Category Archives: Software

Stuff about software.

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.

Snippy – make cut out screenshots

Have you ever wanted to grab a bit of a website, document or picture from your computer screen and use it in a PowerPoint or on a worksheet?

You could take a screen shot with the print screen button, but if you don’t want the whole screen you then need to crop it in some way. A better solution is to use a screen capture utility that allows you to capture only part of the screen, or even better any free form area you like. Windows Vista has a built in tool called the ‘snipping tool’ that does that, but if you want that functionality on Windows XP you need a program called Snippy.

Snippy is a very small free program that when running has a little scissors icon in the task bar at the bottom of the screen. When you want to capture a screen snip you click on the icon and then draw around the area you want to capture.

You can choose whether to have a line around the snip as well as the colour and thickness of the line. A rectangular area can be captured by holding down the shift key whilst dragging.

Once you have made your snip, the picture is placed in the computers clipboard to be pasted into whatever program you want. You can also save the picture in one of several picture formats (bmp, jpeg, gif, tiff, png) by right clicking on the icon and selecting save as.

Snippy can be downloaded free from its website.

Live web pages in PowerPoint

So you have your lesson all set out in PowerPoint with your explanations ready. Now you want to show a website as part of your lesson. Normally that would mean closing the PowerPoint show and switching to your web browser to show the page you want, which takes time and could detract from your flow.

There is an alternative. Using a special PowerPoint plugin it is possible to have a live web page appear in a PowerPoint presentation. This is not just a screen shot, but acts just like your web browser and allows full navigation of whatever web sites you want.

The plugin is called LiveWeb and is available as a free download. When it has been installed (which is done as with any other program) you will see two new options at the bottom of the ‘Insert’ menu in PowerPoint. It is then easy to add a web pages to your Presentation as follows.

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Create interactive games, activities & quizzes with Contentgenerator.net

Most children love playing games and flash based games are very popular. There are lots of educational flash games available and they can be a useful tools in the classroom for reinforcing or revising topics. They can be used with the whole class or for individual pupils on computers.

The problem with the many of the games I find for use with pupils is that they never do quite what I want them to. The questions may not be all on the topic I want or the website they are based on may have too many other distractions that make if difficult for pupils to concentrate on what they should be doing.

A solution to these problems is to make your own games that are based on the questions you want to focus on and that can be run from a school network or a website that you have control over. Unfortunately developing games in flash requires a lot of skill and knowledge that most of us don’t have the time or skills to develop. That is where Contentgenerator.net comes in. Contentgenerator.net provides a series of programs that make it easy to create your own flash games to use with pupils. Many of the programs are commercial, but are priced reasonably, while others are free.

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Using sound effects in lessons

Kerr-ching! The use of sound in the classroom (except teachers’ and pupils’ voices) is often overlooked. Almost everywhere that our pupils go they are used to hearing things and sound is used to reinforce messages all over the place. Try watching a TV game show and listening out for the sounds that accompany whatever the contestents are doing.

Obviously our classrooms aren’t TV studios and our lessons aren’t gameshows, but we can use sound to reinforce what we are teaching, or just to add another dimension to some of the things we do. One possiblity is to play music to the pupils while they are working, but that is a topic for another post. What I want to talk about is using sound effects rather than long pieces of music.

I sometimes like to play games with my classes to help introduce or reinforce a topic, maybe as a starter or plenary. It might be along the lines of a TV quiz like Who Wants to be a Millionaire or Countdown, or something like a simple team head to head quiz. I want the pupils to enjoy these and find them fun so I use the interactive whiteboard to make them visually engaging and I can use sound effects to add a further dimension. Nothing complex, maybe a ‘Ding’ for a correct answer or a round of applause at the end of a round.

There are lots of sound effects freely available on the internet. I have collected a few together in Mp3 format that you can download from here (Zip file – 1.17Mb).

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