How to Publish to the Apple Books Store on Any Device

How to Publish to the Apple Books Store by Jonathan Wylie

A recent update to Apple’s publishing standards has allowed more flexibility in the creation and sharing of eBooks on the Apple Books Store. Previously, all books had to be submitted to the store via the iBooks Author app for MacOS. However, you can now use Pages on an iPhone, iPad, Mac or online at iCloud.com. Here’s how it works.

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How to do Green Screen Photos Without the Green Screen

How to create green screen photos the easy way

Earlier this week I saw a tool going around Twitter called Remove Image Background. It’s a clever, web-based tool that uses artificial intelligence to identify a person in a photo and remove the background behind them. It’s free, it works on all devices, it doesn’t require a login, and it removes backgrounds surprisingly well. I am sure that it could be used for all kinds of graphic design projects, but like many things, it made me think about green screen.

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Snip & Sketch: The Windows 10 Screenshot Tool

Snip & Sketch: Screenshots in Windows 10

Screenshots are important to anyone who is involved in education. They form the backbone of many step-by-step tutorials and are useful for creating better explanations for students. However, they are useful for other scenarios too. They are great for capturing some design inspiration, saving ideas from the web, or recording bugs to send to developers. This Fall, Microsoft introduced a new screenshot tool for Windows 10. It’s called Snip & Sketch. Here’s how it works.  Continue reading “Snip & Sketch: The Windows 10 Screenshot Tool”

Simplenote: Cross Platform Note-taking

Try Simplenote for Free, Cross Platform Note Taking

I’ve used a lot of note taking apps over the years. I was an Evernote user for a while, I took a look at Google Keep, I jumped in and out of Notability (and still do), and finally settled on OneNote. It’s free, works on all devices, and has the features I need for organizing and searching through my notes. I’ve been very happy with OneNote, but if I’m honest, it has more features than I will ever use. I know I can just not use those features, but it made me wonder what it would be like to use an app that had less bells and whistles. What if the app was more…simple?

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Is This The Windows Movie Maker Replacement You’ve Been Waiting For?


This year has not been a great year for multimedia software. Google ended support for YouTube’s free online video editor, and Microsoft did the same with the popular Windows Live Movie Maker. Although there are plenty of other options for both sets of users, people did get kind of attached to these video editors and not everyone is ready to pay for an alternative, (or switch to a Mac). While Google has yet to make any real attempt to replace the YouTube Editor, Microsoft has just added video editing features to the latest version of the Windows 10 Photos app. So, is this the Windows Movie Maker replacement you have been waiting for? It depends.

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Record, Edit & Share Student Podcasts on Windows

student podcasts windows

In a recent post, I looked at some of the best ways to record a podcast on an iPad. This time, I am going to switch platforms and look at the options you have for recording podcasts on a Windows computer. So, whether you have desktops, laptops or Surface tablets, this is the guide for you. It includes free and low cost options for teachers (or anyone else) who wants to record, edit and share podcasts from a Windows device.

Audio Recording Options for PC Users

If you use Windows 7 or Windows 8 you can take advantage of a free, built-in app called Sound Recorder. This comes pre-installed with these versions of Windows and is perfectly capable of recording good, clear audio. Windows 10 users have a very similar app called Voice Recorder that works in much the same way. You can also use free software like Audacity to record your podcasts, but more on that in a minute. The last thing you need to know for recording audio podcasts on a Windows PC is how to make sure external microphones are set as the default device. Why? Plugging in a USB microphone won’t always mean that device is selected when you want to record audio, so use this handy guide to switch input devices in the Control Panel.

Windows 10 Voice Recorder

Edit Podcast Audio for Free on Windows Computers

Editing is optional, depending on your needs, but sometimes it is nice to be able to add some royalty-free music to the beginning and/or end of your podcast, or to edit out some mistakes. Although you can do some very basic trims on the Sound Recorder or Voice Recorder apps, more serious edits are best left to a dedicated audio editor. Audacity is a free, open source recording and editing program that will do just that. It works on Windows, Mac and Linux computers and can be downloaded here.

If you have never used it before, the interface will take a little getting used to, but it is easy to learn from the myriad of YouTube tutorials that are dedicated to editing audio in Audacity.  With Audacity you can trim, split and combine multiple audio tracks, as well as remove background noise, adjust volume levels, and more. It really isn’t as hard to use as it might look and it’s okay if you don’t need or use half of the features it offers.

If your school happens to have access to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite, then Adobe Audition would be well worth a look for editing podcasts. It is not free, but if you already have the subscription, it won’t cost you anything to try it out. This is professional level software that is used by audio engineers in radio, film and television broadcasts, but like Audacity, it is easy to learn some basics on YouTube. Middle and High School students could pick this up pretty quickly and Mike Russell has a great playlist to get you started.

Audacity-Windows

Uploading & Sharing Student Podcasts Online

There are a number of online audio hosting sites that you can use to share your student podcasts. However, the free accounts, as you might expect, often come with some restrictions. SoundCloud, for instance, gives you 3 hours of audio uploads for free. AudioBoom will let you upload as many files as you like, as long as none of them exceed 10 minutes in length.

A less conventional option might be to use tunestotube.com. This website lets you upload an MP3 file, attach an image, and then send the whole thing to YouTube as a video. It essentially creates a one picture slideshow with your podcast audio as the music track, but because it is on YouTube it is highly discoverable and easy to share.

Are You Podcasting With Windows Devices?

Do your students record and edit podcasts on Windows computers? If so, what do you use as part of your podcasting workflow? Feel free to leave a note in the comments below. You can also check out, and contribute to, my growing list of podcasts for K-12 students to listen to and learn from by following this link. Also, be sure to listen to the EdTech Take Out podcast that I co-host with Mindy Cairney by subscribing in iTunes or in a podcast player app of your choice.

How to Add a YouTube Video to Word, PowerPoint & OneNote on Windows

add youtube videos office

Inserting multimedia elements to your documents make them instantly more engaging and can save you jumping from one app to another. So, the next time you want to spice up a study guide or have your students submit a multimedia document with text, images, video and more, take a look at this handy guide. Here is what you need to know.

Add a YouTube Video to Word, PowerPoint & OneNote

Step 1: Open the app of your choice (Word, PowerPoint or OneNote), then place the cursor where you would like the YouTube video to go.

Step 2: Click (or tap) Insert and choose Online Video from the toolbar.

insert video

Step 3: Click (or tap) in the box that says Search YouTube and paste the URL to your video, or insert some keywords to search for the video from inside of Office, and hit Enter. (While a keyword search will work, a YouTube URL is more likely to give you direct access to the video you want).

Step 4: Click (or tap) the thumbnail of the video you want, and then hit Insert to add the video to your Office document. The video will appear where you placed your cursor, but and can be resized or moved to a different place in your document.

youtube search results

Advanced Tips & Tricks for Embedding YouTube Videos

Sometimes it is useful to embed the YouTube video with an embed code, instead of pasting a URL or searching with keywords. Here’s why you might want to do that instead.

  • Not all videos will appear in a keyword search, and sometimes the URL doesn’t work either. For scenarios like this, you can always grab the Embed code from the YouTube video and go to Insert > Online Video and paste the code next to the option that says From a Video Embed Code.
  • Is your video too long? Trim your video to the part you really need with TubeChop.com and add the embed code into your Word, PowerPoint or OneNote. You can also modify the YouTube embed code to choose your own start and finish times for the video.
  • If you want to hide the grid of “related” videos that YouTube offers up at the end of a video, be sure to click Show More underneath the YouTube embed code BEFORE you copy it. This opens a drop-down menu that lets you uncheck a box that says Show suggested videos when the video ends. Once you have that box deselected, copy and paste your embed code and the related videos will vanish from the end of the video.
  • Can’t find the video you want on YouTube? Embed codes from Vimeo and other popular video sharing sites are supported in Word, PowerPoint, and OneNote.

Troubleshooting Videos That Don’t Appear

Every so often you will find that a link to a YouTube video reveals no search results, and the video has no embed code on YouTube. Unfortunately, this means you will likely not be able to add this video to your Office document, because the video creator has chosen to remove the ability to embed their video on other sites. This is an option for all YouTube users and can be found among the upload settings when uploading a new video to YouTube.

You may also find that you don’t have the option to add YouTube videos in your version of Office. To add YouTube videos to PowerPoint you need Office 2013 or later for Windows. To add YouTube Videos to Word or OneNote you need Office 2016 or later for Windows. If you don’t have access to one of these versions of Office, you can always use the free Office Online which can be found at office.com.

How (and Why) to Zoom In On PC, Mac, iPad & Chromebook

zoom screen title

Have you ever wanted to zoom in on your Mac, PC, Chromebook or iPad screen? As an educator, and facilitator of professional development, I do this a lot and people often ask me how I do it. So, here is a quick rundown of how (and why) to use a screen zoom on Macs, PCs, iPads and Chromebooks.

Why I Use Screen Zooming

For the most part, I zoom in on my screen to draw people’s attention to a specific area or feature that I want to highlight. It helps eliminate distracting elements, and is ideal for large rooms of people where the projector screen may not be as large as you might want it to be.

The other reason I show educators screen zooming is in the context of assistive technology. For students with visual impairments, the ability to zoom in on your screen is a very useful accessibility feature. It helps make text more readable and can give those students a much better way to access electronic materials.

How to Zoom In On A PC Screen

If you are using Windows 7 or later, you can take advantage of the screen magnifier tool. This is built-in to the operating system so no additional software is required. So, here’s what you need to know:

  1. Hold down the Windows key and tap the plus sign repeatedly to zoom in.
  2. Use the Windows key and the minus sign to zoom out.
  3. To exit the screen magnifier, hold down the Windows key and press Escape.

When working with the Magnifier tool, there are three viewing modes to choose from – Full Screen, Lens or Docked. Each have their own uses so feel free to experiment to see which one will work best for you. You can also customize the amount that you zoom in when you first activate the tool. For more information on the Windows Magnifier tool, read this support document from Microsoft.

How To Zoom In On A Mac Screen

Mac users have a couple of options for zooming in and out of their screen, depending on whether they want to zoom with keyboard shortcuts, or with the trackpad on your Macbook.

To zoom with the keyboard:

  1. Navigate to System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom.
  2. Check the box that says Use keyboard shortcuts to zoom
  3. Hold down the Command and Option keys, then tap the plus sign to zoom in
  4. Hold down the Command and Option keys and tap the minus sign to zoom out

To zoom with the trackpad:

  1. Navigate to System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom.
  2. Check the box that says Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom
  3. Hold down the Control key and scroll with two fingers on your trackpad to zoom in and out.

Both options work well, but the latter is the one that I prefer because it is much smoother. Some versions of Mac OS X will let you choose the zoom style. This is also found in System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom. It lets you choose to zoom in on the whole screen, or just a framed area, (similar to the Lens view on Windows). Learn more about zooming your screen on Mac in this Apple support document.

mac ipad

How To Zoom In On An iPad Screen

Can you zoom your screen on an iPad? Indeed you can. In fact, it is one of the many reasons why special education teachers like the iPad as an accessibility device. However, it is great for demonstrating new apps too. Here’s how it works:

  1. Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Zoom and flip the Zoom switch on.
  2. Then, double tap on the screen with three fingers to zoom in or out.
  3. When zoomed in, drag three fingers to pan around the screen to pan and move.
  4. You can change the zoom percentage by double tapping with three fingers and dragging up and down on the screen (it takes practice, but it does work!)

On the same settings screen you will find additional options like the maximum zoom level and the ability to do a full screen zoom or a window zoom. There is even a neat on screen controller that you can use to zoom and pan without the three finger taps.

How To Zoom In On A Chromebook Screen

Chromebook users need not feel left out because Google has a built-in screen magnifier for Chrome OS. As you may have guessed by now, the option lies in the accessibility settings. Here’s how to find it.

  1. Go to Settings > Show Advanced Settings > Accessibility
  2. Check the box next to Enable Screen Magnifier
  3. Hold down Ctrl and Alt, then use the brightness up and down keys to zoom in and out.
  4. Alternatively, you can hold down the Ctrl & Alt keys and then scroll with two fingers on your trackpad to zoom in and out.

BONUS: How To Zoom In On A Desktop Browser

This is a well-known trick, but if you only need to zoom in on a web page, you can do so without using any of the options above. This works with all major browsers. Simply use Ctrl and the plus sign (Cmd + on a Mac) to zoom in, and Ctrl and the minus sign (Cmd – on a Mac) to zoom out. To reset your screen to the original size use Ctrl and the zero key (Cmd 0 on a Mac).

Office Lens: Scan, Snap & Share!

Scan Snap Share Office Lens

If you use a mobile device, a scanner app is a very useful app to have at your disposal. There are lots to choose from, but my go to app is Office Lens by Microsoft. It is available for iOS, Android, or Windows Phone, and it could quickly become one of your favorite apps due to its versatility and time-saving features. Here’s what you need to know.

Why Do I Need a Scanner App?

I find all kinds of good uses for scanner apps, and I expect you would too. They are great when you don’t have access to a desktop scanner or don’t want the hassle of using one. I am also notoriously bad at keeping track of paper handouts. I invariably don’t file them and end up losing them, regardless of how useful they might be. So, I scan them and add them to my digital filing system instead. Business cards and posters can be quickly captured with Office Lens and it could be a great way to make some digital copies of student artwork.

What Makes Office Lens So Good?

Office Lens uses an intelligent scanner to automatically recognize and crop any paper document that you place under your mobile device and as you will see in the image below, the before and after results are quite remarkable. Regardless of the angle of your device, the final image is cropped, straightened and enhanced to look just the way you would want it to. Office Lens can even take your scanned image and turn it into an editable Word or PowerPoint file with some clever OCR technology.

Scanning Documents with Office Lens

However, I don’t just use Office Lens for documents. I often use it at conferences and other PD presentations to take pictures of a speaker’s slides. The same perspective cropping applies when taking pictures of a presentation and it works equally well, if not better, on notes you have written on a whiteboard. This could be extremely useful for both staff and students because it is a great way to capture some brainstorming ideas or some notes from class. Take a look at the example below that I captured while attending a Jim Knight instructional coaching workshop at Grant Wood AEA.

before after office lens

Where Can I Share My Scanned Images?

One of the great features of Office Lens is the variety of places that you can share your scanned images. You can export as PDF, send as an email, or save it to your device. You can also share directly to a number of Microsoft’s mobile apps like OneNote, OneDrive, Word, PowerPoint or Outlook. Office Lens works with personal Microsoft accounts as well as your work or school accounts in OneDrive for Business.

Completed scans can also be saved to Dropbox or sent to other apps on your phone as required. You will also have quick access to your favorite social networks so that you can share those awesome presentation slides the right way, as you can see below.

tweet

So, the next time you need a digital copy of a document, business card, whiteboard, presentation slide or any number of other things, reach for your mobile device and fire up Office Lens to help you complete the job.

How to Skype Anyone With Just a Link

skype logo

Mystery Skype is a fun, engaging, and educational activity for students in the classroom, but it used to require both teachers to have a Skype account, and to have the Skype client installed on a Windows, Mac or mobile device. Recently, that changed because you can now join a Skype call with just a link – no account or desktop clients are required. All you need it is a browser. Here’s how it works.

  1. Open the Skype desktop client on your computer, (the person who is hosting the call needs to have a Skype account and the desktop client for Mac or PC. The guest does not).
  2. Press Ctrl + N (Windows), or Cmd + N (Mac), to begin a new conversation.
  3. Copy the link to the conversation and send it to the person you want to connect with. You can send it by email, with Facebook Messenger, via a direct message on Twitter, or with another service that both participants have access to.

skype join by link

When the person you want to connect with receives your link, and clicks on it, they will find that it opens a new tab in their default browser. If they have Skype installed, they will see a prompt to open the conversation in Skype, else the participant will join your call in Skype for Web as a guest user. (Mobile users need the Skype app to join a conversation link that is sent to them).

Once you are both connected, you can chat with the conversation box or conduct a live audio or video call, just like two registered Skype users would normally do. (Note that a browser plug-in needs to be installed for audio or video calls). The Skype for Web user does not get all the features that a free Skype account gets due to the current limitations of the web client, but they do get the facility to make free calls and connect with people anywhere in the world.

This method of connecting over Skype is great for classrooms who play Mystery Skype games because it removes one more technical hurdle and opens it up to many more users. For more information on Mystery Skype, as well as a full user guide with tips for success, please see the Free Mystery Skype Curriculum for Schools post that I wrote earlier this year.