For almost all of the time I have been teaching, I have been spoilt. Of course I didn’t realise this until things changed but having one’s own teaching room is an enormous advantage in a teacher’s pressurised working day. Working from one room means there are a vital few minutes between one lesson and the next when the learning space can be reorganised to fit a new group.
Sadly, I no longer have that luxury and this means that it is I who have to move between rooms, carrying everything I might conceivably need for the next group of learners. Fortunately, each teaching room in my new school has a similar setup and is well equipped for sound, visuals and interactivity. Still, I’m always on the lookout for anything that might speed these transitions and when I came across Portable Apps, I knew it was just the sort of thing that could help.
Most of us now use USB pen drives and think nothing of keeping lesson resources on them that can be opened by a ‘host’ PC. However, we have all experienced the problem inherent in this when a file that we’ve created on one computer steadfastly refuses to open on another.
The problem of course is to do with what programs are installed on which computer. Say I make a PowerPoint presentation on my home PC and save it to my memory stick. I then take that memory stick to a classroom and expect my presentation to run as it did on my PC at home. This may or may not happen as I expect due to the different versions of PowerPoint available or indeed whether it is installed at all on the PC into which I plug my USB stick. These kinds of problems seem demonstrably worse when one is working with sound and video as there are so many different formats available for these types of files.
What Portable Apps offers is a way to change your pen drive into a mini-computer. The idea is simple, why stop at storing data when these pen drives are fast enough to run tiny versions of very useful programs. Thus, instead of carting about a laptop with your specific programs installed and connecting it to a projector or interactive whiteboard, you run your vital applications from a humble pen drive.
If you investigate the excellent PortableApps.com you will find that your pendrive can have a start menu not dissimilar to the Windows one. This menu will automatically run when you plug your pendrive into a new PC. Into that menu you might add programs such as VLC Media Player (a piece of software that allows you to play almost any video format) or Coolplayer (a very fast, easy-to-use audio player). Now you are no longer at the mercy of software installed on your institution’s PCs; you can work safe in the knowledge that your saved file will indeed play as expected.
And while we’re on the subject of Portable Apps, one of the programs that has been made portable goes by the moniker of PNotes. Once run, it places virtual post-its on your screen that can be typed on, saved and set to display on top of any other window or programs that you run. I use this tiny but essential program to display the learning objectives for my lessons, making the ‘post-it’ that contains them slightly transparent so that students can select whether they are looking at the learning objectives or indeed the material behind them.
It has long been a gripe of mine that those people who make interactive whiteboard software have not included an easy way to achieve this relatively simple effect: having learning objectives visible to students no matter what else is one screen. PNotes running from your pendrive makes this a very easy trick to pull off and your learning objectives are saved for next time too.
Filed under: Freeware Programs, Ideas, Media, Resources, Teaching | Tagged: Learning objectives, Portable Apps | 2 Comments »