Monthly Archives: October 2008

Improve your presentation with free fonts

1069468652_28bd6d3784_m Words; They make up the majority of our presentations, worksheets, and most other things we do in the classroom. How ever many things we write for our students most of us only use a handful of fonts. There’s nothing wrong with Times New Roman, Ariel and the other common fonts that are installed by default on many computers (although personally I am not keen on the over used Comic Sans), but if we all use these same few then all our worksheets and presentations look very similar.

One quick and easy way to make our presentations and worksheets stand out is to use new and different fonts, which happily are to be found free and plentiful on several easy to use websites. These fonts have been created by all sorts of people and shared on these websites for people to use, some without any restrictions and many others for non-commercial use.

Find free fonts

If you type ‘free fonts’ into your favourite search engine then you will find loads of sites with free fonts. The sites vary in quality and ease of use. I am going to tell you about four sites that are all easy to navigate and provide easy downloads of their selection of fonts.

dafont

Dafont.com has over 8000 fonts at the time of writing, which are organised into nine main categories such as ‘Fancy’, ‘Gothic’, ‘Script’ and then lots of sub categories. when you have selected a category you can browse the fonts in a list with loads of options for how you view them. You can compare the fonts with your choice of text, choose the size of the preview, whether to include accents and whether to see variants (e.g. bold). There are direct download links so that when you find the font(s) you want downloading them is easy and quick. Dafont.com is probably my favourite font site and is the first I go to when I need a new font.

1001FreeFonts_logo_120

1001 Free Fonts has been online since 1998 making it ancient in internet terms. With its simple layout, listing fonts with download links and the option of custom previews it doesn’t look it though. You can browse the fonts alphabetically or by category. 1001 Free fonts claims to be the most popular free fonts site on the web with over 1 billion downloads in its 10 year life, so it may well be worth a look.

getfreefonts_logo

A simpler site than the previous two, but including 2500 fonts, Get Free Fonts doesn’t have the same polish as dafont or 1001. There are no options to preview with your choice of text or order the list as you want. The fonts are arranged alphabetically by font name, so unless you know the name of the font you want it may be more difficult to find an appropriate one.

urbanfonts_logo

Like Dafont.com and 1001 Free Fonts, Urban fonts organises its 8000 free fonts into categories and allows custom preview text. There are lots of great fonts with easy download links and Urban fonts would be a great option, but it is slightly let down by the inclusion of pop up adverts on the site.

Install your new fonts

Once you have got your fancy new fonts downloaded to your computer it’s time to install them. The method of installing fonts varies slightly depending on which operating system. Below are brief instructions for the three most popular.

Before you start you need to make such that your fonts are not in a zip file. If they are, extract them before you begin.

Windows XP: Copy the font file(s) (.ttf, .otf or .fon) into the Fonts folder, which is usually C:\Windows\Fonts.

(You can also get to the Fonts folders via: Start Menu > Control Panel > Appearance and Themes > Fonts)

Windows Vista: Right click on the font files (.ttf, .otf or .fon) and select Install.

Mac OS X: Put the files into /Library/Fonts (for all users), or into /Users/Your_username/Library/Fonts (for you only).

Once you have installed your fonts (or even if you don’t add any new fonts to your system) you may want a way to compare the fonts you have to choose the best one for any particular task. There are a number of font management programs that will allow you to do this. If you are using Windows you could try The Font Thing which is an old, but effective program, or for either Windows or Mac OS Linotype FontExplorer X is a more modern and feature rich option. Both programs are free.

Find free and legal images with Creative Commons

Image by Darwin Bell The Internet is home to millions of images. Scattered throughout billions of web pages. Give a class of students the task of creating a presentation, document, web site or whatever and they will often reach for their browser and trusty Google image search to locate stuff to illustrate their work.

Now obviously this method will find loads of (usually) relevant images, but the problem is that Google’s image search (and others such as Yahoo and Live search) indiscriminately finds images on any web site in its index. This means that many of the images will be subject to copyright restrictions and using them without permission, even for school work, may be illegal.

logo_cc_trademark A better option for finding images (and other media) that can be used freely and legally is to stick to stuff that has been released under a Creative Commons (CC) license. If a picture, video or piece of music has a Creative Commons license, it means that the creator has given permission for it to be used by others for non-commercial use and sometimes more freely.

There are four main things to look out for that explain the specific requirements for the use of an image. Each has a handy icon that helps you to spot which restrictions apply at a glance.

cc_icon_attribution

Attribution (by): Almost all images require you to credit the person who created it. A name next to the picture is enough.

cc_icon_noderivs

No Derivatives: This means that you can use the image as it is, but not change it in any way (except changing the size).

cc_icon_noncomm Non commercial: The image may be used for any personal, educational or non-commercial use, but not for commercial purposes. This isn’t usually a problem in schools.

cc_icon_sharealike

Share alike: You may alter and use the image in any way you like, but your work must be released (shared) under the same license.

There are several places that you can search for and find these images. Even the big search engines have got in on the act and now allow you to search for Creative Commons licensed work.

Creative Commons search

The website of the organisation which runs the licenses has its own search function that will allow you to search for all types of CC licensed material via Google, Yahoo and other more media specific sites. This is one of the best places to start for comprehensive searches, but may be a bit complex if your students are just looking for images.

SpinXpress – Get Media

For media searches (images, music and video) Get Media is a good option. It gathers several databases of media and allows you to specify the license restrictions that you want to restrict your search to as well as searching for one or all types of media.

Flickr – Creative Commons

If it’s images you’re after, Flickr may be the best place to look. The photo sharing website has at the time of writing over 85 million images licensed with one of the CC licenses! You and your students should be able to find something you can use. Flickr separates its images into the six different licenses and allows you to browse or search within each.

FlickrCC and FlickrStorm

FlickrCC and FlickrStorm are two other ways of searching Flickr for CC images. Both work well and allow you to select the license type you want to restrict your search to. These services can be quicker ways to compare images to find the right one for you.

You can find out more about Creative Commons, the licenses and how they apply to all sorts of content including written work at the Creative Commons UK website or the international website.

Class blog trial

From the start of this year I have started a trial of using blogs with my two Key Stage 4 classes. The idea is to have a hub of information related to the class and the work we do.

I have set up one blog per class and am currently hosting them on my Mathsduck.co.uk website with separate blogs for my Year 10 and Year 11 higher GCSE groups.

The backbone of the blogs are regular posts about what we have covered in the lessons with examples, explanations and links to other resources. Currently I am posting these, but I hope to explore the possibility of getting the students to at least be involved in this process.

I am also posting separate posts about homework including copies of worksheets and reminders of due dates.

I hope that the blogs will be a valuable resource to both groups. Something they can use regularily as a way to remind themselves of what we have covered in lessons, catch up on work they have missed and as a useful resource for revision.

In future posts I will talk about some of the ideas I have for developing the use of the blogs and about how and why I have set them up as I have. You can follow the blog trial specifically from the ‘Class blog trial‘ category link at the top of the page.

Please have a look at the blogs and see what you think. If you want to make a comment or ask a question about the blogs, please do so here on Classroomtech.org.uk. If you want to comment for the pupils’ benefit then feel free to do so on the class blogs.