Tool #1: Cute PDF

I’m coming to hate paper more and more. You can’t search it, you can’t change it, and it gets lost so easily. I see teachers requiring students to print out online reports of their progress reports, instead of looking at the reports themselves. It seems odd. But some teachers just want to have a permanent record of some event.

So instead of printing it out on paper, why not print it out on a pdf file? PDF is the short name for Adobe Acrobat files. To print from Adobe, you have to pay money. But another software is free.

Cute PDF is a software you can download, and install just like any other printer. Instead of printing a page, it makes a file, an Adobe Acrobat file. You can save them all together. They are searchable. I use this now more than my paper printer. You can then send the documents by email. They are in color, and do not change.  It is as easy as printing a page.

Download the FREE version, not the Pro version
Download the FREE version, not the Pro version

If you have never installed software on your computer, tell the person that usually does it to SHOW you how to do it. After you install 3 or 4 programs, it becomes much easier. This is the first step to controlling your machine instead of it controlling you.

100 days 100 tools

I just realized we have exactly 100 days before April 1, the start of the new school (and financial) year in Japan. Since my department is requiring every new fresh(wo)man to get a laptop, there is a huge responsibility for the faculty of the department to use them in class and as part of the curriculum.

Mark Warschauer, in his book Laptops and Literacy, says that the people most crucial to the success of wireless programs and students using laptops are the faculty.

I’m the IT Committee in our department, and I’ve got a lot of experience in this area, but also realize that you can’t teach this kind of thing. You just have to show how important it is to upgrade from paper and lectures to technology, and allow students to interact more naturally and with a greater variety of “channels” of communication.

So I’ve set myself a challenge. 100 tools in 100 days.

These tools and their explanations are aimed at non-native speakers of English, and those without much computer experience. You would be a typical end-user, able to use email, a browser, and some kind of word processor.

These tools are aimed at language teachers. They should help you teach better. The focus here is on teaching, and adapting your style to what students and administrations are coming to expect. Sometimes they are software, or a web page, or a new technique.

They focus on helping students develop their own language skills, providing autonomy through example.

My next post will be tool #1.