Convert them back

I don’t know who said it but I remember someone saying once that “PDF Files are where good ideas go to die”.

The meaning and you’ve probably done it yourself is that you take a document, say Microsoft Word and save or print it to PDF format.  It’s a common way to share a document with others and guarantee that everyone will be able to read it.  There’s another advantage – once it’s in PDF format, nobody can change the contents of the document.

But suppose you wanted to?

There are lots of ways; I know that I have a copy of Adobe Acrobat handy to do the deed.  There are other tools and typically you have to have a copy of some piece of software on your computer to help with the task.

But in the world of the Chromebook, software installation may not be an option.  What to do then?

Turn to the web.

Here’s one solution – Free Online OCR

It’s a simple concept.  Upload your PDF file and get a .docx file back in return.


There are other alternative that you can find in the FAQ.  The ability to change the language may be helpful as well.

When I tested it, I didn’t get a completely perfect conversion but the resulting .docx file was easily edited to put it back in its original form.

I did have a practical need for this; I had a PDF file that I created a long time ago and actually needed to get the original.  Not having it available, the service was of immediate help.


Breaking out

It was last year at the Bring IT, Together that I met Larissa Aradj and Sandra Chow.  I was working doing something and Larissa came up and introduced the two of them.  I find it always nice to put a real human to the Twitter handles – in this case @MrsGeekChic and @watnunu.

As luck would have it, this year the two of them joined me again at a table at this year’s conference.  I knew that Larissa with was presenting alongside Arianna Lambert because I had every intention of attending.  As it turns out, I had a tonne of other things that needed addressing so actually felt a bit badly that we were sitting here talking; I’d stood her up!  But, I got a quicky summary of her session.

Back home now, I decided to take a look at her presentation that she was kind enough to have shared online.

Digital Breakouts

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Over the past couple of years, I’d had every intention to attend one of these Breakout games just to experience it.  The premise is simple enough.  Larissa’s was online done in a Google Sites document, which she embedded into this presentation.  I worked my way through the slides until I got to her Breakout.  Then, I spent some time solving it.

I truly know that I was missing something.  While there’s something comfortable about solving this while sitting in a comfy chair with half an eye on the Vikings’ football game, I can absolutely see the excitement and promise for use with students.

The answers were collected via a Google Form.  It used a feature that I’d never used before – Response Validation.

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Fortunately, Larissa had included instructions about how to use that feature in her presentation.  It was so easy and comes across as professional and certainly functional.

Who could ask for more?  Learn a new pedagogy tool and a new technology tip.  I’m happy.

She blogged about the whole process here.

Thanks, Larissa, and best wishes.

Now, if you’re using OneNote and want to create a Breakout activity in there, don’t forget that Cal Armstrong had created a blog post showing how here.

My only regret was not meeting Larissa’s co-presenter Arianna Lambert.   Maybe next year.

She had included a Digital Breakout using Google Slides for Canada 150.  There’s one that you can use immediately.

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Two Counts and a Ghost Story

One of the neat things of being in the Detroit media market is the wide variety of media forms that we get.  As Hallowe’en comes I’m reminded of a couple.

Count Scary

Count Scary was a character created by Tom Ryan, a local radio personality.  In this case, he took it to television as a host for horror movies.  After I’d seen the movies so many times, I found myself just turning in to watch the Count’s spots at commercial times.

Count Stupid

Inspired by Count Scary, a competing radio station had their own take on the theme.  The “Morning Crew” generally featured George Baker as Dick the Bruiser.  His impersonation was great and, if you followed professional wrestling, you loved it.  But, at Hallowe’en, he emerged as Count Stupid, a direct takeoff on Count Scary.

Sadly, I can’t find any voice captured for this.  But, I do have memories of listening on the drive to work

Where Count Scary had his tagline, “Ooooh, that’s scary”, Count Stupid has his “Ooooo, that’s stupid”.

Great memories for Hallowe’en.  Where are they now?

Does your favourite media outlet treat today as something special?

Now, if your media outlet doesn’t, there have to be horror stories in your community.  Here’s ours.  Ghost hunting on Texas Road could find you some real-world trouble this Halloween There’s even a Facebook group.

I’ve got rhythm (and more)

It never fails to amaze me to think about how primitive we were in the good ol’ days.  We needed a program for everything to be the most productive.  Huge hard drives and a large inventory of programs were needed to get the most from that digital thingy in front of you.

These days so much has changed and you can do so much in your browser – provided you and your browser know where on the internet to go.  Today, I’m talking about music.  How many can remember the days of needing a separate Soundblaster card and decent external speakers to have your computer generate anything but some tinny sounds from the internal computer speaker?

Now that most everything can be miniaturized and built into the internals of your computer, we just take these things for granted.  That’s what we expect from a computer.  But, I’ll admit to continuing to use my Bose external speakers when I’m docked here to get the best of sound.

And, coding has become so sophisticated with the browser and web combination paying off big time for us.  Technology like the Chrome browser, Web Audio, WebGL, TONE.JS, and PIXI.JS are used to provide the experiences that you can interact with at the Chrome Music Lab.

What strikes me as so helpful for the music learner is how easily the end result works. The first activity deals with rhythm.


Within moments, you’re playing with and exploring rhythm with this very kid-friendly interface.


We’ve come a long way from tapping in rhythm on our desks as the teacher plays piano at the front of the room.  Heck, interfaces have become either so intuitive or we’ve become so accustomed to clicking around that instructions aren’t necessary.

There are 12 music activities at this experiment.  But, I wouldn’t just limit them to music; music happens because of the science involved.

This resource may be just what you’re looking for.


Coding with Emoji

I’ll admit; I was not a fan of drag and drop coding in the beginning.  After all, I learned to program using Fortran and learning that knowing syntax was key to success.  I learned all the instructions and eventually understood all the nuances that can get in the road of a successful program.

Even programming for young students via Logo was text based.  So, there you had it.  Coding = Knowing the Language.  Done.

Even working with HTML was best done with a text editor.  Sure, there were WYSIWYG editors where you could just drop things into place and they worked for about 95% of what you needed.  A tweak here and there often required going into the source code the editor generated to make it perfect.

Well, as we know by now, that mentality has long gone.  There are many drag and drop options; probably Scratch and Blockly are two of the more popular.

Recently, I ran into a site, Codemoji,  that supports and offers courses for HTML, JS, and CSS – using Emojis!  The courses range from Beginner to Expert.  There are options for free access and premium access for a fee.

I really was taken by the environment.  Here’s part of the HTML collection.

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It truly is drag and drop from these tools to the work space.  For those of us who like our code, there’s the option to switch to a code only work space to see what these emoji tell the computer to do.  Quite frankly, when you choose an emoji, the description given is among the best descriptions that I’ve seen.  You’ll have to give it a try to appreciate it.

Of course, you’re not limited to just the HTML as part of the playground.  There’s an option to create your own animations (complete with sound effects).

There’s a great deal of fun to be had here; you should check it out.  Oh, and it’s really educational as well.

We’re flying

Facebook has this feature that brings back memories on the current day.  For the most part, I use it to revisit some pictures that I’ve taken or blog posts that I’ve written or resources that I’ve played around with.

This morning included a resource I’d played with.  It’s not uncommon, during these memory moments, to find that a resource has gone.  It’s always special to see that it’s still there.

This one was still around and I got a hoot from playing with it so decided to include it in this post.  Just for fun, perhaps, but there could be all kinds of geography fun involved as well.

The site is PaperPlanes.  Or, play with an App.

The premise is pretty simple.

You “name” a paper airplane on your smartphone and then “throw” it.

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From there, it goes out and around the world.  Someone might reach out and catch it.  Or, you might catch one that someone else has thrown, location provided for you.

Where in the world will the airplane you catch originate?


Timeline creation

One of the powerful visual tools, depending upon the story that you want to tell, is a timeline.  I’ve used a number of programs over the years to create timelines and even have just plunked my data into a spreadsheet for the concept.

Recently, I played around with Time Graphics.

This is a pretty comprehensive implementation of a timeline creation utility.  Now, I’ve always created my timelines with text values.  Time Graphics incorporates so much more.

Clicking on your timeline lets you add an entry pickable from this selection of items.

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You might recognize some of the icons.  Working my way around the wheel of entries…

  • Event
  • Time period
  • Percentage
  • Statistics
  • Reporting APIs
  • Grouping
  • Yandex Metrika
  • Google Analytics
  • Google Calendar
  • Import from Google Sheets

Everything that I had ever created pales in comparison to what can be done here.  The resulting timeline can be public or private.  If it’s public, then you can see the work of others, including the ability to embed in another document.

I poked around with some of the public timelines and was impressed with this one – Video Game History Timeline.

Screenshot 2017-09-15 at 17.36.28 Time.Graphics – free timeline online maker

In this one document, I think I’ve changed more of my understanding of timelines than ever before.  And, the video game collection is worthy of starting a classroom discussion.  I’m glad that the author made it public.

A private idea?  How about a timeline of students by birthday?  Have an image of each to mark them on the time.

I’d suggest you take a wander over and check it out.  I’ll bet you can think of all kinds of ways to use timelines after you see this.