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Pi Fillings Goes to School

Companion article: contents of CD-ROM

A Platter of Learning

The Pi now has its second national CD release in the "Pi Fillings -" series. "Pi Fillings - Goes to School" is an anthology of current educational computer applications and utilities designed to supplement and enrich any academic program.

Why Bother
Our first CD, "Pi Fillings -The CD" began as a request for a single source of the most used utilities, system updates, Internet-related applications, device drivers, and troubleshooting applications. It is a fairly comprehensive grouping of items which are needed on a routine basis by anyone using a Macintosh. Everything is located on that one CD. We are overwhelmed at the response. We received considerable e-mail asking if we could create a single-source CD for schools. The more questions we asked to try to get a sense of what teachers and administrators would like on such a disk, the more we realized that this was no small undertaking. Computer coordinator's in public and private schools are looking for assistance in maintaining and upgrading their computer assets. Teachers in conventional and home school settings asked for an affordable collection of cross-curriculum Shareware and Freeware which would enable them to provide greater depth to their programs. Families told us they too were looking for something similar to help them supplement learning that took place in the classroom, or find ways to present learning in a different format that might make a subject more understandable. In addition, teachers asked us to look for software that would help them manage their classroom administrative work more effectively. They wanted tools to create lesson plans, grade student progress, and track a myriad of activities that are part of the mandate of a teacher today. This was not shaping up as a cut-and-paste operation!

A Not So Secret Secret
We discovered that, unfortunately, too many school administrators, both at the building and district levels, do not realize that for technology to be integrated into the curriculum and to be widely used as a productivity tool by teachers, someone has to be the source of the materials which teachers and home schooling parents can use. We discovered that technology specialists who are charged with finding, evaluating, learning, and facilitating the integration of technology into the curriculum are few. Most school budgets pay for a teacher to teach "computer classes" within a lab, but expect the classroom teacher, unaided, to do all of the research, testing, learning, and integrating of technology within the classroom. In essence, we were being asked to build a collection of teacher productivity tools and curriculum-specific programs on one CD for teachers and parents to use as they integrate technology into the curriculum.

Hundreds of hours went into the collection, testing, and cataloging of the applications you will find on Pi Fillings - Goes to School. We do not claim it to be either the definitive educational collection or the most comprehensive possible. It includes items many of our member educators have found to be the most useful and necessary in their own classes. We have tried to lay each program out so that you need only drag it to your hard drive to use. Some large ones, however, were placed in self-extracting archives which made it possible for us to actually get over 700 megs of material on this CD. We have attempted to include at least a sample of material
available in most content areas at a variety of K-12 levels. We do not claim to have found everything that is available. The teachers who advised us on what to include rejected dozens of applications that were duplicative, didn't work, or had an interface that got in the way of the message.

What Is Missing
Once you have wandered around - Goes to School, you may wonder why some facets of schooling are not represented, or why your favorite isn't to be found. There are two great reasons: no one is writing applications that cover that topic, or we just could not find them. No one is writing breaks down into money and time. We found academicians looking for funding to write neat new programs that take advantage of the multimedia capabilities found in your Mac. Money is drying up for those projects.

Want to see two really great ones that exist because of grants? Look in Foreign Languages. In it are two fabulous language authoring applications: SuperMacLang by a joint Harvard University and Dartmouth College team, and xMediaEngine from Middlebury College.

There is a class of programs that we did not include. Industry, too, has discovered that there is fertile stuff in the mush between kid's ears and offers seeds to be planted therein. There is a whole category of industry sponsored free software done in the guise of education. Some of it is thinly disguised; other less so. Most of it is pitched to the K to middle school crowd. The teachers advising us on this CD elected not to include any of it. We do have some tutorials that are included as science enrichment that were created by industry; look at MedMicro and BioChem in Science. The About dialog box identifies the authors. If you would like us to include a Warner Brothers cartoon "tutorial" on how to navigate back to Cartoon Land, let us know.

What's On It?
You will find a wealth of resources that can be used in your instructional program, in creating great teaching materials for students, or edutainment for your family. The layout is designed to be intuitive. Each folder on the CD has a full descriptive of each program inside. Where our testers found multiple uses for a program, you will find multiple listings which direct you to the location of the actual program. Here is a overview of what you will find:

* Coordinator's Tools: contains: (1) helpful information and applications needed to services the Macs in a school; (2) current version of, and updates to the applications teachers use regularly; and, (3) useful utilities.

* Teacher's Tools: contains the applications they need to create content material for classes, manage time, and keep track of students grades.

* Disability Tools: contains the applications needed in order to help those people who require visual or auditory assistance, or a different interface to work with their Macintosh.
* Let's Go to School is the main academic folder. The ten subfolders are: * School For Little People * Music * Math * Science * Foreign Languages * Language Arts * Social Studies * Painting & Drawing * Out to Think * and, of course, * All Work and No Play *

Tell Me More
We know that trying to highlight some items may leave the impression that the others programs are of lesser value. Forget it. Questionable stuff is found in the bit bucket, not on this CD. There are probably lots of great items that you use that we have missed. Get a copy of "- Goes to School." Let us know if we left out your favorite. Here are some of the programs that made it.

* Think learning a foreign language is boring? Try Double in the French folder. Don't know French? Look in the Math folder for the English version. Need a dictionary? This CD has several.

* Want to see what one can do with QuickTime? Take 28 stills, add QuickTime and look at the creative presentation called Menstrual Cycle. Tired of politically correct history? Find Teaching About Thanksgiving in Social Studies and rediscover the real story behind that excuse for gastronomical overload.

* Can't afford PageMaker or Quark? Update your copy of ClarisWorks from the Coordinator's Tools folder and teach page layout with it. Looking to do creative design work? Start with Sprinkler, Rainbox, or Painting and render a 3-D version of your work in RenderBoy. It's considerably cheaper than Illustrator - and needs less RAM too. Got kids who want to do animations? We have you covered. Can't tell a van Gogh from a Velazquez? Check out Guide to the Artists before you visit the National Gallery.

* Thought HyperCard or SuperCard are over the hill? Take a look at Botany in Science, Sands Along the Nile in Social Studies, or any of the hundreds of HyperCard programs represented here. A super piece of SuperCard is Vietnam War in Social Studies.

* When in the Math folder, absolutely look at Double, as well as Arithmetic Review, Be Fruitful & Multiply, MacEmatics, and Pre-Algebra Skills. You will find mathematical involvement with rockets, race cars, and frog. There are also math only programs.

* Tired of that fuzzy reasoning you get from kids. Look at Fallacy Tutorial. Worried that a generation of kids now believes Susan B. Anthony is a coin? Checkout the Women's Suffrage Movement.

* We are impressed with the range of programs found in Music. Et vous?

* To understand the rational for programs in Out To Think, be sure to read the introduction to that folder. SETLite, Short Circuit, Crateman or Sokoban, and Squark were hits with our camper beta testers.
* It's not fair that little people get all the neat new stuff; but they do. Try Little Red Wagon, Memory, or TykeWriter. For painting programs visit Painting & Drawing for Coloring Book (if you insist on painting within the lines) or Al's, if you are more expressive.

* The ability to use language tools is essential in any facet of a person's life. Look in Strengthening English Skills if you doubt us. We have included the best programs we could locate on grammar [MacGrammar, Sentence Builder, etc.] , spelling [Master Spell, SpellRight, and the content creation programs in Teacher's Tools], writing reports and book reviews [Luther's, Write about Reading, Mr. Fixitup], and Scrabble-like games to which you can add vocabulary words. If you don't have something to read, look in the Gutenberg Project. Can't type? Look in the Typing folder or TykeType in the kids folder. Don't even own a word processing program for your Mac. Use Simple or Teach text and a wonderful program called Spell Tools found in Teacher's Tool. It is one useful application!

Enjoy Pi Fillings - Goes to School. Give it as a gift to a teacher, to your kids, or your grandchildren. Rediscover why you use a Macintosh.


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Revised Saturday, October 31, 1998 Lawrence I. Charters
Washington Apple Pi
URL: http://www.wap.org/journal/