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Technology and the New Teacher: Graphics

About this Daily Classroom Special
Technology and the New Teacher is designed to introduce you to the topics, successes, and pitfalls of technology in the classroom. It was written by Buzz Eyler, a Teachers Network web mentor who has been leading in-service training in technology use for the past 12 years.  

(Note: This page was written in 1999. Some information may be dated.)


Graphics are nothing more than pictures or drawings displayed on a computer screen and/or printed out. They are used for the same reasons they are used in magazines or newspapers: as bullets, to draw attention to an area of the document, or show something happening as in a photograph.

The biggest problem most people new to computers have with graphics is they have difficulty comprehending that graphics have a format. In print medium, the formats might be color, black and white, line drawing or cartoon to name a few.

On the computer, there can be upwards to 30 formats and some programs may not know how to display every format available. This may cause you problems in your favorite page layout program because it can't display or print a picture you want to use because it is the wrong format.

On a Macintosh computer, there is basically one graphic format for non-Internet ready graphics (the Internet has it's own set of formats which I cover below). This format is a PICT file. While there are others, 90% of the time this is the format you will encounter.

On an IBM compatible machine, the formats seem endless. The general formats of most concern to you are: .wmf, .pcx, .tif, .bmp. Additionally, there are many programs which have their own format which can only be read by that program. For example, Printshop Deluxe has a .pds format and Kodak has a .kdc extension.

When I say extension, you can tell the kind of file by the last three letters in its name on an IBM machine. That is to say, forest.tif, is a .tif format picture of a forest; beach.wmf is a .wmf format picture of a beach. If your program cannot read .wmf files, you cannot use the beach picture. There are, however, certain programs (such as Graphic Converter) that can easily change the file type and allow you to use the picture you want.

If you are using graphics for the Internet or getting graphics from the Internet to use, there are two formats: .jpg and .gif. Few of the old word processing programs recognize these formats and, therefore, you can not use them to display the images. If you intend to capture Internet images, be sure you have a program which allows you to incorporate them. Look on the outside of the box for supported file formats.

Just as there are many file formats, there are many ways to get graphics to use. You can buy CD's with thousands of graphics for very little money. You can scan student or teacher drawn pictures using a color scanner. Digital cameras allow you to take a picture and display it directly on the computer screen. These are a must in high tech classroom. There are computer programs for creating images on the computer. And don't forget, how about leaving a blank space in your document and after being printed, let the children illustrate the article.

Get in the habit of using graphics appropriately and remember they should add to the content, not subtract from what you are trying to say.

Advanced Topics
Curriculum Development
Mac vs IBM
Printers & Copiers
Word Processing


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