Book Creator for Chrome is Here!

As you may have heard on the latest episode of The Edtech Take Out podcast, a public beta of Book Creator for Chrome was officially launched this summer at the ISTE 2017 conference in San Antonio, Texas. Book Creator already has apps for iOS, Android and Windows devices, but this new update means your students can have full access to Red Jumper’s creative storytelling platform on the web with a Mac, PC or Chromebook. Sounds interesting, right? Well, here’s what you need to know.

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ScreenChomp, Snagit for Chrome, and Knowmia Retire

ScreenChomp, Snagit for Chrome, and Knowmia Retire

TechSmith announced today that they are ending all support and services for ScreenChomp, Snagit for Chrome, and Knowmia in order to focus efforts on their Mac & PC desktop products, Snagit and Camtasia. This will come as a blow to many educators, especially those using Chromebooks & iPads, but their rationale does make sense. In a statement on their website, TechSmith said:

“Over the last several months, TechSmith has been reassessing how we can best serve the millions of amazing customers that use our tools to create remarkable images and videos everyday for their customers, colleagues, and classrooms…By retiring these products, TechSmith will be in a stronger position to develop tools that serve the needs of our customers. We remain dedicated to teachers, students, and instructional designers all over the world who use Snagit and Camtasia to create learning materials for the classroom, from K-12 to higher education.”

A full FAQ that outlined their decision making process is included on the same website. However, to soften the blow, TechSmith say you can use the code DESKTOPDISCOUNT in their web store through June 10, 2016 to receive 50% off a single EDU license of Snagit or Camtasia. Both are excellent products and I use them regularly.

So, are there free alternatives that can be used in place of these popular products? For the most part yes, although many now come as “freemium” products. For a browser based screencasting solution, Screencastify is a very decent alternative and it works on Chromebooks. If you have a Mac or a PC then screencastomatic.com is another free option that is well worth looking at. Microsoft fans with PowerPoint 2013 or later should check out the Office Mix add-in for Windows for some excellent screencasting options.

iPad users have a lot of decent alternatives to Screenchomp and Knowmia. Things like Educreations, ShowMe, IPEVO Whiteboard and Doceri are all free, or have free versions, you can use for screencasting in the classroom. There is also the extremely versatile ExplainEverything that can be bought for $5.99 (or $2.99 VPP).

Will you miss ScreenChomp, Snagit for Chrome, and Knowmia? Have you found some good alternatives to take their place? If so, feel free to leave a comment below with your thoughts.

Nuzzel: The Social News Feed for Connected Educators

Nuzzel for education

I first learned about Nuzzel from Tony Vincent, and today I use it more than ever. What is it? Nuzzel is a way to see the most popular links and stories that are being shared by your PLN. It basically filters out the noise and lets you see what the people you follow are most interested in right now. Nuzzel is updated frequently, and is a very efficient way to aggregate the best of the web so you can stay current with the latest conversations. Nuzzel is available for free on iOS, Android, and the web. Here’s how it works:

1. Connect to the app with your Twitter and/or Facebook accounts. With your permission, Nuzzel will analyze your respective feeds and compile the most shared and talked about stories from the people you follow.

2. Along the top of your screen you see four tabs. The first is the default feed, “News from Your Friends“, which as mentioned above, is a list of stories that your friends on social media are sharing right now. The list is sorted by the number of shares, with the most popular stories at the top of the feed, and newer (or less popular) stories towards the bottom. You can click or tap on any of these stories to read them, and also share them to your favorite social network.

Nuzzel for iOS screenshot

3. Another interesting option is the “News from Friends of Friends” feed. As the title suggests, these are popular stories that are being shared not by people you follow, but by friends of the people you follow. This can give a very different feed, with different stories, but is often still very relevant to the kinds of things you are interested in. It can also be a great way to find new people to follow based on the kinds of stories that they are sharing.

Nuzzel friends of friends

4. The remaining tabs at the top point to News You May Have Missed and your Recently Read Stories. Both are useful features that help you get more out of this useful app, but personally, I don’t use these features nearly as often as I use the first two.

5. The last thing I am going to highlight is the column on the right-hand side of the screen – Your Friend’s Feeds. This lets you view the news feed of your social media friends who are also using Nuzzel. This is akin to browsing through their Twitter or Facebook feed, but it picks up the stories that were curated for them by Nuzzel based on who they follow. I find this a great way to find specific content based on the special interests of some of the people I follow. The screenshot below is a snapshot of Tony Vincent’s news feed!

Tony Vincent's Nuzzel feed

Nuzzel is great for lots of reasons. It helps you stay connected with the best of social media without the need to be “connected” all the time. It also filters out a lot of the noise that some people complain about when they are using social media networks. Lastly, Nuzzel is a great discovery tool that gives you lots of content that you can share with your own followers. So, if you haven’t tried Nuzzel before, I would definitely recommend checking it out.

Free Chromebook Screencasting with Snagit for Google Chrome

snagit for Chrome

Today was an exciting day for fans of Snagit for Chrome, because TechSmith finally took the beta tag off the screencasting abilities that this app has had for some time now. This is great news for educators, because although there is not a lot of new functionality, the setup procedure is much simpler than it was before.

If you are new to Snagit for Chrome, you should know that it comes as both a Chrome Extension (for capturing screenshots) and a Chrome app (for capturing screencasts and storing the media you create). Both are free, but both are required to be able to capture images and videos.

Because they are Chrome apps, they work on Macs or PCs running the Chrome web browser, as well as on Chromebooks. However, screencast performance is not ideal on some of the earlier Chromebooks with ARM processors, like the original Samsung Chromebook or the HP Chromebook 11. Intel processors deal much better with the demands of screencasting.

To record a screencast, launch the Snagit for Chrome app and click the “+” sign in the top left-hand corner, select the window you want to record, and you will instantly start recording your screen. Once you are done, click Stop Sharing at the bottom of your screen to finish your screencast. Completed videos are stored in the app, but they can also be shared to YouTube.

Snagit for Chrome Screencasting App

Snagit for Chrome is quick, simple, and ideal for teachers and students who wish to create good looking screencasts, for free, on a number of different devices. Watch the video below for a quick walkthrough of how it works in practice. For more help and ideas about screencasting on a Chromebook please see 3 Ways to Screencast on a Chromebook.

 

Access the Google Drive Template Gallery on an iPad

Recently, I was asked if it was possible to access the Google Drive Template Gallery on the iPad. The Template Gallery is a great repository of ready made Google templates for Docs, Presentations, Spreadsheets, Drawings and Forms. Teachers can add documents to the Template Gallery for students to use and adapt for their own assignments.

I had never tried it on the iPad before, so I had no reason to doubt that it wouldn’t work, but I was wrong. If you open Safari and navigate to http://drive.google.com/templates you are immediately greeted with a 404 error. The Template Gallery will not load.

404 Template Gallery Error

So, here’s how to fix it. Instead of using Safari, download and open the Chrome iOS browser. If you navigate to http://drive.google.com/templates in Chrome, and you will find the same 404 error. However, the fix is not far away. Tap the Settings icon in the top right-hand corner, and select Request Desktop Site.

request desktop site

The site will then reload and display the Google Drive Templates Gallery just like it does on a laptop or desktop computer. Better still, if you pick a Docs or Spreadsheet template, Chrome will automatically switch you over to the Drive app (if you have it installed) and you can then edit, save and share your new document.

Drive templates in Chrome

Just be aware that if you select a Document template that has tables in it, this type of document will not display properly in the Google Drive iPad app because the Google Drive iPad app does not currently support tables. I hope this changes in the near future!

Still, if you have trouble accessing the Google Drive Template Gallery on the iPad, try this quick trick with the Chrome iOS app to access the files you, or your students, need.

How To Take A Screenshot on Macs, PCs, iPads, Androids and Chromebooks!

Screenshots are a useful, if not essential, skill for both students and teachers to have, but with so many devices out there, it can be hard to remember how to take a screenshot on an iPad, a Chromebook, a Mac or whatever else you might be using in your classroom. So, here is a quick rundown of all the native methods to do this, as well as a couple of recommendations for third-party services that will give you even more options.

Macs

The native screenshot tool on Macs is based around a number of keyboard shortcuts, but once you learn the ones you like best, you will be screenshotting all over the place. So, here is a rundown of what you need to know to take a screenshot on Macs:

  • Command+Shift+3: Takes a full screen screenshot and saves it to the desktop.
  • Command+Shift+4: Lets you select the area to capture, then saves to the desktop.
  • Command+Shift+4+Space: Click an active window to save it to the desktop.
  • Command+Control+Shift+3: Takes a screenshot of the screen, and saves it to the clipboard.
  • Command+Control+Shift+4: Lets you select the area to capture and saves it to the clipboard.
  • Command+Control+Shift+4+Space: Click an active window to save it to the clipboard.

Mac Desktop

Windows 7 & Windows 8 Desktop Mode

Many keyboards will still have the PrtScn (Print Screen) button. Pressing this will copy a full screen screenshot to the clipboard where you can paste it into another application. However, a much more versatile tool is the Windows Snipping Tool. It lets you capture all, or part, of your screen and save or email the capture right from the app. It comes free with all Windows 7 and Windows 8 computers. Learn more here.

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Bring New Life to Classroom Projects with Movenote on the Web, iPad & More!

I always told my students that there was a difference between creating a presentation, and giving a presentation. The creation part was easier for them. They had time to research, build, and revise their work, but when it came to presenting their findings while standing up in front of a room full of people, nerves often got the better of them. Thankfully, there are free, multi-platform tools like Movenote that can make that easier, but it’s not just for students. It is also a great way for teachers personalize their screencasts for a flipped classroom, or other online learning opportunities.

movenote

Movenote lets you record a video of yourself talking about a presentation via your webcam, and it syncs it to the slides you are talking about. Here’s how it works. Laptop or desktop users start by creating a free account at movenote.com. Next, you need to give Movenote permission to access your webcam so that it can record the video to accompany your presentation. However, you also have the option to upload a pre-recorded video if you prefer.

Your presentation can now be added to Movenote from your computer, or  your Google Drive account. Recommended file formats are PDF, PNG, or JPEGs. PowerPoint files also work, but are sometimes more reliably converted when first saved as a PDF. If you have a Google account, you can bring a Google Presentation over too. Click the Re-order button on any of the uploaded files to rearrange the order of your slides.

movenote record screen

The final step in the creation process is recording your video, so clicking the red Record button will quickly get you under way. You can now introduce your presentation on your webcam and move through each slide with the navigation buttons at the top of the screen. (If you uploaded a pre-recorded video, all you need to do is advance your slides in time to the video you uploaded). There are no annotation tools per se, but if you click and drag with your mouse, a virtual laser pointer can be used to highlight areas you deem most important, and you can pause the video at any time to collect your thoughts.

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