Archive for Microsoft

Dear Microsoft:

I have known about Photo Story for awhile but never really thought much of it. That is until I actually used it or better yet used it with kids. I had jumped into new media with both Movie Maker feet and thought Photo Story a rather obsolete cute program whose time had passed. Who would want to use photos when they could have full video? What an arrogant fool I’ve been.

Last year I attended a workshop where the presenter had participants create something using Photo Story. I had some photos I had taken of the Cowpens National Battlefield with me so I created my own narrative of the battle. When I had finished I could not believe the powerful story I had created. Way better than a Power Point I had created for a job interview.

Later, working with our school robotics team, there was a debate over how best to present the project the kids were working on for the competition. It was suggested some form of video be created to take pressure off of the kids when they had to present their research findings to a committee of judges. We actually saw other team’s videos for the same purpose after an Internet search. However, time was running out so I suggested using Photo Story because it would be quicker than shooting and editing video. Our results are embedded in this blog post. The team with well researched content and photos they had taken on a field trip to the Waddell Mariculture Center and other photos gather from other sources put together a Photo Story video that took second place in the regional competition, enough to help us make the state finals. At Clemson University the team won first place in Research Presentation.

Without Photo Story and its ease of use it is doubtful we could have achieved the results at the state competition. So Microsoft, please bring back Photo Story if not in a Vista form, in Windows 7. I know it seemed like a logical thing to merge it with Movie Maker but Movier Maker can be a bit dauting for teachers and students trying to do some form of video for the first time. The ability to add photos, script, add music, and the Ken Burns effects with a few clicks of the button could benefit many classrooms. If you can should add any feature make insert video clips provided it does not complicate things. The judges privately told us after the state competition that we should consider putting our video on ETV and other media outlets. See for yourself if Photo Story is a worthy program.

Last year our school received about 10 Smart Boards when we built a new addition. The teachers who were fortunate enough to have the interactive whiteboard in their classroom just love it and many of those who don’t are envious. Now Smart Technologies are using Microsoft’s new Touch technology to create the Smart Table for the education market.

The Smart Table is an interactive center for groups of students to do various learning activities. According to Smart Technologies website the Smart Table can be used to play educational games, cooperate on projects, create pictures or diagrams and other educational activities for groups. The site is also recruiting developers to create more applications for the device.

Engadget reports the Smart Table will go for $8,000 which might be a bit out of reach for school’s facing inevitable budget cuts that come with tough economic times. Hopefully, Smart Technologies will have one at SC EdTech next week and will try to get some video.

Tech Crunch reports Microsoft is creating an ad suported, online version of Microsoft Works that will be free to use. Micorsoft Works 9 is Microsoft’s response to Google Docs and Google Spread Sheets, OpenOffice.org, Think Free Office and a growing list of applications that are free and increasingly web-based. The online version of Works is not released yet but reported to be coming soon (sounds like Microsoft).

If Microsoft is moving Works online, this shows that web-based applications are becoming useful and cost effective tools. I like the idea of web-based applications such as Google Docs. Web-based allows you to work on any Internet connected computer and you can save your work online. Google Docs allows users to invite others to work collaberatively much like Wikis do. The downside is your Internet connection must be dependable for you to do any work. Also, they can be clunky at times. I currently use a version of Open Office at home and have used Google Docs in the past. Both applications can do just about what I needed Microsoft Office to do.

Will applications such as Google Docs and Open Office replace Microsoft Office in the near future? No, nor should they try. Most people need just a basic application to start with. If you need to do more indepth work then you can move over to Microsoft Office.

Now you have an alternative for a student who says they either don’t have a computer at home or don’t have a word processor at home. Just point them in the right direction.

Tech Crunch Article