Muddiest points, 17 March

The following were the "muddiest points" from our session on March 17th.

  • "What's the purpose of this blog?" someone asked, a great question, which I've answered in a separate post. (One of the things I like about the muddiest point technique is that it makes the teacher think!)
  • "How do you actually create a blog?" is a question the session doesn't allow time for, but which I've answered previously. You have separate tutorials for Blogger and for Zoomblog (two of the big providers of blogging services), and a comparison of the two, to help you determine which might be better
  • "Why is Firefox better than Internet Explorer?"
  • "Webquests" someone else said — for which you now have a series of useful links

New to technology?
Several people made comments along the lines of "I've almost no experience in information technology and I don't understand anything yet" and "it's all new to me and I need practice". You now have some suggestions on how to cope with that…

Windows Explorer

Windows Explorer is used for exploring what you have on your computer — and also for organising what's on it, by creating folders and subfolders.

It's not the same as Internet Explorer, which is used for exploring what's on the Internet.

How you get to Windows Explorer

There are various ways you can launch Windows Explorer, all of which you can see in the image, above:

  • Using "My Computer", which in effect launches Windows Explorer for you
  • Via the "Windows Explorer" icon
  • By right-clicking on the "start" button (bottom left of the image), and then choosing "Explore" from the pop-up menu
  • By clicking "start", choosing "Run" and typing "explorer" into the box

What can you do with Windows Explorer
There are lots of useful things you can do with Windows Explorer, some of them essential to then being able to find things easily on your PC.

  • create a new folder (via File >> New >> Folder, shown in the image, right)
  • create sub folders (right-click within an existing folder, choose New >> Folder, and name appropriately)
  • rename a folder (right-click it, and choose "rename" (or select the folder and hit the F2 shortcut key))
  • examine what is in the folders, with the "view thumbnails" function the best way to see what images you have in them
  • reorganise files into other folders (select whatever you want, holding down Control or Control+Shift to select multiple files, and simply drag to whichever folder you want them in)

If what you have created doesn't seem to appear, hit the F5 key to refresh the view.

Organising and naming your files and folders logically becomes vital when you have a lot of things on your computer.

Go to "start" >> "search" if you still can't find it!

>> More on Windows Explorer

View thumbnails

The "view thumbnails" function is useful if you want to see what images you have got in a particular folder. In the image above we are seeing the files as a "list" — and we can't actually see the images.

If you have saved things to your PC from a digital camera, for example, you've probably got names like "DSN5987" — not terribly helpful, especially when you have several hundred of them!

Assuming you are using Windows, if it's Windows 2000, go to "View" and pick "Thumbnails".

If you have Windows XP, you have both "thumbnails" and "filmstrip" (as shown in the image, above). The latter gives you a much larger version of the image (great for determining which of those several hundred pix you just took on your camera should be trashed!).

If it's a Spanish PC, you want "vistas en miniatura" from the "ver" menu.

"Paste special" to copy content from the Internet

If you are copying text from the Internet — say, a news story for use in class (see Links, right, for sources) — you will often find that when you paste the text into Word you get unwanted formatting, largely in the form of tables.

Copying from a webpage will do that — pick up the tables that have been used to lay out the page.

Avoiding that, and getting just the text that you want, is very simple — and will be much quicker than trying to eliminate all those table cells.

Copy the text, go to your Word document, and — from the menu, not the icon — choose "Paste special" (see image, above).

Then choose "unformatted text" (see second image, above). And it's as simple as that…

To try it, go to Yahoo News, for example, copy a story, and then try both methods: paste with the icon, and then — in a new document — use "paste special".

See the difference…?

Keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard short cuts — such as using the "Control" key +S to save the document you are currently working on — are not something that you actually need to use.

If you aren"t using them already, you must be accessing the same tools either by the menus or by the icons. From the menu, File >> Save, for example, will have the same effect as Control+S, and clicking the diskette "Save" icon will do the same.

What are the keyboard short cuts?

If you pull down a dropdown menu you will be able to see what your keyboard short cuts are — as you can see in the image above.

Start to use them and Control +A, +C, +F, +S, +V, +Z, +X (etc) will soon become second nature to you. Go ahead: explore the menus in Word and Internet Explorer and Firefox and you'll soon discover what each of those is for.
Why use the short cuts?
Two reasons. One is that they"ll save you time — they're faster.

And, more importantly, if you learn to use them, you've learnt something new about using your computer — and learning how to use a computer more proficiently makes you more confident about using it.

It's a bit like learning a language. When you acquire more words, better skills, you can do more; when you can do more, you feel more confident, and you then communicate more successfully. It's a snowball effect.

Try the shortcuts…!