In an act of reading out loud, Mike Caulfield models how how he challenges ideas and assumptions while reading. To demonstrate this, he uses the lead-crime hypothesis which argues that the crime-wave in USA during the 1990’s was caused by lead poisoning in the 70’s. After finding an article from 1971 discussing lead poisoning in Manchester, he progressively unpacks it, opening up tab after tab, asking questions and testing different hypothesises.

For Caulfield, this is what web literate reading looks like:

You read things, and slide smoothly into multi-tab investigations of issues, pulling in statistical databases, unit converters, old and new magazine articles, published research.

The problem though is that much of this is either unavailable or difficult to do on a mobile device. Being an advocate of online reading, I was challenged by this. It had me thinking about what else I do on the desktop that is not possible on my phone or tablet. One aspect that came to mind was bookmarklets.

Although it would be easy to list all the extensions and applications that I use my laptop for, it is the bookmarklets that I have come to rely upon and that I miss when mobile:

  • CC Attribution Helper: This application built by Alan Levine allows you to both attribute and embed images posted under a Creative Commons license on Flickr. I have used it for a few years when inserting images into my blog posts. Even when I have to add an image through the media library (such as featured images), I still use it to capture the appropriate attribution.
  • Wikity: Earlier this year I spun up my own instance of Wikity, Mike Caulfield’s WordPress theme designed to help the creation of knowledge. One of the features is the bookmarklet that allows you to quickly capture a quote and add some text. Although it is possible to create a post on mobile, the ability to provide additional content and links is limited.
  • Radio3: Recently, I started exploring Dave Winer’s Radio3 Linkblog, which allows you to push links out to various platforms, whilst also maintaining your own RSS. Like Wikity, it involves selecting a post or quote and clicking on the bookmarklet. Although I had started dabbling with the idea of pushing links out via WordPress, the creation of a separate feed means that I can do a number of things with it, such as push links to Diigo via IFTTT.

These are just some of the bookmarklets that I use, with others including Quozio, Responsive Design and Mozilla X-Ray Googles. Although I agree that mobile devices are becoming more and more dominant, I think that they have their limit. There are still many activities which I depend on a laptop for, such as finishing my posts or creating visual quotes. I also feel that there are solutions that will always be beyond the realm of the mobile device, especially as I move further and further into the #Indieweb world. So to answer Caulfield’s question as to how we get more students onto laptops, it starts with addressing why it matters today more than ever.

So what about you? What do you still depend upon the desktop for or is a mobile screen enough? As always, comments welcome.

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“Future” by mrkrndvs is licensed under CC BY-SA

I have been saying to quite a few people that there seems to be change afoot in regards to Google Drawings. I base this hunch on a few signs. The majority of the information in the support site has been stripped back, there is no mention in the GSuite Learning Centre and there is a move to remove Web Clipboard. Google also have history of buying other products and integrating them within their core suite. Google have purchased a number of image applications, such as Nik (rebranded as Snapseed). This got me thinking about what I would actually want in a revised Google Drawings:


In my job, I often use Google Drawings to annotate images on the web. Whether it be taking a screenshot or using an application to overlay, capturing the web often involves third party applications. In the past, I used SnagIt until it was removed it from the play store. What you realise when you work with Google Chrome is that extensions are built on APIs provided by Google. Therefore I wonder whether Drawings could incorporate some of the features that SnagIt used and in the Insert Image option provide the means to capture the browser.


One frustration with Drawings is the lack of options in regards to editing. Fine you can adjust the transperancy or apply some basic filters, there is little options for editing elements or applying personalised effects. In addition to this, it would be good to have some way of visualising the order of objects. Although this might be pushing it. It would be good to have.


It has been interesting to watch the use of Google Keep grow and develop. One of the functionalities offered is the ability to capture and create on mobile. This includes drawing sketches and rough drawings. Drawings is not available on mobile and does not necessarily allow any means for freehand drawings. It would great to be able to make and create via mobile, especially iOS. Although Slides offers many of the same functionalities, the iOS does not really make creating images and diagrams easy. The closest thing available is AutoDraw, however that seems to be designed to gather data, rather than fill a gap.


Google Drawings offers the means of integrating images within other applications such as Docs and Slides. However, one of the limitations is that as soon as an image is added, the quality is stripped. This means that if you are serious about incorporating images then they need to be complete before being inserted into the document.

Maybe the change will be different? Maybe instead of recreating Drawings, the answer will be incorporating Android applications into the web? Maybe I should just stick to using the alternatives. It will be interesting to see.

So what about you? What would you add to Google Drawings? What would make it better for you? As always, comments welcome.

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 Why Chrome?

Web browsers have come a long way from the days of depending on Netscape or Internet Explorer to view anything. Now there is a range of options, such as Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Microsoft Edge and Vivaldi. In the past, you were often required to use a certain browser to access a particular site. This is sometimes still the case when it comes to particular applications, where the support and development are focused on a particular browser and even a particular version. However, for much of what we do on the web is accessible across all browsers, the choice now becomes about the various features provided by each.

There are many benefits to Chrome. It is fast to launch, load pages and search. The design is simple and customisable. In regards to security, it sandboxes tabs, preventing what happens in one impacting another, while auto-updates run when you close the browser. In relation to privacy, you are able to customise a number of the settings in order to control what is shared online, this includes the incognito mode which allows you to browse without the keeping a search history or logins. It must be noted that running as incognito does not protect you from cookies tracking you, while the extensions are turned off by default. Overall, Chrome is the most popular browser used.

Timeline of web browsers

The Basics of Chrome

When new to Chrome, there are some things to get your head around. Firstly, the different icons, such as menu, download and information. Associated with these, there are the usual functions found in modern browsers, such as back/forwards, refresh, home button, new tabs and windows.

Going to the next step, tabs offer a range of options, including the ability rearrange tabs by dragging them around, pulling tabs out of the strip to start a new window, dragging a URL into the strip to add a new tab and preventing the accidental closure by pinning a tab.

Bookmarks, on the other hand, allow you to easily store sites for later. To do this, you can use the star at the end of the URL, dragging a URL into the bookmarks bar or right-clicking to save all the tabs in a window. There is also options for organising bookmarks into folders. Although you could use social bookmarking to save links, keeping them in a folder offers benefits such as opening all the links with one click. Some possibilities for this maybe keeping all the files for a project in one spot.

In relation to convenience, signing into Google Chrome, rather than simply the web page, allows you to sync bookmarks, passwords, web history and settings across devices. This syncing includes both desktop and mobile devices. The benefit is that if you are using a different device you are simply able to pick up where you left off.

To take security a step further, you can encrypt your sync data with a sync passphrase. Doing this encrypts your data and allows you to use Google’s cloud without letting the algorithms read it. For most users, Google’s standard level of encryption is enough. However, it is at least an option.

At the heart of Chrome is the act of searching the web, whether it be by voice, image or text. Although we may simply enter a few words, there are many components that work together before we are fed back a result. Some of these elements include awareness of the latest news, identifying different spelling options and sorting content based on age appropriateness. In addition to this, there are many tips and tricks that are built into the browser to support users with getting stuff done, answering questions about entertainment, connecting information, getting facts and traveling smart. This includes such actions as the quick conversion of the latest currencies or solving a Pythagorean theorem. All of this can be done from address space at the top of the page. Unlike other browsers which separate these two functions, they are combined in Chrome. It is for this reason that this space is called the Omnibox.

Overall, Chrome offers a lot, sometimes the biggest challenge though is working efficiently. This is where keyboard shortcuts become so important. Although you can find a full list here, these are some of the most useful ones:

  • Bring back closed tab: CTRL + SHIFT + T = Reopens the last tab you’ve closed. Google Chrome remembers the last 10 tabs you’ve closed.
  • Clear your browser: CTRL + SHIFT  + DEL = Takes you directly to the page to clear browsing history, cache and cookies.
  • Switch to previous or next tab: CTRL + TAB = move to the next tab to the right and CTRL + SHIFT + TAB = move to the next tab to the left
  • Jump to specific tab: CTRL + #NUM = go to specific tab

Although these shortcuts may be useful to some, it is important to remember that it is always best to look at the full list and identify those habits that are most important to you. Also, for something more visual, check out this infographic from Hubspot.

Personalising Chrome

Although Chrome provides a lot of functionality, one way in which it really stands out is the ability to personalise it just for you. One of the most common ways to personalise Chrome is by adding multiple accounts. It is becoming more and more common for people to have multiple Google accounts, whether it be one for work, another for training and then a personal one. There are numerous ways of using different accounts in conjunction. For something quick, it can be easy just to use an incognito window. However, for more repeated uses, it is better to add another account in settings. To differentiate, it is useful to give each one a unique name. For the security conscious, you can even add an account that is not actually aligned to a Google account. However, unless you set up the sync passphrase, you will no longer benefit from sharing between devices.

Once you have added the various accounts, you can then easily move between the different accounts. Chromebooks even allows you to quickly change between different accounts, using the shortcut CTRL-ALT-Period or CTRL-ALT-Comma. However, it needs to be noted that this is not automatic and needs to be turned on within an instance of Google.

Another point of personalisation is the addition of a theme. These are accessed via settings in the Chrome menu or directly through the Chrome Web Store. Like adding a personal front cover to a workbook or a sticker to a laptop, themes offer a way of adding your own aesthetic touch to your browser. Although themes do not provide any added functionality, they can be useful in differentiating between accounts, especially when you have quite a few that you move between.

In regards to Chrome, the real personalisation comes via the adjustment of settings. Some of the things you can do include:

  • Changing what is shown at startup or in a new tab.
  • Adding and removing features like the home or bookmarks bar.
  • Modifying the privacy settings associated with things like networks, cookies, pop-ups and plug-ins.
  • Adjusting the presentation of content, whether it be the size and font of text or the translation of language.
  • Clearing your cache and browsing history.
  • Change download location.
  • Customise your search engine shortcuts in the Omnibox
  • Managing certificates and passwords.

Many of these changes often have little visible impact on how Chrome works. Instead, they often influence what is happening in the background around tracking and the way in which it is actually used. For a more in-depth exploration, Doug Belshaw has written a post reflecting on security and privacy associated with Chromebooks and therefore Chrome.

Going Further with the Google Store

Going beyond the usual functionality, Google Chrome provides access to a number of add-ons which allow users to extend the browser’s functionality even further. Whether it be access to apps or installing extensions, Chrome provides the means to not only personalise how you use it, but also take it further by adding additional functionality.


A core part of the internet experience is hosted web apps. Unlike applications that you might install on the hard drive of your computer, these are hosted in the cloud and continually updated without you needing to do a thing. Along with browsing the web, Google provides a suite of productivity apps collectively called G Suite (formerly Google Apps). This collection includes such apps such as Docs, Slides, Sheets, Forms, Drive, Sites and Gmail. These are automatically added to your Google Account and are accessible via the apps launcher.

In addition to these core suite of apps, there is a range of third party apps that you can add to your collection via the web store. These apps often allow you to log in using your Google Account. Some examples include Seesaw, Padlet, Canva, Verso, Feedly, Pocket and Powtoon. The reality though is that for the general user these are merely links to web pages and adding them to your app launcher simply means that they are bookmarked across all of your devices. There are however benefits for schools using G Suite for Education as they are able to easily deploy apps out to registered devices.

It needs to be noted that initially there were two types of apps: packaged and web. The difference was that packaged apps ran more like desktop apps often providing their own interface and usability, including the ability to run offline. Support for packaged apps on Windows, Linux and Mac is progressively being removed due to their lack of use. A part of the reasoning is that with HTML5 you are able to incorporate offline storage, meaning that the need for packaged apps is not the same. However, it would seem that with the addition of Android apps that this is a constantly evolving area and may become more and more prominent with Chromebooks.


The other way that the personalisation of Chrome allows you to go further is with the addition of extensions. An extension is a small program that adds functionality. They often use the application programming interfaces (API) provided by the browser to transform the way in which Google Chrome works. APIs though are in no ways unique to Chrome and are a part of the interrelated way in which many applications work. They offer developers a way incorporating different features, without recreating the wheel. For example, rather than create your own mapping program, Google provides the means of incorporating Google Maps. It needs to be noted though that in many respects the relationship between applications provided by APIs is a fragile one and may be broken at any time. For a richer discussion of APIs, I recommend reading Ben Werdmuller’s post.

Chrome provides developers a number of APIs. Having been created over time, this list is forever evolving. Some of the APIs currently provided by Chrome include Storage to designate where to information is kept, Commands to add shortcut keys, ContextMenu to add items to the context menu and Identify to get OAuth2 access. A good way of appreciating API’s is that when you add an extension (or an app) you are usually asked to give permission. So when asked if you ‘give permission’ it is in part saying do you allow access to the APIs.

For example, Extensify allows you to quickly enable and disable extensions. It does this by using the API which manages the list of extensions/apps that are installed and running. It needs to be noted that in making these extensions and apps free, some companies will mine your data and pass this on as a point of revenue.

Coming back to extensions, the number of options is somewhat limitless. You are never going to add all of them at once. The focus instead should be on add those which help improve your workflow. To make sense of the options available, I find it useful to differentiate between those that change the way Chrome works and those that support efficiency.

Changing the Way Chrome Works

There are many ways that Extensions can change the way Chrome works. Some relate to the visual nature, others the overall functionality. Some examples include:

  • Cluttering: There is nothing more annoying than having your page filled with distractions. Just Read and Pocket take away the clutter and saves articles in clear readable view. While BehindTheOverlay allows you to close an overlay, such as those created by sites, such as Sumo Me. In regards to YouTube, DF YouTube and Turn Off the Lights provide a means of just focusing on the video. DF Youtube allows you to remove things like recommendations and comments, while Turn Off the Lights simply blacks out the screen except for the video.  One of Chrome’s perceived benefits is its clean layout. However, this can soon become busy when you begin to add a range of apps and extensions. Extensify allows you to easily turn extensions on and off. This not only speeds up the browser but means that you do not necessarily have to restrict yourself in regards to what extensions you add. Similarly, App Launcher Customizer for Google allows you to reorganise the app launcher to suit you. In regards to tabs, Too Many Tabs provides you a way  to manage any overflow.
  • Accessibility: Some have problems reading text online, others navigating the web. There is a range of accessibility extensions available to support users with Chrome. For those who struggle with actually reading, there are options for listening, such as Read&Write, Speak It! and Announcify. While those who want to change how information is presented, extensions such as Hover Zoom, High Contrast and OpenDyslexic provide a means of reformatting information. Eric Curts has written a detailed post unpacking some of these things further.
  • Functionality: One of the frustrating things on the web is having to modify the settings of various sites each time you go there. CraftyRights forces all Google Image searches to be for images free of copyright restrictions. One of many Crafty’s Extensions that improves the overall functionality of Chrome. Tab Resize, Tab Glue and Tab Scissors allow you to organise the tabs the way you like. Google Dictionary and Grammarly provide quick and easy language support with spelling and definitions. Although, sadly, at this point in time Grammarly does not work for Google Docs. Silent Site Sound Blocker allows you to easily block sounds, especially useful in regards to ads and news sites which often play automatically. Lazarus: Form Recovery saves information  so that if something happens midway through filling in a form, there is a backup.
  • Privacy and Security: Although Google build in a range of measures within Chrome to make the browser more secure, there are still further measures that you can go to in order to take it to the next level. In regards to privacy, Adblock Plus, Ghostery and Privacy Badger allow you to block malicious content and cookies. While HTTPS Everywhere automatically encrypts the web, especially useful for sites which do not provide this. A leading figure in this area is the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Efficiencies and Workflows

In regards to improving efficiencies and workflows, these are often either about speeding up a process or providing a means of making the web more personal. Some examples include:

  • Additional Functions: Many extensions simply provide additional functions that are activated with one click. Those like OneTab and Tab Saver allow you to save tabs for later, something particularly useful when doing research. Send This Link and Mail Checker give easy access to Gmail, without opening it up in a new tab. 1-click Timer builds a visible timer into the browser. and allow you to quickly shorten a URL. Screencastify and QuickShare Screenshot provide the means to capture images and video and then save to Drive. While ColorPick Eyedropper and ColorHexa Search Tool give you the various colour codes and schemes.
  • Sharing Content: Maybe it is a post or a PDF document, whatever the content there are a number of ways of sharing it on to someone else or another platform. Google Drive, Google Keep, Pocket, Flip It, Classroom, Pearltree, Pinterest, Padlet Mini and Trello all provide the means of organising content elsewhere.
  • Annotating the Web: Taking the act of sharing a step further,  Diigo Web Collector allows you to bookmark links, annotate content and capture images. Similar to Diigo, Hypothesis provides the means to collaboratively annotate and tag web pages and documents. Kami provides a means of annotating PDF documents, however beyond the trial period you need to purchase a license. There are a few more options discussed here
  • Additional Information: TLDR and sentiSum use algorithms to provide shorter summaries to lengthier posts and articles. Although these extensions offer a convenient solution, it needs to be noted that summaries can be problematic and do not necessarily clearly present the main ideas. In regards to referencing, Cite This For Me allows you to appropriately source information using a range of styles. Using the associated website you can also build-up a bibliography. For further technical details, BuiltWith Technology Profiler provides information, such as code library and framework, that a site may be built upon.

What is clear is that there is an abundance of options when it comes to apps and extensions. You can even create your own using the Chrome Apps & Extensions Developer Tool. There is also a range of resources to support you.

In the end, whether you are changing the settings, using shortcuts or adding apps and extensions, what is important is to focus on what fits your needs and purpose. You might actually find something that better suits what you do, but only you can decide that.

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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Integrating technology in schools can be challenging. Often it is seen as an ‘or’ rather than an ‘and’. Subsequently, there are some areas where it has become more normalised than others. One such space is curriculum planning.

When was the last time you saw a handwritten curriculum document? Ok, many teachers still print them out and write in their notes, however it seems to have become something of a given that the initial document is typed. The question to be considered is which application best suits the need.

The biggest problem is that there are so many different options. Maybe it is using Evernote, Google Apps, a wiki or a learning management system. Some of the common issues seem to be formatting, collaboration, ease of use and ability to link between resources. One other option that has become particularly popular of late is Microsoft OneNote.

Like Google Apps, OneNote allows users to collaborate without the conflicts created when using applications like Dropbox, includes a wide range of templates and allows the ability to collect and connect different content. However, one of it’s biggest selling points is that for those comfortable with using Microsoft Office, there is little adjustment required. Rather, it adds a certain level of functionality that is not possible otherwise.

For more on OneNote, check out the following resources:

So what about you? Have you used OneNote? Is there anything that you would add? As always, comments welcome.

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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

The dream of many when it comes to technology in the classroom is for 1-to-1 devices (actually for some it is 1-to-many). However, for whatever reasons, this is not always the case. (See for example Bill Ferriter’s attempt to raise funds for cheap Chromebooks for his classroom.) Therefore, sometimes we need to be resourceful and think of a different solutions. Here then are some thoughts on different activities that help rethink the use of technology to support learning.


The ideal situation is having each student with a device. This provides a means for all students to be actively engaged in learning. Here are some suggestions of activities:

  • Making and Creating: There are so many different ways to publish work, whether it be typing up a story, making a slideshow, creating a digital poster, recording an audio or videoing a presentation. Maybe it is using Microsoft Office or Google Apps, what application used depends on what device you are using and what you are trying to achieve.
  • Communicating and Collaborating: One of the greatest benefits of 1:1 situation is the potential to connect and collaborate. This can take many forms, whether it be openly engaging with different ideas and information within various virtual spaces, such as Edmodo, Global2 and Google Classroom, or collaborating via applications such as Answergarden, Google Apps and Piratepad.
  • Sharing and Reflecting: There are many ways to share and reflect. Socrative allows a mixture of predefined quizzes and on-the-fly questioning. Similar to Socrative, Kahoot! provides the means to create game-based quizzies. For a different way of sharing, Verso provides the means to engage in a safe environment anonymously. In regards to surveys and reflections, Google Forms provides for a range of options and a useful summary of responses when finished.  While Padlet provides a simple way to collect and share ideas and information.

Group Work

Not every activity necessarily needs 1:1 devices. There are often benefits to sharing devices, especially when working collaboratively. Whether it be Sigatra Mitra’s 1:4 or Donald Clark’s suggestion of 1:3 or simply 1:2 as the YVeLC pushed. Here are some suggestions:

  • Collaborative Presentation: Although presentations can be done individually, they can also be created with others. For example, students can use Audacity to record and edit a podcast, use Google Apps to work collaboratively, work together to create a blog on a topic or add commentary and feedback to a presentation.
  • Research: Providing groups with a device allows them to find information. Sharing forces students to work together to clearly define what they are actually searching for. This can be useful as each person takes a role, whether it be as leading, questioning, taking notes or searching.
  • Rotations: The BaM Video Delay iOS app allows students to record themselves and then watch back in range of ways. In Physical Education, this can be used to provide students with regular feedback when there are multiple stations running.
  • QR Codes: Using a tablet, QR Codes provide a range of possibilities, whether it be tabloid sports where students watch a short video and then complete the task or a scavenger hunt activity which involves using codes that provide clues to the next code. QR Codes can be a great way of getting students moving around.


Whether it be a desktop computer or a solitary iPad, there are many ways that we can use just one device to help drive learning. Some ideas include:

  • Research Computer: So often after students have finished using computers to research they have those odd queries that arise that they just need to look up quickly. One solution is to set up one computer and limit students to a couple of minutes to find their information. To maximise this time, make it an imperative that students have a clear question when coming to the computer, as well as a plan as to how they search for the information.
  • Class Creation: Technology does not have to be (nor should it be) the main focus of a lesson, but can be means of giving voice to it. Even with one iPad in the classroom, apps like Adobe Voice and Book Creator allow you to quickly and easily create whole class presentations. This can be an alternative to having every student stand in front of the class and present, while it also offers the possibility for the user to gain instant feedback and make improvements.
  • Documentation: There are so many ways to use technology to collect documentation. Gary Stager suggests that video and photography offer the easiest means of capturing learning in the classroom. However, there are other useful applications that allow you to build on and organise these, whether it be Seesaw or a class blog. These artefacts provide a way of extending, clarifying and modifying ideas.
  • Measuring the Pulse: Although the easiest way of gaining feedback is in a 1-to-1 environment, there are different things that you can do with an iPad, such as using Plickers, which allows you to easily gauge student feedback by holding up cards, while Post-It Notes and iBrainstorm provide different means to gain information using sticky notes.

In the end, there are so many potentials when it comes to technology, sometimes we just need to think differently. Whether it be a camera, Chromebook, an iPad, a netbook or a desktop computer, each device offers something unique. What needs to be remembered at the end of the day is that first and fore-mostly, no matter what devices you have, it should all start with learning.

So what about you? What are some of the ways you go beyond one to one devices in the classroom in order to create different learning possibilites? As always, comments welcome.

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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

I recently wrote about powering up blogs by adding video, audio and GIFs. Another form of content which you can add is an interactive map by embedding a Google My Map.

Google Maps has been a staple of Google’s applications for a long time. However, something that is often overlooked is the potential of creating your own maps. In the past, the place people often went was Google Earth, using features such as Tour Builder, while more recently Maps Engine Lite offered a way of customising traditional Google Maps.

One significant changes in rebadging Maps Engine Lite as My Maps has been to house the files within Google Drive. This has made it easier to create, collaborate and share various creations of space. You are able to easily make layers, add place marks, draw shapes and create directions. To take this to the next step, you can also import information via a spreadsheet. Uploading can be good if you have a long list of coordinates. While you can also export data from My Maps as a KML file. This can be useful if you want to add information into Google Earth.

In addition to this, you can add content to the place marks or shapes, whether this be a description, image and video. This then comes up when you click on the marker. In addition to this, you can also change the place marker icon and colour of the shape. Therefore giving you with another layer of meaning.

Some ideas for using Google My Maps include:

What is good about My Maps is that it provides a different way for communicating information and telling a story. So what about you, how could you use My Maps? As always, comments welcome.

Additional Resources

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One of the strengths of writing on the web is the possibility of presenting ideas and information in different forms. The most common form is visual images. For some this simply means going to Google and copying the first image found. However, these images are often copyrighted or have little connection with the original creator. One solution is to make your own. There are many different websites which make this possible …

Made with Recite This


This site allows you to quickly paste in some text and then choose from twenty different templates, ranging from a mobile phone to a notebook to a framed picture.

Made with Pinstamatic


Created to support Pinterest, this site allows you to create an image for a range of things, such as a quote, a website or an event.

Made with Quozio


Like Recite This, Quozio allows you to create quotes from a range of templates depending on the length. You can also get a bookmarklet which allows you to create images from text straight from the web.

Made with Pinwords


This site allows you to add your own image or choose from some that are provided, as well as pick from a range of templates in the creation of a visual.


Like many of the others, this site allows you to paste in text to create an image. Where this site differs is the ability to categorise quotes, making them more easily searchable.

Quotes Cover Bass
Made with Quotes Cover

Quotes Cover

This site provides a wider range of options than most based on colour, images and fonts. It also provides several output dimensions, including wallpapers, e-card and social media headers.

Pizap Bass
Made with Pizap


Moving away from the quote based applications, this site allows you to create and edit images, adding filters and borders. One of the popular features is the ability to easily make memes, although Meme Generator is just as effective.


Pic Monkey Bass
Made with Pic Monkey

Pic Monkey

Similar to Pizap, this site allows you to create and edit images using a range of features, such as effects, textures and overlays. A very stylish application that is easy to use, the only limitation is that some features are premium only.


poster_from_postermywall Bass
Made with Poster My Wall

Poster My Wall

Building upon the complexity of Pizap and Pic Monkey, this site allows you to choose from a wide range of templates or simply create from scratch. It offers many variables and allows you to download the finished product for free with a watermark.


Drawings Bass
Made with Google Drawings

Google Drawings

This application allows you to create and compile your own images. In addition to matching different fonts, Drawings can be good for incorporating shapes in the development of diagrams.

Paper53 Bass
Made with Paper Fifty Three by Amy Burvall


This iPad application allows you to make digital sketches. For more ideas on sketchnoting, see Sylvia Duckworth’s presentation. In addition to the digital, you can just draw something on paper and capture it.

Created with Canva
Created with Canva


A web application that can be used across platforms, Canva allows you to create a range of images either from scratch, by using predefined templates or remixing someone else’s work. It requires users to create an account which restricts it to 13+. There are also options for purchasing premium content, including templates and images.

Adobe Post
Made with Adobe Post

Adobe Post

In a recent addition to their suite of iOS apps, such as Voice ans Slate, Post allows you to quickly and easily make images. Where it stands out is the ability to adjust content and styles with the wizard tool. Please note, it does add a small hashtag to each make.


A downloadable application which allows you to organise and edit your photos. Beyond the usual filters and edits, Picasa allows you create collages for your images.

Something to be mindful of is that although most of the sites and applications do not require logins, they do however keep a copy of your creations. So if you are adding your own backgrounds you need to consider this. While if you are going to use images found online then at least adjust the advanced settings in Google to search up content that has been marked Creative Commons or use sites like Photos For Class to find appropriate content.

So what about you? What images do you add to extend your writing? As always, I would love to know.

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For so long Adobe has been known for its focus on design, but with the move into the mobile world, they have also become just as much about creativity within constraint. Dr. Tim Kitchen recently visited Brookside to support students and staff in exploring various possibilities. Some of the Adobe products that he shared were:

Presenter Video Express: Similar to Office Mix, Video Express provides the means for creating videos for flipped learning. Once you have developed a presentation and then recorded your voice over the top, you can easily toggle between the different options to focus on the text or video at various stages.

Voice and Slate: There is a reason that these two applications share the same blog. In many ways these two iPad applications are related. Whether it be the look and feel of the interface or the ability to easily source Creative Commons content from online. The difference is that Voice allows for the creation of videos (something I have discussed before), while Slate provides a means for designing a slick webpage in seconds.

Character Animator: A part of the latest release of After Effects, Character Animator shows a glimpse of the future. This new tool allows you to control animated characters with a computer webcam using your own facial expressions, voice and keyboard triggers. Animations which may have taken hours in the past can now be completed in minutes.

Shape, Sketch and Mix: This collection of mobile applications provides the means to capture, draw and edit. I particularly like the possibility of capturing physical creations and editing them to then share using something like Book Creator. Although it may seem frustrating to have multiple applications, the reality is that in splitting them up, you are better able to better utilise the limited processing power associated with mobile devices.

Pro: Pro is one of those applications that many people have on their computer, but do not necessarily know what it can do. Beyond editing, combining and locking PDF files, Pro provides the means for quickly and easily combining different files in the creation of a portfolio.

Premiere Clip: Similar to iMovie in the ability to capture and edit video. Where it differs are the various filters and settings. Another useful feature is the ability to work across devices using Creative Cloud. By making a class account, you could easily collaborate in the creation of a shared video.

Although there is always a wow factor on a day like this, with the challenge being to work out where the additions to the digital toolbox might fit within the wider context of things. Although many of the applications are free, some require a subscription. While they are all connected via the Creative Cloud and usually require an Adobe ID to use. Although not hard to do, it is just another consideration.

So what about you, how are you using digital devices to enable creativity? As always, I would love to know. Please share in the comments.

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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

Here is the blurb for my session at Leading a Digital School Conference:

How many fantastic ideas or initiatives have failed not because of the strength of the idea, but because it failed to be heard. Change need not be restricted to the lone nut. This session is about using the power of technology to transform ideas into movements. From sharing a collaborative document to creating an online community, this presentation will be full of possibilities and how they can be used to drive change. Aaron will provide a different way of seeing change and demonstrate how technology is the leverage that every idea needs to go from good to great.

Here are my slides:

Communication, collaboration and creativity exploring the tools of change from Aaron Davis

While here are my notes:

Change, ideas and innovation means many things to many people. For some it is systemic and revolutionary, while for others it is more gradual and occurring each and every day. I feel though that Ewan McIntosh sums up the dilemma best while discussing the concept of the ‘pilot project’, “The ‘beta version’, of our idea is, in fact, an ever-changing final idea. There is no such thing as a pilot.” The reality is change is inevitable. Some ideas take, others are added to the heap. The question then is how do we come up with great ideas and actually make them happen?

One of the enablers of change is technology. As Seth Godin explains in his book Tribes, “The tools are there,  just waiting. All that’s missing is you, and your vision and your passion.” This flourishing potential allows for an amplification of ideas and inspiration. For Simon Sinek states, “There are leaders and there are those who lead. Leaders hold a position of power or influence. Those who lead inspire us.” The question then is: how might we better utilise technology to support change in order to turn ideas into innovations?

It can be hard to make sense of the plethora of applications on offer. To do so, I have divided things up into three categories: communication, collaboration and creativity.


Social Media: The obvious place for communication online is through various social media platforms. Whether it be Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Nings, Edmodo, LinkedIn or Scootle Community, each offers its own benefits and possibilities. Whether it be using communities in Google+ to share ideas and resources or the power of the hashtag within Twitter to facilitate a world-wide chat, the challenge is to find what works best for you.

Streaming: In recent times, there has been a real rise in streaming applications. Originally, video streaming was limited to programs such as Skype, Google Hangouts and Blackboard Collaborate, but more recently, there has been a rise in different sorts of platforms for streaming content live, including Periscope, Meerkat and Ustream. In addition to that, Voxer, a digital walkie talkie application, has had a dramatic influence on communication. I think that Joe Mazza puts it best when he describes it as his “very own personal podcast”.

Surveys: There are a range of applications which make receiving ideas and feedback so much easier, whether it be Google Forms, Survey Monkey, Verso and Poll Everywhere. Each application has its own intricacies, such as Forms integration with the Google Apps and Poll Everywhere’s real-time engagement.

Splash Page: It is often stated that if you do not tell your story then someone else will tell it for you. One way of telling this story is through a splash page. The most common splash pages are About.Me and Flavors. However, you can just as easily make a splash page using a static blog or as using Mozilla Thimble.


Editors: The most obvious tool for collaboration is via a text editor of some sort. The usual suspects are Google Apps, Microsoft Onenote, Evernote and Hackpad. Each allows for multiple voices in the one space. Although it can be easy to get caught in a debate about which one is best, it can sometimes come down to what the community in question is comfortable with. Another alternative though Padlet. Although limited to texts, images and attachments, sometimes such constraint makes it easier to focus.

Bookmarking: There are many ways to share and collaborate on ideas and information. One answer is through the use of social bookmarking sites, such as Diigo, Delicious, Pearltrees, Pinterest and Educlipper. Each platform allows you to not only add and organise content, but scroll through that which is already there to find information.

Curation: For many social media is too noisy. The challenge then becomes how to manage and curate such streams of information. Curation applications, such as Flipboard, Zite, Feedly, Pocket and Nuzzel, provide a means of benefiting from the room without completely being in the room. These platforms usually require some sort of information from the user, whether it be interactions within the app or connections to other platforms, such as Twitter, in order to provide customised content.

Productivity: A different sort of collaboration is through the management of projects and ideas using productivity applications like Trello and Slack. Another useful tool for managing a hashtag is Tagboard as it allows you to search across different platforms.


Video: There are many ways to create video beyond simply recording yourself. Maybe it is screencasting with Snagit, Screencastify or Camtasia. Another option is presentations and animations using Powtoon and Adobe Voice. An alternative to the usual medium is creating a GIF image or a Vine.

Visuals: As the adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. Although I am not completely sure of that, there are many ways to at least marry both using technology. Maybe it is creating a more visual presentation with Prezi, capturing a moment with Instagram, creating an image with Canva or sketching with Paper53.

Blogging: In his book, Smarter Than You Think, Clive Thompson states that, “Just as we now live in public, so do we think in public. And that is accelerating the creation of new ideas and the advancement of global knowledge.” One medium which has made such public thinking possible is blogging. There are a range of platforms, including Blogger, WordPress, Tumblr and Medium. What is important to remember about blogging is that it does not just have to be ‘text’. There are so many different products that can be embedded, such as Padlets, Soundcloud, Storify and Youtube.

Spaces: In addition to blogs, there are many applications which allow you to create pages on the web. Some options include Glogstar, Google Sites, Weeby, Wix, Wikispaces, Adobe Slate and Smore. Each of these sites offers their own benefits, whether it be the visual nature of Glogstar or the simplicity of Adobe Slate.

Tim Kastelle suggests that, “If there is a gap between where you currently are and where you want to be, the only way to bridge it is by doing something new. Innovating.” Technology can help in bridging this gap, but as Kentora Toyama states, it only ever amplifies whatever capacity is already there. So, what change are you driving and what technology are you using to enable it?

For the backstory, the student code for the Verso provocation is: EE5YVK

The link to Padlet is:

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flickr photo shared by mrkrndvs under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-SA ) license

Although some schools are going one-to-one iPads, there is a growing trend of teachers purchasing their own iPad and bringing them into the classroom. This is a different proposition. Where I have written about how an iPad can support teacher’s professional and personal learning, I have not written about how iPads can be used to support learning within the classroom. I therefore put out a call for thoughts and ideas on Twitter:

Here then are the responses I got (tweets in brackets):

  • Engaging With and Demonstrating Learning (Michelle Meracis, Jonathan Nalder and Corrie Barclay) – Whereas interactive whiteboards demand a focus on the front of the room, having an iPad provides a portable medium to share with. I myself spent six months running an intervention group using the iPad as a means for students to sketch out ideas. Although I just used Paper53 in the past, something like Explain Everything provides more functionality in regards to text and shapes. In addition to this, Richard Wells describes how you can even using Explain Everything as a recordable whiteboard. Depending on the set up of the school, the content on the iPad can then be projected on a larger screen using a range of means, including Apple TV, Reflector or Air Server. Engaging with learning from a different perspective, Plickers allows you to easily gauge student feedback with only one device, while Post-It Notes and iBrainstorm provide different means to build ideas.
  • Teacher’s PDA (John Thomas and Corrie Barclay) – Beautiful handwriting? Capture it! Great clay modelling? Capture it! Clever oral presentation? Capture it! The portability of an iPad allows for the ongoing documentation of learning that is and isn’t digital. This can range from still images, audio and video. What is great is that you can now auto-backup to Google Drive, taking away the pain of having to connect with the computer to transfer files. In addition to this, Bec Spink has shared how she uses Evernote to support this endeavour. While Brett Sinnett has written about how he uses Google Sheets offline to keep all of his formative assessment. Another possibility is to simply post content on a private blog or an application like Easy Portfolio to store information. What is good about making notes digital is the ability to easily organise information using tags and folders, making it much easier to sort things at a later date.
  • Connecting with the World (Jenny Ashby) – Another suggestion is that the iPad can become the permanent connection with the wider world. Whether it be using Twitter to share learning or engaging an expert, such as an author; publishing work on a school YouTube Channel; using Skype to engage with another class from around the world; or maintaining a class blog to celebrate and reflect upon the learning that is occurring in the classroom. There are so many ways in which students can get outside of the classroom these days, the question is which means fits the context.
  • Capturing and Creating – Going beyond just documenting work, the iPad provides a means for creating different products as a part of the learning process. Lately, my students have really taken to Adobe Voice, creating everything from radio advertisements to sharing thoughts and reflections. However, applications like Book Creator and Explain Everything provide the same possibilities. For example, Bec Spink has made books using Book Creator with Preps. Beyond these three applications, Tony Vincent provides a range of applications for making and creating on both mobile and the web which is useful. In regards to creating, there as just so many possibilities, it all comes back to what you are trying to do and why.

For more ideas in regards to iPads, I highly recommend Tony Vincent’s fantastic infographic on the iPad as the ‘Teacher’s Pet’.

iPad as Teachers Pet by Tony Vincent

As well as scrolling through Alex Herbert’s extensive list of resources on Pinterest which was shared with me by Corrie Barclay.

At the end of the day, I have found the biggest challenge with only having one iPad in the class is that you can’t do all three things at once. You might have a group creating a video, while you are wanting to document learning. This is why it is so important to think about how you do things. By using applications like Google Apps, it means that if you do not have the iPad, you can at least fall back to the laptop to do your work.

What about you? Do you teach in a one iPad classroom? What has worked? What have been the challenges? As always, would love to hear your throughts.

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