Saturday, January 26, 2008

tt4t_022 Word processing file types, can we all get along?

It’s Saturday, January 26, 2008 and welcome to Episode 22 of Tech Talk 4 Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. It has been a little over a year now since Microsoft Office 2007 was released and we are beginning to see more and more files created in the Office 2007 format. The problem is that most of the world is still running on Office 2003 or older versions of Microsoft Office and there are compatibility problems between the new program versions and the older ones. This is true anytime that there is a major update in a software program. Today I will share some basic tips on how to handle this situation if you find yourself in it. First of all this is nothing new, if you use Word Perfect you know that others may have trouble opening files you created in the Word Perfect format unless the other users that you share files with also have Word Perfect. The same is true for the Microsoft Works program that often come preinstalled on many new computers. Files created natively in Word Perfect and Microsoft Works cannot be opened using Microsoft Word.

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This is a problem if you type an assignment on your home computer that uses Microsoft Works and then save it to a flash drive to bring to school where we use Microsoft Word. The simplest solution is to buy Microsoft Word so that you will be compatible between home and school, but that costs money, something that students are often in short supply of. Here is an alternative that will work whether you are using Word Perfect, Microsoft Works, or any other word processor program format that Microsoft Word will not open. When you go to save your word processing file in your word processor of choice use the Save As command and in the box below the filename that displays the file type select the pull down menu and select the rtf option. RTF stands for rich text format and is a format that has been around for years and will save your word processing file in a generic format the other word processing programs can understand. Rich Text Format also saves all of the formatting that you may have used such as bolds, underlines, centers, and font choices. This is not always 100% accurate in that some advanced features like table layouts and headers and footers may not save properly in this generic format but it will at least let you be able to open your work from one word processing program to another.

Here is another problem that we are running into more and more now that many students with new computers are saving documents in the Office 2007 format and then trying to open the files at school using Office 2003. You could use the same rtf file saving method formerly described but there is a better solution. Microsoft has created a free Office Compatibility Pack that allows users of Office 2003 to open Office 2007 documents. This compatibility pack is loaded on all the computers in the ITC so if you are an Office 2007 users at home you will be able to bring your Office 2007 documents and open and edit them using Office 2003 at the ITC. There are still some potential problems that you may find because there are some features in Office 2007 that Office 2003 does not support because of differences between the new and older versions. Think of it this way, when color television came along it was a major upgrade to the older black & white televisions that preceded it. If you bought a new color TV back in the day you could still watch black & white movies on your new TV set but you could not watch color television on your black & white set. There is the problem, when new features are added you can maintain backward compatibility but by the very nature of the upgrade the older product cannot support the new advances. If you think about the new version of Office 2007 the same logic applies. You can open Office 2003 documents in Office 2007 (backward compatible) but you cannot open Office 2007 documents in Office 2003. That is unless you know about the Office 2007 compatibility pack.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology pick of the week this week is the Microsoft Office 2007 Compatibility Pack that offers a stop gap measure if you find yourself having to open Office 2007 documents from friends or co-workers but you have not yet upgraded your Office 2003 programs to Office 2007. A link is provided in the show notes for the download of the compatibility pack. If a friend or co-worker shares a file with you in Office 2007 format you will be able to open it in Office 2003 if you download and install this compatibility pack. This does not support all the features in Office 2007 but it does allow users of older versions to open and edit documents using features that are common to both versions.

Microsoft Office 2007 Compatibility Pack

Of course the easiest way to deal with file incompatibility is to make sure that you are using the same version of the software that others you share files with use and then you would not need to worry at all about any work arounds. Checkout Episode 3 of TechTalk4Teachers for a link to a special promotion for students to purchase Office 2007 at a substantially reduced cost.

Show notes for this weeks show are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4 That wraps it up for this episode 21 of TechTalk4Teachers so until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Friday, January 18, 2008

tt4t_021 Students and technology use

It’s Friday, January 18, 2008 and welcome to Episode 21 of Tech Talk 4 Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. During the first two weeks of a semester I always survey my students regarding their tech ability to get a general feel for how they are using technology. As expected their skill level ranges from low ability to very high ability with most of their technology skills related to personal use. Most undergraduate students are comfortable with word processing and PowerPoint but few are familiar with spreadsheets and databases unless they have had a previous high school class on computer applications. I am often surprised by the lack of educational use of technology by many students. Ask them about Facebook or MySpace and the vast majority of undergraduates regularly use these social networking tools for personal use. Other technologies are also regularly used for personal use with the most common being the cell phone for voice calls as well as texting.

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With the proliferation of MP3 players most MP3 use is for listening to music. Educational uses of podcasts such as TechTalk4Teachers are often totally off students radar screens as most students that I have asked have never listened to a podcast. That to me is surprising given all the ear bud toting students on campus and the potential podcasting has for education. I can understand this to a certain degree as it probably is much more fun listening to music than to an educational podcast but this is unfortunate because podcasts have such a tremendous potential for student learning. We as educators need to be advocates for the benefits of technology as a tool for self-improvement above and beyond recreational use. After all life on a university campus should be all about learning. Establishing patterns of tech use for self-improvement can be a gift for a lifetime for your students.

As mentioned before on TechTalk4Teachers podcasting did not become a word until 2004 and now with over three years of existence it is still incredibly underused as an educational tool. How can this be? The general perception by faculty is that students are wizards with using technology but many times this is not the case. My point is that too often we take for granted the technology abilities of our students and too often we ignore the educational benefits that technology can have for learning. Student technology use is rarely harnessed to benefit the teaching and learning process. TechTalk4Teachers is trying to change that.

One factor that prohibits wide-spread adoption of certain technologies is the rapid pace of change itself. Too often technology companies promote new technologies for the sake of selling new software and hardware. Wait long enough and the next tech fad will hit the streets and the cycle begins all over again. Veteran teachers know and understand this and therefore technology implementation is often hindered because there is always going to be the next big thing being promoted by vendors that are in the business of selling products.

Take a step back and look at the big picture and you will soon realize that this cycle has repeated itself over and over again for the past fifty years. The good news is that each generation of technology makes is easier to use and implement. What educators are doing today with podcasts is what educators were doing in the 1960’s with reel-to-reel and cassette tapes. The fundamental underlying product is the same but the media delivery method is very different. The biggest difference between now and the 1960’s is that content can be accessible immediately and to an audience of millions simply by posting to the Internet at very little cost. What most do not realize is that most likely the average school or university already has what it needs to produce podcasts without buying anything additional at all, shhh technology vendors do not want you to know that. We can do an incredible amount with existing technology and now with free Web 2.0 tools the sky is the limit to what we can do in our classrooms. Making this podcasts cost nothing other than my time and the cost or regular Internet service. With such a low barrier to entry one does wonder why podcasting is not being used by more educators.

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology pick of the week this week is a web traffic analysis program called Google Analytics. Google Analytics is a tool that allows you to keep track of who is visiting your webpage and provides valuable information about your audience. Google Analytics provides some interesting statistics to help you better get a feel for how many visitors you have coming to view your website and is incredibly detailed. I have been using Google Analytics for the past six months and I am amazed at the detail it provides. I have gained valuable insight about my websites and information about where visitors are coming from. Google Analytics will tell you the total number of visitors to your website and what operating system and browser software they use. There is even a world map that identifies what states and countries your visitors are coming from. It does require a Google account and a bit of tech expertise with inserting the HTML code that is required to track page visits but this can easily be done by anyone that updates their own webpages. A link is provided in the show notes if you are interested in seeing how people are using Google Analytics along with detailed information about the reporting tools it offers and how to sign-up for a free account.

I am thinking about mixing up this show a bit, after 20 episodes it is in need of an update. What would you like to learn more about? Some have commented for a longer show and others like about a five minute format. I am also thinking of going to an interview format and dropping the transcripts as writing transcripts and transcribing note takes a lot of time. Do you fid it useful to choose between reading the posting and/or listening to the posting? I am interested in your thoughts about how we can improve the show. Please send your comments and suggestions to or leave a comment in my blog. Show notes for this weeks show are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4 That wraps it up for this episode 21 of TechTalk4Teachers so until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Friday, January 11, 2008

tt4t_020 Getting Organized the Web 2.0 Way

It’s Friday, January 11, 2008 and welcome to Episode 20 of Tech Talk 4 Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. Well we are back at it again for another exciting semester. The Consumer Electronics Show this week offered a glimpse of some new additions for 2008. I have a links to c/nets Best of CES 2008 Awards available in the show notes if you are interested in seeing the award winners for the show this week. As expected wide screen televisions and high definition monitors were quite popular including the worlds largest 150 inch plasma TV by Panasonic. Check out the link in the show notes to see a video demo of the worlds largest plasma TV.

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Best of CES 2008 from c/net
if you scroll down to the bottom of the page you will find category listings.

Worlds Largest Plasma TV video demo from c/net

Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

Since it is the beginning of the semester and a new year I imagine more than a few of you have made a new years resolution to become better organized. I was asked by a former student this week if I knew of any good to-do lists management tools that she could use. I told her that I primarily used Outlook but unfortunately that was not an option available to her since our university hosts Microsoft Exchange Server accounts only for faculty and staff. So I did a bit of research and I think I found a good answer for her. My Technology pick of the week this week is a new Web 2.0 tool that allows you to create your own to-do lists, calendars, and help you with basic project management. It even allows you to mark web pages that you have visited and upload and store important files that you want to manage. The name of the tool is Backpackit and a link is available in the show notes.

If you visit the backpackit website be sure to view the tour of how others are using this tool. Now, I have not used this yet, but after doing a bit of research this tools looks like it will do all the things my student asked about. My first reaction when I got to this site was here we go again another userid and password to keep track of but this site did offer me an alternative. The site offered the use of OpenID. If you remember back a few shows ago I went on a bit of a rant, that while these Web 2.0 tools were wonderful and useful, it didn’t make sense to constantly create a new account everytime I wanted to try out a new tool. OpenID allows you to create one username and password and if the Web 2.0 tool supports openid you no longer have to create a separate account. A BIG benefit if you are tired of managing dozens of accounts. Like most things in technology there are pros and cons to the OpenID approach. The biggest con is that if your OpenID account is compromised then you have several accounts that could be compromised. The benefit of course is less accounts to keep track of and fewer passwords to deal with. A link to the Open ID initiative is provided in the show notes.

The openID initiative is just starting to get traction so it will be a while before we know how secure this approach will be but it does look promising if guarantees can be made regarding potential security issues.

Let me know if you have a suggestion for a to-do list manager or other suggestions for the show. You may send your comments to or leave a comment in my blog. Show notes for this weeks show are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4 That wraps it up for this episode 20 of TechTalk4Teachers so until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

tt4t_019 Happy New Year – CES 2008

It’s Saturday, January 5, 2008 Happy New Year and welcome to Episode 19 of Tech Talk 4 Teachers, I’m Tom Grissom. I will keep this weeks post short as we get ready to begin a new semester. There are a couple of upcoming events that will have an indirect impact upon educators in the coming couple of weeks.

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Tom’s Technology Pick of the Week

My Technology pick of the week this week is the upcoming Consumer Electronics Show that will begin this coming week in Las Vegas, Nevada. I always keep my eye on this show because this is where various vendors display their upcoming consumer electronic products for the year. Most of the products introduced at the show will not be available until the summer but it does give us a glance at up and coming technologies that we may see our students have in the near future. A link is provided in the show notes to the CES 2008 website. Check this site out as the show progresses for the latest press releases from companies at the show.

Be sure to listen to national news accounts of the Consumer Electronics Show as many new products will be introduced. The following week Apple will host Mac World where Steve Jobs will be announcing the latest additions at Apple so the next two weeks will see a lot of news around innovative technologies.

Show notes for Episode 19 are available on the web at that’s techtalk the number 4 If you have a comment or suggestion for a future show or a suggestion for a Technology Pick of the Week then please email me at That wraps it up for this episode 19 of TechTalk4Teachers so until next time this is Tom Grissom, keep on learning.