Monday, September 24, 2012

17 Free Tools for Creating Screen Capture Images and Videos

When you're trying to teach people how to do something new on their computers having screencast videos or annotated screen capture images can be invaluable to you and the people you're trying to help. Here are some free tools that you can use to create screen capture videos and images.

Vessenger, producers of a group messaging system, offers a free program for capturing and annotating images on your computer screen. The free program, called Snaplr, is available for Windows and Mac. With Snaplr installed you can capture all or part of your screen. Snaplr's annotation tools include text boxes, highlighting, and free-hand drawing tools. When you've finished creating your annotated screen capture you can save it as a PNG file or attach it to an email message in Outlook.

Using the print screen key on your PC or "command+shift+4" on your Mac are easy ways to create a screen capture. But if you want do more and draw or annotate on that screen capture, give Snaggy a try. Snaggy is a web-based tool for drawing on, annotating, and sharing screen captures. To draw or write on your screen capture just paste your screen capture image into Snaggy. Snaggy offers tools for highlighting a section of your screen capture, typing on it, and drawing free-hand on your image. You can also use Snaggy to crop your image. When you're ready to share your screen capture, Snaggy assigns is a custom url that you can Tweet, email, or post anywhere you like. Snaggy lets you save your edited screen captures to your computer too.


Monosnap is a new, free screen capture tool for Mac and Windows. Monosnap is advertising that they will soon offer it for Android and iOS too. To get started download Monosnap. Once installed you can use Monosnap to capture a portion or all of your screen. One neat option is to capture your screen after a ten second delay. After capturing your screen you can draw on your image, type on it, or highlight portions of the screen capture image. You can save your screen captures on your computer or upload them to a free Monosnap account.

Szoter is a free online tool for annotating images that are stored on your computer. You can also use Szoter to capture and annotate screenshots. You can use Szoter on the web or download the Adobe Air version of it to run on your desktop. Either way you can upload images, draw on those images, and type on those images. When you're done annotating and drawing on your images you can save them to your local computer or share them online through your favorite social networks. Szoter can also be used to capture your screen and create annotated screen captures.

Explain and Send is a free Chrome extension that I have just installed in my browser. The extension allows me to quickly select all or a portion of my screen, draw on it, type on it, and share it. The extension installs in seconds and if you have synchronization enabled (click here to learn how) it will be available to you on all of the computers that you use. After you have created your screen capture you can share it via email, Twitter, or Facebook.

Pixlr offers a large set of image creation and editing tools. One of the tools that can be quite handy is Pixlr Grabber. Pixlr Grabber is Pixlr's screen capture tool. Pixlr Grabber is available as an extension for Chrome or Firefox. Using Pixlr Grabber you can capture your screen, crop the screen image, and print what you like. You can also send the image to Pixlr Editor for further editing options.

Screenr is a very simple, easy-to-use tool for creating screencast videos. You do not need to register in order to use Screenr, but if you want to save your recordings you do need a Twitter account. Screenr uses your Twitter ID to save your recording and publish it to Twitter (you can opt not to publish to Twitter). The recordings you make using Screenr can also be published to YouTube or you can download your recordings.

Screen Castle is a simple screencast creation tool that is completely web-based. To use Screen Castle simply visit their website, click the start button and you're recording. You have the option to enable voice recording for your screencasts. Screencasts made using Screen Castle can be viewed on the Screen Castle website or embedded into your website or blog.

Screencast-O-Matic is a web-based screencast creation tool similar to Screen Castle. Screencast-O-Matic allows you to specify how much of your screen that you want to record. Screencast-O-Matic gives you up to fifteen minutes of recording time per video. If you want to include a webcam view of yourself talking you can do that too. To do that enable your webcam and then when you record a small video of you will appear in the corner of your finished video.

Quick Screen Share is a free screen sharing service from the makers of Screencast-o-matic. To use Quick Screen Cast just go to their website, select share your screen, and enter your name. Quick Screen Share will then provide you with a URL to share with the person with whom you are screen sharing. When that person opens the link you he or she will be able to see your screen. Quick Screen Share doesn't require you to install anything (assuming you have Java installed) or require you to register for the service.

Show Me What's Wrong is a free service offered by Screencast-O-Matic. The service is designed to help you help others with their computer problems. To use the service enter your name and email address to have a custom url assigned to you. You then send that url to the person who needs help. The person receiving your email opens the link and then starts recording his or her screen while talking about the trouble he or she is having. When the person you're trying to help finishes recording his or her screencast is sent directly to you.

Webpage Screenshot is a Chrome extension that you can use to capture all or part of webpage. You can draw and type on screenshots you make with Webpage Screenshot. One feature of Webpage Screenshot that is quite helpful is the option to capture the entire content of webpage even if it doesn't appear in your current view of the webapge.


The tool that I use most often of creating annotated screen capture images is Jing. Jing enables you to take a picture of part of your screen or all of your screen. Once you've captured the area you want in your picture, you can type on it, draw arrows on it, and highlight sections of text within it. To use Jing you must download and install the free software for your Mac or PC. Once it's installed, launch it and it runs in the background until you need it. You'll know that Jing is ready for you to use because you will notice an orange ball in one of the top corners of your screen. It takes up very little screen real estate and is ready to use whenever you need it. You can also use Jing to record a video of your screen. Simply select the area of your screen that you would like to show, click the record button and begin talking. Jing will capture everything you say and do for up to five minutes.

Awesome Screenshot is a great Chrome, Firefox, and Safari browser extension for capturing, annotating, and sharing screenshots. Once you've installed Awesome Screenshot you can simply activate it from your browser to capture a page or region on a page, draw boxes, draw lines, blur out information, and add text to your screenshot. When you're satisfied with your screenshot you can save it locally or share it via the url provided by Awesome Screenshot.

Bounce is a neat application that not only allows you to make annotated screen captures of websites but also allows you to instantly share those screen captures with others. To use Bounce go to their website then type in the url of any website you like and click "Bounce." Bounce will then create an image of that website on which you can draw boxes and annotate those boxes. You can create as many boxes and notes as you like. When you're done creating notes, Bounce will provide you with a unique url for your screen captures that you can share with others. If you create a Bounce account (optional) you and other Bounce users can annotate the same screen capture.

Capturing and Annotating Your iPad's Screen
To capture whatever you're currently viewing on your iPad's screen simultaneously press the on/off switch and the center "home" button. Your screen capture will be saved to your iPad's camera roll. After creating my screen capture I like to use Skitch for iPad to draw and type on the image. Using the latest version of Skitch for iPad you can register for an Evernote account and then your images will automatically be saved in Evernote. You can download Skitch for iPad here.

Capturing and Annotating Your Android Device's Screen
I've not yet found a simple way to capture the screen on my Android devices without rooting the device. I don't recommend rooting your device unless you are very confident that you can do it correctly. In most cases rooting your device will void its warranty.

There is one method that I've used to capture my Android tablet's screen. By using AirDroid you can mirror your Android device to your Windows or Mac computer. Then you can use a desktop screen capture tool like Jing to capture an image of your Android tablet's screen. It's far from being a perfect or quick method, but it works.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Create Beautiful Presentations with Haiku Deck

Haiku Deck is an iPad app that all students and teachers should have installed on their iPads. Haiku Deck enables anyone to create beautiful slide presentations. It's so easy to use that when I was describing the app to someone last week I said it was like "Animoto for slide decks." Like other slide presentation apps Haiku provides templates for creating your presentation. But there are some significant differences between Haiku Deck and other presentation apps.

There are two features of Haiku Deck that stand out. First, Haiku Deck intentionally limits how much text that you can put on each of your slides. Second, Haiku Deck helps you find Creative Commons licensed images for your presentations. When you type a word or words on your slides you can have Haiku Deck search for images for you. The images that Haiku Deck serves up are large enough to completely fill your slide. You can also upload your own images from your iPad or import images from Instagram and Facebook.
A slide from one of my Haiku Decks. 
Haiku Deck has an adequate selection of free templates that should suit all students. However, Haiku Deck also offers additional templates for purchase.

Applications for Education
Without the option to create long lists of bullett points or big blocks of texts, the beauty of Haiku Deck is that after students create visually pleasing slides they then have to focus on really knowing their material before presenting to an audience.

While we're on the topic of sharing presentations, a question that I'm often asked is, "how can I have my students project from their iPads." There are three options that I've used. First, I have projected using a VGA dongle. Second, I've used the Reflection App to mirror my iPad to my MacBook. Third, I've used Apple TV.

Tips for Setting Up Google Apps Training Activities - Part 2: Devices

Last week I published an updated version of my guide to Google Drive and Documents for Teachers. I know of a couple of people that are using that guide this week and next week in trainings that they are facilitating. If you are considering using the guide too, I have some tips for you. These tips are part of a larger document that I am developing. The first set of tips was about browser choice. This is the second set of tips.

Unless you’re training session is specifically about using iPads or Android tablets, the best way to introduce new users to all of the Google Documents features is to have them use a browser (again Chrome is preferable) on their laptops. You can certainly have people bring their iPads and or Android tablets to your training session, but make sure that they know that not all of the features available in a desktop browser are also available in the iOS and Android apps.

When I have participants bringing iPads or Android tablets to one of my workshops, my preference is to have people try all of the features of Google Documents in their browsers before moving to their tablets. This way they have exposure to all of the functions of Google Docs. Then when they move to their tablets they can clearly see the differences between the browser experience and the tablet app experience. 

Saturday, September 22, 2012

The Most Popular Ed Tech Posts of the Week

Good morning from the Portland, Maine Jetport where I'm quickly writing before jumping on my first flight in four weeks. It was a great month at home with my dog Morrison and I was able to get a good start on some exciting projects that will be completed soon. More about that next week.

If you had a busy week and would like to quickly get caught up on some of the most popular ed tech tools of the week, the following list is a good place to start.

1. An Updated 63 Page Guide to Google Drive and Docs
2. 7 Good Sources of Creative Writing Prompts
3. Picture Book Maker - Create Children's Stories
4. Dozens of Ice Breaker Activities and Games
5. Stop Frame Animator - Create Stop Motion Movies
6. A Google Guide to Google Apps Accessibility
7. Interactive Whiteboards 101


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The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Ed Tech Teacher offers professional development services for schools and is hosting iPad Summit USA in November. Register now for an early bird discount.

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Friday, September 21, 2012

Tips for Setting Up Google Apps Training Activities - Part 1: Browser Choice

A couple of days ago I published an updated version of my guide to Google Drive and Documents for Teachers. I know of a couple of people that are using that guide this week and next week in trainings that they are facilitating. If you are considering using the guide too, I have some tips for you. These tips are part of a larger document that I am developing. This is the first part.


Not all browsers support every feature in Google Documents. Not surprisingly, Google Chrome does support all features of Google Documents and Google Drive. For that reason it is preferable to have all participants in your training sessions use Google Chrome. Google Chrome automatically updates whenever a new update is released by Google. A day or two before your training session send an email to all participants asking them to install Chrome if it’s not already installed on their laptops.

If getting all participants in your training session to use Chrome is not an option for you, at the very least stress to them importance of having the latest version of their preferred browsers installed. Not only is this a browser security issue (older versions of browsers are more susceptible to security threats) it is a Google Documents functionality issue. The latest versions of browsers support the most functions of Google Documents. For example, as of this writing Google has officially ceased supporting Internet Explorer 8. 

Finally, regardless of which browser you ultimately have participants in your training sessions use, have them all use the same browser during your training session. Initially, this might be uncomfortable for some participants, but by the end of the day most people will be comfortable with a different browser. Having everyone use the same browser will make your day easier. When everyone uses the same browser if there are unexpected glitches or problems they will likely be the same for everyone in your training session. Solve the glitch once and you’ve solved it for the whole group for the day.