Sunday, November 26, 2006

More Than Just Tutorials for Learning Software Available in Atomic Learning

I’ve taught my students--preservice, graduate, and inservice teachers--to search for free software tutorials on the web when they need to learn how to use a software application and don’t have local training--or the time to take advantage of it--available. However, I also make sure to always show them the Atomic Learning site ( Atomic Learning provides both software tutorials and resources for integrating technology in the curriculum at a reasonable price. The site does permit free access to some of its elements for non-subscribers, also.

I am comfortable learning to use software on my own. However, time is an important factor. Usually I need/want to become competent using a software application more quickly than I would build that skill on my own. So, I’ve used the site personally to learn how to use both Mac and Windows applications quickly. I’ve also used it to help me design workshops and classes that I’ve taught. I maintain an individual subscription to the site because it serves my needs and is so very easy to use.

If you currently use Atomic Learning or are considering using it, be sure to check out all it offers.


Atomic Learning provides (1)
tutorials for popular software and (2) resources for integrating technology in the curriculum. Best of all, Atomic Learning is web-based software and, thus, is available 24/7 anywhere that you have access to the web. Although designed for education--for teachers and for students--Atomic Learning includes tutorials for software applications that would also interest those outside the education arena. Tutorials--more than 20,000--for more than 100 applications are currently available. Approximately 2,000 of these tutorials are in Spanish.

The fact that the tutorials are short--most are approximately 1 to 3 minutes--means that the tutorials work well with dial-up access as well as with broadband. Plus, you can spend just a few minutes learning a bit more about an application or you can spend an hour or more to expand your knowledge and skills. Atomic Learning tutorials can be viewed in QuickTime or Flash.

Tutorials are available for learning to use Atomic Learning. Truthfully, their tutorials are so easy to use that you’re unlikely to need help. However, it’s a great way to roll out Atomic Learning to a district or a college/university and to be sure that the users learn about the resources available on the site in addition to the tutorials.


Using the software tutorials is very easy. At the Home page, click on the Our Tutorials tab > click on Mac or PC or All to determine which platform you want > click on the application you want. That will display all the tutorials for that particular software application. You can choose to view just one or two videos to learn a particular skill or answer a question you have or you can work your way through all the videos for the application to learn it from the beginning to the end. It’s that easy.


If you’re planning to use Atomic Learning as part of a professional development program, you might be interested in some of the tools provided for you:
• tutorials for learning to use the Atomic Learning site,
• tools for tracking usage,
• training options,
• techniques for linking to the tutorials in email or web page communications,
• letters and a PowerPoint presentation for communicating with various audiences, and
• an Atomic Learning Framework for technology professional development.


In addition to tutorials for learning software, Atomic Learning also provides curriculum materials such as Lesson Accelerators, Teacher2Teacher activities, Workshops, a video storytelling guide, and assessment tools. And, of course, they provide instructions for using these resources.

Lesson Accelerators are lesson plans that integrate technology into the curriculum. Atomic Learning provides a guide, needed resources, and tutorial movies to guide the students through the projects. Topics include art, mathematics, social studies, literature, health, science… plus many others.

Teacher2Teacher activities are designed by teachers to be used by teachers. They, too, integrate technology into the curriculum. More than 100 Teacher2Teacher activities are available.

Mail merge, newsletter, blogging, podcasting, charting, and other
Workshops provide professional development that can be experienced individually or in actual workshops with other educators.

StoryBoard Pro is a free tool available from Atomic Learning. It helps movie makers plan their projects. There is also a Video Storytelling guide with movies that provides a complete course in video storytelling.


From the Home page, click on the Resources tab. That will open the list of Lesson Accelerators. You can immediately select one of the Lesson Accelerators or you can choose to view Atomic Learning’s tutorial on Lesson Accelerators. From this page you can choose to go to Teacher2Teacher, Workshops, StoryBoard Pro, Video Storytelling Guide, Assessment Framework, or Self Assessment.


Individual subscriptions for a year are available. Group subscriptions--school, district, college/university--are based on a per-user cost. Subscribing to Atomic Learning gives you access to video tutorials for software, new tutorials every 45 days, closed captioning on many of the tutorials, lesson plans and projects for the classroom, anywhere/anytime access, usage tracking, newsletters and weekly tech tips, and help using Atomic Learning for training.


Atomic Learning is an outstanding product. If you’re not already a subscriber, check out some of their free materials. Be sure to investigate both the
software tutorials and the resources for integrating technology into the curriculum. I’m sure you’ll find this site to be very helpful.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Do You Use All the Features in Your Word Processing Program?

Word (as well as most other word processing programs) has many features. Most of us use only a small subset of what’s available. Three of my favorite techniques in Word are using leader tabs, determining readability statistics, and placing a box around text.


In most versions of Word, the Tabs dialog box is accessed through the Format menu.

• Click on the Format pulldown menu > Tabs.
• Type the ruler setting for your left tab (e.g., .5) > click Set.
• Then type the ruler setting for your right tab (e.g., 6.5), click to indicate that it is a Right tab, click on the Dots leader, and click Set.
• Now you’re ready to type your information.
• Let’s say that we’re typing the table of contents for a grant application.
• Press Tab, type Introduction, press the space bar once, press Tab, press the space bar once, type 1. Return.
• We’re on the second line now.
• Press Tab, type Institutional Demographics, press the space bar once, press Tab, press the space bar once, type 3. Return.
• Let’s pretend that’s the end of the Table of Contents.
• Click Format > Tabs > click Clear All to clear out the Tab settings you entered.
• The result should look like this.

Introduction ................................................ 1
Investigator ................................................. 3

I place a space before and after the Tab because I think that’s a cleaner look than just using the Tab. Try it both ways to see which look you prefer.

Using leader tabs is a useful technique for a table of contents, the program at an evening event, or an invitation. For what other uses do you think it would be useful?


You can customize the Spelling and Grammar check in Word. Each version seems to have its own method for accessing Customize Spelling and Grammar…

• In Word 2002 (XP)—for Windows--click on the Spelling and Grammar icon (ABC with a checkmark) > Customize.
• In Word 2003—for Windows--click on the Tools pulldown menu > Options > Spelling & Grammar.
• In Word 2004—for Macs--click on the Word pulldown menu > Preferences > Spelling and Grammar.

Look through the various options you can change. Experiment with some changes, if you would like. One change that I recommend you make is to select the Readability Statistics. With that option selected, you will see a set of measures each time you perform a Spelling and Grammar check. These measures will give you an insight into your writing.

I checked the Readability Statistics on an article I just finished.

• The statistics included the number of words, characters, paragraphs, and sentences.
• The average sentences per paragraph, words per sentence, and characters per word were also listed.
• What interested me most were…
  • the readability statistics on passive sentences (10%... a style which I am working to improve),
  • the Flesch Reading Ease (41.1… the average is between 6 and 70… the maximum is 100), and
  • the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (11.6).
These statistics help me to analyze my writing style so that I can choose appropriate changes to help improve my writing.


Boxing in text is another technique that I find very useful in Word. The procedure is much the same in most versions of Word.

• First, highlight the text around which you want a box placed.
• Then click on the Format pulldown menu > borders and shading.
• Choose the box which places a border around all sides and click OK.

You’re done. It’s easy and yet it helps to spotlight text within an article or a lesson. It also works well in a header. It looks like this…

Friday, November 10, 2006

Is MOODLE a Useful Tool for Teachers?

MOODLE software has been available for some time. I decided I'd like to know more about what we can do with MOODLE and how others are using the software. So, I decided to do some research on the web…

Martin Dougiasmas originally developed MOODLE--Multi (or Modular) Object Oriented Dynamic Learning Environments--in 1999. It is currently used in more than 160 countries in over 75 languages.

MOODLE is a type of software called course management system. Teachers can use this software to create online courses or to supplement traditional classroom activities and provide opportunities for student interaction. (Blackboard, WebCT, and Learnwise are some of the commercial products that are considered to be course management system software.)

A MOODLE web site can facilitate
ο the posting of materials and instructions by teachers and
ο the accessing of teachers' postings and the uploading of completed assignments by students.

It is not difficult to find MOODLE web sites designed and used by teachers and their students. What is challenging is finding ones where we can see the contents. Teachers are using MOODLE software for their classes. However, their sites are most often gated communities for their students only.

As I've been researching on the web, I read about one teacher who decided to try vocabulary quizzes using MOODLE and about another who set up a forum discussion for his students and a guest lecturer who would soon visit the school. And I did find a site where you can view some content:

MOODLE has many capabilities. Go to to see examples of the many features and content types available with MOODLE…
ο assignments… grade homework which has been submitted electronically,
ο chat… discuss (real-time) topics with participants,
ο choices… take a poll,
ο forums… discuss (asynchronous) topics,
ο glossaries… maintain a list of definitions,
ο lessons… share information on “pages,”
ο resources… upload files to share (e.g., images, mp3 files, Office files, PDFs, web pages, web links),
ο quizzes… create quizzes which are automatically graded,
ο survey… gather data about the students, and
ο wiki… create a wiki web page.

I use course management system software for the classes I teach. I am able to provide lecture notes, PowerPoint presentations, Word or Excel documents, links to web sites, and graphics images to supplement classroom activities. My students and I can email, journal, and chat with each other. Both synchronous and asynchronous discussions are possible. If I provide an online quiz or test, the software will grade the objective answers. And, if the quiz or test consists only of objective questions, the software will mark incorrect answers and record the score in the gradebook. After my students post an assignment in an electronic dropbox, I grade the assignment, write any comments I want to share with the student, mark the grade, and then electronically return all that to the student. When the student receives his assignment back, he can view his portion of the gradebook and see his grade which was electronically recorded by the software.

Using the course management system software speeds up some procedures. It facilitates interactive communication between the instructor and the students and even amongst the students! The students are very comfortable with the process. You can use some of the capabilities of the course management system software the first year you use it… and then add other features in subsequent years. I have found the use of course management system software to be very helpful... and I'm looking forward to using additional features.

Atomic Learning ( has introductory and intermediate tutorials that you can use to learn how to use MOODLE. The tutorials are available for both Macs and Windows-based computers and you can view the Mac tutorials close-captioned, if you wish.

I'm convinced that using MOODLE can definitely enhance what we're already doing in our classrooms!

Monday, November 6, 2006

Two Quality Resources for Teaching

The Ohio Resource Center and eThemes are two sources for high-quality web sites to use when teaching. I think you'll find some helpful and interesting sites in this list. Don't just skim past the titles of these web sites... Check out the nuggets buried in each one. You'll be pleasantly surprised. :)

The OHIO RESOURCE CENTER ( posts quality lesson plans for mathematics, science, and reading. Each plan include the title, URL, resource type, practice level, standards alignment (grade levels), topics, keywords, professional commentary (class activities), Ohio standards, and national standards.

Mathematics: And Around We Go!
Grades 5 - 6
Instructional Resources - Best Practices

Science: What Parts Are There to a Plant?
Grades Pre-Kindergarten - 2
Instructional Resources - Best Practices

Reading: Wired for Books
Grades 9 - 12
Content Resources

eThemes ( is a database of resources organized around themes. The information provided is designed for teachers to use in their classrooms. Each site includes links to other related web sites. More than 1,000 eThemes are available at this time.

ANIMALS __________________________________________________________________

Animals: Cats
Handouts, videos, and web sites provide information about cats as pets.

Animals: Puffins
Photographs, maps, and even a live web came (in summer) provide information about puffins and their habitat. During non-summer months, still photos from the web cam are available to view.

Animals: Missouri Butterflies
This site includes a video which shows a caterpillar changing into a butterfly.

COUNTRIES ________________________________________________________________

Africa: Social Issues
Included in this site is information about the Darfur conflict.

Country: Canada

Videos and photographs help provide information about Canada.

FAMOUS PEOPLE ___________________________________________________________

Famous People: Helen Keller
Helen Keller—deaf and blind herself—fought to help others with vision and hearing problems. Letters, photographs, and other items help provide information on how she communicated. Classroom activities are suggested.

Famous People: King Arthur
Learn about King Arthur and the legends which surround him.

LANGUAGE ARTS ___________________________________________________________

Grammar: Subjects and Predicates
Online quizzes, games, and a PowerPoint presentation help teach this topic.

Writing: Prompts

Handouts, PowerPoint presentations, and a variety of writing prompts are provided to help students develop stories.

LITERATURE _______________________________________________________________

Literature: "The Best School Year Ever" by Barbara Robinson
The topics of kindness, cooperation, and bullying are included in addition to the book "The Best School Year Ever" by Barbara Robinson. Reading and vocabulary activities are also available.

SAFETY ___________________________________________________________________

Safety: Winter
Safety tips for winter activities such as skiing, snowboarding, and bicycling are included. Lesson plans are also available.

Safety: Outdoor Fun

Safety tips for bicycling, skateboarding, scooters, inline skating, boats, pools, lakes, and water parks are provided.

Safety Signs
Traffic and safety signs are taught via interactive games, lesson plans, activities, coloring pages, and photographs.

Safety: Electrical

Students are taught to be safe around electricity both inside and outside the house.

SEASONS __________________________________________________________________

Seasons: Winter
Activities, interactive games, and information about winter are available at this site.

SCIENCE __________________________________________________________________

Solar System: Saturn

Learn about Saturn and its rings. Build a model of Saturn. View photographs and videos.

Solar System: Rotation and Revolution
Learn about rotation, revolution, and the orbit of planets and moons.

THANKSGIVING _____________________________________________________________

Mayflower Voyage

Photographs, a map, and diagrams provide information about the Pilgrims’ trip on the Mayflower to Plymouth.