Saturday, October 05, 2013

Preview App on the Mac

I have only been a Mac user for about twelve years, so did not "grow up" with Apple computers as many of you did. I am still making discoveries about the operating system every day!

I have been spending some time with Preview (I am using OS 10.8.5) and have learned many of the cool things it can do!  The first thing to know is that the is located in your Applications folder. It is worth the effort to add it to your dock so it is always there when you need it!

PDF documents and Preview

Annotating PDFs

If you open a PDF document in Preview, you can annotate it in several ways and can use any color you wish! Go to Tools-Annotate to see the menu.
  • Text can be highlighted with a highlighter that always stays on the line!
  • You can easily underline and strike out full lines of text.
  • Rectangle, oval, line, or arrow shapes can be added, re-sized, and easily moved around. Their line-weight and line-type can be modified, too, as well as being able to fill the shapes with a color.
  • You can add speech (smooth) and thought (cloud-like) bubbles and type notes inside of them as well as adding plain text to the document.
  • A sticky note with text can be "posted" on the PDF document.


A suggestion from William Baker (@MrWilBaker) for a classroom use of one of the annotation features is to use the filled shapes to blank out student names from a PDF document you are sharing or posting.

Carole (@ReginaReadsPA) tweeted to me that she uses the text annotation tool to add citations to images and documents. This is a great idea for attribution for Creative Commons-licensed images!

One of the most useful annotation tools is the signature. How many times have you been asked to sign a PDF document and return it? If you have Adobe Acrobat, of course, you can use a special digital signature in lieu of a handwritten one. 

However, to use your own, handwritten signature, the process is easy with the Preview application!
  • First, you have to create your signature. (You have to do this once on each computer you use.) Open Preview and go to Preferences, click Signatures, and pick the + sign to make your signature. A Signature Capture window shows up. You are instructed to sign your name in black ink (the thicker, the better) on a piece of white paper and hold it up in front of the camera on the Mac.  You will see the signature on the screen, and, when you click Accept, Preview will save it.
  • When you want to use it to sign a PDF you are viewing in Preview, simply go to Annotate-Signature, and the handwritten signature will show up on the document for you to place and re-size. 

Other PDF tips

  • If you want to save the PDF document you are viewing in Preview to iCloud, simply pick File-Move To and pick iCloud. You will be able to view these PDF documents from your iCloud on other computers, but not via the iPad.
  • Another neat feature of Preview is, if you are using Safari 6 or better, when a PDF opens in the browser window, you can place your cursor towards the middle bottom of the document and a pop-up will appear that allows you to open the PDF document directly in Preview. (This only works if you do not have any other PDF reader set-up to open PDFs.)
  • When you have a PDF document open in Preview, you can open the View-Thumbnails menu item and rearrange the order of the pages in your document and then save the rearranged copy! 
  • John Larkin (@john_larkin) told me you can merge PDF documents in Preview, too. I figured out how to do that. Open both PDF documents in Preview and choose to View-Thumbnails. Once you can see the thumbnails, simply pick the pages you want to merge from one document and drag them on top of the thumbnail area of the other document. (Don't put them at the end of the other thumbnails, just drag them on top.) Move the thumbnails around in the merged document if you need to and save it!

 Images and Preview

The Preview application also has image editing capabilities, too. Here are some of them...

Screen Captures
  • Screen-captures are easily created with Preview. Open Preview and go to File-Take Screen Shot. There will be three options-- From Selection, From Window, From Entire Screen.  Many of us use the key commands (CMD+SHIFT+4, etc.) to take our screenshots but this is another way.

  • However, Preview has one neat feature that can help you out. When you pick the From Entire Screen option, Preview provides you with a 10-second countdown which gives you time to move things around on your screen before the screenshot is taken. This is helpful, at least for me, since I often wind up with things in the screenshot that I do not want there!

  • In addition, if you hold the CTRL key down while taking a screenshot from within Preview, the image will be put on your clipboard to easily paste somewhere else. 

Editing images
  • You can crop images when they are open in Preview by picking Tools-Rectangular Selection which gives you the crosshairs to highlight the area you want, and then you simply pick Tools-Crop and save the edited image!
  • There are also additional options available for editing images. If you open an image in Preview and View-Show Edit Toolbar the options appear right on the image, as you can see below. You can add text and shapes, change the color saturation, re-size the image, erase the background, and more. You can also rotate and/or flip the image if necessary.

Image editing toolbar in Preview

  • Preview also allows you to change the file format of an image. Simple open the image in Preview, go to File-Export, and you are presented with the choices of saving the image as a JPEG, JPEG-2000, OpenEXR, PDF, PNG, or TIFF. You can also change the quality of the image to a lesser quality if you need to decrease the file size but want to keep the same dimensions.

Viewing images 
  • To open multiple photos in Preview at one time, first select the images you want to view. (It is helpful if they are all in one folder!) Then right-click or CNTRL+click and pick Open In-Preview. The images will show up with a navigation bar on the side as you see below. Once items are in Preview, you can highlight multiple images and batch edit them with the image editing tools. (Thanks to @john_larkin for this tip!)
Viewing multiple image in Preview

  • Once you have the images in Preview, you can also choose to view a slideshow of the images by picking View-Slideshow.

  • If you load a large number of images into Preview, you can also view a contact sheet by going to View-Contact Sheet. This is handy for printing out or viewing many images at once. You can see a sample contact sheet below.

Contact sheet as viewed in Preview

Customizing Preview

Once you become familiar with some of these tools in Preview, you may want to add or subtract items from the default Preview toolbar. Once an image or PDF is open in Preview, just go to View-Customize Toolbar and you will be presented with the choices below.  You can remove or add items by dragging, rearrange icons on the toolbar, and decide if you want icons, text, or both to show up. (I like to keep text on until I become familiar with the icons.)

Customizing the Preview Toolbar

Do you have other Preview tips to share? Do you have special ways you use Preview in the classroom? Email me or find my on Twitter @kathyschrock

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

Stay connected all year long with your PLN!

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in October 2013 and is re-posted here with permission.


Connected Educators Month runs during the month of October 2013 and there are hundreds of events, classes, meet-ups, and ways to use social media scheduled to allow educators around the globe to connect! But “connecting” should not just occur during this time period.
There are ways you can re-connect with other educators and connect with new ones throughout the year. This blog post will offer tips that can help you broaden and sustain your personal learning network.

Sue Waters, on her blog, way back in 2008, when there were few personal learning networks, asked educators to answer some questions about their use of personal learning networks. One of the questions she asked was “Why is a personal network important to educators?”
I loved these ideas from Derek Wenwoth from New Zealand–
  • Help each other solve problems
  • Hear each others’ stories and avoid local blindness
  • Find synergy across structures
  • Keep up with change
  • Reflect on their practice and improve it
  • Build shared understanding
  • Find a voice and gain strategic influence
  • Cooperate on innovation
And Robin Ellis, from PA, stated her heart-felt reason PLNs were important to her…
  • The most important aspects of personal learning networks for me are the ability to connect, communicate, and collaborate globally.
  • The network is always on 24/7/365 and always willing to share ideas and offer help.
  • It is a way to build relationships otherwise not possible.
There are many ways to both build and maintain your personal learning network. I have found, as I become interested in new topics, I grow my network to include experts and practitioners in that topic. I learn from them, have a chance to ask questions, and provide feedback on my thoughts, too. Remember that a PLN is a two-way street; you have to “pay it forward” and contribute, too! Everyone who teaches is creative, smart, and resilient. It’s the way we are. You all have great ideas and reflections to share, so please post to social networks, create a curation page with your favorite (annotated) links, and offer suggestions in Webinar chat boxes!
Alec Couros has created a wonderful graphic that illustrates what the networked teacher looks like. You can see the networked teacher is both a consumer and a creator of digital content and shares his/her expertise!

Ways to connect

Create a survey and share
One way I find educators to connect with is to create a survey on a hot topic that I am interested in, spread the word through my social media channels, and tell the respondents that I will share the collected data with them. Since people have to give me their email address if they want the data, after looking through the answers, I often find some creative new item or idea, and I can contact that person and connect for more information. And then, of course, I follow them, G+ them, LI them, etc., to keep up on the cool things they are doing!

Join online communities
Another way to find new colleagues to connect with is to follow some of the online communities sponsored by organizations and companies, like the ISTE’s Wikispace, EdWeb, Adobe’s Education Exchange, Discovery’s Educator Network, and Sony’s Education Ambassadors. As you peruse these communities, and find information that is useful or interesting to you, you can personally connect with the author and add them to your PLN!

Sign up for Twitter
Twitter is the most important tool in my PLN toolbox. It is easy to both share and receive information.
Some of the key points of Twitter are…
  • It is an online messaging service, like instant messaging, but it is one-to-many as opposed to one-to-one. It is not truly synchronous like IM, but, it can be pretty close to it.
  • The messages you post on Twitter are public and can be found in a Twitter search by anyone.
  • A Twitter message can only be 140 characters long.
  • Users can decide to follow your posts and you can choose to follow theirs, or not.
The most important aspect of Twitter to learn about is how to find experts to follow. The social networking component of Twitter helps with this. Once you find one good person to follow, you can look at the people that person follows, look at their tweets, and add them to your Twitter feed!
There are also lists of twitter users by category, like the Twitter4Teachers Wiki, which has teachers arranged by teaching topic and WeFollow, a directory of many topics to pick from.
Another useful aspect of Twitter is the use of the hashtag. A hashtag is used in a Twitter message to allow many  messages to be gathered together in one place. There are hashtags set up for conferences, classrooms, and regular Twitter events like #edchat, that sponsor an online chat at a certain time each week on a topic of interest. You can conduct a Twitter search on a hashtag, even if you are not a Twitter user, to get some great information and find smart people to follow!
There is a new online tool called Tagboard that allows you to search a hashtag and see all the “hits” and also limit it by type– Twitter, Instragram, Facebook, etc. You can also set-up your own hashtag and share the tagboard with others.

Multimedia can be part of creating your PLN, too. One way to both learn from others and to gain a following of your own is to create or subscribe to a podcast or video series.
The first thing you need to subscribe to a podcast or videocast is a podcast aggregator such as iTunes. Whether or not you use any Apple products, iTunes is a great organizer of audio and is available to download for both Windows and Mac computers.  People who have podcasts list them in the iTunes podcast store (they are not actually housed in the iTunes store), so that is one place to start looking for podcasts to subscribe to. Podomatic is another place to find podcasts to follow, since they actually host all the podcasts created on their site.
Once you feel comfortable about how podcasts work, you can create one of your own! For free, with Podomatic, you can create a podcast via your phone or computer microphone or upload an audio file. The uploaded file automatically gets the feed address that you share with others or register with iTunes.
One of the reasons many educators create videocasts is to demonstrate to students how to do something. A videocast which captures everything on your desktop is called a screencast. Screen-cast-o-matic is a free, online screen-capture program that allows you to capture up to 15 minutes of audio and video and host it online at YouTube or download it as an FLV, mp4, or avi file.

Blogging can be another component of your connecting toolkit. You can read and subscribe to blogs, create your own, or join a group blog.
To subscribe to blogs, you need to use a newsreader, such as Feedly. Once you sign-up for a newsreader, you only have to visit this single place to find out about any new posts on any of yous subscribed blogs.
However, the hardest part about following applicable blogs is FINDING the ones that will help you the most. There are a couple of ways to do this…
  • If you know an expert in your field’s name, do a phrase search on “name’s blog” and you will likely find a blog maintained by this person
  • Many bloggers include a blogroll, a list of blogs THEY follow right on their blog, so you can check those out, too.
  • There are several directories of edubloggers out there, like the The International Edubloggers Directory and the list of Education Blogs by Discipline
Once you spend some time reading and commenting on the blogs of others, you might decide to create your own. Most educators use BloggerWordPress, or eduBlogs. Whichever one you use to make your blog, make sure to add it to the lists of educator-created blogs to make sure people come visit, subscribe, and comment on your blog! Comments are what creates part of the collaboration component of your PLN.
You might also decide to create a group blog. A group blog is a blog with postings from various contributors. One example of an education-specific group blog is Edutopia, which has many blog posters. A group blog takes advantage of the expertise of many to create a well-rounded blog.

Online conferences and Webinars
Many educational organizations and groups offer online Webinars or conference presentations by experts. During the presentation, the best part is sometimes the “backchannel”, which is the conversation that is going on among participants while the presenter is presenting. This is often done in a chat area, and you can find some great resources and educators to add to your PLN during these chats.
Finding listings of these Webinars is not easy but you usually wind up hearing about them either from others in your subject area, your professional organizations, or those already in your PLN.

An unconference ,or edcamp, is a participant-driven meeting. Many times these un-conferences are held before a regularly scheduled national or regional conference since participants can come a day early and attend the un-conference.  Usually, a small committee reserves a room, a mic, and tables and chairs. Early on the day of the conference, the time periods are put on the large screen, and participants vote on topics for the day. Educators volunteer to lead and moderate these sessions. It is more a conversation than a presentation. At an unconference, you really have the time to talk to others in an informal way and add them to your rapidly growing personal learning network.

I hope I have given you some new ideas to grow your personal learning network and collaborate with others all year long!