Friday, June 5, 2020

Easy Ways to Remove Image Backgrounds

This morning I answered an email from someone who had watched my video about using PowerPoint to remove image backgrounds and wanted to know if the same can be done in Google Slides. While you can change the transparency of an image in Google Slides, there isn't a built-in tool for completely removing image backgrounds. Fortunately, there are plenty of online tools for removing image backgrounds. Once the image background is removed you can then upload the new version of the image to your Google Slides presentation. Here are some free tools you can use to remove image backgrounds.

Photo Scissors
To use PhotoScissors online simply go to the site and upload a picture that you want to edit. After you have uploaded your picture you will be taken to an editing screen. On that screen you use a green marker to indicate the parts of the picture that you want to keep and use a red marker to indicate the parts of the picture that you want to remove. You will see a live preview of your edited image while you work. If you remove too much, you can put it back into the picture by just coloring with the green marker. If you didn't remove enough, just do a little more red marking. When you are happy with your cutout image you can download it as a new image. is a tool that will remove the background from your images. To remove the background from your picture simply go to the website and upload your picture. Within a minute you will have a new image file that you can download. Watch my short video below to see how it works.

In Canva there is now an effects menu that you can utilize whenever you click on an image in the Canva design editor. The effects menu includes a background remover. Just click the option to remove the background and Canva does the rest for you. The background removal tool works with pictures of people, animals, and inanimate objects.

Applications for Education
As I demonstrated in the video about one of the fun ways to use these background image removal tools is to have students take pictures of themselves, remove the background, then place themselves in front of landmarks around the world. You can add to that assignment by having students write short stories based the new images they've created.

Five Things You Should Know About Using Video in Google Slides

Google Slides has some handy little settings that you can use when adding videos into your presentations. Things like specifying the start and end time for a video within a slide keeps you from having to search for the clip you want to show during your presentation. Likewise, that also means you don't have to worry about stopping the video at the proper place during your presentation. Specifying start and stop times is just one of the five Google Slides features that I demonstrate in the following video.

Five things you should know about using videos in Google Slides.
1. Three ways to add videos.
2. Automatic playback.
3. Selecting specific portions for playback.
4. Muting audio within the video.
5. Adding drop shadows.

On a related note, here's how to share videos in Google Drive.

Thursday, June 4, 2020

About the Circles and Ovals in My Videos

A bunch of times this week I've received emails and Facebook comments about the oval shape that I have started using when overlaying my webcam on my screencast videos. (See this video for an example). The comments have all been along the lines of "I like that" and "how did you do that?"

I use the "deluxe" version of Screencast-o-matic to make nearly all of the videos that appear on my YouTube channel. The deluxe version is the paid version that costs $1.65/month. With that version comes the option to crop and resize the webcam view that you can overlay on your screencast. One of those cropping options is to use an oval. That's what I do. Screencast-o-matic also provides the option to have a highlighted circle follow your mouse pointer on your screen (Screencastify offers the same option).

The Free Option
Loom is a screencasting tool that also lets you overlay your webcam view onto your screencast video. Loom defaults to a circle shape for your webcam view. And Loom is free to use in your web browser. By the way, Loom also offers a free iPad app.

Overviews of Screencast-o-matic and Loom
Back in March I published complete overviews of Screencast-o-matic and Loom. You can find those overviews here.

Two Free Webinars Today and Tomorrow

Every week Rushton Hurley at Next Vista for Learning hosts free webinars for teachers, parents, and principals. Yesterday, he hosted Preparing for Next School Year- Advice for Teachers and School Leaders (you can watch the recording and get handouts here). Today, at 5pm ET/ 2pm PT he and Susan Stewart are hosting Activities Across Grade Levels - Cool Ways Teachers Can Use Summer (register here). And tomorrow at 1pm ET/ 10am PT Rushton and I will host Two Ed Tech Guys Take Questions and Share Cool Stuff (register here).

Recordings of all of the webinars Rushton has hosted this spring can be found on the webinars page on Next Vista for Learning and on Rushton's YouTube channel.

Try Your Hand at Bird Identification With the Audubon Bird App

We have a bunch of bird feeders hanging outside of house. My daughters love seeing the various birds that visit our feeders. I particularly enjoy seeing orioles come to one of our feeders. My daughters (2 and 3 years old) are curious about the names of many of the birds that come to the feeders. Orioles, robins, and chickadees are easy for me to identify. There are many birds that visit our feeders that I can't identify right away. That's why I've installed the Audubon Bird Guide app on my Android phone (an iOS version is also available).

The Audubon Bird Guide app is very helpful in identifying the birds that you see but don't know the names of. When you open the app tap on "identify bird" and you'll be taken to a screen where you then make a few selections to narrow down the list of birds that are possibly in your area. Those selections include your location, the month of the year, the relative size of the bird, the color(s) of the bird, and activity of the bird. After making those selections you'll see a list of birds with pictures. My favorite part of the app is that you can listen to recordings of bird songs/ calls to further help you identify the bird that you saw.

How to use the Audubon Bird Guide app from on Vimeo.

Applications for Education
I think that a fun assignment for students of all ages would be to try to identify as many birds as possible in their neighborhoods. I'd consider either creating a "bingo" sheet with the names of birds for students to identify. Another option would be to have students submit their observations in a Google Form then use that information to create a map of observations (here's a video on how to do that). In either case the Audubon Bird Guide app will be helpful to students as they try to accurately identify birds.

By the way, the Audubon Bird Guide app does offer the capability to record and share observations, but out of concern for student privacy I wouldn't recommend using that function.