Reduce long urls to a click

View this video to see how you can use justpaste.it to reduce a long url to a clickable one. Great for mLearning on phones and tablets.

In short:

  1. Copy a web link from a website.
  2. Go to justpaste.it
  3. Write a description of the webpage and create a hyperlink associated with the description.
  4. Create a short customised name for the end of the url. For example: justpaste.it/yr7hh
  5. You can write that on the board, or send it via email.
  6. Students can bookmark that page which you can use in the future to add or edit other web links.
  7. This is excellent for iPads as they only have to tap on the hyperlink to get to the correct web page.
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Turn webpages into PDFs

You can use the Print function in Windows to save a webpage as a PDF – but the end result can be quite disappointing with some words missing and formatting all over the place.

A better option is to use a website called, appropriately, Print Friendly. It is OCR readable and the web links still work. Simple to use – just paste the url of the page you want to convert to PDF, select PDF and it will give a good result. Not perfect, but more than acceptable.

A great feature is that it gives you the option of removing parts you don’t want, such as adverts, before the final conversion.

If you think this will be a regular enough occurrence then you can use the extension for your browser that places a button on your address bar.

Capture a webpage in a PDF

Capture a webpage in a PDF

As a web based service it is suitable for all devices and operating systems that are internet enabled.

If you want an “ad-free service, white-label, and advanced customization” you can buy an an account. It has been translated to over 20 languages, which is a great bonus for those who do not speak English.

Note: 21 May 2017

I have used this several times to save some blogs and have had mixed success. So make sure you check what has actually been captured. If what you want to capture has not been captured, then report that to the support desk. It will help them improve their product.

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Capture webpages beyond the screen

I love the Snipping Tool that MS Windows supplies. Just select the part of the screen you want to capture, highlight the part you need to, then press the email icon and send it on to the person needing it. Saves so much time compared to taking a screenshot, cropping it, saving it and uploading to your email. However, there are times when you want to capture a whole webpage which has a lot of information you have to scroll down to read. That is when the Snipping Tool is found wanting.

Nimbus is then the go to app in MS Windows, and is also a great choice in Linux. It is an extension to Chrome and Firefox so you first have to install it. Search for Nimbus Screen Capture in Firefox and Nimbus Screenshot & Screen Video Recorder in Chrome.

Nimbus Screen Capture in Firefox

Nimbus Screen Capture in Firefox

The Chrome version has a few more options than the Firefox version, but both will capture a webpage at the click of a button:

  1. Browse to a website
  2. Click on the Nimbus icon in the top right to show you the menu

    Nimbus icon Firefox

    Nimbus icon Firefox

  3. Select the Entire Page option

    Nimbus Firefox menu

    Nimbus Firefox menu

  4. Highlight or annotate if you need to
  5. Click on Done in the top right corner

    Nimbus Done button

    Nimbus Done button

  6. Select where to keep it, and that is the finish.
  7. Compare the full screenshot with the entire webpage capture:
    Entire webpage

    Entire webpage

    Visible screenshot

    Screenshot of visible part of screen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you use Linux, then you have another free rival for Nimbus called Shutter.

Caution: To capture the full webpage in Shutter you need to make sure the gnome-web-photo packages are also installed.

Navigate to the website you want to copy and press the website icon – the one click solution.

Shutter - copy full website

Shutter – copy full website

Note that Nimbus and Shutter create pictures that do not have any live links. If you want to capture a website in its full html glory then you can use a premium version of the social bookmarking site Diigo.

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iPad – teachers and parents in control

Earlier this month I went to a meeting about the introduction of iPads to my children’s secondary school and was astonished regarding how far iPads have progressed in terms of being more suitable for education. I have taught classes with 1-to-1 iPads in the past and two major concerns were students being distracted by other apps, and trying to limit the students to using only the correct app in an exam situation. For exams we used Guided Access to restrict what app students could use, which was a cumbersome, time consuming procedure.

The meeting centred on the power of Mobile Device Management (MDM) software called ZuluDesk. It allows teachers and parents to decide which apps a student can use at which particular time. It can impose restrictions based on the location of the iPad (e.g. at school or at home) and based on time. It can block access to any app 24 hours a day. So if the parents don’t want their child to have access to the Twitter or Facebook app, they won’t get access even at home. In real time, if a teacher wants students to only use NearPod in class, that is all they can use. With a tap on their ZuluTeacher app, teachers can also turn the students’ iPads into non-responsive devices so they can enjoy the full attention of the students.

Teacher's ZuluDesk view

Teacher’s ZuluDesk view [From https://zuludesk.com/features/zuludesk-teacher/]

Of course the students can access Facebook, Twitter, etc via their browsers, can’t they? No – because the schools and parents can set up url blacklists – again, based on time and location. Parents can set what apps and websites are available at home and for how long. The web traffic is directed through the school’s DNS setup so web blocks are effective even at home.

One of the views of the app for parents.

One of the views of the app for parents. [From https://zuludesk.com/features/zuludesk-parent/]

 The presenter, from Dexterra (a Western Australian organisation and reseller of ZuluDesk), explained that the lock down is done at a low level. When the iPad starts it reads the serial number and recognises that it is controlled by ZuluDesk – it isn’t just an app that can be easily deleted.

This is a new and bold direction for the school as students up to now have not been allowed to use mobile devices in classes – all mobile phones had to stay in the student lockers during school time. But with ZuluDesk, iPads will not transform break times from lots of kids talking and joking into app zombies. Most probably the students will find that outside class times they can only access homework apps or even none at all!

Parents can choose how restrictive to be on an individual basis (except they must access the internet via the school’s DNS settings) outside school time. Therefore this is a solution that can appeal to both the libertarians that want their children to be exposed to social media and most of what the internet has to offer from a young age, through to those who believe their children should be shielded from the full experience of the internet.

 

Posted in elearning tools, iOS, iPad | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Quizizz – more versatile than Quizlet Live or Kahoot

Quizlet Live and Kahoot are great for generating fun quizzes for use in the classroom However, with those quizzes, if you have students that are absent for any reason, they won’t be able to participate and share the same challenge later or from a computer away from the classroom. You can’t set a challenge for homework with those two games.

Enter Quizizz, which has the ability for asynchronous playing. It is a great feature. You can set the quiz to end at a particular time, for example, a week away, challenging the students to get the highest score within that time period.

quizizz timer

Quizizz timer

You can shuffle the order of the questions and the options within the questions, which can somewhat deter illegal collaboration. Here are some of the options teachers have after the quiz has been created:

quizizz settings

Quizizz game settings

 

When you first view Kahoot and Quizizz, you can well imagine that a lot of the design is actually the same coding as they seem so similar. One point of difference is that the questions and options in Kahoot are on the teacher’s screen, with the students only having to choose between the different colours on their devices. When playing a Quizizz quiz, students can read the options on their own devices. This could be very useful for students who have difficulty reading the teacher’s screen.

Like Kahoot and Quizlet, Quizizz allows teachers to find and import suitable quizzes and share them with one another. Having trawled through the offerings,  I would say that the Quizlet quizzes are the most likely to be written by teachers and therefore reliable. Many Kahoot and Quizlet quizzes appear to be written by students and contain glaring errors!

 

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Quizlet gets a new genre game addition.

I have been a great fan of Quizlet (founded 2006) for many years. As a language learning tool it can be excellent if done correctly. One teacher who does it very well in my opinion is Phrase Bot who provides definitions and examples with the vocabulary items for the Academic Word List.  For example the Quizlet for sublist 5 of the Academic Word List: AWL sublist 5.

My favourite mode of Quizlet was the Scatter game where students had to match terms and definitions as quickly as possible. The timer showed how fast they could match the 10 definitions and vocabulary items on display. However, my students got really competitive and decided to win by gaming the system, not by trying to use brain power to find the answer. They quickly dragged a definition to the closest word and then to the next word if they didn’t match and so on. They could do one exercise in under 19 seconds! My better students were dismayed to see the students that had done no study getting the prizes for fastest finished.

I hoped Quizlet would introduce a penalty wrong guesses – and that was what this post was originally  to do – to urge them to have a mode of gaming that did reward those that had studied.

Well, the innovators in Quizlet must have read my mind. Or, more plausibly, they saw the impact Kahoot was having in the language games sphere and decided to add an option to meet Kahoot head on.

Kahoot team game

Live team game (from Quizlet website)

Since April, Quizlet now boasts their Live option. Just like Kahoot, the teacher sets up the game at one internet address and the students login on another. This way the teacher gets to see and display the leader board to the whole class while the students get the quiz on their screens. Just like Kahoot.

Then there is the mLearning twist unique to Quizlet. The Live session is best done with mobile devices such as mobile phones, iPads, Chromebooks or even laptops – not in a computer lab with stationary desktops, which is where I did my first trial with Quizlet Live. Because Quizlet Live will allocate the students who are logged in to teams at random, not those sitting next to each other.  A great way to get a class to mix and collaborate.

The scoring scheme here at first appears to be the same old boring single points for the correct answer. However, the winning team is the one that gets to 12 points first, so there is an element of rewarding the fastest responder. I was hoping Quizlet would at least penalise the students a bit in the Scatter mode for getting wrong answers. In Live, the punishment for a wrong answer is immediate and extremely harsh.  Your team simply loses all the points it had gained up till then. Snakes and ladders on steroids. With no ladders and long snakes. This enforces collaboration and is a huge disincentive for the quick click. Remember it is a team game. Everyone has to answer the question correctly for the team to get the point. If just one clicks wrongly, all the points are lost. So the smartest teams discuss which of the four options the right answer is, then one member bravely clicks on the consensus answer. If that is right, the rest also click on that answer.

Kahoot team points

Kahoot team points

My class were very engaged – far more than when they did Scatter. They had to gather round one desktop to select the answer then scurry to their other desktops to click on the answer before the group were awarded their point. Got a class that needs a bit of a shake up? Play Live on desktops!

How does Live compare to Kahoot?

  • Kahoot can be played in both team mode by getting students sitting next to each other and individual mode. There is no individual mode for Live.
  • You need at least 6 students to play Live – tough if you have only 5 in your class. Of course, if you want to be creative, just get one person to sign up twice.
  • Live will use any of the quizzes you have already created, plus any of the ones you want to import that others have done. Same with Kahoot
  • Kahoot positively rewards correct answers, the faster the better. Wrong answers merely mean no extra points. With Live wrong answers strips your team of any points. Weaker students might find the constant stripping of gains a turn off. But the Live method is great for enforcing collaboration.
  • Kahoot gives you the ability to analyse each student’s performance after the game is over whereas in Live you can only see the team result.
  • Quizlets are far quicker to create. Every answer and distractor in Kahoot needs to be written in. With Quizlets, you just supply the items and matching answers to be tested then the distractors are automatically drawn from the other answers in the quiz. For example, if you have a 20 question quiz, in Quizlet you write 20 items and the matching answers. That is 40 entries. For the same quiz in Kahoot you have to write in the item plus the correct answer and 3 distractors. That is 100 entries compared to the 40 in Quizlet.
  • You have so many other modes (Flashcards, Learn, Test, Speller, plus the games Scatter, Gravity and now Live), supplied with Quizlet that can be used as self-study, which Kahoot doesn’t have.

So Quizlet has more than just an edge over Kahoot in my opinion. However, both have a place in any teacher’s eLearning toolbox, increasing engagement as a result of the competitive juices flowing.

 

Posted in collaboration, elearning tools, Vocabulary | Tagged | Leave a comment

New generation quiz types

There are some new generation quiz creation websites that are adding an extra dimension of fun and feedback for both students and teachers.

While each has their own special take on this quiz genre, the main features are:

  • immediate feedback about the whether  answer is right or wrong
  • the questions are primarily multiple choice – with large squares to choose from
  • there is a leader board of all contestants
  • the results are kept for the teacher to analyse after the quiz is ended.

The feedback in terms of a leader board so that all the class can see themselves compared to others, plus the points depending of the speed of response is what elevates this genre from the old Hot Potatoes, StudyMate, Respondus, Wondershare quiz style.

Kahoot (at about the end of 2014) was the first of these quiz types. It featured a way for a teacher to control the game whereby everyone gets a question at the same time and the points they got for getting it right depended on the speed they answered (I called this type of scoring “poinutes” when I designed a game for an app in 2012). So rather than see the best students all equal on the same points, which is a bit boring, they would be split by the speed of response. This can build up anticipation as the students await the scores on the leader board after answering each question. I imagine it can set up quite a tension towards the end of a quiz as there is guaranteed to be winner.

Step 1 – the teacher sets up the quiz and displays a code on the teacher’s whiteboard or smartboard.

Kahoot set up by teacher

Kahoot set up by teacher

Step 2

The students go to kahoot.it (which is a bit confusing when you do it the first time) and use the code to enter the game.

Students enter the game

Students enter the game

This is what is displayed on the board.

This is the teacher's view.

This is the teacher’s view.

This is what the students see on their desktop, laptop or mobile device.

Student view

Student view

Here you can see the scoreboard – only me at the moment!

The leader board

The leader board

It is designed as a whole class activity and does it very well. All the questions are multiple choice types – up to four per question. These are displayed on the whiteboard of the class while the student screens only display up to four coloured squares for the students to choose from. This forces all students to pay attention to the whiteboard. To add a bit of a twist to playing the game a second time, there is a “Ghost” mode. This displays the players’ current score and their previous score at the same stage of the quiz. Students can then get some fun from playing against themselves even if they can’t match other students – some clever motivational psychology at work.

The main downside is that the quiz can only be used in class – it can’t be set for homework or as a reward for students finishing early. Also, the responses are just clicking – no active typing required. A caution about selecting this quiz type is that it will take quite a long time to create it, compared to Quizlet, for example. You have to make up all the vocabulary and distractors yourself. You can certainly copy those distractors once you have created them, but even creating just a 10 question quiz would result in the teacher copying 50 words and definitions.

 

 

 

Posted in Quiz, Vocabulary | 1 Comment

Revolting against planned obsolescence.

I bought my first smartphone – an HTC Desire – about 5 years ago. The reviews lauded how it was excellent value and cutting edge technology. CNET gave it 9.5 out of 10. The first thing I think I learnt about the reviewers is that they don’t download many apps to try a new phone. The HTC Desire only had 147 MB of space for apps after their immovable bloatware was installed and I filled that up quickly with my thirst for trying out new apps. I moved all the apps possible to my SD card, but there weren’t many apps that allowed themselves to be moved there. I had paid top dollar for a smartphone that couldn’t allow more than a handful of apps!

I couldn’t afford to buy another smartphone and I was happy with its performance otherwise, so the HTC remained my  only smartphone for 3 years. By that time I had problems downloading some apps regardless of space as they wouldn’t work with Android 2.1.  After my Yahoo app complained my version of Android was out of date, and I couldn’t upgrade it, it was time to retire the HTC from my day to day life. I love the feel and look of the HTC, and still have it.

HTC Desire

From: http://www.phonegg.com/phone/1311-HTC-Desire

Entrance a second hand (from my primary school son!) Samsung GT 18262. Loads of space for new apps – I haven’t found its limit yet. What a wonderful feeling! It has a sharp, large 4.3” screen and fast scrolling.  It suited me well and I didn’t want any of the more advanced features of the flagship mobile phones. I thought it would last me for a few years.

Until I couldn’t download an app a few weeks ago. The Samsung has only updated to Android Jelly Bean (4.2.1) missed out on Lollipop (5.0), and now, Marshmallow (6.0).  So the two and a half year old Samsung is on the edge of obsolescence even though it is in perfect working order.

Samsung GT 18262

Samsung GT 18262

In this one area, I have to congratulate Apple on its updates. My daughter’s iPad 2 still gets updates and it came out in 2011. The iPhone 4 is also still getting updates and it came out in 2011 as well. Of course Apple only has to worry about its own mobile devices, Android has a multitude of devices to be compatible with.

Compare that to my computers. My main desktop has an Intel Core2 Duo E4600 CPU which was released in 2007. That is a 9 year old computer. It runs Windows 10 – the latest version. It can also run the latest Linux software. There are also 6 year old HP and Toshiba laptops in my family that run the latest Windows and Linux software.

I understand that Samsung, HTC, Sony, etc want to sell as many mobiles as possible and also need to differentiate themselves from their competitors by providing their own take on what experience a mobile phone should be like. It is this customisation that seems to be the main excuse for the inability to update.  Why would the mobile phone companies devote valuable programming expertise on tweaking the coding of old phones, already sold, to enable them to update to the latest Android? No profit in that, surely? No, not in the short term. However, you can only play your customers for suckers for so long before they rebel.

The only Android phones that are likely to last past a three year death are the Nexus line. While the 2012 Nexus 4 doesn’t officially get a Marshmallow update there are some Android developers who have ensured that phone will get the latest release – as will Nexus 1. So my next phone is going to be a Nexus.

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Linoit.com for daily Productivity

I confess I rarely use my wall calendar. I occasionally have bursts of energy and start filling in the calendar, but the main reason I buy a calendar is for the monthly pictures more than the reminder function! I need to have access to a calendar that is with me all the time, not just at home.

I do feel I should use my online calendar more regularly. My personal choice is the Google calendar as is available on all my devices so I am going to make that one of the tabs that opens when I start my browser.

But calendars are not really what I need to organise myself better. I need to do lots of things but not at any particular time. What I need is to be reminded of all the things I want to do and create a priority list for each day. It is a “2 do” list basically. I notice that Google has added that feature to their calendars and coincidentally had a pop up asking me to try it just as I was preparing to write this! Scary!

My solution has been to use Linoit.com. I have it on my Android phone, iPad, and it is now the home page on my Google browser. You can create lots of webpages (linoit calls them canvases) to devote to different aspects you want to have sticky notes for – I have a canvas for home, different places I work, different subjects I teach. Plus one 2 do canvas where I try to remind myself of all the projects and pending items. More than a sticky note page, it can take videos and pictures as well.

linoit main page

The main canvas – instructions for how to use it that all subscribers get

As I have 3 work places, I often have inspiration for different jobs and want jot it down before I forget. Linoit is perfect for that. At home I sometimes use more than one computer at a time.  If there is something I need to use on the other computer, for example a slab of text, I just put it on a sticky note and it appears instantly on the other computer. It is excellent for passing on some urls from a computer for using in the iPad as the urls appear as hyperlinks and can be just pressed.

Teachers can use it for their classes as well by sharing a canvas with a class, though I don’t use this function. If you do start using it a lot, especially for multimedia, you will have to pay for an upgrade as it is limited by how much you transfer each month – similar to the way Evernote works. I have never gone over the limit as I use it mainly for text.

As a further reminder system I am starting to use the Sticky notes that come with Windows, putting up the daily targets. Whenever I have minimised my windows and am back at the desktop I can glance at the sticky note to see how well I am progressing.

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Productivity vs Procrastination

Ironic, isn’t it. In December I had planned to write a blog post in January with tips about boosting productivity. There followed my longest period of NOT blogging!! It is now 22nd April and this is my first blog post of the year. It’s not that I haven’t found useful ways to boost my productivity – it is just that my productivity wasn’t directed toward my blogging!

One of the killers of blogging productivity is to plan too detailed an article. I put off one post as I didn’t have the screenshot I wanted, and never got round to making time to getting it. With a growing family my time is getting a lot more squeezed so I have decided that continuing this blog regularly is more important than writing screeds. If an idea is worth spreading, it shouldn’t be so complex to get across that it demands several paragraphs and accompanying pictures – after all it isn’t as though this is commercial and the editor is going to sack me for not writing a certain quota.

So my tip for fellow bloggers, and particularly for myself,  is to write short and sweet to get the idea out there. Your blogs are editable and can be beefed up later.

 

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