Draft: A fantastic collaborative text editing tool


An important tool in teaching writing is the ability to give and receive feedback from fellow students and the instructor. There are a number of tools, both offline and on the cloud, that allow someone to do that including Microsoft Word, Apple Pages, Open Office, Google Drive, Zoho Writer, TitanPad, and so on. Many of these tools are far more complicated or difficult for this task. This is where Draft comes in. Draft is an online collaborative writing tool that is clean and easy to use and integrates with Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, and Evernote. It is also free and has a simple registration that can be overcome quite easily. Instead of typing out all of the features and steps on how to use it, I did a simple screencast to demonstrate:


Please feel free to add your comments or send me a Tweet at @nathanghall. Thank you!


How to schedule appointments online for free with Doodle


Doodle is a great registration-free event planner and scheduler that can be a handy tool for teachers. It can be used to find the best time to do something or to schedule appointments for one-to-one conferences or online instruction. Here is how it works:


  1. Go to Doodle.com and click on ‘Schedule an event’.
  2. Type in your title, location (optional), description (optional), name, and email address. If you don’t want to give your real email address, put in a fake email address, but be aware that you may not be able to see the results (depending on the options you choose). Click on ‘Next’ when you are done.
  3. Choose the days you would like to schedule. Click on ‘Next’ when you are done.
  4. Enter in the times you are available for each day. You can add more time options by clicking on ‘Add further time slots’. You can also copy the information from the first row by clicking on ‘Copy and Paste First Row’. Click on ‘Next’ when you are done.
  5. If you only want to create a poll on which time everyone is available, just click on ‘Next’. If you want to schedule appointments, click on ‘Settings’ and then click on ‘Participants can only click on one option’ and also ‘Limit the number of participants per option’ and set the number to 1. You can also choose to hide the names and results to the participants by clicking on ‘Hidden Poll’. Once you are done, click on ‘Next’.
  6. Click on ‘Finish’ to get the addresses. You now have access to the ‘Participation Link’ and the ‘Administration Link’. If you used a real email address, you would also get these in an email along with emails from the participants when you make their choices. If you didn’t give your email, make sure you keep these addresses since this is the only way to get access to the poll.

Here is a video on how to use Doodle as a scheduler:

Please feel free to add your comments or send me a tweet at @nathanghall. Thank you!

Record a screencast using QuickTime Player on a Mac


Giving someone written instructions on how to do something on the computer can be difficult. Showing someone how to do it is much easier. One way to do that is to make a little movie of your screen while you are doing it. This is called a screencast. Here is how you can do it on a Mac with the latest version of QuickTime Player which comes with all Macs:


  1. Open QuickTime Player.
  2. Click on ‘File’ at the top of the screen and choose ‘New Screen Recording’.
  3. A new dialog box will appear with a record button in the middle. Before recording, click on the little down arrow on the right side of the box. A dropdown menu will appear. Choose your microphone (default is Built-in Microphone) or ‘None’ if you don’t want to record any audio. Choose your quality (high or medium) and choose ‘Show mouse clicks in recording’ if you want a circle to appear when you click on your screen in the recording. This is a helpful option when showing what to do without audio.
  4. Click on the red record button or hit the space bar to bring up a message, ‘Click to record the full screen. Drag to record part of the screen.’ At this point, go to the application or window where you would like to start your recording. To do this, do not click on the application in the dock as this will start a fullscreen recording. To go to the window or application, hold down the Command key (???) and hit the Tab key without letting go of the Command key. You can continue to hold the Command key and keep tapping the Tab key to scroll through the applications that are open. Once a box appears around the application you would like to open, you can let go of both keys and that application will move to the front of the screen. You can also do a similar thing to scroll through the windows that are open in the application itself. The only difference is that you don’t hit the Tab key, you hit the key just above it that has a ` and ~ symbol on it.
  5. Once you have the window where you would like positioned in the front, you can either click and drag the mouse over the area you would like to record, or you can click anywhere (or hit the spacebar) to record the whole screen. The QuickTime dialog box will remain on the screen, but will not appear in the video.
  6. Move your mouse around the screen and click where you would like. Everything you see happening on the screen will be recorded. Once you are done, click on the stop button on the QuickTime dialog box to stop recording. The QuickTime window will appear with the video in it. You can now watch the video to make sure it is okay. To make the play dialog box appear, just move your mouse and it will appear in a black box at the bottom of the screen.
  7. To save your video or share it, go to ‘File’ at the top of the screen, choose ‘Export’ or ‘Share’ and follow the instructions.

This is also a great tool for giving feedback on written work that is in electronic form, such as a Word document. Also, it can be used to record a PowerPoint presentation along with audio.

How do you use screencasts in your classroom? Share your ideas in the comment section below, send me a Tweet at @nathanghall, or send me an email using the contact page on this website. Thank you.


Tech Recipe: How to use TitanPad groups

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I have mentioned using TitanPad a number of times on this blog and I so I decided to create a screencast on how to use TitanPad groups. The video covers the creation of groups, the creation and use of pads, and how to manage those pads (15 minutes). For those wanting a alternative to Google Docs for your students without having to have them register, TitanPad is an excellent (free) option.

Tech Recipe: How to use PrintFriendly to create a PDF from a webpage

I have been playing with the idea of creating how-to videos on technology in the classroom and have finally started with PrintFriendly.com, a great website for creating PDF files from websites.

I hope to create a series of Tech Recipe videos to help teachers and students learn how to use some of the best free tools available online.

Let me know what you think. I would appreciate any (constructive) comments you may have.