Create an online resource library with students using Send Ape

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One of the workshop sessions I have given over the past few years in on the creation of a resource library with students, a place for them to find reading or listening material that they can use outside of the classroom. Getting students engaged in extensive reading and listening is critical in their language learning process. The more they are exposed to the language in use, the more they are able to comprehend and make important connections.

I am also an advocate of students taking control of their own learning. They are only with me for a short time each week in comparison to time outside of the classroom. They need to learn how to learn on their own, a skill that many students have not yet been exposed to in a more traditional learning environment. Allowing students to choose their own reading and listening material is important since they will become more engaged in the process and also will learn the vocabulary necessary within the environment they plan on using English (ex. their major in university, their work environment, travel).

A large part of them taking control of their learning is in finding and creating content that appeals to them and then sharing that with others who may also find it helpful. This is simplified through the use of social sharing online, a cloud-based approach to the traditional library. This allows students to create audio or video content for listening, and also the creation of text-based material for reading. Even photos can used to share signs, newspaper articles, and anything else students find throughout their day that can be useful in learning language in context.

There are a number of ways of doing this, but there are certain obstacles that need to be overcome. One such hurdle is the use of online sites that require registration. If it at all possible, I try to use online tools that don’t require that students give up their personal information. Also, the site needs to be accessible from multiple devices, not just laptops or desktops.

One such site that works very well for this purpose is Send Ape. Send Ape is a file sharing site that allows for video and audio playback, document and image viewing, and multiple users without having to sign up or deal with advertisements. Here is how it works and how it may be used as a resource library:

  • Go to Send Ape and click on ‘Create new page’.

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  • Send Ape will give you a page with a unique name. From what I can see, there is no way to change this. In the middle of the page, you will see a dotted box that says, “Drop your files here”. You can either drag and drop your files into the box, or you can click on the box and you will be prompted with a file manager where you can choose your file.

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  • Once your file is loaded, depending on the file type, you will see it appear in a box on the righthand side.
  • Video files can be played in a window or fullscreen by clicking on the ‘Preview’ button. You can also click on the ‘Share’ button to get a direct link to the video in a new window. This is a great way for students to upload video they have taken on their mobile devices without having to sign up for YouTube. Lastly, students can also archive the video by clicking on the ‘Download’ button and adding it to their own device for offline viewing.

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Video pop-up window

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Direct link shared video file window

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  • You can listen to the audio files by clicking on the ‘Play’ button. You can also click on the ‘Share’ button to get a direct link to the audio file in a new window. This is a great way for students to upload audio they have recorded on their mobile devices without having to sign up for any site. Lastly, students can also archive the audio file by clicking on the ‘Download’ button and adding it to their own device for offline listening.

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  • Most documents, including PDFs and Microsoft Office documents, can be viewed directly in File Ape. Click on the ‘Preview’ button and a pop-up window will appear with the document.
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Document pop-up viewer

  • Click on the box icon with an arrow in it in the pop-up window and File Ape will open the document in a Google Document viewer that you can share with others.
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Google document viewer

  • All items are shared in a “page” that can be shared with others. You can create as many pages as you would like, although there is a 4GB limit if you use the unregistered option. Sign up and you will be given 10GB of storage and a login ID. Unfortunately, you will need to use a Google or Facebook account to register. There is not email option available.
  • To create a new page, click on the ‘+Add page’ button on the left side of the screen.

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  • There are a number of options available for each page.

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  • The far left button pops out the share options. The best choice is the link available at the bottom of the box. You can share this page with anyone using this link. It is also useful for when users switch computers without an account. More on that in a minute.

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  • The second button changes the view from ‘Blog’ view to ‘Thumb’ or ‘List’.
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Thumb view

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List view

  • The third button along the top is the sort button. Click to change it from most recent to alphabetical.

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  • The fourth button is the security button. Students can choose to add a password to the page before sharing.

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  • The fifth button along the top is the availability option. Users can set a date when to make it available and when to stop making it available.

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  • The last button is an important one. You can choose if visitors can add files to the page (great for students to have others give their input), can allow others to view their page (ie. make it private), or if visitors can delete items from the page (probably best kept off). Students can also delete pages here.

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So how would this work as a resource library with students? Have students create their own pages and then share them with the rest of the class with the option available for others to add content. Maybe one student is interested in computers. That student could make a list of reading and listening material that they have found or created and then share it with their classmates. Other students can then add files they find related to that topic to the page. This can be collected on a class website or a shared document. This becomes the reading and listening resource library for the class.

There are a lot of other great uses for Send Ape such as sharing videos with students, having students share their presentations on a page so the teacher can get them all lined up and ready when students are ready to present to the class. Teachers can share listening files with the class for those who missed class. Teachers and students could give feedback on writing assignments.

Here is a printable guide to creating a page as a resource library.

Here is a sample page you can add to. Please keep it clean! 🙂

Let me know what you think about Send Ape!

Annotate and share a document online with Crocodoc Personal

Screen Shot 2015-03-24 at 9.06.24 PMHaving a place to share and annotate documents online with students can be very handy. Instead of swapping documents, such as Word documents and PDFs, anyone can upload these files to Crocodoc Personal for free without registering and without having to deal with ads. Once uploaded, people can highlight, comment, add texts, and draw on the document and others can add their thoughts as well. Here is how it works:

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  • Once uploaded, you can add three different types of comments: point, area, or text.

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  • Point comments add a red mark on the document where you would like to add your comment and links to a comment area on the side where you can add text.

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  • Area comments allow users to drag a box around an area which links to a comment area on the side where you can add text.

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  • Text comments allow users to highlight text which links to a comment area on the side where you can add text.

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  • Users can also draw on the text in four different colours.

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  • Users can also add text comments directly onto the document using the ‘Text’ tool.

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  • Choose the highlight tool to highlight sections of the text without adding comments.

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  • Use the ‘Strikeout’ tool to draw a line through whatever you select and it also gives you a box to add text comments directly above the deleted text.

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  • To share the document with others, click on the ‘Share’ button and copy the ‘Link’ URL. If you want others to comment, make sure the ‘Allow others to add comments to this document’ button is checked, otherwise, uncheck to allow for reading only. Click on the ‘Embed’ tab to copy the embed code to add to your website.

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  • You can also download the original document or the marked-up PDF by clicking on the ‘Download’ button.

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  • An easy way of getting through all of the comments and highlights is to open up the comments pane. Click on the double-arrow button right beside the ‘Download’ button. You can then click on a comment to go directly to that section. You can also use this as a bookmark functions to make it easier to manage a larger document.

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I’ve also created a printable guide on commenting that can be given to students or teachers. Feel free to print, distribute, or edit as long as you keep the credit along the bottom.

 

A guide to Reel App: Host and embed PPT and PDF files without registration

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Sharing images, PPT, and PDF files with students is simple enough, but to view the files online or embed them in a website, you would normally need to complete some sort of registration. That is where Reel App comes along. It is an elegant and simple place to upload images, PDF, and PPT files without registration and then you can share a link where recipients can view the slides or pages online. It even gives you an embed code to put into a blog or website. Here is how it works.

  • Go to Reel App and click on ‘Click to upload images, PPT files or PDFs’. A file manager box will appear and you can choose a file from your computer to upload.

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  • Once you have chosen a file, it will begin to upload. A box will come up ‘Creating your Preso’ and thumbnails will slowly appear below. Depending on the size of the file, it may take a while for images to begin appearing.

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  • Once your file is uploaded, you will be taken to a new page saying, “Your preso is ready to go!’ Give your file a name and description in the boxes provided.
  • You can also give a name and description to each page/slide by clicking on each page/slide and then typing in the information.

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  • At this point, you can also add more images or files by clicking on the ‘Upload more images’ link on the righthand side. After choosing a file, it will say ‘Uploading’ and will spin until it has finished adding the new pages/slides to the thumbnails.

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  • You can also rearrange the pages/slides by simply clicking and dragging the thumbnails around. You can also delete a page/slide by clicking on the grey X in the top-right corner of each page/slide.
  • Once you have finished with the names and descriptions, click on ‘Save Preso’ and a box will appear asking you to confirm locking your presentation. Click on ‘Lock Preso & View Report Page’.

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  • You are now at the report page. If you would like to check out what pages people liked or didn’t like, this is where you will be given up-to-date results. Bookmark this page to return here at any time.

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  • To share the presentation with others, simply copy the URL found just above the ‘Start Preso’ button. A box will appear with a shareable link and the embed code.

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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!

Thinkport Annotator Tool: A simple annotation tool with multiple highlighters

Image courtesy of Philippa Willitts

Image courtesy of Philippa Willitts

There are a fair number of ways to annotate a document with software or online tools, but Thinkport’s Annotation Tool is a simple, online tool that allows for teachers and students to markup and annotate a text using a number of coloured markers. The best part is it is free and students don’t need to give their personal information to use it. Here is how it works:

  1. Go to http://annotator.thinkport.org.
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  3. Select either to Create a new project or Manage an existing project.
  4. If you create a new project, give your project a unique name and then type in a password for you to manage the project. If the name already exists, you will get an error and you will need to rename it.
  5. If you manage an existing project, you will be asked for the project name and password.
  6. Once you are successful in either creating or logging into a previous project, give your project a name, a subtitle (could be a simple one line instruction), the author of the text, and a citation. Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 2.51.25 PM
  7. Type in or paste your text into the Text to Annotate box at the bottom of the page. There are some font, text, and pasting options in the toolbar at the top of the box. Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 2.51.47 PM
  8. There are a series of highlighters along the left side of the page. Label the colours to match what you would like the students to use that colour for. Only the colours you label will be available for the students when they log in. Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 2.51.36 PM
  9. At the top of the page, there is a Project Instructions button. You can use that to enter instructions for the students.
  10. Once you are done editing, click on the Save button. You can also choose to Save and Send Email, but I wouldn’t suggest it.
  11. Once you are ready to have students annotate the text, give them the main page link along with the project name.
  • Students who visit the main page, click on the Student button and then select Begin your assigned project. They can then enter the project name you have given them and create a new username and password for themselves. This can be used to log back in to edit the project at a later time.  Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 3.01.25 PM
  • To highlight a word, students choose a colour and then just click on the word. You can’t click and drag lick other programs. If you want to highlight multiple words, you click on the first word and then click on the last word. Everything in-between will be highlighted in that colour.
  • Once you highlight something, a box will come up and give you a chance to label your annotation with text. Student can either just save the project to edit later, or can save and submit to the teacher for review.
  • The teacher can then log in and click on Student Submissions to review them and add comments. If you do add comments for the students, make sure to click on Save Comments before leaving the page. Screen Shot 2014-05-19 at 3.12.09 PM

While this isn’t the most comprehensive of the annotation tools I have used, it provides a safe place for students to use without having to give any personal information away (ex. email address). I also like the labels for the various colours. It’s also quite simple for students and teachers to use.

You can also find hundreds more webtools that don’t require student registration on my list here.

Let me know what you think and share your ideas for how you might use it in the classroom by adding your comments below. Thank you!

Creating and Sharing Google Drive Templates

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This is something that I knew was possibly, but I hadn’t used until today. In my class, we make use of our university’s Google accounts quite a bit. We share documents, files, make videos, share calendars, and so on. The weird thing is, I have never made or shared a Google document template before. Want to know how? Here it is:

  1. Create a Google document that you would like to share as a template.
  2. Go to your main Drive page where you will find all of your items in a list.
  3. Check off the box next to the item or items you wish to make available as a template.
  4. Click on the ‘More’ button near the top of the page and choose ‘Submit to template gallery’.
  5. Type in a description. Make sure it is clear since this template can be used by almost anyone else with a Google Drive account. For those with a public account (ie. not a school account), your template will be available to the world. For those with a school account, it will be available to anyone else who has a school account under your domain.
  6. Choose a category (required). You may also choose another category if you would like.
  7. Select a language.
  8. Click on ‘Submit template’
  9. Once it shows up in the template, click on ‘Preview’ at the bottom of the one you have created. A new window will appear with a bar along the top and your template below. Copy the URL address in the browser.
  10. Paste this address into an email, your class website, or wherever else you students will find it.
  11. Student who click on the link will need to log in to their account and will end up in the Preview page you have just left. They can then click on the ‘Use this template’ button in the top-left of the screen and it will create a copy in their Drive account, ready to be edited.

I see this as a great way for teachers to share Google created content and for teachers and students to share document templates such as graphic organizers.

I hope that was helpful. It was for me!