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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Hold down the Windows key and tap the plus sign repeatedly to zoom in.
- Use the Windows key and the minus sign to zoom out.
- 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:
- Navigate to System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom.
- Check the box that says Use keyboard shortcuts to zoom
- Hold down the Command and Option keys, then tap the plus sign to zoom in
- Hold down the Command and Option keys and tap the minus sign to zoom out
To zoom with the trackpad:
- Navigate to System Preferences > Accessibility > Zoom.
- Check the box that says Use scroll gesture with modifier keys to zoom
- 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.
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:
- Go to Settings > General > Accessibility > Zoom and flip the Zoom switch on.
- Then, double tap on the screen with three fingers to zoom in or out.
- When zoomed in, drag three fingers to pan around the screen to pan and move.
- 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.
- Go to Settings > Show Advanced Settings > Accessibility
- Check the box next to Enable Screen Magnifier
- Hold down Ctrl and Alt, then use the brightness up and down keys to zoom in and out.
- 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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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).
- Press Ctrl + N (Windows), or Cmd + N (Mac), to begin a new conversation.
- 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.
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.
The Windows Snipping Tool is a useful app, but a limited one. There are, after all, many better alternatives like Skitch, Snagit, or even the OneNote Clipper. Today, Microsoft added another to this list. It’s called Snip. Although currently still in beta, Snip allows you to take screenshots, add annotations, record audio, and save your clips with anyone you want. In short, Snip is everything the Windows Snipping tool should be. Here’s how it works.
Once installed, Snip hides discretely on the side of your screen, just like Snagit. When you are ready to capture your screenshot, simply hover over the Snip toolbar to select the type of capture you want to execute. There are three basic tools you can use to capture a screenshot – the crosshair selection tool, the camera, and the whiteboard.
A quick click and drag with the crosshair selection tool is all that is needed to make your first capture. Once you are done, the Snip editor will open giving you options for annotations that you can add to your screenshot. Although you absolutely can add annotations with your mouse, the drawing tools in the editor are largely aimed at those with touchscreen devices. However, there is the option to record audio on top of your screenshot and save it as an MP4 video file. T
This pseudo-screencasting option is an interesting option for educators and certainly opens up a lot of possibilities. In fact, if you look on the Snip home page, you will find several examples by students and educators who used the recording feature to talk about student work, explain a homework assignment, or teach poetry.
The whiteboard is idea for explaining a concept and can be used in conjunction with the recorder to make screencasts that are similar in appearance to something like Educreations on the iPad. There are not as many options while recording, but the end product is somewhat comparable. The whiteboard is particularly useful for Math and Science teachers who may want to record a brief video that includes mathematical equations or cell structures, neither of which is easy to accomplish in a text based program.
Clicking the camera button will let you take a picture with whatever cameras you have on your device. Captured images can be edited with the aforementioned annotation tools. In the classroom students could use this option to talk about some art work they created, to tell digital stories, or describe areas on a map.
Snips can be shared quickly and easily. They can be copied and pasted into another app, shared by email (this didn’t work for me), or saved to your device. Videos have the additional options of being able to be shared via a link, or embedded in a website. All snips, past and present, are stored in your Library, which you can access via the book icon on the toolbar.
Snip is still in beta, so be prepared for the odd glitch here and there. However, in the time that I have had to play with it, Snip has performed very well and Microsoft have informed me that new features are on the way soon. Better still, Snip will update automatically so you will always have the latest version. Check it out for yourself in the video demo below, or head over to https://mix.office.com/Snip to try it out yourself.
We live in a connected world, so the ability to add links is a valuable skill for students and teachers alike. Here’s how to add links to notes in my favorite note taking app – the Windows desktop version of OneNote 2013. 1. Typing a URL The first method is by and large the easiest. All you have to do is start typing the URL of the website you want to link to and OneNote 2013 will detect that you are typing a web address and automatically hyperlink it. If the URL is on the long side, you can copy and paste it into OneNote and you will see that it also gets automatically linked on your page.
2. Hyperlinking Text If URLs take up too much space on your page, or just don’t look right with the rest of your text, consider highlighting some text and linking that instead. Once the text you want to link is highlighted, go to the ribbon menu at the top of the page and click Insert > Link. In the pop-up box that appears, type or paste the name of the website you want to link to in the Address field, and then click OK. You can access the same linking option by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl + K on your keyboard, or by right-clicking on the highlighted text and selecting Link…
3. Linking to Another Section/Page Another useful linking strategy is the ability to link to another section or page in a notebook. This can be useful for creating your own table of contents. There are a few ways to do this, but perhaps the most elegant way is to combine it with the method above. So, start by highlighting the text you want to link to another section or page. Then right-click on it, go to Insert > Link, or press Ctrl + K, to open the Link options menu. Now, navigate to the page or section you want to link to by clicking the “+” sign next to the notebook that has the page or section you need. Click the location you want to link to, then press OK. You can also get the link to a page, or a section, by right-clicking on the page or section you need and clicking Copy Link to Page or Copy Link to Section.
4. Linking to a Specific Paragraph Need something more granular than linking to a page? Try linking to a specific paragraph. This can be a great way to direct students to the homework questions, or to definitions in a glossary. All you need to do is click on the paragraph you want to link to, then right-click your mouse and select Copy Link to Paragraph. Once you have the link you need, you can highlight some text, open the Link options menu, (like we did above), and paste it into the Address field. Anyone who clicks on the link will then be taken to a specific paragraph on a specific page.
Need an example of how all this linking can be put to good use in the classroom? Check out my lesson on the Microsoft Educator Network: Choose Your Own OneNote Adventure Stories.
It’s a question you will often hear debated when schools look to buy new devices. iPads? Macs? PCs? Chromebooks? Which is best? The short answer is, it depends. None of them are bad devices, at least not any more, so it usually comes down to what is the best fit for students, teachers, and the ways that a school is looking to advance teaching and learning with technology.
For this post, I joined forces with Stephen Lai, from teachingwithipad.org. Together we compiled some of the more popular advantages and disadvantages associated with using an iPad when compared to a Mac or Windows laptop.
1. Speed – We have all become accustomed to how fast our iOS devices wake from sleep. They rarely need powered off and the instant on gratification you get is hard to beat. In fact, if your laptop doesn’t have an SSD drive, the iPad will beat it every single time whether it is opening an app, waking from sleep, or performing some basic tasks.
2. Apps – Cut price iOS apps are getting better all the time and they are looking to rival expensive desktop software. Finding quality educational apps that will consistently enhance teaching and learning is the tricky part, especially when there are so many apps available, but it doesn’t take long to find the best ones. So, spend time researching and talking to colleagues about which apps are worth the money, and which of the free ones are really free!
3. Camera – According to Chase Jarvis, the best camera is the one you have with you. The iPad camera will never rival that of a dedicated DSLR, but it sure beats the webcams on a Mac or a PC! It’s a one-stop solution that lets you shoot, edit and share photos and videos captured on your iPad. It is also capable of producing special effects like stop motion movies or even green screen captures. This kind of creativity makes it perfect for a modern multimedia classroom.