Saturday, February 16, 2013

Change Aspect Ratio of Slides in PowerPoint 2013

So - did you happen to get the latest version of Microsoft Office yet? Office 2013 is a very nice suite of tools and each new version seems to allow for some pretty neat things. There are some times, though, when the pretty neat things are not so easy to find.

PowerPoint 2013 Loading graphic

Well - here is what I think is a pretty neat thing in PowerPoint 2013 that many of you might find useful. It is real easy to change the aspect ratio of your slides! You are able to choose a standard 4:3 aspect ratio, a widescreen 16:9 format, or custom make your own size based on the need you have.

The short video below will show you how to find the place to change it.

Hope this was helpful. Have an awesome day!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Ninite the Magic Updater

Every so often there is a tool that really stands out as something that everyone should have or use.

Ninite is one of those tools.

Ninite is an updating tool that allows you to select the programs you want to install/update. Once all the tools have been selected, you will get a small executable file that contains the information for the programs you want. Just double-click the file and let Ninite do the work.

Ninite will automatically find the latest version of the software that is compatible with your system and do one of three things.

  1. Install it - when it is not there
  2. Update it - when it is an older version
  3. Skip it - when it is already up to date
The nice thing is that you do not have to go to all the websites individually and download the updates and click through all the screens for each program. Ninite does this for you! It will also automatically decline all of the extra add-on garbage that can often be found on free programs like flash and java.

I think this is really worth trying out. Here is a short video to show you how easy it is.

Have an awesome day!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Windows 8 Start Button

Hey there! Did you happen to get a new computer over the holidays? Planning to get a new one with your tax refund? :)  If you got a computer with the Windows 8 operating system chances are pretty good that your heart hurts for the loss of the start button that you have come to know and love. If you are not yet sure of what I am talking about, you will as soon as you fire up that new PC.

Ahh, Start Button, my old friend, I miss you.

One of the first places you maybe tried to go was to the lower left corner of your screen -(once you actually figured out how to get to the desktop)- and was like - AHHHHH! How do I find my programs?

Whew, now I can feel a little better about this new
computer purchase.
Well, it is Classic Shell to the rescue! After installing Classic Shell you will have the ability to navigate your computer the way you have grown accustomed.

Now your Windows 8 machine will have a cute little shell icon in the lower left corner where the old start button used to be located.

When you click on it, you will be presented with a very familiar look.

The picture to the left shows the shell icon and the pop out menu when it is clicked on.

Notice also that along with programs, there is a spot to click on for apps.

This is really nice because it will allow you to choose your apps without navigating back to the new Metro interface.

Nice pop out to select apps without going to the
Metro interface.
The other nice thing to consider here is that Classic Shell can allow you to transition to the new interface. It could be that you come to really enjoy the new interface and want to use it exclusively. It sure is nice to have the ability to go back to something familiar while you are learning the new stuff. Especially when time is short and you really need to find your stuff faster.

Oh - here is the best news!

Classic Shell is absolutely free! FREE!

Don't ya just love that word?

You can download it from sourceforge or you can pick it up along with a few other goodies at Ninite.

If you are not a Ninite user yet - stay tuned for our next blog entry. I think Ninite deserves one.

I hope you found this information to be helpful. Enjoy your new computer and have an awesome day!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Design as a Factor in Providing Information

It has been almost four years now since I wrote a post about the usefulness of information that we provide our students in school. However, I keep finding myself in conversations with people where the idea of useful information comes up.

Schools are a place that have been designed to provide information for our children. Have you ever felt that there was a little something missing?

Some things are designed to provide information.
Ever feel like there is something a little out of place?

Sometimes we are provided with a great deal of information - some of which - could be critical to know and understand in order to successfully complete a complex task. However, if the information is not presented properly, it is useless.

Only because I am proficient with computers might I think this information
has something to do with pasting content using a keyboard shortcut.
Of course, with the right resources, I could determine what the text in the picture above says but that would require some additional time and effort which would be weighed against the level of importance that knowing this information would have. For me, right now, it is useless information and I am gonna check out and just leave it.



you format

  • makes
  • difference
 in how well readers

are able to

         interpret what you want to say.

Take these five fruits for example... Each of

  • them
  • has
  • a
  • different
  • color.
Despite the color - they are all very tasty. The five fruits are apple, banana, kiwi, orange, and blueberry.

Imagine reading an entire book that was written like that. Ewww, but depending on how interested you were in the content, you might try to duke it out for a while before chucking it and looking for some new reading material.

In my other post - I am trying to indicate that if we provide information that is useful and/or interesting - we might be able to generate a higher level of success in school. I am well aware that the level of usefulness is relative to the one processing it. What is useful for one person may be completely worthless to another. My question was why do we force certain subjects on students when they are neither useful nor interesting to them? Please do not misinterpret this as advocacy against a well rounded education.

In this post, I simply wanted to ask you to join me in thinking about this again and to factor in some ideas surrounding the design of information. An important part of the process of designing information is to analyze your audience. You have to know your audience in order to best design a learning experience for them that will meet their needs by being relevant and useful.

Consider the examples above. The information presented on the sign seems to be addressing the wrong audience. Chances are that if you live in the United States, you might not be part of the right audience for the book either. The formatting of text shows an example (albeit extreme) of bad presentation design. Certainly, a better understanding of the audience might have led the designer to format this in a way that facilitated reading and comprehension of the information.

How do you know if the information will be useful?

As you design instructional experiences for your audience of learners how much time do you spend being intentional about matching the experience to the learner? Do you thoughtfully consider the characteristics, motivation, environment, and prior knowledge of the learner? How much effort do you put into ensuring the presentation of the material is audience appropriate?

How do you make your content useful and interesting? Does design play a role? Please share your experiences - I would love to hear them.