Office Productivity Tools – WHS 16

Today I’m providing an overview of the office productivity tools available to the homeschooler.  This is not a comprehensive overview but just a quick run-down of what’s available.  I’m also not going to cover every product available, I’m just including what I feel are the top-4 products.

The four products I’m covering are: Microsoft OfficeOpen OfficeGoogle Docs, and Windows Live Office aka MS Office Live.

These products fall into two basic categories: free or paid and cloud-based or client-based.

The free products are: Open Office, Google Docs, and Windows Live Office.  Microsoft Office is the only paid product I’m discussing.

The cloud-based (or those you use on the Internet) are Google Docs and Windows Office Live.  The client-based (or those that have to be installed on your computer) are Open Office and Microsoft Office.

Most people only use about 10% of the features in MS Office so every one of these tools will meet your needs.  It’s really up to you whether or not you want to spend your hard-earned money on MS Office for ease of use and convenience.

That being said, I will go into a feature comparison of the products in upcoming episodes.

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If you’d like to leave feedback about this or any other episode you can call and leave a voice mail by calling 518-290-0228, send email to feedback@thewiredhomeschool.com, or leave a comment on the blog. Follow me on Twitter: @jwilkers. Also follow the podcast on Twitter: @wiredhs. Join the Facebook page over at http://facebook.com/wiredhs

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Feedback Episode – WHS 15

Feedback and Parental Controls

Originally I had intended to start my series on productivity tools but I realized I had a bit of feedback that I needed to respond to so the productivity series will have to wait.

Mentioned in this podcast:

Next week I will start a series on productivity tools. If you have any tools that you use for record-keeping, please let me know.

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If you’d like to leave feedback about this or any other episode you can call and leave a voice mail by calling 518-290-0228, send email to feedback@thewiredhomeschool.com, or leave a comment on the blog. Follow me on Twitter: @jwilkers. Also follow the podcast on Twitter: @wiredhs. Join the Facebook page over at http://facebook.com/wiredhs

The Wired Homeschool is a proud member of the Tech Podcast Network. For more family-friendly tech podcasts visit techpodcasts.com

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OpenDNS and FamilyShield – WHS 14

OpenDNS and FamilyShield are great tools for simplifying Internet security.

I’ve been using OpenDNS for years. I originally started using as a novelty. I soon discover the many benefits of this service and now recommend that everyone uses it.

The primary function that everyone will benefit from is the content filtering. If you want granular control then OpenDNS is for you. If you want basic filtering services then FamilyShield would be an option for you to choose.

Here’s a run-down of the features for both services:
OpenDNS Basic

  • Cost – FREE
  • Reliable DNS Infrastructure
  • Web Content Filtering
  • Phishing Protection
  • Typo Correction

FamilyShield features the same great services but lacks customization.

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If you’d like to leave feedback about this or any other episode you can call and leave a voice mail by calling 518-290-0228, send email  to feedback@thewiredhomeschool, or leave a comment on the blog. Follow me on Twitter: @jwilkers. Also follow the podcast on Twitter: @wiredhs. Join the Facebook page over at http://facebook.com/wiredhs

The Wired Homeschool is a proud member of the Tech Podcast Network. For more family-friendly tech podcasts visit techpodcasts.com

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SafeEyes – WHS 13

Keep your kids safe online with SafeEyes

Parental controls are important tools in your homeschooling toolbox. Keeping your children safe on the Internet from objectionable material can be difficult considering how many ways it can slip through the cracks. Even with very strict parental controls in place it’s still possible for your children to view content that would make your eyelids curl. No filtering product is perfect but I think SafeEyes has the features and tools that will help you in keeping your children safe online.

Features

SafeEyes features include:

  • Content Controls – Flexible content control allows you to select the types of website that are appropriate.
  • Program Controls – Control Instant Messengers, P2P File Sharing, and other harmful programs.
  • Time Controls – Control the amount of time spent online, and the times when the internet is available.
  • Usage Logging – Create and review logs of websites visited, programs used on the Internet, and Instant Messaging Chats.
  • Usage Alerts – Be notified instantly via email, text message, or phone call when someone visits inappropriate websites.

Final thoughts

SafeEyes looks like a great tool for families who want an all-in-one solution to their Internet accountability and filtering needs. At $49.95 a year I think it’s priced just right for parents who want to be confident that their children will not come across objectionable material on the Internet. As I said earlier, no product is perfect but SafeEyes has a number of features that certainly make it a viable option for the less savvy computer users.

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If you’d like to leave feedback about this or any other episode you can call and leave a voice mail by calling 518-290-0228, send email  to feedback@thewiredhomeschool, or leave a comment on the blog. Follow me on Twitter: @jwilkers. Also follow the podcast on Twitter: @wiredhs. Join the Facebook page over at http://facebook.com/wiredhs

The Wired Homeschool is a proud member of the Tech Podcast Network. For more family-friendly tech podcasts visit techpodcasts.com

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Homeschooling and Copyright – WHS 12

This week I deviate from my schedule and talk about copyright and the homeschooler. In addition, I review the products offered at Homeschool Astronomy. I’ll get back on schedule and review SafeEyes next week.

Homeschool Astronomy

Homeschool Astronomy is a great resource for parents who want to teach their children about our universe. It differs from the classical astronomy approach that you often here me talk about with Jay Ryan on my other podcast, Jesus Geek. Classical astronomy is primarily about what you can see with the unaided eye and Jay Ryan’s Signs and Seasons is the only curriculum I recommend when it comes to teaching astronomy from a classica point of view. The Homeschool astronomy curriculum teaches modern astronomy.

What do you get?

Each unit is self-contained and comes in a PowerPoint format. There are beautiful pictures from NASA and facts and figures that will make you head explode. Each unit also has discussion questions and suggested activities to go along with the study. I found the units to be thorough and easily adaptable to children of all ages. I would recommend using each unit for a week. Spreading out the lesson over a week will help your child to retain more of the information.

Price and final thoughts

Each unit costs $9.95. The unit I was given as a sample had 43 slides in it with a number of discussion questions and information that could keep a motivated student going for at least a week, if not two. The one thing I feel could be changed is if it were offered in different formats. WHile I would venture a guess that most homeschoolers have a copy of Microsoft Office on their computer, some may not. Offering thi product as a PDF or self-contained flash animation would make it much more accessible to those homeschoolers who do not have PowerPoint. It could also be saved a self-executing Powerpoint presentation to make it more accessible to Windows users, however, Apple or Linux users wouldn’t have the means to run such a presentation. I don’t see this as a strike against the product but rather a way that the product could be improved for compatibility with as many computing environements as possible. All-in-all this is a great product and I highly recommend that you go out an purchase at least one unit to see if you’d like to use it yourself.

Copyright

Copyright and homeschooling is an issue that has baffled me for years. I suspect most people are ignorant of the copyright laws in the Unites States but once someone makes them aware of the law it appears that there is a contingent of homeschoolers that choose to ignore the law and continue to take money out of the back pockets of individuals and organiazations dedicated to providing homeschoolers with quality material in their homeschooling endeavors. I talk a little about that on this week’s podcast and discuss my position on the matter. Fore more information about homeschool copyright and how you can be sure you’re within the law you can visit http://homeschoolcopyright.com

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Music for the podcast by Kevin Macleod.

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