Thursday, July 23rd, 2009...8:14 am
Summer Conference Highlights, Part 2
After some very informative Wednesday sessions, Day Two of our NC Summer Conference sessions begins with a sharing session of great free tools and utilities for IT teachers. We’re collecting those and providing links and notes.
Barry Cochran kicked things off with a look at some of his favorites, including some easy-to-install freeware that helps with “little things.” Some of his suggestions and those shared by others are listed here. Others, we’ll post in the Student Links section of Teacher Central.
Barry says you can always do a Google search for ‘best windows utilities’ or ‘best windows tools’ and come up with some handy results. The recommendations he and others shared range from image burning and pdf creation tools to screen recording and backup programs and more. Some of the highlights:
Taskbar Shuffle allows you to move around taskbar items and shuffle around the order in which they appear. “It’s a little thing but it helps keep me organized when I wind up with 20 documents open at one time.”
Barry says LiberKey is like a ‘Swiss army knife’ of freeware programs.
Lightbox Editor is a ‘Photoshop lite’ program from Adobe with lots of controls to help you manipulate photos. It’s from adobe and is a afree download though there’s a pay version you can use.
Cutepdf is freeware for creating PDFs. To go the other way, there’s a neat online service we’ve found called pdftoword. You upload the pdf you want to convert, put in your email address (I use a secondary email address, not my ‘real’ one), and it converts it and emails it to you.
Picasa is a pretty well-known and powerful imaging and photo-management tool from Google.
Mike Fleming from Asheboro High recommends oldversion.com, which offers downloads of older versions of software (from Skype to Picasa and dozens more) if the current version is buggy on your machine.
From Charles Thorne of Williamston High:
Trinity Rescue Kit is a data recovery tool that lets you troubleshoot or save data off a machine that has crashed. Likes this a little better than a previous favorite, the UltimateBootCD. It is a package of tools that allow you to get in and scan for viruses, reset passwords, edit the registry and more.
Everything Search Engine is a really fast search tool for Windows XP and Vista. It’s free and available from Void Tools.
Screen captures and tutorials can be a powerful way to document processes and procedures for students (or for your peers). If you’ve used TechSmith products, you know Camtasia is great for recording tutorials or demonstrations, and SnagIt’s terrific for for screen shots. A free Camtasia alternative for screen recording is camstudio. It generates AVI files of your demonstration videos, with the option to convert them into web-friendly Flash videos. Charles says ultravnc has another free program called UltraVNC Screen Recorder (you must have the free vnc screen video viewer installed).
Backing up data is an ongoing challenge, especially if you carry your work on your laptop and shuttle it between home and work and travel. Karen’s Replicator is a free backup tool I love that’s available from karenware.com. It lets you set up multiple backup jobs for automatic or on-demand use.
Charles has used Replicator and liked it, but says 2BrightSparks has a similar tool called SyncBack that he likes even better because it’ll back up open files as well.
Daniel Hutchens from Forbush High uses yet another backup tool called allway sync. It’s particularly good for flash drives - you can set it up so it’ll autmatically synch your flash drive when you insert it in your laptop. ”It really helps keep everything synchronized,” he says.
Collaborative tools are on my mind as we gear up several curriculum projects involving far-flung team members. And we’ve cut down on the need to travel and meet in person by using gotomeeting. We’re using it at Summer Conference to let Alan Rowland and Connie Slagle from CompTIA present to us live from the Midwest, and Michael Meyers to show us some great A+ and Net+ labs without having to travel from Texas (more on that in another post coming soon).
We’ve been using a Google Docs spreadsheet to track projects - what resources are in the works, what’s been done to them and what needs to be done, to who’s doing what when. GoogleDocs allows you to collaborate with anybody. Send them an email and they accept it, you can invite them in your document and all work on it at the same time.
Those are just some of the great and mostly free utilities and resources teachers shared during the session. We’ll post more from here soon. Meanwhile, if you have a cool tool you’d like to share, send a comment below…
ExplorNet/The Centers for Quality Teaching and Learning