to produce school reports, Web sites, professional looking newsletters, letterheads and more.

It offers a set of fully integrated and powerful photo editing and enhancement tools, called Photo Workshop, that turn novice users into first rate photo editors. Photo Workshop lets users digitally enhance any photo to create just the right image for their specific needs. A freehand tool makes it possible to cut custom shapes out of photos, or choose from any of the pre-selected shapes. Crop unwanted areas out of photos, adjust colors, lighting or focus. There is also a variety of flaw fixes, artistic effects, special effects and photo designs available.

A Photo Organizer helps track down and organize images, saving valuable time and hard drive space. Users can create virtual photo albums, on-screen slide shows, photo e-mails and more. It works with digital cameras and scanners to easily capture images. There are over 100,000 professional graphics and photographs, 6,600 professionally designed layouts and templates, and over 2,000 quotes and verses.

As we all know, technology is always marching forward and waits for no educator. It is necessary to stay current with the latest technologies. With that in mind, our final title can help bring you up to speed with the increasingly prevalent Windows 98.

 

The name of Individual Software Inc.'s new title, Professor Teaches Windows 98, sums it up pretty well. The computer-based learning tool teaches consumers and students the newest features built into Windows 98, including such topics as the Active Desktop, the integration of Windows Explorer and Internet Explorer, using DVDs and the Maintenance Wizard.

Its user interface simulates the Windows 98 environment. It presents users with step-by-step interactive lessons that introduce features ranging from basic to advanced. A comprehensive quiz reinforces learning and the Index allows learners quick access to any topic. The program also includes an extensive glossary with hundreds of definitions of technical terms. Hands-on interactive lessons allow users to practice what they are learning. - Jim Schneider

Month-By-Month for Kid Works
Knowledge Adventure
Torrance, CA
(800) 545-7677
www.knowledgeadventure.com

Norton AntiVirus 5.0 for
Windows 95/98/NT
Symantec Corporation
Cupertino, CA
(800) 441-7234
www.symantec.com

MicroGrade Version 4.6
Chariot Software
San Diego, CA
(619) 298-0202
www.chariot.com

Microsoft Office 2000
Microsoft Corporation
Redmond, WA
www.microsoft.com

Conversa Messenger
Conversa
Redmond, WA
(888) ITS-HERE
www.conversa.com

FullShot 99
Inbit Inc.
Mountain View, CA
(800) 227-1788
www.inbit.com

QuicKeys for Windows
CE Software, Inc.
West Des Moines, IA
(800) 523-7638
www.cesoft.com

Print Shop 6.0 Deluxe
Broderbund
Novato, CA
(800) 521-6263
www.broderbund.com

Power Planner
FTC Publishing Group
Bloomington, IL
(888) 337-6740
www.ftcpublishing.com

Professor Teaches Windows 98
Individual Software
Pleasonton, CA
(800) 822-3522
www.individualsoftware.com

This article originally appeared in the 06/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.

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