Microsoft Songsmith free for Education

September 10, 2009 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Digital Era, Product Reviews 

Last week I wrote an post about an innovate piece of software called AutoCollage. This photo montage tool came out of Microsoft Research Cambridge and is an excellent piece of software which is free to all schools. Well it seems that the educational giveaways just keep on coming from Microsoft with another of their research products, Songsmith which has been made available to education for free from this morning.

Microsoft Songsmith lets you create a complete song without any knowledge of music. You don’t need to know any of the complexities of chords or melodies, you simply sing into your computer and Songsmith will work out the musical background. Sound interesting? Take a look at this demo which shows how Songsmith works.

As the officially least musical person in the world I showed this product to two people who I consider experts. One is my wife who has a music degree and thought the tool would be pretty good in a school environment for  quick compositions. The other is @steveturner93 a Generation Y wanna be musical guru who has just started at our Sixth Form. In typical teenager fashion he went straight to the real demo site- YouTube- and watched 6 or 7 videos on Songsmith. He then had a go on the demo site which can be found here. In his own blog he has just done a review in which he says ‘from ages 5 to 14, this could be a great part of music lessons, teaching students how to use: Tempo, bass, beats, layering techniques and quality finishing.’  You can read his full review here

Songsmith now available free to education on the Innovative Teachers Network

If you work in education and want to use Songsmith it is absolutely free. You can get a copy by joining the Innovative Teacher Network. This site is a great resource in itself for teachers and highly recommend joining. You can also get a free copy of AutoCollage from there which is well worth trying.


AutoCollage for school events-parental engagement

September 2, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Digital Era, Product Reviews 

One of the Microsoft tools which I have been wanting to test drive for a few months is AutoCollage. This product came directly out of one of the Microsoft Research Labs in Cambridge and uses a range of sophisticated technology to recognise faces and pick out the most interesting bits out of a collection of photos before blending them into a photo collage. Clearly this has huge potential in education with schools taking hundreds if not thousands of photos a year from trips, extra curricular activities and special days which then need organising in some way to be displayed.

This Bank Holiday weekend was a perfect opportunity to test AutoCollage with a group of photos. The Bisterne Scarecrow Festival was starting and when my nephew and niece found out there was a Peppa Pig Scarecrow there was no stopping them. Off we went on an 4 mile tour of 28 scarecrows sites taking photos of each one, most with my nephew in. When I returned home I downloaded the trial version of AutoCollage and pressed a button with the following result.

Click to enlarge

The image above was my first attempt with AutoCollage and in only one click I had a great result. When I looked there were actually 44 photos so a quick tweak on the AutoCollage interface to specify the number of photos you want involved produced this:

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

AutoCollage looks like a fantastic product and I am planning to use this on our SharePoint site alongside the picture gallery. I think it will be particulalry useful on the Parent Gateway to keep parents engaged in the many activities and events a large secondary school runs. The really good news is AutoCollage is absolutely free if you are using it for an educational purpose. You can go to the Innovate Teachers Network to download it now.