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What is a Wiki?

Posted by murcha on February 18, 2008

Several of my dear blogging friends at LeEnchanteur, (whom I have sadly neglected but will get back to, I promise!!) and soul food cafe and the wildgarden, have asked me what a wiki is, and I am sure many of you out there do not know either, so I shall write a post re wikis.


To me, wikis can be used for various purposes:-

  • a resource bank and storage area
  • a web page for a school or business
  • an interactive and collaborative tool where either selected persons or everyone can add to, delete, edit etc
  • and many more, dependent only on the imagination of the user

I started with wikis about 6 months ago and now play an important role in my web2.0 life now, including my teaching application.

The following is a definition from the largest and best known wiki of them all:- wikipedia. A wiki is software that allows users to create, edit, and link web pages easily. Wikis are often used to create collaborative websites and to power community websites.

sample of one of my wikis

Above is a screenshot of one of my wikis that I use for filing all my resources.It is constantly updated and open for all to view but not to edit. It has a vast collection of links, blogs, urls and documentation for the web 2.0 journey I am sharing with my students. They can be accessed by clicking on the links. It is easy to embed videos, podcasts and other web2.0 html. They can be used interactively and collaboratively. A discussion site is present and the history tab allows you to see any editing.

I am also a member of various other educational wikis eg eduwikius, Women of the Web etc My classes have been part of collaborative wikis between other countries. Students have created a talking voki (computer animated ID) and introduced themselves to a school in NZ and in Las Vegas. Teachers in both countries had administrative rights and could add to the wiki or delete as necessary. Time is always a factor and they are still work in progress. I love this wiki of Graham Wegners shared with a school in Alaska. It shows the power of a wiki for collaboration.

Currently, our students are working on 1001 flat tales project at an elementary level (grade 3 and 4) and at the middle school level (years6 and 7). Four schools from USA, two from Canada and two from Australia are involved. Students will each be given a page or space of their own where they will start to put up a little about themselves and start writing their stories. Their partner in another country will comment on their ideas, storylines, accuracy, sentence construction, word fluency, conventions and mechanics etc over a period of time using the 6 traits to effective writing.

Wikis can be closed to public viewing or open with permission for all to edit, add to and delete (this is how wikipedia came about) or may be viewed but not edited unless permission by the space manager is given.
Some of the most popular wiki tools are:

  • Wikispaces – easy to use, great backup service, free to educationalists (make sure you register for the free version if you are in education as it is ad free as well)
  • Wetpaint Our school cluster uses wetpaint as its wiki tool as do other individual members of our school staff. If wetpaint will come to my post and place a comment on it, (which they have done twice)  they deserve 10+ out of 10. They have reminded me that their wikis are free and their educational wikis are advertisement free. Due to their personal interest, I am certain that their support service would be great. Checkout their wikisineducation site. And further,  if you find you like a Wetpaint wiki in the classroom, you can be featured at http://wikisineducation.wetpaint.com/page/What+the+Bloggers+are+Saying
  • pbwiki

Other examples of wikis are

http://aquaculturepda.wikispaces.com/ I love this one by DS Waters – lots of resources and tutorials for web2.0
Wikibooks is a Wikimedia community for creating a free library of educational textbooks that anyone can edit. http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Main_Page


Posted in Anne Mirtschin, Web 2.0 Classrooms, Web 2.0 Resources | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

My flat classroom

Posted by murcha on February 12, 2008

Today the students were going to have a guest teacher, Mr Jeff Whipple, outlining the nature of a wiki and explaining the nature of the 1001 flat tales global project.  Grades 4 and 5 will work on the elementary wiki with China, Thailand, US, Canada etc whilst grade 6 will be involved in the middle school one. Jeff would use his laptop to demonstrate the wiki.

Using our atlas ascertaining where Jeff is from
However this was no ordinary classroom as Jeff lives in Canada (read his version of our experiences on his blog ). He is the technology educational specialist for his school and is setting up the wiki for the project. With the help of our library  interactive white board, 50 odd students and half a dozen interested teachers watched with amazement, Jeff talk to us from his home, show us his pet cat, outline the project and then with the help of the SMART Technologies Bridgit on the IWB allowed us to view his laptop screen and walk through the wiki. His time was 10pm, ours was 12:00 midday. The weather was sunny and 25 deg C where we live, with students about to go to the pool for swimming classes. 15cm snow and -16deg C was the weather pattern where Jeff lives. Students are now fully motivated to start the project. Atlases came out and we found the city where Jeff lives. A great deal of geography was learned in 30 mins.!! Jeff was kind enough to come back to us 40 mins later to do a photo shoot for our local newspaper “The Warrnambool Standard”. The photographer and reporter had to make a 30 minute drive to our school.
How, did we get to know Jeff, you may well ask? Well, I was trying to sort out our “From Me to You” envelopes in the computer pod last week. My year 11 students were quietly and diligently completing accounting exs when I noticed my laptop flashing. Having forgotten that I was still logged into skype, I found someone was chatting to me.  My curiousity got the better of me.  It was Jeff, introducing himself as he was setting up the wiki for the project. As we chatted, he offered to demo the wiki via skype to our classes. We took him up on that offer. My twitter network through Kim Cofino, from Bangkok, had alerted me to the existence of the project.Skyping with Jeff
The second interesting event of the day, occurred prior to our skype session. I had spent several hours the night before working out a cyber safety lesson. Again, my twitter network came to the rescue with lots of interesting links, url’s, wikis and online videos. I had my year9/10s for a double class first thing this morning, but to my utter dismay, found the internet was down and all my lesson plans with it. Students started writing a post for their blogs whilst the principal and I tried to sort out the internet. Some time later, it was back on. Students quickly checked out their blogs and found they had comments on them, some from our staff, students but others from Holland and the US. Well………..that was it!!! My lesson plans never went into action. Instead, the students initiated their own learning. They wanted to email back the people who commented, some of whom were similar age students in the US. Then, they checked out those student blogs. Students who are often reluctant readers and writers were fully engaged reading the various posts. The boys even found a post on cricket by one of the US students. That encouraged them to wrote a post about the local cricket team they play for.
Next, they wanted to add a clustrmap to their blogs etc. The double was finished all too quickly. An authentic audience makes such powerful learning!!!

dsc00703.jpg….and to top our day,our first two cards from the US schools in the “From me to you” project arrived. Excited students will open them tomorrow morning.

Posted in Anne Mirtschin, Social networking, Web 2.0 Classrooms | Tagged: , , , , | 9 Comments »

Let’s Get Blogging on…..

Posted by murcha on February 5, 2008

Last week, despite personal mental and physical exhaustion coping with first week back at school, one crashed computer lab and intermittent internet access, my students on Friday, set up their own blog space. We decided to enrol with global students, as our experience with edublogs did not work last year. (possibly our school’s tight security.) Following are the steps we took.

Pre-Learning activities

  1. Viewed some online blog sites, including our own backyard site (where I would grab their writing and images and post them online myself) and discussed content and appearance.
  2. One group was given the responsibility of commenting back on a youthradio blog that we will be involved with this year. I quickly checked content and spelling to ensure comments were suitable and discussed etiquette and the need for saying where they were from. (but no personal details!!)

Going online

  1. Each student applied for a blog, checked their emails, activated the response, got their username and password) and then logged on.
  2. Each student had to set a minimum of 5 goals for the year, three had to be school related and two could be personal. (a very interesting excersice and will summarize the results at some stage as it was a rather eye-opening one)
  3. We kept the post simple except for some basic formatting and will look at presentation more fully next week (although the geeks were off and running and found that option early on.)
  4. Students then created a cartoon to illustrate some portion of their blog. Most are still working on this and it does add interest to the post. They created the cartoon, made a screen dump and resized the image and saved it through MS Paint. Then uploaded it into their blog.
  5. I am in the process of linking all their blogs to this blog and will ensure that I have administrative rights over their blogs.

As our students as a whole call themselves technokids, each year level has techno in front of it. Scroll down this blog and some year 9s and 10s (technoteens)  have completed their first post. (eg Tarzy, Dhugsy) Even our challenging group of ex-year 9 boys were focused on the task and enjoyed the challenge.


  • All students, from the least to the most literate, completed 5 goals (only a few struggled to find 5)
  • Would have liked a little more depth to some of their goals and had to push them to explain some of their sporting goals.
  • They enjoyed making cartoons and enhancing the presentation
  • The geeks were off and running – discovering all sorts of areas of wordpress that took me months to find
  • The comments we made on youth radio ended up in Kevin’s spam box. They were quickly retrieved. Hint:  email your host informing them that comments have been made.

Post lesson acitivity: will endeavour to reply to student posts with comments plus try and get form teachers to do so as well.

Postscript Would you believe my digital students (more precisely, the year 10 boys) are still off and running and what it took me 6 months to learn, they are already doing linking their blogs to each other, adding comments, telling the others to hurry up and moderate etc? It is truly, a baby boomer teaching the generation Y. Cant wait to see what they do next and I am sure they will teach me a lot.

Some or most, actually, have now been working on their blogs at home and added extra posts. To check them out try the links called technoteens on the RHS of my blog and try Flick, Tarzy, Glenn, Nat and Chatty for a start. Nat has started to upload the little digital movies that he has made on a movie page.


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Impact of Web 2.0 on the 2007 classroom

Posted by murcha on January 1, 2008

Myspace New Years - http://www.newyearstext.com

Reflecting on the past year, as one usually does when the old year ends, it was time to write up some of the observations that have been made on the impact of web 2.0 in the classroom. Associated with this are some of the highlights experienced in both teaching and learning.
The school year started in its usual manner, with the complication that I had lost an accounting class (I was devastated at the notion as I love teaching accounting) so instead, and as we are a prep to year 12 school, I picked up grade 3/4 and 6 IT. IT classes commenced and progressed as usual, with more advanced skills in using MS Word and Excel being taught to the higher levels and basic skills to the younger levels. Some Dreamweaver, Flash and other multi media software skills also commenced.

……Enter the world of web 2.0 in June 2007…….

My classrooms changed, necessary skills taught took on a different nature, our classroom walls started ‘crumbling ‘ before our eys, software types were now often online and motivational levels increased dramatically. Below, is a summary of some of the impacts noted.

  • Del.icio.us started the web 2.0 journey. To our surprise and delight, google picked up one of the grade 6 girl’s page and had it on their first page when a search was made on “Penshurst and volcanoes”. This really motivated students and boosted personal confidence of those involved.
  • Our backyard blog was initially created with grade 6 students. Comments were made on their work by unkown people in the USA, Hawaii, Australia etc Suddenly, there was an authentic audience for their work, not just a teacher assessing assignment work. Excitement with, and pride in their own work increased amazingly. Motivation levels ran high and students were off taking digital photos of their backyards or scanning existing photos into their blogs. Parents and community members also became involved.
  • Year 9 boys, (our most difficult to motivate group) actually leapt out of their seats to help experiment within our school, the use of skype. They were utterly engrossed for 110 minutes in helping our staff who had not used skype before, learn the processes.
    Year 8 students, a rather ‘mottled lot’, also leapt out of their seats period 5 on a Friday, and as a group and yet quite independently of my assistance, produced clips to create a video to show those ‘Los Angeles’ kids what ‘footy’ was to the Aussies.
  • I am harrassed and almost “bullied” at various times as I walk down the corroidor by students, often students who normally take little interest in school work or who rarely produce work of high quality or who suffer low self esteem, wanting to know if I have put their blogs, movies etc online yet. I even get queried when I am out in the community!!!
  • Learning from students who are 9 and 10 years old!!!! When we got our webkinz Patch, my grade 3 and 4 students worked with me as a class, using a datashow and website projection, on getting started with our virtual world. They were actually teaching me even though they had no experience in virtual worlds, themselves. These, surely are our digital natives.
  • The walls of our classrooms have started to crumble, so students are talking, via vokis and wikis to students in other countries and producing videos of our school, area, farms, towns etc and sharing them via a ning website with those students. We have ‘seen’ inside the walls of various other global classrooms and homes, sheds and backyards. No textbook could have the same impact.
  • Skype will continue to have an amazing impact on our classroom walls in 2008. When we started video conferencing with Korea, we simply asked questions of each other in the 50 minute blocks but by the fifth day, we were showing them vegemite, cricket demonstrations, aussie meat pies, blue tongue lizards, and in turn, we saw a snow clad school yard, complete with man sweeping away the snow from the school paths, Korean mobile phones/technology and Korean school uniforms. This is such powerful learning, despite the language barriers.
  • Virtual and online teamwork with other enthausiastic staff in other countries is now the norm. No longer am I a lone teacher in a reasonably remote rural school, struggling to keep up with the latest in technology but am able to update and communicate with global colleagues via blogs, social networks and ning sites. Mailing lists have also been great.
  • Grade 6 and year 7 students show no hestitation in emailing me either for advice or thanks for uploading their work or getting them involved in projects. I even got emails when I was on long service leave in Europe from grade 6 girls, asking for help with their video editing software and I was able to duly respond overnight, to allow them to continue on.
  • A renewed excitement and revigoration has returned to the classrooms with an overlap into other subject or class areas. Other staff are showing and interest and starting to come on board and it is hoped that this will continue and expand into 2008!

A very happy web year 2.0 you all!


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My top 10 Web 2.0 sites for 2007

Posted by murcha on December 29, 2007

Being an absolute beginner at web 2.0 until June, 2007, I am going to reflect on the 10 web 2.0 sites that I have enjoyed using most this year. I am following the lead of my friend Chrissy, Teaching Sagitarrian who helped start me on this amazing journey. See her favourite 5 web 2.0 in the classroom.

Mine are as follows but not necessarily in order of popularity:-

  1. http://del.icio.us.com this was where I started
  2. www.bubbl.us used widely for brainstorming
  3. blogs at www.wordpress.com with a lot of help and encouragement from Heather Blakey and Jess of technolote
  4. www.wikispaces.com used for classroom use and also for summarizing my ejourneys with the students.
  5. docs.google.com for online sharing of documents and spreadsheets with classes in other countries.
  6. www.skype.com – videoconferencing with powerful learning applications, used with NZ and Korea
  7. www.voki.com for fun, user protected podcast applications
  8. www.podomatic.com for hosting our student podcasts
  9. www.teachertube.com for hosting our videos
  10. www.surveymonkey.com for easily created online surveys

Posted in Anne Mirtschin, Web 2.0 Classrooms, Web 2.0 Resources | Tagged: , , , | 5 Comments »

Feeding a web2.0 appetite

Posted by murcha on December 23, 2007

Looking forward to each new day of the wonderful advent calendar of Heather’s at the following address:- http://www.dailywriting.net/Wild%20Gardeners%20eLearning/Advent2007.htm, many people may wonder how they can keep up with all the new entries from their favourite blog authors, news headlines or podcasts.

Web 2.0 has provided another wonderful feature in the form of RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds. RSS makes it possible for people to keep up with their favorite web sites in an automated manner that’s easier than checking them manually. RSS content can be read using software called an “RSS reader”, “feed reader” or an “aggregator“. A subscribscription is made to a feed by entering the feed’s link into the reader or by clicking an RSS icon in a browser that initiates the subscription process. The reader checks the user’s subscribed feeds regularly for new content, downloading any updates that it finds. You will know if your favourite blog allows RSS as it has a small orange module with 3 white curved lines and RSS written above it.

Some possible readers include the following:-

My reader of choice is google.reader.com Time has not permitted me to use iGoogle fully yet but as I subscribe to some yahoo groups, myahoo will allow me similar functions.
If wishing to use google reader, become a member and click on the link add subscription on the left hand side. In the resultant window, enter the web address you want to subscribe to and hey presto, you will be notified when new entries become available.

In yahoo, click on the link to my yahoo on the opening window. Just click to add the module and follow the instructions on the page. Just choose where to display the module on your page and you’ve got an RSS newsreader in just a few simple clicks.


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Virtual Worlds for the young

Posted by murcha on December 21, 2007

In 2007, each IT class was given a different project in the use of web 2.0 The grade 3/4 class was one of our school’s larger ones with up to 30 students. techno patch After searching for a suitable global project, we applied for them to join the kinzexchange project established by a Canadian teacher. This involved buying a webkinz pet and maintaining a shared blog – assuming it was like the teddy bear project. Despite the huge popularity in USA and Canada, no shop in Australia sold webkinz.

We enrolled for the project, only to find out that we had to buy a webkinz which no shop in Australia sold yet. Searching ebay produced some private sellers in Australia so we duly bid for and were successful in buying Patch – a dear little dalmation puppy. Patch came with a computer code that once entered into the webkinz site, gave him a birth certificate, personal likes and dislikes etc and allowed entry into a virtual world. Students are then reponsible for his health and wellbeing and need to provide him with necessities, including food, exercise, shelter etc. Patch starts with a certain amount of money, but as money is spent, students can gain more money through games like activities. That world can also include other webkinz pets. The arrival and stay of Patch has caused much excitement amongst both students and staff. It has provided talking points amongst the students, given them motivation to maintain written journals and a focus of care and responsibility. Students have taken him home on weeknights and weekends. Students who normally would not join in classroom discussion or talk to many others become quite animated and willing to say what Patch has been up to. The classroom teacher of grade 3/4 has now taken on the project and that has provided her with new technological skills.

It has allowed our students to learn more about Canada. Terms like “fall”, “thanksgiving” and monarch have appeared on the blogs. The project is actually run by a teacher who has a younger grade but the grade 4 teacher at that school emailed us asking whether we would like to become pen pals (via snail mail). So the students have now exchanged letters and Christmas cards. The Canadian school does not have ready access to computers yet, but a computer technician has now been employed and it is hoped that we can videoconference with them and try other web 2.0 activities in 2008.

webkinz friendsblue tongue lizardpatch in tree

A sample journal entry:-

When I got to Nat’s house, he showed me around. I got to drive the car around the house. I met his family and then it was time to do the lambs. I fed Prince Charming. I rode Fiona and scratched the cat’s tummy. I had a great time outside but it was time to go inside.

I got chased by Dino Raptor the robot and it bit my tail. I went on the motor bike and I went fast, so fast I went overboard. Fetch was played with Scruffy and the I went sailing into the bath tub to get clean. After that we went on the play station 2 and I won. It was then time to go to bed. I wish I could go to Nat’s place again.

feeding Prince Charmingdriving carscriffy

Some security tips:-

  • only the IT and classroom teacher know the password for the website address.
  • Students have limited time each day to care for Patch online and enter his virtual world.
  • Monitor students periodically to ensure all is well.

This has been an exciting project to be involved in with these young digital natives.


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Producing online movies

Posted by murcha on December 19, 2007

Some year 8 girls were given the challenge to produce a short movie on Christmas in Australia through the eyes of a child. They independently interviewed students from prep through to grade 5 and asked these students what they wanted for Christmas or what Christmas meant to them. A cheaper, simple desktop microphone was used to record their voices directly into the software, audacity. (a free download software). After some editing, the interviews were converted into an mp3 file. (A codec needs to be downloaded from the audacity site, otherwise it will be a wav file which is far too large for online use.)

The audacity window

audacity toolbar

Photos of Christmas crafts, activities, lights and decorations around school and Hawkesdale were then taken. After careful selection, photos were imported into MS Photostory. Effects were added, and the mp3 interview file imported. The story was then made into a movie for playback on the computer.

To enable music to also play in the background, we had to use a more professional software package, called Vegas Movie Studio by Sony. This allows a number of sound tracks to be added and easier insertion of text, for headers and credit rolls. The internet was searched for “free mp3 Christmas songs” and a large number of sites were located. However, our service provider had blocked many of our first choice, so we used a couple from sites that we could access. A right click on the link to the mp3 file, allowed us to save that song into our folders and then import into Movie Studio.

Once titles, extra sound tracks and the photostory movie were imported, an mpg movie was created (in PAL format for Australian screens) and saved again on our hard drive. To allow online use, it was saved again but this time as an email (wmv version at 512 kps). Having already registered with teacher tube, it was uploaded onto teachertube following their very simple instructions.

Hints for speaking with a microphone:

Some of our student voices are not recorded well. A teaching friend has since given us these hints:-
if students hold the microphone just below their chin and put their fist on
their chest, the sound seems to work better for recording. No air flow into the
microphone and more even volume from person to person.


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Skype that Call!!

Posted by murcha on December 17, 2007

Skype has opened up a whole new world – both cyber and international worlds. Skype is VOiP (Voice over internet protocol) which allows (to put very simply) two computers to ring each other like a telephone. Such calls are then free, except for the cost of the download time.

We have two sons who live in London and skype allows us to keep in constant contact with them, either by speaking to each other, text chatting or by videoconferencing. Living in a rural community, our neighbourhood telephone lines went out of order recently and as there is no mobile phone service in our area, we were able to put credit on our skype account and ring landline telephone numbers. This allowed us to have some communication with the outside world.

Skype is wonderful and has huge potential in the educational field. It allows us to ring teachers in other countries, to share lesson plans and ideas, and to work collaboratively on setting up wikis. However, the best use for our school has been that of videoconferencing with a school in Korea. Last week, we spent five days trialling the use and impact of skype. First, we had students from each country ask impromptu questions . The second time, we had already worked out the type of questions to ask eg what are your school hours, typical foods, subjects studied, weather, where we live etc. By the fifth day we really used the technology.

One of our boys had found a blue tongued lizard. He brought it into our library and put it up against our Blue tongue lizardssmall web camera. The Korean students could actually see his little blue tongue going in and out. The Korean students then took their camera to the window and we could see their beautiful snow clad school yard right down to a man sweeping the snow away with a wooden broom. We were about to go swimming though, because our temperature was 35 deg.

They had asked us about our sports. Having worked out the potential of the camera, a year 9 boy leapt from his seat to go and get a cricket bat, ball and stumps. Our library was converted into a cricket field with demonstrations of bowling and batting displayed in front of the web camera. It was then time to bring in a meat pie because no matter how we verbally described it, they could not grasp what it was. Vegemite soon followed and with that all sorts of questions and impromptu conversations flowed. Students forgot their shyness about their language skills and we started to really learn from each other. Korean students then showed us their wonderful mobile phones and features. Finally we compared uniforms but the bell went and we had to continue on to our other subject areas.

Surely this is powerful learning!!!! Students are activating their own education and wishing to research further and learn more about each other. As a result, short videos have been added to teachertube to show what Korean students have for lunch and a brief visual tour of the school. Our students made a canteen video to show them what we can purchase for lunch.

To use skpye, you need to

  • download the software which is free,Using skype with grade 6 students
  • register with a user name and password. There are no telephone numbers, but instead a user name. You can search for other people’s usernames and add them as contacts. To ring, you simply highlight the appropriate name and press the green phone button.
  • a web camera for videoconferencing.
  • A desktop microphone gives better quality audio and headphones ensure some privacy.

Download powergramo and the conversation can be recorded. We have produced a podcast at (http://murch.podOmatic.com/rss2.xml or search for using skype – Australia and Korea students at www.podomatic.com), on our first skype session with Korea and Gail Casey, the English teacher in Korea captured it on video at their end. See it at http://www.teachertube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=d1cef75ffbe159c1f322) Still photos can also be taken whilst in the video conference. They are automatically saved in my pictures.

Skype is only on staff laptops as security could be a real issue. Our library has an interactive whiteboard for class presentations, but a datashow would suffice. There are other providers of VOiP. Conference calls can also be set up but the video will only work between two callers. Sound can be a problem at times and calls can tend to drop out but despite this overall it works wonders. So skype that call!!


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Digital Storytelling

Posted by murcha on December 16, 2007

If “a picture paints 1000 words”, how many million words would a video, combined with sound, transitions, voiceovers and text paint???? Perhaps I could pose that question of my students. Speaking of which, one of the most used and popular software programs on our school system after MS Word and MS Powerpoint, is MS Photostory which is a free download for legal owners of Windows XP. This amazing program allows a professional finish to video and multimedia production, with a minimum of effort. Students will always choose this software if they need to complete a digital story in a short amount of time. Some of the best stories come from students who have poorer literacy skills but are quite happy to talk and tell you all about their story.

Students can tell their stories digitally by inserting still images, text, voice and background music. Open photostory 3, choose begin a new story >next>import pictures. Up to 300 pictures can be imported. (Personally, I recommend resizing the photos if they are large and of type bmp to keep the completed product to a manageable size.)

Stories have included the best times of their lives, individual achievements, school camps, class photos, their own backyard etc. Sample movies using the majority of Photostory features can be viewed at http://www.backyard.globalstudent.org.au
A tutorial guide on using MS Photostory 3


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