Monday, March 28, 2011

Mail Merge Me!

Personalised emails are as easy as 1, 2, merge! So how does Vodacom, Outsurance, the NMMM, and countless other companies manage to send personalised letters and emails out to their clients without having some poor office worker sit and type each letter individually? Well, it really is very simple. But first the Agenda

  • Take Register

  • Welcome Sarah

  • Lesson

  • Competition

New Member

Sarah (in line with internet safety and privacy guidelines, I do not publish learners' last names online) joined our computer club as from tonight. She is yet another smiling paw paw amongst all the other smiling faces. Welcome Sarah! We are sure you will enjoy hanging and learning with us.


This lesson was quite involved, yet easy. We used three applications (MS Word, MS Excel, and MS Outlook) to achieve our goal. A list of "customers" was created using Excel which acted as our database. We recorded the following details for each of our 20 customers: name; surname; email address; favourite colour, and best friend. Then we used Word to create a standard email with a common message to all of these people, being careful to leave out the variables. We then set about inserting fields into our email message where the data from our database were used later. Lastly we completed the mail merge by instructing Outlook to send the common message to all the recipients addressing them by name and mentioning their favourite colour and best friend's name. I know, it sounds complicated but ask the computer club members its actually really easy.


So after the hard work we had to have some fun too (whilst still learning of course). I must give credit to a man named Larry Ferlazzo who listed the websites we used tonight on his blog as being two of his top ten educational online games. The first one we looked at was Mia Cadaver's Tombstone Timeout. Relax moms. The name sounds quite horrible but the game is really very innocent and totally easy on the stomach. It works like this. We create an online space (kind of like a chat room) where only us - the computer club members - can gain access and compete against each other in either a Mathematics, English, or Science category. Mia Cadaver allows a certain amount of time for one to answer the question. Everyone sees the same question on their own computer screen at the same time. Time's up! Then a ranking is displayed with of who answered the question correctly and in the shortest time before Mia Cadaver asks the next question. It was great fun. Since the website is in English I made it fair by choosing the highest ranking English speaking club member (Amy E) and the highest ranking Afrikaans speaking club member (Willem-Adriaan). I hid something in one of my hands and had the two choose. As you can see from the first photograph on this blog post, Willem-Adriaan chose the correct hand. He won himself a large Easter Bunny courtesy of our friendly Sunridge SuperSpar. The photograph of Willem-Adriaan and myself with the prize is not me handing it over to him's me trying to hang on to the prize (my mouth was watering for that chocolate). ;-) The other game we looked at was Viral Vinnie's Gut Instinct. (Yes, I really don't know where they get these names from). Viral Vinnie works exactly the same as Mia Cadaver. They just look different but is just as much fun as you can see from the photograph on the right over here. You can check out the games for yourself by clicking on these links:
A word of warning though. Don't play these at work as they are rather addictive as I found out when I prepared tonight's lesson. But, if you do, be sure to turn your sound all the way down if you don't want to be blamed for some embarrassing sounds (Viral Vinnie). :-)


It looks like our next club meeting will be on Monday, 18 April 2011. I am not entirely sure with all the public holidays in April but I'll keep you informed in the new term.

Thank you

Thank you to Sunridge SuperSpar for sponsoring the Easter bunny. And of course, thank you to all our dedicated parents who do a fantastic job of dropping our learners off on time and collecting them again afterwards. It really is appreciated. Enjoy the April holiday!

Until next time.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Animate this...

Pivot Stickman Animator

This evening's SCC (Computer Club Lesson) was a great hit. Loads of fun and very interesting. It gave us an idea of just a fraction of the work involved in the great animation movies we see on the big screen nowadays.
But first the agenda:
  • Take register
  • SCC badges
  • Welcome new members
  • Easter Eggs
  • Japan Disaster
  • Lesson

SCC Badges
Almost all the members are now proudly wearing their new Sunridge Computer Club badges on their school uniforms and it has been the source of much envy from non-members.

Welcome new Members
The SCC is boasting 10 new members, they are: Michelle, Frans, Daniel, Jessica, Francois, Cameron, Minette, ChloƩ, Sebastian, and Alex. (In line with adopted internet safety policy, I have left our learners' last names out.) The Sunridge Computer Club welcomes you. I'm sure you will have a wonderful time, learning interesting things in a fun and relaxed environment.

Easter Eggs
With Easter around the corner, I thought it was a good idea to hand out some Easter eggs. Sorry mom, for spoiling your child's appetite.

We had lots of fun with Pivot 2.2 (created by Peter Bone) tonight. This little application is - as far as I can tell - free to use and share. I made it available for the computer club members to download from the computer club's folder on one of our school's shared drives. You're given a stick man with pivot points on its joints, at the head, neck, elbows, hand, knees, and feet which you can use to move it's limbs and the entire man around. You then capture the frame before making small adjustments and capturing the next frame. If you do it right, you'll end up with a short animation of evenly flowing movements. This takes some skill. You need to plan ahead and anticipate how a person would move in order to imitate the movements in a realistic way.

Japan Disaster
I found this neat website which truly shows the devastation in Japan. We had a quick look at this and although it is not part of our lesson I thought that its worth a mention on here too. It shows numerous NASA photographs for specific areas in Japan with a slider which reveals the before and after pictures of that specific area. As you slide the slider from "before" to "after" you can actually imagine the wave reach in over the land. You may click here to view these revealing photographs.

Thank you
Thank you to all the computer club parents for dropping your children off on time and collecting them again afterwards. The computer club would not be as successful without your help and the dedication of your children.

Our next club meeting will be on Monday, 28 March 2011 at 17:15

Until next time...