Tag Archives: lessons

Snippy – make cut out screenshots

Have you ever wanted to grab a bit of a website, document or picture from your computer screen and use it in a PowerPoint or on a worksheet?

You could take a screen shot with the print screen button, but if you don’t want the whole screen you then need to crop it in some way. A better solution is to use a screen capture utility that allows you to capture only part of the screen, or even better any free form area you like. Windows Vista has a built in tool called the ‘snipping tool’ that does that, but if you want that functionality on Windows XP you need a program called Snippy.

Snippy is a very small free program that when running has a little scissors icon in the task bar at the bottom of the screen. When you want to capture a screen snip you click on the icon and then draw around the area you want to capture.

You can choose whether to have a line around the snip as well as the colour and thickness of the line. A rectangular area can be captured by holding down the shift key whilst dragging.

Once you have made your snip, the picture is placed in the computers clipboard to be pasted into whatever program you want. You can also save the picture in one of several picture formats (bmp, jpeg, gif, tiff, png) by right clicking on the icon and selecting save as.

Snippy can be downloaded free from its website.

Publish a homework tasks blog easily

Have you ever been frustrated when a student tells come to a lesson and tells you that they have forgotten what the homework was that you set? Wouldn’t it be good if all your students could access a record of what you set for homework from home or the library even if they have lost their homework diary or were absent when it was set?

The solution is to publish your homework tasks on the Internet so that they are always accessible. I’m not talking about lots of detail or the homework itself being online, just a note similar to what you would expect a pupil to write in their diary, but maybe more accurate. Now not every teacher has, wants or could manage a full website or blog to post homework on, but every teacher should be able to use email.

With the online tool Posterous email is the only thing you need to be able to use to create a mini website with a record of the homework tasks you set.

As it says on their website you don’t need to sign up, all you do is email post@posterous.com and an account will be set up for you and they will email you straight back with details. The email you send will be converted into a post with the subject being the title and the body being the text. If you attach a word document or similar to the email it will be attached to the post and if you attach a picture it will be added.

You can then just send an email with each homework task and it will be posted, creating a mini website that your students can look at.

Have a look at the demo site I set up at classroomtechdemo.posterous.com

and have a go at starting your own by emailing post@posterous.com

Temporary web pages with Google Docs

Google Docs is an online office suite, like a cut down version of Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc). It runs in your web browser and stores your documents online making them available from any computer. Google Docs makes it easy to collaborate on and share Text documents, spreadsheets and presentations.

There are lots of applications for Google Docs in the classroom and I will discuss others in future posts. One application of the word processor part of Google Docs is to create quick and temporary web pages.

Because the word processor enables you to quickly edit documents with instructions and links you can write some instructions or information for a lesson just as you would on a worksheet, except that because you can publish it as a web page it can include links to other websites.

When you have finished your page, you can publish it (go to ‘share’, ‘publish as webpage’) and you will be given a link to your new web page. Here is one I created for this post:

http://docs.google.com/Doc?id=dfbtbm3h_52c747dtgd

This is now a webpage that you can send the students to in order to guide them through an online task. You can use a URL shortener as detailed in another post to make the address easier to share with the pupils. When I ran the above address through Memurl.com I got memurl.com/duvote which is much easier.

When you have finished using the page with a class you can either leave it published or unpublish it, but save it in Google Docs. That way you can come back to it, ammend it and use it again.

For more information about Google Docs visit the website docs.google.com. I will endevour to write about Google Docs in more detail soon.

Multiple email addresses in one

Almost all online tools and web applications not to mention blogs require you to register an account or at least give an email address before you can use them fully. This causes a problem when you want to use one of these services with pupils and they either don’t have their own email addresses or you don’t want them to use their own addresses for whatever reason.

Google Mail provides one option to work around this. If you don’t know anything about Google Mail, it is one of a number of web applications that are provided by Google and are free to use. Google Mail is an email account and webmail program (a bit like hotmail or yahoo mail). Google Mail has several advantages including a large amount of storage space (several gigabytes) and advanced search and filtering capabilities, making it easy to find messages. It is free and straightforward to sign up for a Google Mail account and you can sign up for as many different accounts as you want.

Google Mail is useful in overcoming the requirement for lots of email accounts because once you have signed up for an email address, for example mrtdolan@googlemail.com, you then get more than just the user name ‘mrtdolan’. You can add a ‘+’ to the username and then anything after it and it will be delivered to the same account. So email sent to mrtdolan@googlemail.com, mrtdolan+one@googlemail.com and mrtdolan+two@googlemail.com would all end up in the same place. Although Google Mail treats these as the same account, anywhere else they would be considered different addresses and so could be used separately to sign up for a service multiple times.

For example, say you were setting up a class blog and you wanted each student to have their own login so you could keep track of who wrote what. You could set up a new google account (e.g. mrtdolan08yr10@googlemail.com) and then use varations on that address to sign all your pupils up to the blog, e.g. mrtdolan08yr10+bob@googlemail.com, mrtdolan08yr10+jane@googlemail.com, etc.

Obviously there are always issues to consider when using online tools with students where they have to register for accounts, but by following careful procedures, only using first names, not requiring them to use their own email and having clear rules and guidelines it is possible to make the most of some of the great tools out there.

You can find out more about Google Mail and sign up for an account at mail.google.co.uk

Webcams for showcasing work

Many people have seen or used Webcams for video calling over the internet. Applications such as Skype have made seeing people the other side of the world and talking to them very accessible.

The Webcams that make this possible are simply digital cameras that are capable of recording video and taking still pictures and at a fraction of the cost of other digital cameras.

In the classroom there could be many uses of a webcam. One possible use would be to showcase a pupils work. Instead of trying to hold a piece of work up or describe what it looks like to the class, a webcam can be used to show a live picture of the work that can be projected so that even those at the back can clearly see what you are talking about.

Almost all webcams will come with some software that will allow you to show the image live (often called the preview) on the computer. If you want to you can also capture the picture as a snapshot or as a video that could be saved and shown to the class again later.

If you are buying a webcam try to get a High resolution model of at least 1.3 megapixels. The lower resolution cameras won’t be clear enough to show a good picture when projected on a large screen. I have a basic model and it does the job ok. One of the new 5 MP cameras especially with autofocus would be even better.

You can buy many webcams from Amazon.co.uk as well as computer shops and even larger supermarkets.