Image Capture: Best Little App That Nobody Knows About

There is beauty in simplicity.  I appreciate those little tools that do one thing, do it well, and don’t try to be anything else.  Did you know that hidden in your Apps folder on your Mac is a little app called Image Capture?

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What does it do? It takes pictures or videos from a device (camera, iPad, iPhone) and lets you import them to your Mac and save them wherever you want.

That’s it.

When do I use it?  When I want to take a few images or video that I shot on my school iPad and copy them to my desktop or a folder on my Mac.  I DO NOT want to add these images or videos to my photo library.  I DO NOT want to sync the iPad or back it up.  I DO NOT want to copy everything.  I just want the pictures and videos I want, where I want them.  Image capture does just that.

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A New Normal

Call it what you will. A desperate need for change. A longing for new adventure.  A mid-life crisis. I’m calling it an opportunity that only God could provide. I know for a fact that this time last August as I sat at my desk in Orange, California exporting and importing student rosters from our SIS to various online services, while patiently waiting for a cartload of classroom iPads to sync, I would never have guessed that a year later I would be sitting in a 6th floor apartment in Jinqiao, Shanghai, China writing a blog post about my “new normal”. Yet here I am, feeling – at least for now – that this is where I am supposed to be, ready to embrace a new challenge and see how best I can use my gifts to serve the community here at Concordia International School.


So what are some of my new “normals”?

Walking to work. Okay so walking to work isn’t REALLY anything new for me. I did that almost daily in Orange, but there I always had the option to drive.  Here I do not own a car. Until I buy a bike or a scooter, my Reeboks are the vehicle of choice.  Oh, and here in Shanghai pedestrians do not have the right of way.  Vehicles do not have to stop to turn right on red, and the hundreds of electric scooters see red lights as just a suggestion.  Seriously, they’re everywhere jetting silently in and around traffic like mini stealth fighters . Want to cross a street?  Look both ways.  Twice.

Speaking of not having a car, here is something else worth noting.  As I sat at LAX on Saturday, August 1 waiting for my 15 hour flight to Shanghai, I realized for the first time in over 40 years – I had NO KEYS.  No house key. No work keys, No car key. Nothing. Sure, it felt strange, but in a way it was also a little exhilarating.


Mandarin. Guess what they speak in China? This is going to be a challenge. Not just speaking, but reading. It’s everywhere – signs, labels, text messages from my mobile provider.  Many of my fellow teachers are doing a wonderful job picking it up.  I’m trying, but listening and mastering the correct tones for speaking is challenging.  Thankfully people here in Jinqiao speak English and are quite patient with me.    I can order a grande latte at Starbucks – there are two close by –  and they know exactly what I mean.  Still, I need to be intentional about learning Mandarin.  This little bubble of Shanghai is populated by so many ex-pats that it is quite possible to live here and never learn any of the language.  I hope that will not be the case for me.  I did hear a joke that hit a little close to home.  What do you call someone who speaks three languages? Trilingual.  What do you call someone who speaks two languages? Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language? American.


The best Internet is at school.  You’ve no doubt heard of the “Great Firewall of China”.  Basically sites like YouTube,  Facebook, Google, Twitter, and many others are blocked. Residential service, at least where I live, is much slower that it is back in the states.  At school, however, they have what our IT director calls “International” or “White-listed” Internet.  Basically this means that students and teachers who want to check social media like Facebook, Twitter, Google Hangouts, or watch YouTube, I need to do it at school.  It also means that while we can access and use Google Apps at school, for students to work with Google Apps at home requires setting up a VPN.  A little bit backwards compared to what we have back in the states, right?

Dependancy.  Back home I considered myself to be mostly self-sufficient, and I was very comfortable with that. Moving here is a big step out of my comfort zone. It means giving up a big chunk of that self reliance to be dependent on  the help of others. It’s a matter of survival, but it’s a good thing. The community here at Concordia is amazing. They are welcoming, helpful, caring, and have gone above and beyond to make sure newbies like myself don’t fall through the cracks.  As a result in just three weeks time I have developed some amazing friendships.  We work together, learn together, and play together.  In many respects, it is similar to the type of connections I’ve made at Discovery Summer Institutes.  I’ve been told by several “old timers” that this is a community unlike other international schools and I’m thankful to be a part of it.

I am quickly learning that you can’t teach at Concordia and not be a “lifelong learner”.  The passion these people have for learning and teaching was evident from day one.  Here you have a group of teachers at the top of their game, doing what they love, for the benefit of the students and the school community.  In some respects, as a newbie here it’s a little intimidating.  Am I up to the challenge?  Can I live up to the expectations?  At dinner last night with several other new teachers, I was able to hear one of my colleagues express the same feelings.  What a relief it was to hear that!   I am not alone. What a comfort it is to realize that in spite if any doubts we might have, that this is where we are meant to be.  This time, in this place. It is all part of the plan. A plan that is bigger than just me.

Sharing Digital Kits

As many of you know, Digital Storytelling (or rather, Storytelling with Digital Tools) is one of my passions and is a great way for students to reflect on their learning.  Getting the photos you want in the hands of students can be a challenge.


Don’t send students to Google and tell them to find pictures.


Provide your students with collections of images to use for their project.  These are often referred to as Digital Kits.


Our third grade students took a field trip to the museum.  During the trip, teachers, students, and chaperones took photos.  When the class returned, the photos were collected and the best ones were uploaded to a folder in the teacher’s Dropbox account.

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Here’s where the magic happens.  From Dropbox, you can right-click and get a link to that folder containing all your images.  THEN you can turn that link into a QR Code using a simple tool like  Print that QR Code and let students scan it with their iPads.  They now have access to all the images in that folder.

Students were then told to find and save 6 images that they wanted to use to tell their story about their trip to the museum.  Once those images were saved to the camera roll on the iPad, they could use iMovie, 30 Hands, or other storytelling tools to create their story.


Second grade teachers took photos of a science experiment performed in class.  They captured the setup, the experiment itself, and the end results.  Those photos were put in a Dropbox folder and shared with students using a QR Code.

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Students then scanned the code, saved the pictures to the camera roll, and then used those pictures to create a story of their experiment using the 30 Hands app.   They needed to arrange the photos in sequence and record their voice explaining how they set up the experiment, what happened, and what they learned as a result.  Listening to these “video lab reports” teachers were able to get a clear indication of student understanding.


Don’t use dropbox?  You can use, Google Drive, or another app.  The key is to use something that lets you upload a collection of photos and share them with a link that can be turned into a QR Code.

We also found that many QR Code scanner apps for the iPad use their own built in browsers to open web links.  I found it helpful to go to the settings on these apps and change the default so it automatically opens links in Safari.  This makes it easier for students to save images by just tapping and holding on an image until the “SAVE IMAGE” option pops up.



Make a Google Slide Resource Page

For my primary students, rather than let them search the Internet themselves, I like to provide resource links for them when they research online.  Tomorrow, grade 1 will be coming to the computer lab to research whales.  In the past, I’ve created a simple page with hyperlinks leading them to online resources and videos that their teacher and I have already viewed and approved.  This time I thought I would try something a little different and more visually interesting using Google Slides.

After a little playing around, here is what I came up with. (Click the image below)

Whales - Google Slides

The trick here is to make the page appear full screen so the students see just the slide.   To do this, I created a new slide presentation with one slide.  Added images and hyperlinks to my resources,  then clicked PRESENT to get a URL for just that one slide.

Next I made one minor tweak to the URL, changing edit# to present?  So the new URL looks like this.

The result is a hyperlink that automatically opens as a full screen slide with active links. Sure this is a little more work, but don’t you think it is more interesting than just a list of hyperlinks?

Thanks to Lisa Highfill and her amazing “HyperDocs”  presentation for inspiring this idea.

Be Active, Not Passive

Last month I overheard a conversation between two teachers looking through the DVD’s in the school library. Allow me to paraphrase the conversation.

“What do you think of this one?”

“Hmm. I think that’s okay. I might have used it last year.”

“Is it age appropriate for my kids?”

“It’s from <publisher name> so you should be okay.”

“Great. I need something to show this afternoon. This’ll work.”

I find it difficult to accept that in 2014, with all the media available to us, that many teachers still do not preview videos before showing them to their students.  I know that teacher time is a valuable thing, but so is face to face lesson time with students. Why would anyone want to squander that time by with a video that may not even meet your content standards? Or worse yet, use a video as “filler”?

Going through my old files yesterday, I came across this classic Hall Davidson handout. I don’t know if it is even available online anymore, but I hope he won’t mind me sharing it.


Most of us have moved beyond VHS tapes, but consider the wealth of video resources we have available through YouTube, SchoolTube, TeacherTube, and subscription services like Discovery Education.  There are so many options to create powerful learning experiences for our students.  But as Uncle Ben said in Spiderman, “With great power comes great responsibility.”  Let me point out some strategies for ACTIVE video watching that are still quite relevant today.

  • Preview the video before you show it. This seems obvious but it’s easy to skip this important step. Even if another teacher has recommended a video WATCH IT YOURSELF first. You don’t want to be surprised by content. PLUS knowing the content ahead of time will help you plan activities that will help your students learn the most from the video.
  • Use short segments rather than full videos.  If the concept you want to teach can be demonstrated in a 90 second video clip, you don’t need to use up valuable face to face time with students showing a full 20-30 minute video.
  • Use the PAUSE button. Want to make sure your students got that important concept? Pause. Ask questions.  And if you need to, back up the video and show that part again.  It’s just like re-reading an important passage of text. Besides, the fact that YOU are actively watching and making sure THEY are paying attention sends a message to the students that “This IS important.”  You send the opposite message if you just let them passively watch while you sit at your desk and grade papers.
  • Have a plan! Know what you want your students to know after watching a video clip.  Have a pre-video activity (something that prepares them to watch) and a post video activity  (something that you can use to assess whether or not they learned the concept).
Stuck for ideas?  Check out the many SOS Strategies for actively using Video and Media in your classroom.  Here are just a few ideas to make watching videos more meaningful:
These are just a small sample of the many SOS ideas. Click the link below for a list of all the SOS Strategies:

How to BE

Just think of the noise!


The noise from the girls.
The noise from the boys.
All wired from a summer of fun and sweet treats.
With new shirts on their backs and new shoes on their feets.
In your room they’ll come bounding with sweet shrieks of glee.
“I dare you!” They taunt, “You just try to teach me!”

You feel your heart pound. You wake up in a sweat.
“No this can’t happen now. I’m not ready. Not yet!”
“This frightening vision just cannot be true!”
“Not today. Not tomorrow. There is too much to do!”
“I must file my file folders, post signs to my doors.”
“I must dust off my desktop, and straighten my drawers.”
“My bulletin boards have no cute frilly borders.”
“And I’m missing the last of my pencil box orders.”

STOP right there! Don’t tense up in terrible tizzy.
All this whining and stressing is making me dizzy.
Just calm down. Take a breath. There you go. Feeling better?
Let me tell you the reason for this rhyming letter.

Sure the first day of school is practically here,
but let me assure you, there’s nothing to fear.
Those unchecked to-do’s on your list may seem huge,
But when you take a step back they’re just lipstick and rouge.
When kids arrive that first day, it’s important to see
You don’t have to be perfectly ready . . . just . . . BE

BE there to greet them with a smile on your face.
BE kind so they know that your room’s a safe place.
BE attentive and listen; they may have fears too.
BE humble. Remember it’s not all about you.
BE curious. Ask questions that make their minds fly.
BE unsatisfied with answers if they can’t explain why.
BE okay with mistakes. Show you learn when you fail.
and BE sure they know that’s what it takes to prevail.

So in June when your students think back to this Fall
They may not recall what was stuck on the wall.
And those signs on the door may not stick in their head
But is all that important? I think not. So instead
I pray they’ll say, “My teacher cared about me.”
“And a person like that is what I’ll try to BE.”

Old Dog Still Good for a Few Tricks

In 2006 Microsoft released the latest version of PhotoStory3 (version 3.1). If you’re looking for a simple tool for creating digital stories with images and voice, and you’re a Windows user, this still remains an excellent choice.


It’s 2014. Why am I writing about Windows software that hasn’t been updated in 8 years? Because it still works.  And by “works” I mean it still works for student projects better than most, if not all, other storytelling telling tools out there.  Believe me, I’ve looked at dozens of other web 2.0 tools and apps and still have not found one that has convinced me to switch away from PhotoStory because I’ve not yet found one that meets all these requirements:

  1. No student login required
  2. Gives student a place to write narration notes right in the app
  3. Record student voice right in the app
  4. Give student control over image pan & zoom
  5. Create or Add background music
  6. Export as a video file

As my school transitions away from Windows machines toward Chromebooks, iPads, and BYOD I miss the straightforward, step-by-step approach PhotoStory uses for building a story.  iMovie for iPad is an excellent tool and is almost as easy for students to use as PhotoStory, but unless you’re buying a new iPad, it’s not free.  30 Hands has greater simplicity and ease of use, but falls short if I want to control image pan and zoom.

In the Chromebook world, I’ve searched the Chrome Web Store for a PhotoStory replacement, but everything I’ve looked at seems to come up short.  So far, Narrable and Movenote are the ones that come the closest, but I still long for a tool that gives me pan and zoom control for my images and can export as a video file.  Oh sure, there are some amazingly powerful video editing tools like WeVideo, that allow a myriad of transitions, effects, and audio/video channels, but I’m not sure I want my second & third graders logging in with a Google ID and working with all the embedded distractions provided by something this sophisticated.

For now I’ll keep bringing my students to the computer lab to work on PhotoStory 3 projects and continue recommending it to elementary teachers until something better comes along.

How to Upload Video to Your iDevice

Yesterday I had one of those “Ah-Ha” moments.  It came when I saw this tweet from Gregory Kulowiec.

Gregory Kulowiec Tweet

This got my head spinning with possibilities.  I know how take video or photos from an iPad Camera Roll and get it to my computer using the Google Drive, Box, or DropBox apps, but getting video from those apps to my iPad has been problematic.  What if I want to provide my students with video clips* and have them add their own voiceover, or edit them together with other clips or their own videos? Using “open in” it looks like I should be able to do this.

Armed with this new bit of information, it was time to play.  Here is what I discovered…

This definitely opens up some new possibilities for student media projects.

*NOTE: You may have an issue if you want to share out one video with a whole class. See Bill’s comment below.

Just Share It!

Have you been looking for an easy way for students to share their video projects with you?  If you’re a Google Apps school, then the answer is right there in front of you.

As an added bonus, videos you’ve uploaded to Google Drive and videos shared with you can be embedded in Google Sites.  Just insert the video from your Google Drive.  This is a wonderful way to share student projects.


Unfortunately, this only works in Sites.  If you want to embed a video in Google Slides (Presentations), your only option is still YouTube.

Add the Google Drive Mobile app to the mix and students can record videos on their Android, iPhone, or iPad and upload them directly to their Google Drive account on your school’s Google Apps domain.  With 30GB of space, students have plenty of room if they avoid uploading bulky HD Video files.

As for the “Warning” in my video, I discovered some issues when you try uploading a video from an iPad or mobile device connected to our school network.  Contacting Google support was both easy and helpful. They assisted me in troubleshooting the issue and determined that there may be some issues with our filter/firewall. For those of you who like technical stuff, here is what Google Drive needs in order to work properly:

Embed It in Google Sites

Let’s face it. I’m a Google fanboy. I’m for the total Googlification of my life. I use docs, maps, hangouts, gmail, Chromebooks, Android, and all sorts of other things Google, even Google+. I’ve also built numerous Google sites and have students do the same for class projects. Here is where I’ve recently run into a problem.

I like to embed stuff. All sorts of stuff on my sites. Lately it seems Google has a problem taking embed coded from anything that isn’t from Google. Youtube, Forms, Maps are not a problem but any other code I seem to embed using the iFrame gadget or simply by switching to HTML view and pasting just seems to come up blank. This has been frustrating.

Today I discovered this while perusing the Google help forums.  It appears that the issue is not so much with sites, but with the Chrome browser.  Apparently Chrome wants any content embedded on your page to have the same security as the page itself.  Since Google sites are HTTPS, then any embedded content must also be HTTPS.  If you try to embed HTTP content on your site, Chrome will see it as a security risk and not display it.  If you are having embed difficulties, here is what I did to “correct” the issue.

  1. Make sure you have the latest version of Chrome.  Go to your Chrome SETTINGS and click HELP.  On my Mac, the current version is 30.0.1599.101ChromeVersion-1
  2. Embed the content you want to embed on to your page in Google Sites. You can use the iFrame Gadget or just switch to HTML view and paste the code where you want it to go. Save your page.
  3. The embedded content will likely not display, but look up in your Omnibox (where the page URL appears in your browser.) Right next to the bookmark bar, you should see a shield.shield1
  4. Click the shield and then click “Load unsafe script”shield2

The embedded content should display now.  I have not found a setting to always allow this so you will have to keep an eye out for the shield when your pages do not look right.  For now at least, it works.