Thursday, November 26, 2009

Painting and Drawing with students: Sumo Paint

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There are a number of free online drawing programs available on the internet right now.  I’ve tried Aviary, Pixlr and Sumo PaintSumo Paint is a standout for me in terms of application in education K-12.  From the image above you’ll see an amazing tool set that it has available.  The most commonly install drawing program in schools right now is KidPix.  Part of what made kid pix so popular was the great stamp and brush tools.  This is where Sumo Paint is a standout in the crowd of free online painting program.

Look at the different brushes available.  Don’t forget that brushes can be used as stamps if the flow is set to 100%.

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Shapes are also amazing in the program.  Try adding shapes onto the canvas and then, while holding the mouse button, move the mouse up and down, left and right.  The shape will be transformed and resized as a preview before you have to release and create the shape.  Brilliant feature!

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Below are pdf and word documents of the file that I shared with teachers in the workshop.  My thinking was that in the following eight steps, teachers would have enough skill to introduce the same skills to their students.  These are basic drawing skills in whatever program you have:

  1. Draw a shape
  2. Saving and sharing files
  3. Working with layers – this is a big one a most people don’t have experience in multi-layered programs like photoshop.
  4. Brushes
  5. Text
  6. Importing pictures
  7. Effects (or filters)
  8. Saving (again!)

I’d be curious to hear what curriculum integration and assessment ideas that people have to an online painting program like Sumo Paint.

 

 

Monday, November 2, 2009

7 reasons to switch to Windows 7

Like many of you, I have a number of computers at home and work.  They are a wide range of vintages of processors and hardware.  I was lucky enough to be asked by Microsoft to host a Windows 7 launch party.  Despite the comments from my wife about being such a geek, Windows 7 has been a huge improvement in our computing at home and work.  If you are still contemplating switching over, here are some compelling reasons, and yes, this includes those of you using Mac’s, Windows 7 is simply the best operating system ever!

  1. Homegroup.  Networking has never been so easy to setup and connect computers.  On Vista and XP I had a number of file shares for things like documents, music libraries..etc.  Windows 7 introduced a concept called homegroup.  Once I installed Windows 7 on a second computer at home it instantly recognized that I had a homegroup on my network, simply enter the supplied password and instantly all music, video, documents and even printers were shared.  The best surprise was last night when my wife was wanting to print to print wirelessly to a local printer on another machine, worked without any setup!
  2. Libraries.  In XP Microsoft created folders called my Pictures, my Videos etc.  The problem was that different applications put pictures in other locations on the hard drive creating a challenge in locating them.  Libraries is a fresh new concept where any folder that contains pictures can be right-clicked on and added to that library.  Finding the 1000’s of pictures of my family vacations could be easier! In the graphic below there you can see that for each type of library you can see my personal documents and the public ones on this computer.  image
  3. Taskbar.  The revamped taskbar with live preview is amazing.  If you are like me, you typically have 5-10 browser windows and/or tabs open in addition to 3-4 other programs.  For example, right now I’m running Chrome, Live Writer (to write this), IE 8 with 4 tabs and Outlook.  Check out this graph of live preview of all my IE tabs.  Depending on your computer performance, the preview will even run videos.  It is now very quick to find each window and even close tabs that I don’t need any more.image
  4. Bitlocker  Vista introduced the idea of drive encryption.  While it is essential to think about the security of your data, especially on laptops that are more easily lost/stolen, most people didn’t use the encryption.  Bitlocker makes this much easier to implement.  The most amazing feature is BitLocker to Go.  This allows you to encrypt USB keys.  I always have a least one key in my work bag or pocket but rarely put much data on in the fear that I leave it behind somewhere.  With BitLocker I can password protect the drive in a way that I can make it read/write from another Windows 7 computer or read-only from XP or Vista.  It is easy to add a drive to Bitlocker.  From the control panel, select BitLocker Encryption, insert the USB key, turn on BitLocker, enter the password you want to use, click next and a few minutes later it is ready to go.image
  5. 64 bit operating system.  I’m a speed junkie, I really like to have a fast machine that is snappy to open files and programs when I want.  Windows 7 64 bit is much faster.  If you aren’t sure if your computer can run Windows 7 in 32 or 64 bit then there is a application that you can download and run.
  6. Snap and JumpLists.  These fun features enhance the way many of us work.  With SNAP you can drag an application to the right side of the monitor and it will snap to be 1/2 the width of the screen.  Simply drag another application to the other side and it snaps to that 1/2.  Great way to compare document or do research while working in Word.  The JumpLists are an evolution of ‘recent documents’ from XP.  With XP you had recent document for all programs.  Now every program can show you the most recent documents or windows you had open.  Here is my jumplist for Internet Explorer.   image
  7. Performance.  I’ve been stunned at the broad range of my machines that are capable of running Windows 7.  In all cases, Windows 7 was as fast or faster on every machine.  Here is what I’ve tested so far:
    1. Acer Netbook with 1Gb RAM with Windows 7 32 bit RC.  Ran as fast as XP.
    2. Dell Latitude with 4Gb Ram (my work machine) with 32 bit, just waiting for my tech to get the 64 bit installed.
    3. My main computer less than 6 months old with 4Gb or RAM is way faster with 64 bit.
    4. Dell Inspiron 1525 (wife’s computer), 1.5 years old with 32 bit version is faster and homegroup is amazing.
    5. Other computers I’ve tried out the Release Candidate (RC) without issues, it did a great job of finding all my drivers.

In the links above for each of the items there is a link to a video on the Microsoft site that demos how this feature is used.

Post a comment here and let me know what you think about Windows 7 or if you have any questions about if it is time for you to switch.

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