When I deliver professional development activities with teachers, I often need to point them to easy and effective online tools for working with media. Typically, they need to learn how to optimise images for the web (eg cropping and sizing), do some simple tweaks to correct exposure problems, or add some simple labels to images. Most don’t have the budget or inclination to commit to ‘proper’ image editing software such as Photoshop or Gimp.
Picnik has been a favourite since even those with limited skills and confidence find it an easy way to get started on working with images for the web. And since it is an online tool accessed with a browser, no installation is necessary. It was well-deserved recognition when Picnik was acquired and incorporated into Google+. Unfortunately Picnik has now announced it is closing its stand-alone site on 19 April 2012, so those without a Google+ account will be out of luck.
The good news is that in the last day or so, PicMonkey has become available. PicMonkey has a very similar interface and feature set to Picnik (see the screenshot) so those familiar with Picnik will find it easy to use. Like Picnik, PicMonkey has a set of free features and some which require registration for a premium account.
The really good news is that PicMonkey seems at first glance to be better than Picnik – it’s significantly faster to load and apply edits. From now on, I’ll be pointing teachers to PicMonkey as a fast and simple tool for editing and optimising images for the web.
Have you used MyBlogLog in the past to track readers of your WordPress blog? You probably either used a plugin to do the tracking, or perhaps a short snippet of code added to your theme. Although it’s preferable to use the plugin approach, sometimes adding the code was necessary in the past to avoid incompatibilities with other plugins.
Now that Yahoo’s MyBlogLog is no more, you should disable the tracking, no matter which approach you used. If you don’t, your WordPress site is likely to slow down alarmingly, driving away readers. Note that since the tracking code is not normally included in admin pages, the poor performance may only be apparent when viewing the blog, not when using the dashboard.
If you used a plugin, uninstalling the MyBlogLog tracking plugin in the normal way through the dashboard should be straightforward.
If your WordPress site used the code approach to MyBlogLog tracking, you will need to manually edit the theme files to remove the code. Here’s what I did to remove the tracking code:
Take a backup of your site :-)
In the dashboard, click on Appearance > Editor in the left sidebar
Choose the Header file (header.php) in the list of files in the right sidebar
Scroll down until you find the tag. Just below that you will probably see the tracking code as highlighted in the sample below:
Delete the highlighted text – ie all the text between and including the script tags. (Note that the id code will be different from that shown. Also, the code may have been inserted in a different file – if you can’t find it in header.php, you will need to browse the theme files to find it.)
When you are confident you have made an accurate edit without deleting any other code, save your changes.
Disclaimer: since every site is different, I make no guarantee that this will work for your site. This is what worked for me. Remember that manually editing theme files is risky, so make sure you have a back up first and be very careful if you are not familiar with this process!
When the iPad was first announced I posted some brief thoughts about its potential for education. Since then, it’s been released and I’ve had the chance to spend some time playing with one. It’s been an opportunity to see to what extent the device itself and the software available would be a useful tool for supporting the work of teachers and lecturers.
My initial impressions that the iPad functionally resembles a giant iPod Touch have been confirmed. Still, I use my iPod Touch all the time, so all the advantages of a bigger display are very attractive. The key question for me is to what extent the bigger display makes the iPad a great device not just for consuming media but also for generating content.
The iPad is a great device to view content – it’s fast and the display quality is impressive. And of course there is a huge number of apps available for it, given that it’ll run existing iPhone / iPod Touch apps as well as apps developed just for the iPad.
But as a working teacher I also want to generate content. And it has limitations here:
Want to edit online content such as Moodle or mediawiki pages? Results vary – you’ll almost certainly need to use HTML or wiki markup since the iPad is unlikely to work with wysiswyg editors. I don’t mind that – in fact I prefer to use HTML or wiki markup – but many teachers will find this a real drawback. And things are worse if you’re one of the many educators using the PBWorks wiki- at the time of writing it was impossible to edit a page with the iPad.
You can’t print. So you’ll need to rely on a desktop or laptop computer for this.
Using Google Docs? At the time of writing you can view but not edit using an iPad.
Want to create media resources? There are useful apps becoming available, but the lack of native support for accessing the iPad file system and the use of proprietary file formats is likely to be a barrier. My two-year-old grandson loved using the built-in mike to make that cursed animated cat speak funny – but there is no obvious way just yet to record audio to standard file formats that can be moved easily to a desktop, edited in other applications and published.
In my mind, Apple has focused too much on the entertainment aspect of its portable devices and neglected their use for real-world work. I’d like to see both, and I don’t believe they need to be mutually exclusive. The iPad is not quite ready to meet my needs as a working teacher – can’t wait to see the next version.