Virtual Teacher Newsletter No. 14 September 15th 2000
THE FREE ONLINE FORTNIGHTLY IT TEACHERS' NEWSLETTER
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2. Mind Candy
3. Maths Games
4. New Printables - and PowerPoint
5. Technical Stuff - Back Up
6. Lego - Dacta
7. The Macquarie Dictionary on CD - product review.
8. Great Sites
9. Readers' Requests/Comments
10 Next Issue
11. Code of 'Netizens'
1. Welcome everyone. I start this newsletter with huge apologies to
everyone. I had a computer problem last week and it wiped out
all my files. My back-up was done last month so I have lost a
month's worth of work. A salutory lesson, always back-up, back-up
often. So who am I apologising to, all those new subscribers and
unsubscribers over the last month. So if you have unsubscribed,
there were about 4 unsubscribes, I am sorry, please unsubscribe
again. To the new subscribers, unfortunately there were about 100 of
these, I am also sorry, however you will probably not be getting this
newsletter, hopefully you will subscribe again. If you have
recommended this newsletter to anyone in the last month, please ask
them to subscribe again. Also all the wonderful comments I received
after the last issue have been lost, please resend them, as well as
any other articles for inclusion in this newsletter. Further down I
have written about BACKING UP, I think more for my own benefit than
2. Mind Candy
Microsoft versus GM
At a recent computer expo (COMDEX), bill ates reportedly compared the
computer industry with the auto industry and stated:
"If GM had kept up with computer technology like the computer
industry has, we would all be driving twenty-five dollar cars that
got 1000 miles to the gallon.
In response to Bill's comments, General Motors issued a press release
stating (by Mr Welch himself):
1. For no reason whatsoever your car would crash twice a day.
2. Every time they repainted the lines on the road you would have to
buy a new car.
3. Occasionally your car would die on the freeway for no reason, and
you would just accept this, restart and drive on.
4. Occasionally, executing a manoeuvre such as a left turn would
cause your car to shut down and refuse to restart, in which case you
would have to reinstall the engine.
5. Only one person at a time could use the car, unless you bought
"CAR95" of "CarNT". But then you would have to buy more seats.
6. Macintosh would make a car that was powered by the sun, reliable,
five times as fast, and twice as easy to drive, but would only run on
five percent of the roads.
7. The oil, water temperature and alternator warning lights would be
replaced by a single 'general car default' warning light.
8. New seats would force everyone to have the same sized butt.
9. The airbag system would say "Are you sure?" before going off.
10. Occasionally for no reason whatsoever, your car would lock you
out and refuse to let in in until you simultaneously lifted the door
handle, turned the key, and grabbed hold of the radio antenna.
11. GM would require all car users to purchase a delux set of Rand
McNally road maps (now a GM subsidiary), even though they neither
need then not want them. Attempting to delete this option would
immediately cause the car's performance to diminish by 50% or more.
Moreover, GM would become a target for investigation by the Justice
12. Every time GM intorduced a new model car, buyers would have to
learn how to drive all over agianh because none of the controls would
operate in the same manner as the old car.
13. You'd have to press the "start" button in order to shut off the engine
A man walks into a shoe store, and tries on a pair of shoes.
"How do they feel?" asks the sales clerk.
"Well they feel a bit tight," replies the man.
The assistant bends down and has a look at the shoes. "Try
pulling the tongue out," the clerk says.
"Well, theyth sthill feelth a bith thighth."
3. Maths sites
Matchstick Puzzles, Word ladder Puzzles, Kicks Try them all.
The Game of Nim - play online three different levels of difficulty
4. New Printables
PowerPoint Lesson 4 Sounds
Make your own Newspaper
Select the text and replace with your own words, it will hold format
and retain the 3 column layout. Change headings and graphics to suit
your stories. Retitle the newspaper with your own title.
Both these documents are downloadable fom the VirtualTeacher site
Under the Teacher Tool section. They are downloadable files
5. Backing Up
It was a beautiful morning, the coffee was fantastic, the small
seaside cafe served an excellent round of turkish bread just the way
I like it. I had finished my early morning beach walk and was
feeling, well, pretty terrific. A day clear of interruptions to work
on the newsletter, and develop some new ideas for the next seminar.
Just the sort of day I enjoy, creative, inventive, with loads of
research and investigation. Having already done a fair bit of
research, saved on the computer, I could now looked forward to
putting all the pieces together, when
BOOOM BANG BOOM The computer crashed. Not slightly, or partially but
totally and utterly and completely. The Screen went black -nothing,
zip, zilch. All work since my last backup, a month ago, I should
know better, wiped out. I can't describe the sort of sick empty
feeling this gives you. But I can tell you, you don't want to go
Since then I have been working frantically on recovering and
replacing lost data. The upside, there's always and upside - this
article, which I felt inspired, nay impelled, to write after my
recent disaster, an insurance policy against future disaster for all
of us. I just hope I listen this time.
The Back Up
How important is it? Do you need to do it?
Mostly the answer will be an emphatic YES. But do YOU really need to
back up your files? Only you can decide what data and files can you
afford to loose.
There are 2 parts to back up.
Part 1 Make sure you have your operating system and programs disks as well as
a copy of your systems settings or a boot disk, so that in the event of a systems
crash you can reboot your computer from the CD or floppy drive, and reload your
applications etcf. Most modern computers come with bootable CDs or floppies.
If you don't have a boot CD, check your manual, there will be instructions on how to make
one, make one.(Norton's Utilities also has instructions for this
Part 2 Do you have a lot of files on your computer, eg word
documents, articles business correspondence, which you constantly
use, refer to, and do not want to loose? These files need to be
backed up as well.
The frequency of back-up depends on the amount of computer work, and
the importance of the documents produced. Some critical documents need to be backed
up immediately, for other back-up once a day or once a week is
sufficient. Work out a frequency that is suitable for you and stick
to it(this advice I needed last week).
Back up Systems
1. Print the document - this gives you a hardcopy of the file, for
future reference. However if the original computer data is lost, you
will need to retype, scan or rebuild the document from scratch. Time
2. Floppy disks - copy files to floppy disk for back-up(this is
useful if you do not have a lot of files to back up).
3. Second Hard Drive. Computers often have a second built in hard
drive. A back-up file for drive 'C' say, can be made on drive 'D'.
This is an option but if the whole computer goes down it is of no
value, this is rare but it does happen.
Windows '98 - second hard drive back-up procedure using the Back-up wizard.
4. Zip or Jaz Disk, is a mass storage device which allows for swift
backup of all or some files. It will also update and replace files
with newer versions. Good but zip disks are expensive. Iomega's Zip
drive is available in 100 & meg this costs $29.38 form Dick Smiths. And the external Zip Drive
costs around $350-$400
5. CD rewritable drive. This is my current favourite, the disks are
inexpensive, the storage capazcity is comparatively high , and the
CD's can be played in any computer with a CD drive, allowing viable
file transfer between computers. You can copy your files onto CD
with a CD burner, then rewrite over them next time you back-up your
files. CD-RWs are inexpensive storage devices, prices range between
$2.50-$5.00 per disk with a storage capacity of 640megs and the CD
Burner costs between $400- $550 depending on whether it is external
or internally mounted. External is safer.
6. Online storage facilties like those at:-
Back-up for beginners
Back It Up and Move it Out is a comprehensive article from CNET about
backing up, and various options for computer users.
6. Lego - Dacta
I had a wonderful demonstration of Lego Dacta range just recently, given
by Elizabeth Weston. I have always loved this stuff, such a great
motivational toy/tool. And luckily students love it too, which gives
me the excuse I need to buy it. Elizabeth gave a demonstration
during the staff meeting for 1/2 an hour and then gave a lesson in
class for one hour. She has a fantastic way with children, and some
remarkable classroom organisational methods for using Dacta, so its
well worth asking for a class lesson to go along with any staff
demonstration. Of course the computer connected programmable
LEGO is amazing, and I would love to use this with a gifted group of
students, along with the LegoCAD program. I also loved the new
'Toolo' material with screwable screws, wrenches and screwdrivers,
I know a lot of children who would just love it as
well. But really the great thing about Lego is it takes a lot of the
'TOUGH' out of planning for the Science section of the curriculum. All the
equipment is there, so you don't have to scurry around to find
things, the teachers notes are there, with sequential lessons and
work cards as well as teachers notes,
extension activities and ..and... and..... ALL THE ANSWERS are there
as well. All in all well worth a look, well worth organising a visit
to your school for some ideas and inspiration. Who knows you
may even start to really have fun in science because all the hard
work is done.
You can contact Elizabeth at: email@example.com
Mention Virtual Teacher and I am sure she will give you some
extra special treatment.'
phone number: 02 9712 3733 and fax 02 9712 3744
'Moore Educational' http://www.mooreed.com.au.
7. The Macquarie Dictionary Mini Megalex CD - product review.
As promised in the last newsletter I have been roadtesting the tiny
tiny Macquarie Dictionary CD.
Students love the using this quick easy CD, it is much faster than
using a regular dictionary. With the groups I trialed students felt
empowered and enjoyed the activities, which ranged from simple
definition searches, to synonyms, homophones as well as phonetic
pronunciations and colloquialisms.
Although I encourage my students to use online dictionaries wherever
possible - like the wonderful Discovery OnLine Dictionary Plus -
This does have its drawbacks, as do most online dictionaries, as they
use American spellings. Although I don't find this a huge problem,
many others do, and they feel more comfortable with an Australian
Another problem with online dictionaries is that although the idea of
using online resources may be sound, the fact is that the net is far
from stable, and dropouts and systems failures are still common, this
can often frustrate students and teachers and act as a deterent for
Upside to Macquarie
I believe, that to expand the use of computers in schools, and there
is quite a bit of room for expansion there, the materials need to be
as comfortable and easy to use as possible. The Macquarie Online
Dictionary is just this.
It is always there whether or not your link is working.
It can be incorporated as a desktop icon into Microsoft Word - making
it easily available.
It uses Australian spellings, making it user friendly for Australian Schools.
It offers excellent search facilities incorporating random letter,
and multi-letter searches using 'wildcards', this makes working out
correct spelling very simple. And also allows searching
for rhyming words, as well as searching for smaller words within
larger words etc.
The active pronunciation guide, is useful and easy to use, finally
students can make sense of these phonetic symbols.
The students enjoy using it, and find it easy to use.
Teachers enjoy using it, and find it easy to use.
The Program is only available in a Windows version, it should be
both Mac and Windows compatible on the one CD.
Several of the words we looked up were not in the dictionary -
suggesting that its 23,000 entries needed to be extended for general
primary school use. This is true of many school dictionaries not
just this online version. The vocabulary that the average student
will access during primary school, tests the limits of current
dictionaries aimed at this market.
The resource could be considerabley enhanced if some teacher's
guidelines/student activities were included on the CD.
Make it Win/Mac compatible.
Increase the Dictionary Entries
Include an audio version of the phonetic pronunciation.
MiniMegalex Cost $29.95 with multi-user options
For Further Information contact Alfred Papallo of EIS
Ph: 02 9411 3711
There is also a Megalex Concise for $59.95 - I haven't used
this - has anyone else had experience with it?
8. Great Sites
More on this great site next news letter - the article was written
but was lost in the computer crash. Go there and have a look- I
would love to hear your comments.
Computer Competition - win a copy of Managing ICT - this site also
has some great ideas for using computers in the classroom
More on this site next issue
Try wome wacky web tales and also learn about grammer
Excellent K-3 Aquarium Webquest info site
Science Lessons plans galore
A grea little kids site on how things work from computers to calculators.
A fantastic 'worm' site for 4-7 year olds, just great, go on get some worms
National Geographics for Kids
Encyclopedia of Days - religious , cultural, celebrations very comprehensive.
9. Readers Requests/Comments
I lost most of the readers comments fromt the last newsletter, please
send them again. Just hit resend in your email program.
I am a new computer teacher this year, and I am looking for ideas for some of
the teachers at our K-8 school. I was on the Official website of the Olympic
Games and tried to download some of the pdf files, but could not read them in
notepad. Any other suggestions of how to download and read these files?
Also, I am looking for some math-related lessons with the Olympic games--Can
Thanks again for the great tips in your newsletter!
To download .pdf files you need the acrobat reader program
free and downloadable from
I have noticed that some of the .pdf files on the official Olympic
site are poorly made and do not fit the pages too well. However if
you persist, you will find some maths activities there as well as
colouring in and much more.
10. Next Issue - I will answer all the readers comments and
questions lost in the computer crash - if you send them again that
is. I will also be covering sites on rainforests, religions and
food, if you have any great sites on these topics to share, please
send them along. Have a good Olympics.
11. Code of the 'Netizens'
This Newsletter is not free, despite the misleading advertising above.
The Fee is now due. Each week you must help one colleague on the
Internet who has less knowledge than you. Help that person even if
you have to visit their classroom or do a little research and get
back to them. Trust me, this will help a lot of people get their
computer classrooms running better.
OK I'm trusting you!!!
1. Double click on highlighted URLS to open in browser.
2. Send in your Questions, Questions will be published with Answers,
send in your Answers, if you have expertise to share.
3. Nominate a brilliant site for review and inclusion in this newsletter.
4. Nominate a fantastic school site for review and inclusion in this
5. Make contact with other schools using fantastic programs.
6. Prepare and innovative article for this newsletter.
7. Tell 2 colleagues about this newsletter.
The opinions expressed here are purely those of the editor, Cathy
Brown. All other small print clauses apply. Such as: Use at your own
risk. Nothing in life is guaranteed. If it doesn't work for you send
me an email.
Editor: cathy brown mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org
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