Focus on Arts & Humanities


With the debate over improving education focusing on math and science, the importance of the arts and humanities can get lost in the shuffle. However, improving instruction in art, music, language and the like is just as important in developing a well-rounded educational experience for every child. Beyond that, state and federally mandated tests require that schools meet certain goals in every subject. With that in mind, this month we feature a varied collection of tools designed to aid both teacher and student in acquiring and improving upon these skills.


Budding artists who don't yet have the artistic sensitivities of a Picasso or Rembrandt can take heart with their own photos. Crayon By Number 2.0 from Wentworth Institute lets students scan any photo and turn it into a paint-by-number style outline that students can then color in.

The process consists of five simple steps: selecting the type of crayon box the student is using (e.g., Crayola 32); scanning and cropping the image; setting the complexity level; and processing or printing the outline. The program prints three pages: a color chart that lists the numbers and their corresponding crayon; a numbered outline of the original image; and a crayoning page, which is a non-numbered outline of the image for the student to color. The program also features a slider control on the screen that adjusts the complexity and realism of the photos to accommodate a variety of different skill levels. Wentworth Institute, Peoria, IL, (309) 676-8822,


Educational Activities Software's DILEMMA provides a multimedia reading comprehension program that uses social issues as topics for lessons. Written by a school principal, DILEMMA combines comprehension strategies with real-life decision making, problem solving, reasoning, responsibility, self-esteem and ethics, providing an instructional experience that extends beyond most reading programs. Topics include gangs, peer pressure, AIDS, shoplifting and racial conflicts.

Each story starts with a video clip that sets the scene for a realistic dilemma a person might face. Students decide what the main character should do, then explore the consequences. The program includes 16 passages written for various reading levels, as well as reading comprehension ac-tivities that explore main ideas, understanding details, and drawing inferences and conclusions. DILEMMA also includes an audio glossary that provides pronunciations and definitions, as well as a management system. Educational Activities Software, Baldwin, NY, (800) 645-2796,


With Kodak's Professional Portraits & More PC Pro software for Windows, young and old photographers alike can capture images with a digital camera and output high-quality prints on-demand. The PC Pro software is easy to learn and adds full support for the Kodak Professional DCS 760, 720x and Pro Back Plus pro digital cameras; the Nikon D1, D1-H and D1-X; and the Canon EOS D30 pro digital cameras. Owners of the Kodak DC290 and DC4800 point-and-shoot zoom digital cameras and Kodak Professional 4720 Photo Printer had their devices added recently to this imaging software application as well.

PC Pro comes with several new features, including color adjustment options in three levels, from out-of-the-box color accuracy to end-to-end color management. Special color editing features help optimize images and simplify the interface to Adobe Photoshop for more advanced editing needs. Users can even create and utilize custom output profiles. Photographers can also choose the resolution they want. It also supports more advanced image adjustment tools, such as f-stop adjustments, image sharpening and noise filtering. Eastman Kodak Company, Rochester, NY, (800) 235-6325,


GollyGee Blocks is a 3-D creativity program for children ages 5-12 that uses traditional building blocks in a new way. Children can create their own 3-D world on their computers using the building block shapes and premade objects they're accustomed to. Editing tools let children organize and play with their shapes by stacking, stretching, rotating, translating, copying, coloring and adding texture to their blocks for different scenes.

The flexibility of the program gives children the opportunity to learn spatial reasoning, critical thinking and problem-solving skills. GollyGee also offers an activity guide containing more than 50 standards-based classroom activities for grades K-6 using GollyGee Blocks. The guide covers art, social studies, language, math, science and more. Students, together with their parents and teachers, can use the program to explore historic buildings, landmarks, reading and writing skills. GollyGee Software Inc., Reston, VA, (703) 437-8342,


Students looking to transfer their handwritten notes into a computer file without spending too much time typing it all out can use CharacTell's SoftWriting software. SoftWriting enables students to convert handwritten text into a computer file such as a Microsoft Word document.

SoftWriting recognizes almost any nonconnected handwriting in English, German, Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch. It can be used with any TWAIN-compatible scanner, and the translated document can be saved in a text or Word file. SoftWriting can also transfer hand-drawn sketches and diagrams computer documents. In addition, the program has the ability to recognize handwritten abbreviations and translate them into the proper form in a text file. CharacTell Ltd., Tel Aviv, Israel, +972-3-648-9484,


-Anne Kim

This article originally appeared in the 01/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.

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