CutePDF Online Editor: A Registration-Free Online Multifunction PDF Tool

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While there are a number of free PDF tools online, Cute PDF Online Editor is one of the easiest and most complete. You can crop, reorder, add blank pages, password protect, and so much more for free and you don’t even have to register. Here is how it works:

Steps:

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  • Go to CutePDF Online Editor and click on ‘Open File’ and choose the PDF file from your computer that you would like to edit.

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  • Once you have your document open, you have a number of tools at your disposal. Click on the ‘Advanced Tool’ option.

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  • Once you have that open, you will see a window similar to the one above. In here, you can rotate pages by click on them and then the rotate tools on the right. You can also delete pages by highlighting them and then clicking on the delete button. You can also click-and-drag pages around to move them. If you hold down the CTRL key in Windows or the Command key in Mac while you are moving them, it creates a duplicate page and leaves the original where it was.

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  • If you have a PDF with a lot of pages and you know the pages you would like to move or delete, you can exit the Advanced Tools option and choose the Extract Pages option instead. You will see a box like the one above where you can enter the page numbers in the appropriate boxes.

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  • If you don’t want to use the Advanced Tools to rotate your pages and your know the number of the pages you would like to rotate, use the Rotate Pages option instead. You will see a box similar to the one above where you can type in your page numbers and rotate them that way instead.

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  • Sometimes you will get a PDF where one or more pages are not the same size as the rest and this makes printing difficult. You can use the Resize Pages option to change the size of any of the pages in your document.

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  • Another thing you can do is add a blank page to your PDF. This is especially helpful when you want to print a PDF double-sided and you want certain pages to appear on a particular side of the page, such as in an exam document. Simply choose the Insert Blank Page option and tell it where you would like the blank page to appear.

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  • Once again, if you don’t want to use the Advanced Tools option to delete pages, you can use the Delete Pages option instead and just type in the page numbers you would like to remove.

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  • The Crop Pages option is useful when you get a PDF that has a large margin around the edge, or you would like to remove a section of a page. Simply choose the Crop Pages tool option and then either drag the corners to change the crop marks, or type them in. You can also select the pages to which you would like to do this.

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  • There are also a number of utility options available to add passwords, merge documents and images, add headers and footers, or put in document properties in the file.

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  • The Security option gives you the dialog box above. You can add a password, turn off printing, turn off editing, no extraction of material such as text or images, and no comment or form field options.

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  • Using the Merge PDFs option, you can put more than one PDF together and can also add image file as well into the PDF. You can also specify where to add them in the current document.

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  • Another handy option is to add a header and/or footer to your document. This is great when you want to specify certain information such as where the document is from or to add copyright information.

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  • The last option in the utilities is the Document Properties option. You can add add searchable metadata that can be used by the computer to find documents in a computer search. You can also change what happens when the PDF is opened such as turning off menu bars and hiding tool bars and window controls.

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  • Lastly, you can print, save, and close your document using the tools at the bottom of the page. Make sure you save your document before closing since it won’t prompt you to do so.

I hope that was helpful. Feel free to add your comments below or send me a tweet at @nathanghall. Thank you!

WriteURL: A Simple, Registration-Free Collaborative Writing Tool

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Recently, I wrote a short post talking about collaborative writing and I shared the various ways in which students can work together on a document. There are a number of online options, but most of them require the students to register which isn’t always ideal. WriteURL is an online document creator that does not require any registration to create and share documents and also allows users to collaborate on a document in realtime. Here is an overview:

Steps:

  • Go to WriteURL and click on the ‘New Document’ button.
  • Create a title by editing ‘My Title’ at the top of the document. This will become the title of page in the browser as well.

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  • Along the top you will find various tools. Here they are from left to right:
    • Home button: this will take you to the WriteURL homepage in a new window or tab.
    • Headings: this gives you six heading options
    • Fonts: this gives you five options
    • Bold, Italics, Underline, and Strikethrough
    • Text Color: you can choose from a palate or type in the RGB numbers
    • Line Color: same as text colour, but for borders and lines.
    • Superscript and Subscript
    • Indent
    • Alignments: the usual left, center, right, and justify
    • Line Spacing: there are sixteen options from 0.5 to 2
    • Bullets and Numbering: there are two bullets and five numbering options
    • Special Characters: choose from five different sets
    • Links (add and remove): puts in or takes out a weblink
    • Image: insert an image from a URL and define the size
    • Undo and Redo
    • Share: this will give you Write, Read, and Publish URLs. You also have the option to email it from the program.
    • Export: you can download a Word or HTML file (only works in Chrome)
    • Online/Offiline: this shows you if you are connected to the server or not.
    • Saved: this shows if the document is saved or not (automatically saves when connected)
    • FAQ: a short help index
    • Feedback: you can submit ideas and problems to WriteURL
  • Type your document and WriteURL will automatically save whatever you type as long as you are connected to their server. Other users will also see the changes in realtime.

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  • Once you have created a document, you can have others join in or you can just share it using the Share button along the top. Choose the URL that fits your situation. If you want others to add to the document, give them the Write URL and they will be able to type in your document, even as you are typing and you will see the changes. If they only receive the Read URL, they will only be able to view the document without editing it. Once you have completed the document, you can Publish it using the Publish button under the Share option.

This is a fabulous registration-free writing option and I will likely use this in my classroom. I only wish there was a group option such as in TitanPad, but this works really well and does more than TitanPad.

What do you think? Can you see this being helpful? Share your ideas below in the comment section or send me a tweet at @nathanghall. Thank you!

The Incredible Shrinking Video!: Resize Videos Using Miro VideoConverter

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Whenever I have students create a video either through screencasting or on their mobile device, I end up with the problem of someone trying to send or upload a massive file that gets rejected by the server, not to mention the amount of time and bandwidth taken up in the process. Thankfully, there is a simple, free solution that works on almost any computer: Miro VideoConverter. Here is a step-by-step guide on how to shrink the size of the videos while still maintaining decent quality and also making it accessible my as many devices and possible.

Downloading and installing Miro Video Converter:

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  • Go to the Miro VideoConverter website and click on the ‘Download Miro VideoConverter’ button and allow the file to be downloaded to your computer.
  • Run the installer. This will be different for the various versions of Windows or Mac. For Mac, it comes as a disc image (.dmg). Just open the image and copy the application to the Applications folder. For Windows, run the executable file (.exe) to install.

Converting videos:

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  • Run the Miro Video Converter program and you will see a grey box like the one above.

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  • Drag a video file into the box or click on ‘Choose Files…’ and select a file to convert.  Your video should appear in the box like the image above. You can add more than one video.

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  • Select the video output you would like by clicking on a button at the bottom. I choose Apple and then iPod Touch 4+ since this is the most compatible with smartphones, tablets, and computers. I want my students to be able to view the video on whatever device they would like.

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  • Click on the ‘Convert Now’ button to start the process. You will see an indicator showing how much has been done.

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  • Once it has finished, you can click on ‘Show File’ to see the video on your computer. You can watch it to make sure it plays properly before posting it for your students.

Notes:

  • You will lose some quality and your video may be cropped slightly. If this happens, choose a different format and do it again.
  • You can extract the audio as an MP3 if you click on ‘Format’ and then ‘Audio’.

I hope that helps! Feel free to post a comment below or send me a message through the contact page on this site or tweet me at @nathanghall. Thank you!

Create Fullscreen Images of Websites for Free Without Registration

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There are a number of ways to do a screen capture on your computer, but what happens when you want to make an image capture of a full webpage? This isn’t possible without installing something on your computer,  but there is a way you can do it online for free using Screenshot Machine. Here is how it works:

Steps:

  1. Find a website you would like to capture as an image and copy the URL (the web address near the top of the browser window).
  2. Go to Screenshot Machine and paste the URL into the box that says ‘Enter web page URL’.
  3. Before starting the process, choose the resolution you would like by clicking on the ‘Screen resolution’ dropdown menu. You can choose from:
    • Full page: an image of everything on the page. This can be a really long image, but can be edited using any standard image editor.
    • 1024 x 768px
    • 800 x 600px
    • 400 x 300px
    • 320 x 240px
    • Full page – mobile device: This uses the browser version of the webpage for the full-size image. This is good if you want to show what the website looks like on a mobile device such as a smartphone.
    • 480 x 800px – mobile device
  4. Once you have chosen your resolution, click on the big, orange ‘start capture’ button and wait until a green ‘download’ button appears.
  5. Click on the ‘Download’ button to either view the image in your browser or start the download process. This depends on what browser you have used. If the image appears in your browser, right-click (or Command-click on a Mac) on the image to choose to download it to your computer. I noticed that Screenshot Machine hosts the image, which is an option when sharing it with someone or linking to it on your website. What I am not sure about is how long they will host it. The best option is always to host it yourself to be sure that the image won’t disappear without notice, but this is a good short-term solution.

Notes:

  • This doesn’t work on all webpages, but I have found it to work on most.
  • For websites that display ads based on location, the image shows ads from Slovakia since that is where Screenshot Machine is hosted. This shouldn’t be a problem, but it does explain some of the strange ads in the images.
  • There is a limit of 100 images per month which is more than enough for most people.

Here is a short video on how to use it:

I am adding this to my Webtools: No Registration Needed for Students page under the Screencapture section.

If you have any questions or comments, feel free to write a comment below, send me a message through the contact page, or tweet me at @nathanghall. Thank you!

On pools and other abandoned spaces

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When my wife and I moved into our new high-rise apartment building in January, a couple of mysteries began to emerge. The more obvious one had to do with the green space directly below our second floor balcony. Even though there are stairs leading to a fence and pathways with flowers and ornamental rocks leading in and out of the three building complex, there does not appear to be a way for us to get to it.  The fence cannot be opened to the stairs and any doors in our complex do not open out to the grassy area. The other mysterious thing is a door in our basement that is marked as a pool entrance, but there does not appear to be a pool nor any key that opens that door. This oddity is compounded by the fact that our apartment seems to be directly above this space that we can’t enter.

Last night, we finally had enough with trying to figure this out and we were determined to find a way into the green space and then look in the windows of the space directly below our apartment to determine what is there once and for all. We looked at the satellite view from Google Maps and best determined a way into the green space through the adjacent parking lot. We wandered through the lot and over a short berm and through the trees down to the pathway that we have never been able to get to before last night. It was like walking into a secret garden, only not as pretty. We wandered around and found all sorts of strange things such as another small building that used to house a swimming pool, but has been abandoned for some time. We made our way under our balcony and to the windows of the space below. There was a small patio area and peeking through the windows, we saw a stairwell that must be behind the mystery ‘pool’ door. We made our way around the corner until we could find a place to peek through the windows. Lo and behold, there was a small abandoned pool that is situated directly below our bedroom (see the picture above)!

When these buildings were built approximately forty years ago, someone thought it would be a great idea to install an indoor pool to attract new tenants. I am sure when it first opened, people took advantage of it and the children especially had fun splashing around in it at the end of the school day. I don’t know the ins and outs of what eventually happened, but I suspect the novelty wore off as tiles cracked, the pool was closed for maintenance over long stretches, and eventually the owner of the building decided it was too expensive to maintain and insure, so the pool was drained and the doors were locked for the last time.

With the mystery of the pool solved, I needed to get back to planning for a PD session I am jointly giving in a couple of weeks and I realized that much of what we do in the area of education technology is like the empty swimming pool below my bedroom. In order to attract attention from students, teachers, and parents, technology is purchased to show how ‘transformative’ the school is becoming. Interactive whiteboards were installed, laptops or tablets (or both) were purchased, and TVs were installed around the school. Slowly, the novelty wears off as teachers are not properly trained on the pedagogical reasons for using education technology and are also not given the help they need to use them. Slowly, the equipment breaks down or is left aside as students and teachers get bored or frustrated with it and give up.

Here is the problem. Technology gadgets are not going to ‘transform’ your school. Education technology is not about the equipment in front of you, it is about the equipment you already have between your ears. Having a good, solid basis founded on well researched pedagogy and clear goals along with the assistance needed to achieve them is the same for all areas of education, not just education technology. I fear that most people enter the use of technology in the classroom out of necessity, not because they see the value in it. Selling educators on outcomes, not gadgets is the way to go here.

There are a number of things that also need to be considered outside of good pedagogy. Here are some of my thoughts on those:

  • Costs: Could the finances being spent on major technology upgrades be better spent in other ways? Just like the pool, a cost / benefit would be beneficial, especially in the long run. When I was selling computers and printers, we would talk about the TCO, the Total Cost of Operation. Sure, I can sell you a printer for next to nothing, but the ink will drain you dry financially if you use it every day. You may be better off spending more on the printer, such as in the case of a laser printer over an inkjet, and save in the long run on consumables. Consider things like leasing. Leasing you computers can save you in the long run if you have to upgrade on a regular basis. Thinking of spending a pile of money on expensive equipment? Look at the TCO, not just the upfront budget.
  • Training: I would suggest that instead of buying the equipment and then training the teachers, train the teachers and then buy the equipment. You would be surprised what you can find out when giving a training session. Teachers can give you feedback on what would work and what won’t. Also, if they see the value in the tools before you spend money on it, they can spend time planning their lessons so they can take advantage of them. In one school in which I worked, teachers were required to come up with various lesson ideas in detail that could be shared amongst the teachers that made good use of the technology at hand. Over time, these could be updated and stored so other teachers could make use of them instead of having to reinvent the wheel each time. For many teachers, they see the value in the use of technology, but they don’t know where to start. Get them started, and then keep them going. Eventually, they will start to come up with things on their own. To assist in this area, I have started to come up with printable edtech tips that can be shared with teachers who are less tech savvy. Feel free to use them as you see fit. I plan on adding more lesson ideas as well.
  • Privacy: Always we aware that you are responsible for the privacy of each student, even if they are adults. In some places, this is legislated, for other areas, it is just good common sense. Online tools such as those from Google or Edmodo are great, I use them myself, but these are still companies who are not doing this out of the goodness of their heart. They still need to turn a profit. How do they do this? Various ways, but the most profitable of all is data. Social media giants get that way out of the ability to sell off data. Now before you start getting into a debate about legislation safeguarding this, such as is found in countries around the world, keep in mind that data breaches happen all of the time (ex. Heartbleed, hackers). It can happen in your own network, but criminals tend to target those that get them the most money and I am sure a school network is pretty low on their list. I am not saying that you shouldn’t be using GAFE (Google Apps For Education) or Edmodo, but there needs to be a frank discussion amongst all stakeholders on what is going to happen. Also, bear in mind that simply asking students or parents for approval is not the same as having them in the discussion. Schools, especially teachers, hold a position of power and need to be careful how they use it. Students may be afraid to speak up in fear that their grades may be influenced. As crazy as that sounds, we need to be aware that there needs to be a way for them to openly disagree without fearing for their marks. Lastly, what are you going to do if even one student opts out of the use of this tool? Do you make them do things differently, or do you not do it at all? Are there compromises to be made?

These are only some of things that make the use of education technology such a hot topic. There are some you have bought in and are using it well. There are some who are sold on the ‘cool’ factor and are seeking newer and better things all of the time, driving their students and colleagues crazy by constantly changing their system. There are skeptics, frustrated ‘newbies’, and many more, but I hope we all have the same goal in mind, to create a positive and productive learning environment for our students.

So dive in, but just make sure the pool isn’t empty.

Collaborative Writing Tools: An Overview

Image courtesy of Tammy Strobel

Image courtesy of Tammy Strobel

I received an email today from one of my former MA TESOL students asking if I could recommend any collaborative writing platforms other than Google Drive. Instead of just sharing this information with one person, I thought a blog post was in order. This post is not meant to be a comprehensive list of sites, but if you feel I am missing any that are worthy of mention, please share them in the comment section below.

Before diving into the sites themselves, I feel it is important to look at the various types of document creation that can be done with others. They break down into three areas:

Unhosted

  • Description: This means that instead of having one cloud-based document that is edited by various people, this is where a single document is shared between different people.
  • Example: This is the way most people used to share documents. They would email it to one another, copy it using an external drive, or would host it on a shared network folder (private network). A scenario would be where one person would make a Word document and would email it to everyone who would then download it, edit it or add comments, and then email back to the sender.
  • Problems: This is a nightmare to keep track of. Sometimes people would overwrite other people’s work, the person who was collecting the data would have to consolidate everything, and it was difficult to know which document was the most current. Added to that, not everyone could see the work that was being done. It was more cooperative instead of collaborative.
  • Suggested Sites:
    • Dropbox: Free website that allows you to host documents to share with others. It synchronizes all of the documents between those who share the document or folder.
    • Box: Similar to Dropbox, but a few functions that allow you to edit documents in Word and then save back to Box.

Hosted, one editor at a time

  • Description: This is where the document is created and hosted on the cloud, but only one person can edit it at one time. Editing is usually done in the browser, but there are some examples of where it can also be done in a word processor running on the computer.
  • Example: Wikis are the best example of this. One person goes in, makes changes, and then exits after saving. Others can’t usually edit while a person is in edit mode, although some wikis will merge data as well (not usually recommended). Changes aren’t ‘live’ until the person editing saves it.
  • Problems: Once again, this is mostly cooperative as opposed to collaborative. Also, people aren’t aware of the changes until it is saved, and some people don’t save their work very often. Lastly, you can’t go in and edit when it is best for you.
  • Suggested Sites:
    • Wikispaces: One of the best wiki sites for education. Teachers can create class spaces and students can create sites without using an email address (they use a code given by the teacher).
    • PBWorks: Similar to Wikispaces, but no student codes so they need to sign up with an email address.
    • Scrawlar: This is not a wiki, but a simple word processor and online whiteboard all in one. Teachers can set up student accounts so students don’t have to give any personal details. When the student saves a document, the teacher can see the changes, but only then. It is a nice site, even with a few limitations.

Hosted, real-time editing

  • Description: This is where document creation and hosting is in the cloud and where anyone with access can edit at the same time with results appearing ‘live’ on the page to everyone.
  • Example: Google Drive is the most common example of this. When you create a document in Google Drive, anyone you give access to can edit it and everyone sees the changes immediately.
  • Problems: This can get a little messy if you have a large number of people editing at the same time. I have even had my information overwritten while I was typing in a shared document. Also, some people feel they would rather work on things in private so others don’t see their work until it is finished. Lastly, you need a good internet connection unless you have set up offline editing (which then becomes more like a wiki).
  • Suggested Sites:
    • Google Drive: This is the most common online office suite that allows for real-time editing and sharing of documents. Lots of tools and integrates with other websites such as Edmodo.
    • OneDrive: This is Microsoft’s online cloud host and editor for it’s office suite. You can edit in your own version of Office installed on your computer, or you can use the scaled-down version on the web. The web-based version allows for real-time collaboration. All in all, this is a really nice site, but still has some limitations.
    • Etherpad (various sites): Before Google Drive and Docs, there was Etherpad. Google took it over, stripped out what they needed to create their online editor, and then open-sourced the code for others to use. It is limited in what it can do, such as with images, but it is quick and simple. I have used one hosted by TitanPad for a number of years, but there is also PrimaryPad, MozillaPad and others using a version for themselves. TitanPad and MozillaPad allow for private groups to be created by teachers which is great for student security.

Like I said at the start, this is just meant to be a brief overview of collaborative writing tools, so feel free to add your thoughts in the comment section below.

Thank you!

Video in ELT: Moving from Passive to Active Part 5 – Interacting (Social Asynchronous Webinar)

This is the final instalment of the Social Asynchronous Webinar – Video in ELT: Moving from Passive to Active. If you are interested in watching the previous sections, here are the post:

In this section, we discuss the use of Mozilla Popcorn Maker to remix and edit online videos, photos, and audio with maps, text, and popup items. Here is the video:

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I would love to get your feedback on the content of the seminar as well as the idea of the webinar and how it can be improved in the future. Maybe you think this isn’t the best idea or you think it could be done a lot better. If that is the case, please let me know.

If you just want to watch the full webinar (in five sections), here is the YouTube playlist.