Interactive Whiteboards in Australia

News, ideas and discussion about interactive whiteboards in education

Posts Tagged ‘activsoftware’

5 interesting things that you can with Shapes in ActivInspire

Posted by rosiemacalpine on November 19, 2009

The new version of ActivInspire offers lots more choices for using shapes and lines in your teaching. Here are five ways that you may not have thought of before (n.b. some of these tools are available with other IWB software, some are unique to ActivInspire).

1. Making irregular shapes with the Line-Chain shape 


When you use the Line-Chain shape, each click of the pen adds another angle to the shape. Ask students to draw an irregular pentagon, octagon etc, or set challenges ‘Draw an irregular pentagon with one angle of 45 degrees’.


2. Use the rectangle tool to create a Mondrian style painting


The rectangle tool can be dragged to any size or shape. Either change the fill of each shape to red,yellow or blue before you draw, or draw all the shapes in white. Then use the paint bucket to fill in different colours.


3. Matching shapes and outlines

image When you choose a fill for your shape, try using the ‘no fill’ option. This allows you to draw a shape without any fill colour. Then, use the paint bucket tool to fill your shape. When you move the shape, you will find that the outline and the fill move separately. You can then drag the fills and outlines to different areas of the page and ask students to match them.


4. Colour blending using transparent shapes

image Draw any shape and fill a primary colour. You may prefer to delete the border (see previous example) or use a very thin one.

Click on the centre of the shape. On the Object Edit toolbar that appears above the shape, click on the sun icon. Drag it to the left until the shape is semi-transparent. Now duplicate the shape and make them several different colours. Overlap the shapes to see the new colours that appear.


5. Sticky shapes for brainstorming and charts

image Draw three shapes at the bottom of your page. Select them and add ‘Drag a copy’. While the shapes are still selected, go to the Properties Browser and open the Container section. Change the first drop down menu to Can Contain: Anything.

Now you can drag infinite number of shapes onto your page and write on them. The writing will stick to the shape so you can move it around without losing the writing.



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Making interactive 3D prisms in ActivInspire

Posted by rosiemacalpine on April 13, 2009


This idea was suggested by some maths teachers at a local high school. I was intrigued by the connectors (lines which ‘glue’ shapes together) in ActivInspire, but hadn’t quite worked out what to do with them! I think this was a really clever and useful idea.

Click the video below to see how you can use the shapes. Remember that a personal edition of ActivInspire can be downloaded from Promethean Planet and can be used by any teacher, regardless of the type of board you use.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

If you want to see an ActivInspire flipchart with these shapes, click on the link below to download the flipchart. You will need to install the ActivInspire software (if you haven’t already done so) before you can view the flipchart.

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Using timers on the IWB

Posted by rosiemacalpine on March 30, 2009

When I used an IWB in a classroom with young children, an onscreen timer was one of the tools that I used several times a day on the board. I noticed a rapid improvement in their ability to monitor their own work pace and ability to complete tasks within a given time frame. I used the timer for the following tasks:

  • Silent think time about your story before you share your idea with your partner: 30 seconds
  • Finish your writing before recess: 20 minutes
  • Time on a learning station before your group rotates to the next station: 10 minutes
  • Time to read your book silently before you finish your spelling: 5 minutes

In this post, I will showcase some of the timers included in the Promethean software in addition to timers available on the internet (for all IWBs). I have restricted the choice to timers that you can set at the board (no keyboard required – with one exception).

1. Timers in Activstudio V3

Clock/ countdown timer


You can access this timer by adding the clock to your Toolbox, clicking on the icon and choosing countdown. You can choose from several different sounds or even add your own. You can also set actions to occur at the end of the time e.g. turn the page, take a snapshot of the page.


Resource library timers (Flash)

You can find these timers in Shared ACTivities> Gadgets and Widgets> Timers


My favourite is the candle which melts as the time ticks by.


2. Timers in ActivInspire

Clock/ countdown timer

You can access this timer from the Tools menu or by clicking on the hammer and spanner icon on the Toolbox.

I don’t think it’s quite as user friendly as the timer in Activstudio, as you have to open the clock then choose the countdown option. But the other features are the same.


Resource library timers

In addition to the timers in Activstudio (which you still have access to), this timer has also been added to Inspire in Lesson Building Tools> Gadgets


This is a nice simple flash based timer but doesn’t have any sound attached. It is available in a few different colours.


3. Online timers.

There is a huge number of online stopwatches and countdown clocks, but the majority of them require you to use a keyboard to enter the time at the board. You could use the onscreen keyboard, but I prefer to skip this step if I can. Here are three keyboard-less stop clocks (and one notable exception).


This is a full screen stopwatch with large buttons which is easy to set at the board. A timer sounds when the timer is completed.


This stop clock is from the same source as the counter above but uses a nice sand timer as a display rather than numbers.

In addition to an alarm, the full screen picture flashes red when the time has finished, making it suitable for hearing impaired children.


This is a simple javascript timer which is also easy to set on the board.

This is the only timer I used that requires a keyboard to set the time. The great thing about this timer is that you can set the time directly into the web browser. Simply type  and then type a time after the slash – 4 days, or 3 hours, or 20 minutes etc. I mostly use this to monitor my own work. The remaining time is displayed in hours, minutes and seconds.


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Downloading flash from the internet to use in flipcharts

Posted by rosiemacalpine on February 23, 2009

Flash files are (usually) interactive animations that work particularly on interactive whiteboards. You have probably seen them in two places.

1. The internet. Below are some screenshot examples of flash animations.


2. In your IWB software . Below are three examples of flash animations included in the Promethean Activstudio resource library.


Did you know that you can download flash files from the internet to use them directly in your flipcharts? The advantages of downloading rather than linking to the web include:

  • Using the resources even when you don’t have access to the internet
  • Ability to resize the flash animations (so you can fit other resources on the page. For example, you might want to write on the board every random number shown to see if a pattern emerges)
  • Ability to annotate over the top of the animations
  • Keeping all your regularly used activities in one place
  • Use more than one animation on one page

I’ve found the best way of downloading flash files is to use Internet Explorer’s Temporary Internet Files folder (I haven’t yet found an easy way of doing this with Firefox.)

1. Navigate to the page with Internet Explorer.

2. Watch the animation.


3. Click on the Tools button or menu, and go to Internet Options.

4. Click the Settings button under Browsing History on the first tab. Then click View Files.


5. The animation you have just watched will be at or near the top of the list of files (it will end with .swf) . I find it easiest to drag it from this folder onto a flipchart page now.  (If you get a pop-up box, choose ‘add placeholder’).

6. Now you can watch it in your flipchart, and drag it into your resource library to save it.

I save a shortcut to this Temporary Internet Files folder on my desktop, so it’s easy to get to.

Remember this is the same as copying text or images from the internet, so check copyright.

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Going back in time with Google Earth (part one: how to)

Posted by rosiemacalpine on February 9, 2009

Google Earth have released a significant new update which has some lovely new features (which all look fab on a IWB). To get the new update, go to the Tools menu in Google Earth and choose Check for Updates Online. Click the download button in the dialogue box which will take you to a web download. Once it’s downloaded, restart Google Earth.

One of the new features that I really like is the historical imagery feature. When you click on the clock button you get a sliding scale and you can explore the satellite imagery for different dates. So far, I’ve just seen dates ranging from 2002 – 2009, but apparently some parts of the US include imagery as far back as the 1950’s.


I then used this feature in a flipchart, so it was easier to compare the views. Promethean Activsoftware includes a feature called Magic Ink which allows you to see through a picture to see another picture hidden underneath. I used the camera tool to take snapshots of each view in of the map.

Then I stacked the pictures on top of each other (2009 picture on top) put the latest view on the top layer and then added a magnifying glass to see through to the 2003 layer. Look carefully at the magnifying glass in the picture. You will see half of a building in the magnifying circle (2003) which had been demolished in the rest of the picture (2009). image

I think this feature works really well as it allows you to directly compare different parts of the picture.
There’s a good post on the new features in this Google Earth version at the Google Earth blog.

If you have Activstudio or Activprimary software, you can download my flipchart showing this feature here.

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Adjusting height fit – do you have trouble seeing all of the flipchart?

Posted by rosiemacalpine on January 23, 2009

Whether you are downloading other people’s flipcharts from Promethean Planet, or making your own, you may have run into this problem.


It’s annoying when you can’t see the whole flipchart on your computer. You can use the scroll bar, but most pages are better viewed in one go. In the flipchart above, some of the resources are now hidden at the bottom of the page – and so are the instructions!

This happens because people that create flipcharts have different sizes of computer screens. For example, you might have a wide screen laptop on which you make your flipcharts.

When you show them at school, your board is (usually) the size of a ‘normal computer’ (a 4:3 ratio of width:height). So it’s going to skew your page.


I’m simplifying this a little bit, but this is basically what causes the problem. And here is the solution.

To stop your flipcharts falling off the page when you put them on a 4:3 board, make in a 4:3 mode. To do this, go to Main Menu on your toolbar image . Then choose Studio Settings… and click on Flipchart in the left hand column.


Change the Default page scale to Height Fit, and the Default page size to 1024*768.

Now when you are on your widescreen computer, your flipcharts will look like this (note the black ‘world’ on both sides).


When the image is projected on the board it will now display properly.

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Activsoftware – Inspire Edition

Posted by rosiemacalpine on January 22, 2009

As a true Activaddict, I downloaded this new edition this at home within an hour of release last week. It’s an great new version with lots of useful new tools and functions for teachers to use in their classroom.

One of the most exciting things about the new program is how it will be licenced. It will still be a free upgrade for teachers who already have the board. But if you have a different board, you now have the option of using this software too! The Personal Edition will be free, and there will also be the option of using a Professional Edition at a cost. This means that you will be able to share resources with other teachers, no matter what kind of board they have. I think this will be a huge benefit for the teaching community.

The structure

Previously there were four versions of the software – Activstudio Windows, Activstudio Mac,  Activprimary Windows and Activprimary Mac.

This has now been simplified into one program. This will make training and collaboration between teachers much easier. Activprimary still has its own interface (or skin) but it has the full functionality of Activstudio.

The design

The look of the new program is based on the Mac version (which had a much more stylish interface). It is still similar enough to the old Activstudio to quickly find your way around and start using the board.

Both the Activstudio and Activprimary skins are attractive and easy to use. But as a former Activstudio devotee, I’m surprised how much I like the Primary skin now! It makes it super easy for new users (teachers or students) to pick up a pen and start writing.

Activstudio skinimage

Activprimary skin image

The features

There are so many improvements in the version that it’s difficult to know where to start! So I’ve narrowed it down to a list of my ten favourite things about the new version.

1. Play downloaded videos from the internet directly in the flipchart window + a snapshot button on the video controller for easy screenshots.

2. The eraser button now acts as a true eraser – not a mask. There is a new ‘Magic Ink’ button that lets you do special X-ray effects like the old eraser did.

3. A one click button inserts a weblink on your page.

4. New connector tool and improved shapes library lets you create mind maps and brainstorms (similar to Inspiration).

5. Students will now be able to access the program at home, so they can design interactive presentations as part of their assessment.

6. Activote and Activexpression (see picture of these voting devices below) now work seamlessly inside the program. It’s a one click button to start voting with either device.


7. Text editing is much simpler, with a fixed editing toolbar.

8. Hundreds of new resources are included for teachers. They are ready to use or can be edited to suit the needs of your class. You still have access to all your old resources (more than 25,000 if you’ve added the free resource packs!)


9. The new side browser makes it much easier to add page notes, change the properties of an object, or add actions. This snapshot of the object browser shows how simple it is to change the layer, position or delete an object.


10. Maths tools have all been redesigned and improved. One of my favourites is the ruler. You can have multiple rulers on a page, view the angle as you turn the ruler and compare different units of measurement.


The new edition is available for download here at Promethean Planet. If you are not registered on the Planet, then you’ll need to sign up (but it’s free!) Remember that you don’t have to have a Promethean board to sign up or download the software. It is a Beta version though, so don’t plan to use with your class until the final release date (March).

There’s also a free course here at Promethean Learning. This flash-based course will guide you through the new features. Happy playing!

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IWB resources for Australian teachers

Posted by rosiemacalpine on January 14, 2009

Promethean Planet have released a collection of resources (known as a theme) for Australia Day. It includes 30 flipcharts about Australia, eight resource packs, and quality web links with Australian topics for IWBs. The theme will be ‘live’ for about a month, but all the resources will remain on the Promethean website after the month in the Resources section.


If you don’t have Promethean software, you can download a Flipchart Viewer from the Promethean site that will let you view the flipcharts.

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Changing your settings in Activstudio

Posted by rosiemacalpine on January 12, 2009

When I conduct training for teachers, I usually start by making a few changes to the default settings of the program. Here’s a list of four settings that I like to change and instructions on how to change them. All of the settings are located in the main menu which is the button at the top left hand side of the Main Toolbox.


1. Bump up the colours.

The standard version of Activstudio comes with eight colours. If you’d like to add some more, then go to Main Menu> Customise…> Colours> and click 24.


2. Get your Task bar back.

This is a matter of personal opinion, but I don’t like the standard Activstudio flipchart which covers my taskbar. I’m used to the standard Windows settings of being able to get to it when I need it. Go to Main Menu> Customise…> Flipchart Style> Standard Windows.


Now your flipchart page will look like this. Apologies in advance to the anti-windows people! 🙂


image3.  Studio settings. The next two changes are in Main Menu> Studio Settings…

a) Click Toolboxes in the left hand menu. Change toolbox docking to Yes and Rollup.  Now whenever you drag your toolbar to the side, top, or bottom of the screen, it will automatically roll up out of the way. When you drag it out, it will unroll.

This is a great timesaver, and really helps with the irritation of your toolbox always being in the way. There’s a short video below showing how it works.

Vodpod videos no longer available.


b) Click Linked File Hosting in the left hand menu. Click the tick mark in the Show Sound Controller box, so it is

now unchecked (blank).

The Sound Controller is the box that pops up whenever you play an award sound or your timer sounds. Most people find it rather intrusive. This will help it go away forever!

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Using paths in Promethean Activstudio

Posted by rosiemacalpine on January 9, 2009

Paths are one of the unique features of Activstudio/ Activprimary software but are used infrequently by teachers. So what is a path?

A path is a single pen line, in any shape. These are all paths.


Paths are useful, because you can set an image to follow a particular path. Normally in IWB software, you can draw a picture anywhere on the page (unless it’s locked). When you’ve changed an object to follow a path, it can only follow that path.

On a recent thread on the Promethean Planet forum, we discussed using paths to choose from several different options like this.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Although it looks like several lines, it is still only one. I used the point to point tool to double back to the original path. 

Here are a couple of ways that I’ve used paths on the IWB. The path on the map is normally hidden, so students drag the ship to discover the route. I’ve just coloured it black for this blog entry.image image

Here are some more ideas for how to use paths in your teaching.

  • Set a pencil, or a ball to follow handwritten letters to practice handwriting formation.
  • Draw a path through a maze to follow.
  • Make the path invisible (e.g. white against a white background). Then draw 2D shapes. Children follow the shapes with an object while the rest of the class predicts the shape.
  • Draw the orbit of a planet and make the path invisible. Set an object to follow the orbit.
  • Draw the curve on a graph and make it invisible. Attach an object to the start point. Students predict the shape by referring to the equation, then move the object to test their prediction.
  • Use it when matching two different objects together. In the example below, the chemical symbol has been set to follow the path to the correct name. I’ve made the paths deliberately messy, so that students won’t be able to discern the correct path without dragging the object.


P.S. I’ve switched to Windows Live Writer to write my posts, after reading this post by James Yeang on the MakeUseOf blog. I’d heartily recommend it to other bloggers – it’s dramatically cut the time it takes me to tweak images and add items to my blog.

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