Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Open Office Impress in the Classroom

This month marks my first use of Open Office Impress with my students. It has been on the Windows Tablets for three years and the student have used it for other teachers. It is my first time looking at it within my room. I thought about switching all the machines to Open Office a year or two ago, but it really does not work smoothly enough on the Macs with the Power PC chipset.

New Macs/ New Software
I was able to upgrade the machines in the lab to all Intel Macs. I did not want to spend money on licenses for Microsoft Office, so I decided to give Open Office a try. It seems to be working well on the tablets we won in 2008. I have three projects I generally do this time of year with the fourth, sixth, and seventh grade. We are jumping in and the students are doing well.

Fourth Grade Math Shapes
The fourth grade students learn to control the drawing tools with a Math Shapes presentation. They are doing just fine. It was very easy to have the students insert new slides, change the layout to title only, and draw the rectangles. They practiced moving and deleting rectangles and changing the colors. Next week they will add the remaining shapes and learn to use patterns and gradients.

Sixth Grade Dinner With Famous Guests
The sixth grade students have just begun their pre-work using a paper planning sheet. In this presentation, they select a restaurant and dinner menu. They invite four famous guests. The guests can be real or fictional, alive or dead. From working with the seventh grade over the last two weeks, I am confident that they will work comfortably with the program. I've learned some lessons to pass on to the students.

Seventh Grade Something You Probably Don't Know
The students have been working on this presentation for the last two or three classes.This is the presentation that that has taught me the most for future classes. 

The first lesson came in the form of placing images into the presentation. I'm still investigating the why's and wherefore's of the problem. In some instances, students appear to be able to Edit - Copy and Edit - Paste images from the web browser into Impress. In other instances, the students just get the web address of the page when they paste. The solution is simple. The students choose "Save Image As..." and store the image in their Pictures folder after creating a personal sub folder. It is easy to Insert - Picture - From File.

The second lesson has yet to be presented to the students. It seems that there is a bug in the Mac version of the program. You can write notes on the notes page, but can't print them. It took a bit of searching to find an answer and I wish I bookmarked it, but I didn't. In order to print the notes, we will have to: go to a note page, Edit - Cut the note off the page, Edit - Paste it back in, and then all the notes will print.

The third lesson came during today's class. The students were not able to get the slide design to appear on all slides. They learned to choose Format - Slide Design and select the Load button. Once the Load button is pressed, they had to select the Presentation Backgrounds from the Categories list and click the More button for the Preview feature. They taught me a trick to see the preview of multiple backgrounds. Each time a background is selected, the Preview check mark has to be removed and reapplied.

A fourth lesson also presented itself during class. When I tested the backgrounds at home they seemed to work flawlessly. Today, students where seeming to have to apply the background to each slide. By the end of class, I noticed a check box labeled "Exchange background page". Once this is checked, the  slide background is applied to every page.

Overall I'm Happy
It will remain to be seen how Open Office Impress works in all situations, but for basic presentations it works very well. Like any piece of software it takes time to get used to unique quirks. I know over time my students will be able to create what they need. I do believe that if they use PowerPoint at home, it is similar enough that they should not have any trouble.

No comments:

Post a Comment