When computers were first introduced they were often just used as fancy typewriters. Today computers continue to be used to type text but now documents can integrate text, graphics, sound and video.
Pictures displayed or manipulated on the computer are called graphics. Many type of computer programs allow you to create and manipulate graphics. Corel Draw and Adobe Illustrator are examples of dedicated graphics programs Sophisticated word processing programs like Corel WordPerfect, Microsoft Word and Claris Works now come with small graphics programs that allow you to create simple graphics to add to your word processing documents.
Graphics programs fall into two general categories: painting or drawing. Painting programs store graphics as collections of little dots called bit maps. Once you create something in a painting progra it is difficult to alter it and changing its size usually result in an image that has very rough edges. On the other hand, drawing programs store a graphic as a collection of vector graphics. This allows you greater flexibility when altering the graphic. Labeling, matching and grouping exercises can be created in drawing documents (see the lesson plan is CONNECT Volume #2, Issue #4).
If you're not interested in creating your own graphics you can always purchase ready made clip art. When you purchase clip art, make sure it is stored in a format that is compatible with the operating system and the program you will be using. PICT, TIFF, EPS, JPEG, WMF, CGM and BMP are all examples of different graphics formats.
If you have a photograph or a drawing on paper and you would like to use on the computer, you could scan it. Scanners make copies of images on paper and store them in graphics files on your computer.
Digital cameras are also now available. They are similar to regular cameras except the pictures are stored in a digital computer file instead of on film. After you have taken the pictures, you plug the camera into the computer, and with the help of a computer program that comes with the camera, the pictures are transfered as graphic files on your computer.
Early computers were only capable of producing annoying beeps. It is now standard for computers to come equipped with sound cards that allow the output of sounds to speakers or headphones. Sound cards also allow you to input sound using a microphone. (Most sound cards are Sound Blaster or Sound Blaster compatible.)
There are many ways you can make use of sound on the computer. Programs such as FileMaker Pro, Microsoft Word and Corel WordPerfect allow you to record sound and place it in a document. This feature is great for creating dictations on the computer. (For an example of this see the lesson plan in CONNECT Volume #2, Issue #2).
Text-to-speech programs will read typed text. Some text-to-speech programs such as S.A.R.A.W. work like specialized word processing programs where text-to-speech is the main feature. (You can find more information about S.A.R.A.W. in CONNECT, Volume #2, Issue #1.) Other text-to-speech programs such as Listens, ProVoice, PlainTalk and Monologue are designed to read text that is contained in another program. System 7.5 for Apple computers comes with Speech Manager which will work with SimpleText or Claris Works. Whatever text-to-speech program you consider, always get a demonstration of the voices used in the software. Often the voices are computer generated and this can make them difficult for students to understand.
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