Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Be courteous, save as legacy

In a recent email to my staff, answering several complaints about different versions of documents, I recommended that they get in the habit of saving their documents in the legacy format, that is the older versions. This way, no matter what computer they tried to access that file on, they would be sure to have a version that would open their files, such as being able to open MS Word docs versus .docx with the extra .xml additions on the file.

How many of us go out and get the latest versions of a program, get all excited about using it and trying it out, only to create something that someone else cannot view because they do not have the current version of that program? I know I have been guilty of this in the past with various versions of Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator. But, what good does it do us to have the latest (and greatest) versions, if we cannot share the files we created in them with anyone?

Thankfully, Microsoft has supplied us with the XML file format converter so that we are able to open .docx, .pptx and .xlsx file formats of Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. But what about some of the other programs that we have gotten used to using, such as iWork Pages and Keynote? How can I change the file format version that is saved on there? If you are fortunate enough to have a copy of iWork '09 on your Mac, you can save copies of what you created as '08 versions, but not '06 or '04. You could also save it as a .pdf if you only want a readable copy to share with others. But, if you want them to be able to edit their copy that you sent them, it looks like you can only go one version back.
From the Save As menu, go down to the bottom of the window, and check the box that says to "Save Copy as:", from here you can save a copy as a MS Word .doc or as one version earlier, as in the example:

In Adobe design programs, such as InDesign, and Illustrator, it gets a bit trickier to find as you have to do a "Save as" first, name the file, and then when the next window pops up (Options window), you can select your version choice from the legacy format options. I've actually had to do this for a few print shops, as I was excited about having the latest version of Illustrator, designed a logo for school I wanted, and discovered the hard way that not everyone has the latest version. At which point, I felt, like Ooops, sorry!

I have often seen in a network situation like school where computers bought at different times will have different versions of programs or applications installed on them, or will be licensed for different versions of the programs. Then it becomes rather harried when a student starts a project on one computer, and goes to finish it on another computer, only to discover he or she cannot open that file on that computer. Or while working as a member of a team, goes to pass off the file to another team member, who cannot open the file on their computer. However, if we get in the habit of saving files as older versions so that we can pass those on to others, then we can avoid awkward moments, and time spent having to go back and resave and resend those files. This also comes in very handy in a school network situation where you are sharing the files with many people or many computers.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Twitter for Teachers

My resident tech/web guru suggested Twitter to me as a way of boosting and advertising my website. So, I signed up for an account and thought I would check it out and see what it could do for me. I've had a Twitter account for a little over 2 years and it wasn't until this summer that I have really started using Twitter and making it work for me. Now, I'm not at all sure what its done to drive traffic to my website. And frankly, the site itself is in such a desperate need for a make over and update that I would be embarrassed by the shear numbers that were to visit my site from Twitter. But, what Twitter has done for me is something I never considered at the time I signed up for it - Professional Development!

For those new to Twitter, Twitter is more than checking in when you visit your favorite taco stand. Some of the brightest, funniest, most intelligent and most interesting people I know use Twitter to connect, network, collaborate, and as a means of professional development. Twitter is microblogging, that is, sending out "tweets" in 140 characters at a time. Now, some of you may think this isn't a lot to say what you need to say; but, if you think about it, 140 characters is enough to say what you need to say, and cut out all the extra BS. (I know, I'm in trouble, right?!) Most people have to keep their posted thoughts in under 160 characters anyway for text messages, Twitter is just a way of making sure you get to the point, and quickly.

Since I began regularly using Twitter this past summer, I have been able to network with other teachers from around the world, learn about webinars that were available to me (for free!), join learning networks, and learn from other teacher's blogs without having to Google for the information that I was looking for. I've learned about free tech conferences that were available in my area that I would not have otherwise heard about, and have been able to help colleagues with information I have found in my feed. With Twitter, I feel like I am always in school learning, but I get to control when and where I go to class. There are hashtags that allow you to follow search for and follow particular trends (like #STEMed that allows me to read up on posted tweets about STEM education without having to follow most of the users) or chats. And at 140 characters, its so much easier than doing a book study!

Have an extra few minutes while you are standing in line at Walmart? Take Twitter with you. I guarantee you will get more out of it than reading the headlines on the tabloids. Most of the handheld electronic devices, and smart phones have Twitter apps, such as Twitbird, Tweet Deck, and Peep, to name a few. Most of them are free downloads. And, if you follow a celeb or two, you may even learn some things that they don't post in the tabloids.

Give Twitter a try, but don't be a lurker hiding in the background. Its more fun when you participate in the conversations and feeds. Its easy to get started, just type in a keyword of something you would like to read about, and see some of the posts. If you find a post you like, you can read more about the person in their profile and blog. Use the "Follow" button to follow them. Twitter will suggest other people with similar profiles you may want to follow. But, you can check them out by looking at the tweets (posts) before following them. If nothing else, your students will think you are cool for being on Twitter, and may pay more attention to you.