Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Pimp Your PowerPoint

OK…so I stole that title. There is a great video by that name on YouTube. It is worth watching, give it a look – it was posted by PowerPoint seems to always be the most fun application in the Office suite. It is the application that every student looks forward to in Microcomputer Applications and the advanced 8-week class rarely has openings. Here’s the deal…it isn’t just fun, it is very slick and can make you look like a genius presenter if you take advantage of the new features in 2010 and don’t approach presentations in the traditional manner.

I was asked to be an SCC blogger almost a year ago and the one post that I still get the most comments on is one of the first ones I wrote – “Embed YouTube in PowerPoint 2007.” There are some really great upgrades and new features in PowerPoint 2010, so I thought it was time to update this topic.

On the topic of video, there are a couple of really cool improvements. The first is that you can easily insert embed code for a video clip from the Web. Click on Insert, Video, and Video from Web Site and paste the embed code. Two things to remember here – one, you need to make sure you have Internet access when you run your presentation; and two, you need to run the presentation on PowerPoint 2010. This is a new feature, and as with the new features in 2007, it is not backwards compatible. The other really nice video option is the ability to trim. You might have a great video for your presentation, but you only need 30 seconds of an 8-minute video. Now you can trim the video down to just the part you want to use without having to take it into another program to edit. You can also use the new fade in/fade out options when running your video.

Smart Guides are another new feature. They have also been added to Publisher and will look familiar to InDesign users. As you move objects around on a slide, you automatically get guides that appear in order to help you align with other objects or content placeholders. You can still use the Align feature on the contextual tab, but the Smart Guides are a really quick and easy way to align objects on the fly.

Accessibility Checker is another new feature that is helpful in making presentations more accessible for people with disabilities. Go to File, Info, and Check for Issues. This will alert you to features you have used or objects you have inserted that might need attention.

Now that you have access to that big 25 Gig SkyDrive with your Windows Live ID (or with your CougarMail login and password if you are an SCC student), you can save directly to the clouds from within the application. This has been added to other office applications, too. Click on File, Save & Send, and Save to Web. This will bring up an option to log in with your Windows Live ID and send your file directly to the SkyDrive. The SkyDrive is really easy to find, just go to

New and improved Transitions are also here. The existing transitions have been updated and work a lot more smoothly. You can also now adjust the duration of the transitions beyond just slow, medium, and fast; you can now set the exact amount of time. The new transitions are more like video transitions and give your presentation a much more polished look.

New and improved image options are here. You can now crop an image to a shape instead of formatting AutoShape and inserting. This is much quicker and easier than the previous method. In 2007 they introduced picture styles which are great to give your images a little personality instead of just lying flat on the slide. Photoshop users will recognize some filters, but in PowerPoint they are called Artistic Effects. You can now remove the background from images. This works better with some pictures than others and can require some tedious editing, but is a very cool new feature. In addition to inserting pictures, clip art, and other objects, now you can insert a screen shot.

If you create presentations that run in a loop at a kiosk or display, there are a couple of options in 2010 in addition to saving the presentation as a show. The first is that you can save your PowerPoint slides as images, which will create a jpeg file of each slide, and then load them onto a digital picture frame and run without the need for a computer, laptop, or notebook. The other option is new to 2010 and you can now save your presentation as a video. One of my favorite assignments in PowerPoint is to recreate a TV commercial. You can make this even more commercial-like by saving the presentation as a video.

Having a remote to advance your PowerPoint slides and keep you from being chained to a computer or wireless mouse is a great thing. Did you know there is an app for that? If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can download the i-Clickr app, install a small application on your laptop or netbook, and run your presentation with your iPhone/iPod Touch. The app is free to run up to 15 slides, but is only $9.99 for full version. It will run your presentation, including animations. It will show your presentation notes, so you don’t need those 3x5 notecards. It will also keep time for you and buzz when you are running close on total time.

There are many new and improved features in PowerPoint 2010. I’ll continue to post these as I find great applications and tips. In the meantime, check out the videos below. The first shows some of the new features in action. The second is an entertaining look at what you should NOT do when preparing a PowerPoint presentation.


Monday, October 4, 2010

Occupation, Vocation, Career, Profession…Pick a Name, but They’re all the Same

Regardless of what you call it, these are all basically the same. Occupation – the job by which somebody earns a living. Vocation – somebody's work, job, or profession, especially a type of work demanding special commitment. Career – a job or occupation regarded as a long-term or lifelong activity. Profession – an occupation that requires extensive education or specialized training. These definitions are straight from the Encarta Dictionary. Notice that they all use the same nouns in their definitions – job, profession, occupation…a cross-pollination of definitions.

When I was in high school I remember a stigma attached to “vo-tech” courses and students. I didn’t understand it then and understand the differentiation even less now. Forcing a student into an academic or career path based on anything other than their strengths, talents, and interests is a disservice to students. Placing any kind of stigma or propagating a stereotype of either of these paths is shameful. Career technical programs require very high level math skills and critical thinking skills and you might find yourself getting your hands dirty in a traditionally academic area. I remember having to have a “practical arts” class in order to satisfy the requirements for high school graduation. I’m not sure what that is called now, but then it meant that you needed to take a home economics course or a shop course. I chose to take a shop course – drafting – because it was something that I was really interested in and thought would be fun. After that course, I really wanted to go to the drafting program at the vocational technical school but was discouraged. I was told I should take what are now referred to as AP courses. I quickly understood the underlying message.

But These Are The Facts*
  • Career and technical education is a combination of academic and technical education resulting in a very rigorous program that prepares students to either continue their education or enter the workforce.
  • CTE students are more motivated and interested in their coursework because of its connection to the real world and, as a result, less likely to dropout. (Michael E. Wonacott, “Dropouts and Career and Technical Education, Myths and Realities No. 23,” (Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 2002).
  • CTE students participate in programs that lead to employment in high-skill, high-wage, high-demand occupations or professions.
  • CTE programs provide the skills training that addresses the needs of high-growth industries, such as healthcare, renewable energy and STEM fields.
  • Healthcare occupations are expected to make up 7 of the 20 fastest growing occupations, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
  • CTE gives individuals in transition (i.e. back in the job hunt due to layoffs, economic downturn, etc.) a way to begin a new career with a chance to reinvent themselves.
  • CTE has always evolved in response to economic needs in our communities.
*These facts are from the ACTE Web site

I saw this interview on The Today Show and it made me want to drag out my soapbox and stump for career tech programs, the misconceptions, and their invaluableness.