February 28, 2013

Some Other Resources

A. Educational Blogs at Cengage Learning

From time to time I find some new ed tech resources where I had not look before. I found one such resource this week. I opened an email from Cengage Learning. In earlier years they would be identified as a textbook publisher. Over the years I have selected from at least two of their brands, Brooks/Cole and Wadsworth, for my physics and astronomy classes. Now their mission is much larger than that. In fact on their web site they say: 'There is no "one size fits all" solution in learning. Finding the right combination of content, pedagogy and technology will make it easier for teachers to teach and students to learn.' Now that is verbiage I cam get excited about! (And this is not to hold up one publisher over another, but to laud what I find.)

They have a number of educational blogs available for reading written by guest columnists and in-house presenters. Check them out at http://www.cengage.com/us/. At the bottom of that page click on the link to "Blog."

1. "Adding Some TEC-VARIETY to Online Teaching and Learning."

One example, is this blog by Curtis Bonk, guest contributor. It can be read at:

Here is an excerpt from the blog:

"Listed below are the motivational principles addressed by TEC-VARIETY.

  1. Tone/Climate: Psych Safety, Comfort, Belonging
  2. Encouragement: Feedback, Responsive, Supports
  3. Curiosity: Fun, Fantasy, Control
  4. Variety: Novelty, Intrigue, Unknowns
  5. Autonomy: Choice, Flexibility, Opportunities
  6. Relevance: Meaningful, Authentic, Interesting
  7. Interactive: Collaborative, Team-Based, Community
  8. Engagement: Effort, Involvement, Excitement
  9. Tension: Challenge, Dissonance, Controversy
  10. Yields: Goal Driven, Products, Success, Ownership

"I should point out that the TEC-VARIETY framework represents more than two decades of my research, teaching, and general exploration into Web-based learning environments."

This is stuff worth considering in our teaching.

2. "Active Learning: A Foundation for the Classroom"

This blog is available at:

Each of these provide fodder for one to chew, but do check out the others at the Cengage Learning Blog page.

B. UBTech 2013: "Vanishing Boundaries, Emerging Opportunities"

Consider attending this conference (June 10-12 in Orlando, Florida, USA) put on by the people at University Business magazine and resources. Learn more about the conference at:

A few years ago, I attended one of the forerunners to this series of conferences, and I would suggest you check it out.

February 16, 2013

Convert MS Works Files into MS Office Files

I have had several occasions to need to convert files created in MS Works to MS Office files.

Here I'll share what I learned about how to convert all three of these types of files into current MS Office files.

The table below shows the file extensions that need to be converted, the file formats they were converted to, and the method used for conversion.

MS Works File Extensions MS Office File Extensions Program for Conversion
  .wps   .doc or .docx   Word w/ Works converters
  .wks   .xls   Gnumeric
  .wdb   .xls   Java-based converter

NOTE: Make certain that you can see the extensions to the filenames in Windows. When you click on the file icon, its filename will show up. If you do not see a period and three or four letters after the period at the end of the file name, then you filename extensions are hidden.

To view filename extensions, open up a folder of files on your computer, and in the menu bar of that window click on Organize and select "Folder and search options." In the next window that opens select the View tab and scroll down until you see the option "Hide extensions for known file types." Click on the check box by that option to make sure it is cleared and then exit from the window. The file names will now show with full extensions.

A. Converting MS Works Documents to MS Office

Begin by installing the converter for MS Works versions 6-9 word processing documents into MS Word. The converter can be found at:


If the file you need to open does not show up correctly in Word, then it probably is a MS Works 4 file. To open such a files download and install the converter for version 4 of MS Works at:


If you need more information, read the following Microsoft Knowledge Base page.


B. Converting MS Works Spreadsheets to MS Office

In the case of MS Works spreadsheets, there are no converters made for MS Office. However, at least one of the lesser known office packages will read and convert there files into MS Office-compatible files. I have found that the open source program, Gnumeric, works well. Gnumeric is part of the Gnome Office suite of programs

Download and install Gnumeric from:


Scroll down the above web page until you see a link to "Microsoft Windows" under "Getting Gnumeric from Third Parties."

NOTE: Some of the font formatting may be lost during the conversion, but all of the data and generally the equations will be preserved.

C. Converting MS Works Databases to MS Office

Finding a good way to convert MS Works databases to MS Office databases was not as easy. However, the web applet that is available at the following site, works well for converting simple databases (such as those with only one table) into Excel spreadsheet files.


NOT: To run this web application, you will need to have Java Webstart installed and enabled in your web browser.

One Last Hint

After converting your file(s), do save them in the latest Word or Excel file format to preserve all of your formatting and work from this time forward.

February 9, 2013

Effective Education Is Interactive and Collaborative Regardless of the Tools Used

Recently I had a conversation with another teacher and technology resource person for an elementary and middle school. I totally resonated with his emotionally stated view that when we use technology in education we need to always keep in mind that our goal is for effective education and NOT for just seeing what new technology we can use. (OK, he is our son, so maybe some of my philosophy has rubbed off on him.) 

Yesterday I discovered a small ebook, "62 Tips on Effective eLearning Instructional Design" published by The eLearning Guild this year. There are 12 tipsters who have been quoted in this useful guide. While the booklet is 20 pages in length, there are only about a dozen pages of tips. But the tips are good, succinct reminders of what effective education is all about when applied to eLearning or teaching in general.

The ebook may be downloaded from here. Or you may try the short URL below for as long as it remains active.


Here is the cover page.

62 Tips on eLearning Design 

I strongly recommend that all teachers get a copy and browse through its hints, remembering what our craft is all about. This is a good book for all teachers whether or not they teach web-based learning or not--we all use technology in many forms with our classes even when it is a face-to-face class.

February 7, 2013

Creating a PowerPoint Presentation Is NOT Like Authoring a Book!

It has been two years since I last got on my soapbox about effective PowerPoint presentations, so maybe it is time again to do so. The other day I was in a large seminar setting and the instructor was using a small font in order to load each slide with lots of information. And a good share of his presentation was from reading the material on the slide. Both of these defeat the concept behind using PowerPoint (or any other presentation software or web site).

A book is described.

  • The reader needs to be engaged. Usually this is in a passive way of pondering the ideas being read.
  • The reader is up-close and personal to the reading device, whether a book or an e-reader, so the fonts can be reasonably small.
  • The author tries to work out complete ideas.

A presentation is described.

  • The listener needs to be actively engaged--pondering concepts and information, asking questions, answering questions, sharing with other.
  • The listener is usually in a group and may be at some distance from the projection screen. Fonts need to be large and enhanced with pictures, graphics and sound/video clips.
  • The presenter uses outline form to pique interest and enhance interaction.

A tutorial I have written can be found at:


While it was written with PowerPoint 2007 in mind, it works for the 2010 version, too. The suggestions it gives to presentation creators are always good to keep in mind.

Remember These Presentation Principles

A. For a more effective presentation, introduce only one or two ideas at a time.

B. Use large readable fonts with only a few ideas (usually bulleted points) presented on each slide.

C. Make each slide interesting but not cluttered. Often the "bells and whistles" that PowerPoint can provide detract from and hinder the communication of ideas that is the real focus of any presentation.

D. Giving a presentation should involve more than simply reading each slide.

E. Keep the presentation interactive by asking for responses from the audience to pertinent questions.

F. Consider giving the audience something to take notes on and something to take away from the presentation. This may be a print out of the slides themselves. Go to the Print menu to see what options you have for printing the slides.

G. In most teaching situations, do not put all of the information to be given on the topic in the PowerPoint presentation. Consider the slide show as an outline, discussion starter and motivational medium.

A sample presentation can be downloaded as a pdf. I used it as a meditation with church leaders a couple years back. Below is the capture of the title screen.

Leadership presentation title screen

Remember that in education we are interested in helping our students learn and retain the information or skill we are presenting to them. So our emphasis should be on interaction and collaboration.

February 3, 2013

Explore My Nature Photography

I have receive a lot of enjoyment  from observing and photographing nature. It begins with the birds feeding at our feeders just off of our backyard desk in Harrisonburg, VA, USA. But it does not stop there.

I invite you to peruse my newly constructed blogs of birds and other animals, flowers, and landscapes and more. The index page for all three blogs can be found at:


Here is one photo to whet your appetite! It is of a male red-bellied woodpecker.

red-bellied woodpecker

Please let me know what you think of my nature photography blogs, and help me identify some of the wild flowers. I'll try to post regularly.

January 22, 2013

The "Fun" of Upgrading Windows

Four and a half years ago we bought a desktop computer for our home use that ran Windows Vista Home Premium. The hardware was a very good system at the time, and it still is. It has a 2.4 GHz quad core processor (32-bit) and 4 GB of memory (RAM). So we decided to upgrade to Windows 7 Home Premium this past summer since Microsoft is cutting off support for Vista and since our two laptops are already running Windows 7.

NOTE While Windows 8 is the most current version of Windows, my advice given below should be applicable to such an upgrade, too.

To begin I made a copy of all of our user files (or what I thought was all of them) to a new 1-TB USB portable drive. Talk about cheap memory; it cost all of $90! But I was glad several times since then that the upgrade program for Windows 7 made a full copy of all of my Windows folders that contained crucial settings and other data used by the operating system and applications and called it "Windows.old". It contained some data I had forgotten to back up, such as Outlook files. Maybe you or a friend can learn from my experience!

A few of things to remember about upgrading to Windows 7.

1. Download and print the appropriate tutorial from Microsoft. There are two routes to upgrading. The simplest is to do a basic upgrade (when your present Windows version and PC hardware and your chosen Windows 7 system are compatible). However, I'd suggest the custom upgrade route. This clean out all program files and allows (makes) you install all of your software anew. That way, your system may work faster because it has only the software installed that you want. All of the unused old software is gone.

Begin by exploring your current system with the Windows 7 Upgrade Advisor.  


For the upgrade guide from a Windows XP system to a Windows 7 system, check out the link below.


For the upgrade guide from a Windows Vista system to a Windows 7 system, check out the link below.


My advice is to print out the guide as references to use during the upgrade process.

2. Save all of the install/setup files for the programs you have downloaded and installed on your system. Place them in a special folder and copy it to a safe place during your upgrading process. All programs that you have

3. Check into new drivers for any hardware you have that you will continue to use on the new system. The upgrade process will check for new drivers through Windows Update, but for older hardware, users may have to locate them through the manufacturers' web sites and install them later. For example, I had to do this for my HP Scanjet G3110 Photo Scanner. I use it to scan in my old color slides.

4. Locate and download any new versions of software you have installed on your old system so that you have the latest ones for the new operating system. For example, I needed new conduits to connect my old Palm PDA to MS Office 2010, which I also moved to during the upgrade process. And in a few cases I needed new software that worked with Windows 7 while my old software worked with Windows Vista onlyt

5. If you use MS Outlook for email and/or as a calendar, you will want to create a .pst file(s) and copy it to your back-up location. Microsoft has a tutorial showing how to do this for both Outlook 2007 and Outlook 2010, "How to back up files and recover data." Find it at:


You should look down the page about half way to see the instructions for backing up email in Outlook.

6. After installing Windows 7, check the status of the file permissions set on your user account. To do this, find the "Computer" (through the Start button in Windows 7) and right-click on the main drive, probably "C." From the menu that shows up, select Properties and then click on the Security tab. Make certain that the System and Administrators have all permissions set to Allow and none with Deny.

7. Save the "Windows.old" for a few weeks. I would even suggest saving it for a month or more to make sure you do not need any info in files in that folder.

It really has been a good move even with all of the time it has required, so don't shy away from doing a Windows upgrade yourself.

--©2013, Richard L. Bowman

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