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Did It Pass the Teacher Test?

Touted as the successor to AppleWorks, iWork contains both a template-driven word processing program called Pages, and an upgraded version of Keynote, Apple's presentation program. Is this sleek and snazzy overhaul worth a look by K-12 educators? To find out, Education World asked five of its Tech Team members to use iWork -- both in and out of the classroom -- and to offer their opinions about its usefulness for educators. Included: More than a dozen lessons and classroom management ideas, as well as links to additional iWork techtorials and lesson plans.

"Multimedia at its finest!" "A true delight!" "A step above and beyond PowerPoint!"

What software earned such accolades from Education World's Tech Team? Apple's new iWork suite!

Touted as the successor to AppleWorks, iWork contains both a word-processor-meets-desktop-publisher program called Pages, and an upgraded version of Keynote, Apple's presentation software.

Having dropped AppleWorks' drawing, painting, and spreadsheet components, this leaner and meaner suite focuses on integrating such media elements as photos, music, and movies into professional quality brochures, reports, presentations, and much more.

Is this reinvention worth a look by the K-12 educator, however? Does the software's shift in focus meet the changing needs of today's classroom -- or leave teachers lamenting tools lost in the upgrade? Five Education World Tech Team members recently set out to answer those questions.

The five ed tech experts dug deep into iWork's Pages and Keynote 2 programs to separate the facts from the hype. Read about their findings -- as well as their suggestions for K-12 iWork activities -- below.


More iWork Resources  

So you've bought iWork and installed it, but are stumped about how to use it in your classroom? Take a look at these Education World techtorials and lesson plan:
* Create a Newsletter with iWork. Check out this 3-step techtorial for creating a newsletter using iWork. Friendlier picture formatting and lots of point-and-click templates make iWork's Pages program a great choice for your classroom publications.
Create a Presentation in Keynote 2. Whether you want to put a lecture on a slide show or have students create interactive storyboards, Apple's presentation program Keynote 2 can be a great choice for your classroom. Learn how to create your very first Keynote presentation with this three-step techtorial.
* Four Days in Paris. In this foreign language or social studies lesson for grades 4-6, students research a travel destination, set up a four-day itinerary, and then use the iWork's Pages program to create an illustrated travel journal detailing their "experiences."

In Pages, iWork's template-based word processor component, users can choose from among a variety of colorful and professional-looking templates -- such as Education Newsletter, Travel Journal, Brochure, White Paper, and more -- and then simply click to replace stock photos and dummy text with their own words and images.

What's particularly helpful about Pages is its ability to easily flow text around a photo. In some word processing programs, positioning text around a picture can be a multi-click process that is often too complex for some users. In Pages, however, text naturally wraps around images, and if a user resizes an image, the text automatically moves to fit the new layout.


All five reviewers agreed that ease-of-use and template variety were the major advantages of the program. Vicky Romano noted, "The products are visually pleasing, and individuals can concentrate on developing content. Those without any graphic design skills, or those with very limited skills, will enjoy what they can create easily and quickly!"

Sue Volo added that the toolbar was very intuitive, and that resizing pictures was a breeze. She and Wally Fuller both agreed that the Media category -- in which users import into their Pages documents movies, music, and photos from iMovie, iPhoto, or iTunes -- was just as easy to use as the program's other tools. Sally Stevens found that the Help feature and iWork tour addressed exactly the questions she had.


The main concern was that Inspector, Pages' formatting feature, was more complex and harder to learn than Microsoft Word's Formatting toolbar. On a related note, Sue Volo could not figure out how to use the automatic resizing if she chose to use a blank document and not a template, while Sally Stevens was frustrated that she had to change bullet style each time she used them.

English teachers also might have a few choice words to say about Pages, if our reviewers are correct. Sue Volo noted that the lack of an MLA (Modern Language Association) formatting option for the White Paper would limit its use in English classes. Jane Maness warned that creating a bibliography and table of contents was so easy with the program, it could trouble English teachers who want students to learn to create their own.

Vicky Romano was concerned that the program depended upon existing iLife libraries and playlists, so a user who wasn't already using iPhoto, iMovie, and iTunes, might miss out on some features of Pages. Lastly, some reviewers lamented the lack of a grammar checker, thesaurus, clip art, and more templates.

2 Uses

The Tech Team members reported finding a number of ways in which students and teachers could use the program. Those included creating

  • quizzes using the multiple choice and essay templates.
  • syllabi (a template is included).
  • brochures, including country reports for middle school open house.
  • class lists, lesson plans, seating charts, and other class management tools.
  • Language Arts/Visual Arts activities, utilizing templates that are aligned with standards.
  • school report and lab notes templates (particularly helpful for a pre-service teacher preparing for student teaching).
  • school yearbook layouts.
  • posters, fliers, and more.

The original Keynote program was designed to compete with Microsoft PowerPoint. Although its original templates and transitions were a refreshing change for some computer users, the program had a few disadvantages, including the inability to insert hyperlinks into a presentation. Our Tech Team reviewers took a critical eye to Keynote 2, therefore, and were surprised at the improvements made to the program.

Compared to PowerPoint?

Most reviewers reported Keynote 2 to be as easy to use and as relevant to K-12 teaching as Microsoft PowerPoint, the industry standard in presentation software. Although Keynote 2 might not contain every feature of PowerPoint, Sue Volo commented, "I often think PowerPoint has too many bells and whistles; they distract from student presentations, and I don't allow them to use them anyway."

Both Jane Maness and Sally Stevens imported existing PowerPoint presentations into Keynote 2, and they met with equal success. As Sue wrote, "Wow! This application is multimedia at its finest. I am currently working on a PowerPoint presentation that I imported into Keynote2. A little cleaning up was necessary, but it seemed to integrate quite well."

Vicky Romano took the test one step further and actually recreated presentations she had done previously in PowerPoint. She found that Keynote's layout, slide thumbnails, and general navigation are easy and quick tools compared to PowerPoint. She added, "The Slide Inspector options for both Transition and Appearance are much more user friendly and straightforward than Microsoft PowerPoint. I feel the Keynote options are easy to follow and allow for easier customization of a presentation."

Wally Fuller particularly liked the improvements from the previous version of Keynote, including the ability to time transitions, the new animations in the Effects menu, and the added ability to jump to any slide in a presentation.

Best Features

Ease of use and great templates and themes once more were hits with our reviewers. In addition, inserting media from iLife is "simple and powerful" according to Wally Fuller. Wally even suggested having his video class insert an iMovie into Keynote 2 for an upcoming open house -- just to take advantage of the self-playing option!

Sally Stevens liked the feature that allowed the user to animate a table, and she found transitions and animation creation to be varied and helpful. The ability to save a presentation as QuickTime movies, PowerPoint slides, or PDFs -- allowing students to save a presentation in a format readable on both PCs and Macs -- is "an amazing asset," according to Sue Volo and Sally Stevens.


Sue Volo found the hyperlink instructions confusing and, as in Pages, felt the Inspector could be confusing to some beginning users. Wally Fuller found a few conflicts when he attempted to open Keynote 2 presentations in PowerPoint, and he still preferred PowerPoint's animations, calling them "more advanced" than this program's offerings.

iWork in the Classroom

All the reviewers agreed that teachers could benefit from iWork when developing class materials. Vicky Romano noted that teachers rarely need to use complicated programs, but instead need "applications they can use with students, and to create items to communicate with families and with the community."

According to Sue Volo and Sally Stevens, students in grades 3-12 and those studying a variety of subjects, easily could learn and use iWork, especially if they were working with a teacher who understood the program and had created his or her own templates. The program, however, is not sophisticated enough to be included in graphic design classes, according Vicky Romano and Sally Stevens.


All our reviewers agreed, with a little hesitation, that iWork is a worthwhile purchase for schools. Sue Volo suggested including a more comprehensive manual with education-specific examples. Wally Fuller recommended purchasing iWork for teachers who are not frequent users of Microsoft Word and PowerPoint and are looking for easy alternatives.

Final Thoughts?

In general, iWork worked just as it should: Installation proved to be almost problem-free. The documentation made the learning curve a short one, with a few reviewers even noting that knowledge of Macs or even AppleWorks was not necessary to quickly learn and use the program. Both Wally Fuller and Sue Volo wished for more education support materials, however, and they were hopeful those would be added to Apple's support Web site soon.

AppleWorks, a productivity suite that contains word processing, drawing, painting, and spreadsheet programs, has long been used in K-12 classrooms, particularly in grades K-8. Apple calls iWork the "successor to AppleWorks," so Education World asked its reviewers if they agreed with that description. How the reviewers answered depended quite a bit on the ages of their students and on their current use of AppleWorks.

Sue Volo, who teaches K-8 computing, was concerned, saying, "As a teacher, I use the AppleWorks spreadsheet and database, and those two features are missing from iWork. It would be a tremendous loss for Apple to provide schools with software without those features. As a matter of fact, it would drive my school to purchase Microsoft Office. My students also use the draw and paint component for projects," Volo added. "Please don't take those features away!"

For Sally Stevens, who works with classroom computers district wide, however, the loss of those programs would not impact her classroom much. She noted that most teachers chose to use other company's paint/draw programs, and that AppleWorks' spreadsheet program was the only widely used piece in her district.

Wally Fuller admitted that for some elementary level classrooms, the omission of a drawing program could be a problem. As a middle school teacher, however, he found that working with charts and tables -- tasks he saw as vital in the middle school classroom -- was much easier in the new iWork applications than in AppleWorks. Plus, for teachers themselves, Wally argued, "professional development using iWork is definitely a giant step beyond AppleWorks."

Vicky Romano, a college instructor for preservice teachers, felt that the strengths of iWork outweighed any lost features. She pointed to the wide array of classroom publications that now could be produced efficiently by any K-12 teacher. She added that the Media feature would encourage the use of movies, sound, and photos in classroom teaching and learning materials, with the added benefit that "teachers and students will not only learn and improve such technology skills as keyboarding, presentation software, and so on, but also will build libraries of images, audio, and video for easy retrieval and easier sharing with families."

The Reviewers 

The Education World Tech Team includes more than 50 dedicated and knowledgeable educational-technology professionals who have volunteered to contribute to occasional articles that draw on their varied expertise and experience. The following Tech Team members contributed to this article:
* Wally Fuller, technology teacher, Upper Lake Middle School, Upper Lake, California
* Jane Maness, technology integration coordinator, Harding Academy, Memphis, Tennessee
* Vicky Romano, computer center/educational studies, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois
* Sally Stevens, instructional computer support, Linden Public Schools, Linden, New Jersey
* Sue Volo, computer literacy teacher, Menands School, Menands, New York


Article by Lorrie Jackson
Education World®
Copyright © 2005 Education World