Book Creator for Chrome

I have been meaning to post about Book Creator for Chrome for a while now and make a couple of ‘how to’ videos but Book Creator themselves have beaten me to it which is a good thing.

Book Creator for Chrome is available on any device as long as it has the Chrome web browser installed.

The first 7min video reprises how to use Book Creator for Chrome as a teacher after making a teacher account. Being in Chrome it is nice how you can search for on line images as well as use your own to illustrate your book and with one click publishing it is very easy to work with.

Importantly at the moment when learners go to register as a student it asks for them to register with their Google Account. I queried this and was told that other options are in the pipeline.

Joining as a student is really handy because then they can then join the teacher’s library automatically via an invite code and their names automatically aligned with their books for easy recognition, feedback and possible publication on line.

The teacher makes a library for collaboration by adding a library and then clicking on the three dots on the right hand side of the shared library.

This then generates an invite code that is shared with students so they can join to teachers library. This needs to be ready for students as they sign up

This second video is how to import books from your Google Drive or iPad into Book Creator for Chrome so they can be further worked on and edited before publication.

Publishing books via the iPad app and Chrome is easy- I would love to see and share what you have created.

Please link in the comments when you publish a book so we can see what others have created.

Storybird- a change of mindset

I recently was preparing a workshop for teachers around Universal Design for Learning and student engagement and was doing some research. An article on TKI mentioned Storybird as a vehicle to engage reluctant learners in writing.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 8.51.05 pm


I never like to recommend something without giving it a trial for myself. Fortunately I teach at a local school as well as being a LwDT Facilitator so had some willing learners to help me trial the tool.

I registered myself with a Storybird account and to keep things simple I manually entered the students names into Storybird and then set about changing the passwords that Storybird had assigned students and aligned them with the students’ Google Accounts.

This took a bit of time but paid off with fewer students having to be reminded of what their passwords were.

All of the writing activities we try need to be accessible on a variety of devices as I have Chromebooks, Mac Books and iPads to use and not enough of each to be exclusive. Storybird works well on all of these devices. To access the Storybird website on the iPad I made it into a shortcut on the home screen and on the laptops it was linked from our Moturoa blog.

Once all that was set up I made a practice picture book myself so that I would be one step ahead when we used it in class. In introducing the concept to my boys we said we will trial it for a few weeks and they can give their verdict on it.

We cracked into it. On first reflection I was underwhelmed. The idea is that you get a selection of images to use, select one and then use the images produced by that particular artist. You can search for images from a topic to get you started but my boys wanted to write of motorbikes and rugby and there were no images related to those sorts of topics to choose from. You cannot pick and mix the artist. Once you select one artist you can only use other images that that person has created.

Screen Shot 2015-08-17 at 9.12.36 pm

We pushed on as it was a trial. Although the illustrations were stunning some of the boys were reluctant to pick anything as none appealed. In the end they picked something and used that although it wasn’t a choice that initially engaged them. Few of the images lent themselves easily to building a narrative sequence so some of the boys just wrote  captions for the random images that engaged them.

Some however really engaged with the Storybird concept and managed to relate the images together to do quite a good semblance of a narrative.

After the writing and editing was done the boys pushed SAVE and PUBLISH and I was able to easily publish it with the provided embed code.


To spice things up a bit we also had a competition with voting via the blog to decide which stories we like best.

Please add your vote to the blog side bar to encourage the boys in their writing.

Our verdict

  • Stunning illustrations
  • Easy to use
  • Easy to embed
  • Intuitive interface
  • Works well across all devices
  • Limited mix of images- you have to use one artists’ images and cannot pick and mix
  • Limited range of images related to some of the things the boys wanted to write about
  • Once engaged some boys really involved with the process and showed an interest in working on it at home.
  • You can invite others to work on the stories collaboratively but we never really went down that track.
  • The teacher can leave notes on children’s writing as feedback on the process
  • You can read and reflect on other people’s writing by leaving comments which can be moderated.

As a final reflection I was thrilled when a parent joined in and made another book at home with her child and invited me to collaborate on it with her and she left a comment on the blog post.


Wonderful work and writing. This has opened up a whole new world of e-learning to me and I’m loving it I’ll be back for more!


Sunday Six

This is the first school holiday in a couple of years where I have had nothing to do  and I am relishing the early nights and late rising to bank a reserve of sleep that I can draw on when school starts again- yeah right!

As you can well imagine I have spent a fair amount of trolling the internet, twittering and exploring. Here are a couple of holidays finds that are worth more than a save to my delicious.

1. Ten YouTube URL Tricks– I often see embedded YouTube videos on class blogs and wonder if teachers realise how few clicks away from porn they think they are! With these easy tips you can disable the search box and links to related videos and more.

2. My Delicious– I have spent some time tidying up my on line bookmarks and putting them into tag bundles. @AngeNZ asked for a look through and I thought others may like a peek as well.

3. iPhoto09 Faces and Books. ImageI have just taught my iPhoto how to recognise photos of people and made a Photo Book of my recent overseas travels. That was so fun and the book of 68 pages ($122NZ) will be delivered in a couple of weeks. I can’t wait as I have seen the quality and professional look of iPhoto Books before but never actually made one. I could have printed it to pdf but thought I would push the boat out and have the hardcover book professionally printed.

4. Through Twitter links I have joined in on a couple of UStream professional development sessions in Canada and somewhere else. It doesn’t seem important really as to where the sessions were but thanks to Chris Harbeck for the invite to join in.

5. Drop Box– Drop Box is a handy Mac only tool- a bit like your own personal server to dump stuff onto between computers. You just install it on the computers that you want to be able to access your files on- in my case my home laptop and my TELA school laptop and it just sits in your top toolbar and you drop stuff in it to collect it from another computer. By recommending the tool to others I get a little extra storage but 3GB will suit me fine for the free version. Great for when a file is too big for an email and you can’t be bothered finding your flash drive.

6. Styks is a cross platform Pivot type animation free download in beta. Nice and easy for kids to handle- definitely in my 2009ToDoList.

    On Line Sexual Predators- Myth and Fact

    I came across this link in my blogroll that I thought might be worth sharing with parents who are concerned about the consequences of their children using the internet. Art Wolinsky, the Educational Director of Wired Safety presents via a web survey the facts and myths behind on line sexual predators. To view the presentation click on the graphic to be taken to the website.

    Online Sexual Predators - Myth and Fact
    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    I was interested also in the method of presentation- using Adobe Presenter. I haven’t got that piece of software. I will have to get the free trial.

    Timez Attack- a new way to learn your tables

    Multiplication Tables - Flash Player Installation
    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    Here is another great find that came to me from my Twitter network- Timez Attack via Barbara Read, @Barbs1.

    It is a downloadable game for PC or Mac. I downloaded the free base version. The full version has the same basic facts learning but without the extra levels of complexity. This maths game would really appeal to my gaming Year 4/5 boys. It is really built like the old game Wolfenstein 3D game without the killing. Every now and again you come across an ogre that you neutralise by knowing your tables. I was very impressed with the graphics and the attempts to build number knowledge as well as straight recall. Give it a go. I am sure you will be hooked. I would like to hear what the paid for version ($40US for home use) is like if you decide to buy it. Something for my next year’s class maybe.

    Update on Adobe Photoshop Express

    A while ago posted about Photoshop Express but hadn’t used it in a while as at that stage it was very new and rather slow. While with Adobe I learnt about the upgrades and the speed is vastly improved.

    Photoshop Express - Online Photo Sharing and Photo Editing
    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    I had a great chance to play with the new features and learnt a little about non-destructive editing. For example Photoshop Express has this cool effect where you can pop the colour. This is what it can do with an image of a bright red tour bus. It takes the two predominant colours and by rolling the mouse over the samples it changes the colour you decided to pop. Your photo changes instantly but you can still reset all your changes back to original if you want to.

    It can also do the basics of crop, rotate, resize, correct exposure, red-eye removal, colour saturation and do touch-ups like blemish removal and fine tune your photo. Under the fun effects you can play with the hue, tint, change varieties of black & white, cartoonise and distort.

    If you are a Windows user you may like to have a look at Adobe Photoshop Album Maker Starter Edition which lets you organise, crop, email and basically fix yr photos.

    Two for the price of one

    Three great finds today- one was going to the afternoon pictures to see the NZ movie, “Second Hand Wedding“. I was really impressed with this movie- it had a great mixture of comedy and sadness, joy and angst. I would recommend it to anyone.

    The second great find is a mixture of two really. A lot of people have been posting about Wordle which can have all sorts of classroom uses. But the best find is Flowgram which is in beta testing but it is an excellent tool for capturing and discussing web pages. To do so you sign up- add the URL to a web page you would like to discuss and then hit record and you are underway. You can also annotate and embed. To see what it looks like and to hear my cold ridden audio click play! Magic!

    Here is a link to  Abhay Parekh the CEO of Flowgram talking about what it can do.

    What do you think? I have ten invites if you’re keen to have a play yourself.

    Digital Story Telling

    I like to think I am getting the hang of Lead Teacher Days and this one was on Digital Story Telling at Mapua School. We started of with a few exemplars of great digital stories like this one from a Robert Lloyd- a Brit describing his kiwi adventure.

    We followed that by a look at where digital story telling fits with the curriculum- we quickly gave up as it fits just everywhere. That was my point really. Digital stories are an excellent media for improving literacy across the spectrum really. We then looked at some of the tools we might use- iPhoto, iMovie, Garageband, Keynote, Powerpoint, Moviemaker, Photostory3 and a number of Web2.0 tools thrown in for good measure. My favourite at the moment I would like to use with a class is Videocue.


    Videocue picks up your iSite camera and with a scrolling autocue you read your script that you can change the speed of if you are a slow reader. When you are done it automatically saves a Quicktime version onto your movies. Makes a girl almost want to have a class of her own to practice with!

    We then set about creating digital stories based on a couple of poems I had pre-selected. People worked in groups as would happen in a classroom and our progress was recorded on our Discover IT Tasman cluster wiki. The afternoon was spent sharing and planning for our next school tour and Eric Frangenheim‘s visit in early July.


    Adobe Educational Leadership

    My life seems to be a whirl of late which could be a good thing or could be a bad thing. In case you missed it- Adobe have asked me to join Brenda Frisk and Colin Gover from Auckland to be Adobe Educational Leaders and last week I went to Sydney for a couple of days to find out more about what was involved.

    Adobe Educational Leaders Sydney June 2008
    I thought I had better get my thoughts about our Adobe meet-up recorded while they are still fresh-ish in my mind. We spent a good deal of time learning about the Adobe family of products. Adobe gave us the entire Adobe Creative Suite 3 Master Collection which was pretty jolly generous if you ask me. I don’t think any one person could know everything about all of the products that are in the package but Soundbooth, Photoshop and Visual Creator are the ones that I would like to focus on. The thing that I like about Soundbooth is the graphical way you can edit annoying sounds that you can see on an audio track- great for podcasting when the bell goes in the middle of a great sound byte. The draw of learning more about Photoshop is obvious and I have a project in mind already. And Visual Communicator is a video editing software that I know that Colin uses for television editing in schools.

    Another great outcome of the meet was that Wacom gave us each a Intuos3 tablet to use when we are playing and presenting. It took me a bit of brain exertion to work out that it was not just one enormous track pad and once I was over that I was surprised at how great it was in speeding up my workflow and how much easier it is to use a pen rather than a mouse to move about the screen. I have a friend who is a really good artist and can’t wait to let her play with it and see how she goes.

    They also gave us some insider information about the sorts of things that Adobe does and plans for the future which are really exciting. We got to talk to some of the people like Paul Burnett who is a Worldwide Evangelist for Adobe! What a great job title! Just for fun he showed us his Adobe Air app Melissa that he made. Turn the sound down and Melissa sits on your desktop and lip-synchs with you when you talk- aren’t these people so clever. Melissa reminded me a little of Marvin but without all the tricky input code- give her a try- she’s very clever.

    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    The two days flew by and I was very fortunate to be able to extend my time in Sydney with a quick visit with my cousin and fly home on Sunday which was an added bonus. We only had the one day but we managed a wander round the Opera House and Botanical Gardens.

    E-Play with Buzzword and

    Chris Betcher recently blogged about another new Adobe tool- Buzzword– an online word processor written in Flash. Very cool. The features that I particularly like are that you can upload a Word document and it looks just like it does in Word. You can create documents in Buzzword and export as a pdf or a Word document onto your desktop. Ideal for those without the $$$ to spend on Microsoft products. You can insert tables and graphics and do all the usuals that a normal person would want a desktop publisher to do.

    Then you can share that document with others just as you might do in Google Docs. But here’s the really cool thing you can do as well. On the far right hand side of the screen you can see the icon- MEET. Thought I would give it a try and find out who I might meet.

    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    Turns out it takes you to Adobe ConnectNow- through which I can share my desktop with others. OK this looks fun but I need someone to share with. Enter Skype and Twitter. Raewyn from school was on Skype and I sent out a general Tweet asking if anyone wanted a little playtime! Colin Warren a educational tertiary level blogger from from Geelong, Australia, answered my call. Together we played and found out pretty much how to work the screen sharing application by talking about it with Skype and sharing the iSite video. The screen capture is of how it looked from my end as Colin opened up his desktop for us to look at. Through this medium we shared photos and movies directly from my desktop.

    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    I liked the interface and it all worked smoothly after we had played about for a bit trying to get the sound working. We nearly had to resort to using the HELP tab but resisted the temptation.

    It is great to have a PLN that is so wiling to try new things and learn with each other across the globe.

    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch
    Here is how the screen looked in a screen grab from Raewyn’s computer. It shows her desktop visibe with my laptop screen viewable at the same time. It looks complicated but it really wasn’t.
    I was struck by how relatively simple Adobe’s ConnectNow was and how useful it might be for teachers who are in need of a little online assistance.
    By chance we were all Apple users- as it is web based I could see it as a great application to use across the platforms.

    A New Zealand Font

    This post is for the Kiwis and Aussies.

    A couple of years ago I asked the powers that be in NZ if we could have a NZ font- you know the one we’re supposed to teach in school. They said that would be a good idea and that was the end of that. So I hit the internet and found John Greatorex in Australia who makes fonts. I emailed him and he said he would make me one if I snail mailed him with how they were supposed to look.

    untitled (WP)
    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    About a month later he sent me the trial to test. I have used that font ever since. It is great for wall displays and making up really neat personalised writing exemplars.

    A teacher asked me today where I got my font from and it prompted me to pass on this really practical find from a few years back

    Click on the font graphic to see the whole set- $60 for a school site licence.

    This is not an endorsement as he would probably no longer remember who I am but I thought it was worth a shout out!

    This is what I should NOT be doing!

    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    OK- I am deep in milestone reporting – crafting lofty statements that should focus on student learning outcomes and teacher professional development. What do I do? I show @efreeman down Christchurch way how to do Skype, chat with @achurches in Auckland and end up playing in iChat video with a couple of un-named types who I won’t name because they should be working too I suspect! Now that was very cool. I didn’t realise that we would all show up in video at the same time- we ended up morphing ourselves using PhotoBooth while we were chatting. A spot of light relief is a wonderful thing!

    Animoto Educational Account

    Good for Animoto for sharing their educational account so that teachers can now create longer than 30 second videos for free and download them for playing and keeping on your computer- great for playing and sharing if your internet is slow and spends a lot of time buffering.

    As Ewan McIntosh says- it takes zero skill levels to create great videos. To access the educational side of Animoto use this link and ask Rebecca for an educational registration key. She does ask to be kept in the loop as to the kinds of things you are creating.

    The quick example I made celebrates my first term as ICT facilitator for Discover IT Tasman.


    Last night when I was checking out Twitter (as you do). @BrianCaldwell from Plasq twittered that he was keen to give away some registrations for Doozla- first in first served. I like everything Plasq does so I went for it. Doozla is a vector drawing programme for the littlies. It is interesting that Plasq has a Twitter log in so you can subscribe to updates and news about the application. A good idea I think.

    Picture 1
    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch! You can colour in, add to a pre-drawn background, add to your photos taken on your iSite camera and just straight draw.

     I liked it in that it automatically smooths your lines as you draw them and gives your etchings a nice even look.

    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    I liked the little extra prompts as you chose the colours- happy sounds. The littlies would love it I think. Worth a play for the little tackers. You can play with it through a free month’s trial like Comic Life.


    I couldn’t resist the temptation to play with Microsoft’s Australian piece of software- Marvin before I got taught. I was looking for something new to do while I couldn’t use the internet much as my broadband allowance for the month is all used up and I have five days left of dial-up before I can be set free again.

    Microsoft Windows XP
    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    Being Microsoft of course I had to fire up Parallels so I could work with it on my Mac but that only took a second or two. The software is as intuitive as Microsoft ever gets but the end results are visually quite stunning. I see some great possibilities for digital story telling and a way to give voice to children using the product.

    After adding the background and loading your avatar you can customise your creation by having it do a variety of actions and speech. I didn’t try to have it record my own voice- I wonder if that is an option? When compiled it can animate on your screen or you can export as an .avi and upload to your blog like I have done here for my class blog.

    It is a pity it is only a 30 day free trial before it expires. When compared to a Comic Life registration for $4 I wonder if it won’t be a bit of a novelty which wears off after a bit. Has anyone published anything created with Marvin to convince me otherwise?

    Tweet Clouds

    The word clouds being generated by Tweet Cloud are interesting as they give an indication of the sorts of things a person who tweets talks about.

    Tweet Clouds
    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    I thought the cloud generated by my tweets was interesting. I highlighted some of the most often used words- they emit a sense of what I want my interactions with my on-line network to be like so I am quite pleased.

    Adobe Photoshop Express

    Here is another beauty from Paul HarringtonAdobe Photoshop Express for the poor! You register and upload your photo and use simple versions of the fixes available in the paid for Photoshop to fix your photos.

    Adobe Photoshop Express
    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!
    There are some great features that are simple to use. The one that I used most here is ‘get rid of the annoying people in the background that spoil my wonderful prowess as a salmon fisherperson!’

    The correct was a little blurry because I got a little carried away but you get the general idea.

    Adobe Photoshop Express
    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    Other available editing tools are crop, rotate, auto correct, exposure control, red-eye removal, touch-up, colour saturation, white balance, sharpen focus and a variety of cool effects. For children I like the crop and straighten tool because it imposes a thirds grid on the photo to help children see where the thirds are. (We are doing a bit of that sort thing at the moment in some of our sessions).

    You get 2GB of on site storage as well which could be handy. When you’re done you can email the photo, make a public slideshow or do what you want with it.

    Art Rage

    It has been a while since I have played with Art Rage but since I am busy migrating from my old computer to my new I thought I had better get the latest upgrade. What a wonderful Kiwi made product.

    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    There is a free version of Art Rage to download which is fully functioning but has access to less of the drawing/painting tools than the paid version. Good to play with until you get hooked. Last year Art Rage offered Kiwis licences for $1 each you can’t get any better than that so we bought 25! It is available now on PC or Mac for $25NZ.

    There is a really good forum linked to their website for sharing your finished work and collaborating with various users’ nominated themes.

    I am a pathetic artist but managed to create this masterpiece by using a photo from iPhoto (it meshes like any other Apple product) and used it as a template to grab colours and textures from. Seeing I took the original photo and painted the textured layers you can probably say it was the best art work I have ever created.

    You can bet it will be one of the first things I will play with when I get a Mimio interactive whiteboard to play with for the year.

    Marlborough Conference, Migration and Skitch - Newspapers From Around the World
    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    Yesterday was a big day with a very early start to drive over the Whangamoa and Rai hills to the Marlbourough Colleges’ Cluster Day- it was a major undertaking- they had closed the colleges for the day and given the kids the day off- the day before Easter Friday. 160 or so teachers came along to hear Greg Gebhert speak followed by two two hour workshops. With lessons learnt from the previous Lead Teacher Day I heard little of Greg’s keynote as I was busy making my computer behave and connect to the network before feeling comfortable that everything was going to go smoothly. I was presenting sessions on blogging with newbies- two hours was a good length- long enough to spend some time showcasing what a blog can be used for then long enough to actually play and make one.

    I used our Moturoa class blog and our Blogmeister blog as examples and my Bling4yrblog blog resource with pdf handout on how to get started and how to add a few extras. The sessions were really humming along and I got a good buzz from the groups which was superb.

    Photo credit: Marlborough Express On Line

    Then it was off the Warren‘s place for help with a migration of my 12inch Apple G4 iBook that I had won in a radio competition to my brand new nearly all paid for 15 inch Mac Book Pro with RAM to burn! Things did not start out well and there was a few nervous moments as disks failed to be recognised but it all came right in the end and after a drive home in the dark I spent till 2am playing! Not to worry- the long Easter weekend looms.

    The sensible path was not to migrate the applications downloaded off the net but to re-download the latest versions with Leopard fixes and the like. Everything is going smoothly and I am re-populating my dock. Only a few little question marks- KidPix and Microsoft Apps to replace. Click on the photo if you want to find out what made it back to the dock and what missed out!

    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    I have yet to locate the install disks for KidPix and Microsoft and then I can take up Ben’s kind offer of Parallels and we will be underway.

    System Preferences
    Uploaded with plasq‘s Skitch!

    Skitch did give me a little grief until I remembered our slight change to the SYSTEM PREFERENCES- NETWORK- AIRPORT-DNS settings of the additions of these two numbers!

    Kudos to here for help to do this and to the soon to be departing Chrissy who pointed me to it last year and to my Delicious who let me store my bookmarks on any computer which made it very easy to re-locate that much needed web reference.