How to quickly add arrows and notes onto a screenshot

greenshot-exampleA little while ago, I did a presentation for teachers about using technology. I used Google presentation and I threw in a couple of marked up screenshots from different webpages showing how to login or access the site. I thought it was a pretty basic presentation.

Afterwards, I had a couple of teachers come up to me, and talk about how impressive the presentation was. I think it was because I put in pretty arrows on the screenshots.

Years ago, I remember adding arrows, circles, and colored rectangles (to block out sensitive information) using Photoshop. It took longer than I’d care to admit.

snipping toolThen, I saw that Windows 7 came with a Snipping tool that lets you take a snapshot of part of your screen and mark it up with a pen. I thought this was incredible.

You could highlight text and hand draw circles around important stuff before you even saved your screenshot. The only problem was that I thought my handwriting always look a little messy.

Then I found Greenshot and Greenshot is 20 times better than the snipping tool in Windows because you can quickly create neat and professional looking notes on your screenshots.

Plus, Greenshot is free.

Here’s what I like about Greenshot:


  1. It has a simplified but powerful graphic editor. You don’t have to worry about multiple layers. Just click the selection tool and you can change your markups. (With the Windows snipping tool, you can’t undo or change your annotations.)
  2. Super easy to draw circles around stuff.
  3. Super easy to draw arrows. Greenshot remembers your last settings so all of your shapes and mark up can have the same style.
  4. And, super easy to add text.
  5. It’s easy to highlight text. You simply draw rectangles with the highlighter tool so you can highlight text or images.
  6. You can blur out (obfuscate) part of your screenshot to remove sensitive information.
  7. Add cool border effects like torn paper or drop shadow (or at a basic rectangle.)
  8. You can crop your screenshots before you save them.
  9. You can add shadows to all of your arrows, boxes and text to add a professional feel to your work.

There are other cool options.

  • I have it set up so when I hit the print screen button, it lets me capture a region, but I could also set it up so that the print screen button captures the full screen, a specific application window, or just Internet Explorer.
  • I use Greenshot to create tutorials (like this one), so I have it set up to automatically open the screenshot in the image editor, but I could just as easily set the destination to automatically open up in Microsoft Word, upload to dropbox, or just save to my computer.
  • I also like how Greenshot gives me a magnifier when I’m trying to capture region, so I can make sure that I don’t get any unnecessary stuff.

How could you use screen capture software in the classroom?

Let’s say you want to showcase student work.

  • If you are student handin work electronically, you simply open up the document of Google Docs, take a screenshot, and you can start highlight or underlined text. You can also blur out the student name or anything else that you don’t want the class to see.
  • If the work is on paper, just snap a photo of the handwritten work using your phone. Upload the image to dropbox. Open the file on your computer and take a screenshot of the picture to get into Greenshot.

If you’re going to the computer lab, you could take a screenshot of the website that you want students to go to, and highlight or make jot notes directly onto the screenshot.

  • That way, students have a visual reminder of what to do.
  • Some of your students (with or without learning disabilities) will miss instructions the first time.
  • Now, after your done walking students through what they have to do, you can put on the computer projector, a marked up screenshot reminding students what to do.

If you teach art class, you could snap a photo of student work or your teacher example, and markup important features that you want them to know.

If you teach in the science lab, you could snap a photo of equipment and then add arrows to the screenshot to show important safety features.

How do you use screen shots in your classroom?


Are you using classroom technology effectively?

Let’s pretend you have a class of 24 students. As a classroom teacher, which would you rather have?

  1. Access to a class set of (24) laptops for two weeks of the school year. (If you choose this option, you get 10 computer days and you could either use those 10 days consecutively over two weeks, or you could space those 10 days across the school year. Maybe you visit the lab once a week for 10 weeks.)
  2. Access to half a class set of laptops (12 devices) for four weeks of the school year.
  3. Access to eight (8) laptops for six weeks of the school year.
  4. Access to six (6) laptops for eight weeks of the school year.
  5. Or, access to one (1) laptop for the entire school year.

It seems like a silly question, doesn’t it? If you’re asking, I’d rather have option #6, access to a class set of laptops whenever we needed it. The big question is, when do you need a computer? Does computer usage have to be a transformative experience that allows students to do something beyond what they could with simple pencil and paper?

The reality is that computers are a limited resource. They are expensive. And how do you share an expensive, limited resource with all of the students at your school?

Of course, there are broader questions, like how you make sure there is equitable access to technology across your entire school board or province. Going beyond that, we could talk about how this is really just a first world problem. And, at this point, I have to wonder, if computers were as cheap as pencils, would every kid be given a computer? Is this about effective pedagogy or economic reality?

Anyhoo, this summer, I’m looking forward to spending some time stepping back and thinking about whether the technology I use in my classroom program actually improves student learning.

I’m having a lot of trouble writing this blog post because my mind is swirling with ideas that I’ve read or heard over the past few months. I’m not sure where to start (or what I agree with):

  • Going to a computer lab – an actual room with computers – will be a thing of the past. Mobile devices and school Wi-Fi means using computers as educational tools should take place in the classroom. After all, we don’t say, “boys and girls, we’re going to stop this lesson to go down to the pencil room because this is the only time slot available.”
  • Giving every student access to their own computer isn’t effective. There are schools / school districts that have tried this 1:1 student to computer model without significant academic gains. Students learn better on the computer when working in groups of two or three. We want to move away from the model where everyone is working independently and looking down at their own screen.
  • Student engagement is not a powerful enough reason to use (purchase) technology in the classroom.
  • Some technologies are just fads / Schools are putting the cart before the horse when purchasing technology. Are we buying these devices to meet a need and improve student learning, or are teachers simply motivated by the latest trending device (iPad anyone?)  
  • Multiplatform / multi device labs are a good thing: android tablet, iPad, Windows, Mac, Chromebook. Having more tools in your toolbox means you could choose the right tool for the right job. (It also makes it harder for teachers to troubleshoot problems when you have different devices.)
  • I can’t get access to technology, so I’m not going to bother using technology in my classroom program.

Coming back to the original question, I know there are teachers and classrooms in every single possible combination. Some of us have access to a class set of laptops. Some of us have one or two computers sitting at the back of our classrooms. (And some of us don’t have access to computers at all.)

But if money was no issue, what kind of access to classroom technology would allow you to effectively transform your program and improve student learning?

How to lock down your iPad so students can only use a specific app in the classroom

I know quite a few teachers who own iPads (or iPad minis.) There are lots of great iPad apps for use in the classroom, but not all of us have access to school iPads. So, of course, some teachers opt to use our personal devices to bridge the gap.

There are lots of people out there who would never hand over their personal smartphone or tablet to a student. You’re just asking for trouble. The problem, of course, is that our iPads contain a lot of personal information that you don’t want your students rifling through: your contacts, emails, photos… Heck, you probably don’t want them flipping through your recently viewed movies on Netflix.

But there are lots of great reasons to use an iPad in the classroom: make a movie, create a stop motion animation, access accessibility features like voice over, or use a voice recording app so the student can demonstrate their understanding while drawing on the iPad. Some of us are brave (or crazy) enough to hand over our own personal devices to our students to use in the classroom.

Unfortunately, Apple iOS doesn’t allow us to have multiple user accounts which means there’s one single user account on your iPad for teachers, family members, students, etc. This is one of the biggest downsides to having iPads in the classroom: multi-user management doesn’t exist which means if you’re a teacher and you’re letting a student in your class use your own personal device, you run the risk of having students mess around with your stuff.

wpid-Photo-Apr-13-2013-919-AM.jpgThere is a buried feature in iOS 6 that lets you lock your iPad to a specific app. You can disable all of the hardware buttons, the home button, and even parts of the touch screen so that a student can only use a specific app and not access your personal stuff.

A friend of mine recently showed me this trick at school, and I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to find it. (How long has it been since iOS 6 came out?)

Guided Access lets you lock down your iPad so a student can only access one app. According to the Apple website, it’s designed to help students with disabilities (i.e. autism) remain on task and focused on content.

In reality, Guided Access is something that every teacher who uses an iPad in the classroom should know about.

Continue reading “How to lock down your iPad so students can only use a specific app in the classroom”

How to shut down Windows 8

Change is tough for some people. So I imagine when your school computers switch from Windows XP (or Windows 7) to Windows 8, a lot of students and teachers will wonder where the start menu went.

(It takes a while getting used to a new operating system. Ask anyone who’s switched to a Mac or Chrome OS device.)

Most of us are used to shutting down our Windows computer in two steps:

  1. Go to the start menu and
  2. click shut down.

But of course, they took away the start button in Windows 8 and replaced it with a start screen. So now, it takes four steps to shut down your Windows 8 school computer (if you can find the hidden charms menu):

  1. Pull out the charms menu.
  2. Click the settings charm.
  3. Click the power button.
  4. Click on shut down

Some of us will have no problems with finding the charms toolbar. (You move your mouse to the top right corner of the screen and it magically appears. Or, you hit the ⊞ Win+C buttons.) But I’m anticipating a lot of questions from some specific teachers (you know who) who can’t find the hidden toolbar.

Add a shutdown shortcut button

Personally, I’ve added a shutdown shortcut button to my desktop, start window, and toolbar at the bottom. Now I can shutdown Windows 8 in just one click. I suppose you could add this shortcut to your school computers, but I just imagine a lot of accidental clicks.

Use a keyboard shortcut to shut down Windows 8

Some of your tech savvy students/teachers might find it easier just use a keyboard shortcut to shut down their machines.

  1. Use ⊞ Win+D to go to the Windows desktop (if you’re not already there.)
  2. Use Alt+F4 to open up the Windows shutdown screen.

Of course, this might not be as easy on a Windows tablet.

Add back the start button to Windows 8

Or, you could just add back the start button to your Windows 8 machine. There are a couple of third-party apps floating on the internet. (I haven’t tried any of these):

Then again, maybe this isn’t an issue at all. Our students will grow up in a world of Windows 8 and never know the start button even existed. Have I become that teacher who talks about the past? Will the Windows start button take a backseat beside the Commodore 64 and that turtle in Logo?


How do your students shut down Windows 8?

Things I like about Animoto for Education

A colleague of mine recently showed me a very cool way for students to create good-looking videos. It’s called Animoto.

Animoto lets you quickly and easily combine text, images, and videos into beautiful videos. The videos really do look good. Your students will be impressed with what they can create. My friend’s grade 6 students wrote short stories for their kindergarten learning buddies. They then created promo commercials for their short stories as a media literacy assignment. The 30 second promo videos were very cool.

You can do everything with their free lite version, but you’re limited to creating a 30 second web quality (360p) videos. If you want to create longer videos (i.e. 10 minute videos), download your video, have a wider variety of video style themes or commercially licensed music tracks, then you have to pay money.

Once you start using Animoto in the classroom, you’ll quickly realize it’s a great way for creating family portrait videos. If your phone is filled with snapshots of your family, there’s a free Animoto app that lets you quickly put together a video memory. We use shutterfly in our home to create photobooks. Animoto’s a way to create a video photobook. If you’re okay with web quality videos, you’re looking at the Animoto Plus account ($3.00 per month.) If you want HD video quality or longer 20 minute multi-song videos, you’re looking at the Animoto Pro account ($25 per month.)

Having said that, teachers can apply for education accounts.

Continue reading “Things I like about Animoto for Education”

Google chromebooks now available for the Canadian classroom

chromebook-canadaThe official Google Canada blog made an exciting announcement today (Tue Mar 19, 2013). Google Chromebooks are now available in Canada.

Up until now, if you wanted a Google Chromebook and lived outside of the US, you had to buy it on eBay, go to the States yourself, or find some other way to get your chromebooks across the border.

Now, you can just go to Best Buy or Future Shop to buy a Google Chromebook in Canada. (Actually, right now, it looks like it’s just available online, but hopefully that changes.)

What does this mean? It’s now easier for Google chromebooks to be a serious contender for use in the Canadian classroom. (Chromebooks are Google’s version of a light-weight laptop / netbook.) A lot of classroom technology use revolves around internet access and word processing. Google Chromebooks are a cheap way to do this.

  • Chromebooks are relatively cheap – around $250 Canadian. (The HP model is $330.)
  • Chromebooks integrate beautifully with Google Docs and if your school runs Google apps for education, this is a great thing.
  • Since students login with their Google Docs account, if you are Google apps administrator, you can restrict which apps or websites student access. (You can white list or blacklist websites and you can preload and deploy apps to all of your school Google chromebooks.)
  • Chromebooks auto update. You don’t have the headache of having to manually upgrade class sets of iPads.
  • It goes without saying, but Chromebooks have a keyboard. I know a few students and teachers who have been frustrated when it comes to doing some serious typing on their iPads or tablets.
  • Great battery life. A Chromebook could easily last for an entire day in the classroom. 10 hours ain’t bad.
  • Incredibly fast boot time. Open the device, and a couple seconds later, students could be typing away into Google Docs.
  • The chrome web browser is familiar to students. Plus, you can run flash-based websites. (You can’t easily run flash on an iPad. Yes, there are some apps, but websites you load through these apps always seem to lag.)

On the other hand, there are some downsides to using Chromebooks in the classroom.

  • It’s cloud-based computing; it only works when you’re connected to the internet. If your school has Wi-Fi problems or you have a slow network, Google Chromebooks are going to be a frustrating experience for your students and teachers. (On the other hand, a standalone PC running Microsoft Windows or OpenOffice will work just fine without the internet.)
  • There’s a culture change from going from a Windows-based computer to a Google OS-based computer. When Chromebooks first rolled out, they didn’t have a start button, but now the operating system looks a little bit more familiar to computer users.
  • Also, you can’t install a lot of educational programs that teachers and students may be familiar with. For example, you can’t install Microsoft Word, geometer sketchpad, or Photoshop (even if your school board has licenses for the software.) There are some cloud-based alternatives, but I really do prefer SMART ideas mind mapping software to cloud-based Lucidchart. Also, I haven’t found any good WebCam or Photoshop alternatives on the chrome web store.

I used Dragon Naturally Speaking 12.5 Premium (Windows 8) to type this post. Find out more.

  • Dragon correctly understood 97.2% of the words. There were 536 words in the first draft of this document and Dragon only made 15 word mistakes.
  • The speech software also made 1 additional capitalization and punctuation mistake. If you include this mistakes, Dragon Naturally Speaking got 97.0% of the words correct.
  • I used the new enhanced Dragon 12 wireless bluetooth headset (Plantronics Calisto BT 300 II) when dictating this post. Works fine if you don’t ask Dragon to correct any errors. (Actually, I find dictating using Dragon naturally speaking a lot quicker if I don’t try to train Dragon and fix my mistakes. Instead, I simply highlight the mistake and say the words again.)
  • Click here to find out more about the Dragon NaturallySpeaking Student / Teacher educational discount.

Teaching Media Literacy using (legal) Hollywood Movie Clips in your class lesson


Do you teach media literacy? Do you want to spice up your lesson with a short scene from a real Hollywood movie? A colleague of mine recently showed me the coolest website. has posted online free and legal clips from Hollywood movies that you can share with your students and embed into your lessons.

  • Now, teachers don’t have to worry about trying to find the right spot on a DVD.
  • We don’t have to worry about piracy or copyright issues
  • We don’t have to worry about searching through user posted content on YouTube, hoping to find this scene we want from a movie, and instead ending up with a lot of lame, low-quality, bootleg versions or fan-made parodies.
  • You can put the movie clips directly into your powerpoint or classroom blog.

You can search through the website to find movie clips based on a bunch of keywords: actor, title, genre, action, mood, character, theme, dialogue.

Doing a lesson on girl bullying? Why not show a clip from mean girls? Or, you can search through all the movie clips based on character types featuring bullying to find something you like. (MovieClips also lets you crop the clip to show a specific segment.)


Meeting the Plastics

Mean Girls


You can embed the movie clips player on a personal site for noncommercial purposes (as long as you follow couple of basic rules, like using their embed code, and making sure your site doesn’t include any inappropriate content.) You can’t use the movie clip site for commercial use. You also can’t make derivative works based on the movie clip site. (In other words, you can’t remix a movie video clip.)

Of course, as part of any media literacy lesson, we should be considering how this website makes money to recover costs and make a profit.

  • gives you quick links to view the full movie on Netflix, or purchase it through iTunes or Amazon.
  • You can also purchase the posters through movie goods.
  • They also provide a link to license the clip (for commercial use).




This post was written using Dragon Naturally Speaking 12 Premium (Windows 8). Find out more.

  • Dragon 12 Premium correctly transcribed 99.0% of the words. There were 305 words in the first draft of this document and Dragon only made 3 word mistakes.
  • The voice recognition software made an additional 0 capitalization and punctuation mistakes. If you include these mistakes, Dragon Naturally Speaking got 99.0% of the words correct.
  • I used a USB Logitech headset to dictate this blog post into Microsoft Word 2010.
  • Click here to find out more about the Dragon NaturallySpeaking Student / Teacher educational discount.

YouTube videos not embedding correctly on WordPress class blogs

020713_0343_YouTubevide1.jpgWhoops? Did something break?

Looks like the glitch is fixed. Youtube videos look just fine now.

I was just about to email a friend to show them how they could embed YouTube videos onto their classroom blog when I noticed YouTube videos on my own classroom blogs weren’t working properly. (I run a self hosted WordPress server for my class blogs and student websites.)

Normally, you just paste the YouTube website address directly into a post, and the video magically appears. (You have to make sure that it is not hyperlinked – if it shows up as a blue link, then the video won’t show up unless your students click on the link.)

I thought it was me, but when I visit the official support page, the embedded YouTube videos don’t show up properly either.

Oh well. I’ll have to show her that YouTube trick later.

This post was written using Dragon Naturally Speaking 12 Premium (Windows 8). Find out more.

  • Dragon 12 Premium correctly transcribed 98.7% of the words. There were 150 words in the first draft of this document and Dragon only made 2 word mistakes.
  • The voice recognition software made an additional 0 capitalization and punctuation mistakes. If you include these mistakes, Dragon Naturally Speaking got 98.7% of the words correct.
  • I used a USB Logitech headset to dictate this blog post into Microsoft Word 2010.
  • Click here to find out more about the Dragon NaturallySpeaking Student / Teacher educational discount.

Digital smartpen assistive technology in the classroom

013113_0348_Digitalsmar1.png “I know my weakness at school: a laptop. I get distracted by videogames.”

At least, that’s what the guy at Future Shop told me when I was looking into getting an echo smart pen.

And I believe him. I see it all the time with students in my classroom who use assistive technology. The computer can be a great learning tool and cloud-based services like Google Docs can really help students stay organized.

On the other hand, internet access can really be a distraction. Think about how often employees can be distracted by social media sites at work. Then multiply that by hundred to account for the teenage brain.

Livescribe sells digital smart pens that can record what the teacher says as the student take notes. Over the past few years, a few different parents and teachers have spoken to me about it, so I thought I would check it out. Continue reading “Digital smartpen assistive technology in the classroom”

Upgrade to Windows 8 Pro by Jan 31, 2013 and save $30

011713_0331_UpgradetoWi1.pngI recently upgraded my old Windows XP machines to Windows 8 Pro. I was talking about this with a few teachers in the staff room, and they didn’t know that, right now, Microsoft has a special upgrade price.

Why did I upgrade? I really like the idea of Windows 8 storage spaces which lets you pool multiple hard drives into a single space. A hard drive on my home server recently crashed over the winter holidays, and now that Microsoft no longer supports Windows home server, it makes sense to try to switch to Windows 8 while I can. (I’m sure I’ve got a copy of Windows XP lying around somewhere that I can use to upgrade to Windows 8.)

Also, I’m really interested to see where Windows goes in the tablet market. I love my iPad, but the fact that you can’t have multiple user accounts is a serious drag in a school environment. (How many teachers bring their own personal iPad to school, but are reluctant to let a student use it because they don’t want kids to be able to access personal information?)

Four years ago, I bought an MDG flip tablet netbook for the classroom. I wonder if I can get Windows 8 Pro working with the touchscreen on the old device. Maybe that will be my March break project…

Do you use Windows 8 Pro?