edtech

Fluco Toolbox: Screencastify

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based on your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever needed to record what you’re doing on your device, such as if you’re trying to demonstrate learning or create a tutorial video for others?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Screencastify

First, the basics:

Name: Screencastify
URL: Chrome Webstore Link
Cost: FREE with paid options
Problem this tool solves: Use this Chrome extension to record your entire screen, tab, or webcam, and save the videos to your Google Drive or local machine.

Sometimes we need to make a quick video of what’s going on on our screens. It could be to demonstrate something, to create a tutorial, or something else. There are many robust, paid options out there, but often, free versions will do. In today’s case, we’re going to look at the free side of Screencastify.

The free version of Screencastify allows users to record videos up to 10 minutes in length, with a maximum of 50 videos recorded per month. Videos will also include Screencastify’s watermark. For the majority of educators, this is all they will ever need. For those who want more, like cropping and trimming and no watermark, a $24 annual fee is charged.

First, download Screencastify from the Chrome Web Store. Add Screencastify to Chrome, and watch the extension install. Once installed, it will always be a black strip of film. Click this to begin using the program.

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When first beginning to use Screencastify, users will need to create an account. Clicking the black film strip icon will walk one through the process. Once done, an account will be set up, and recordings will be saved in Google Drive. Chances are, the user will need to click the black film strip again. Once clicked, this box will now appear:

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Screencastify offers three options for recording- tab, desktop, and cam. Tab recording records only the open tab. Users cannot switch back and forth between tabs to record. Desktop records the entire screen, so switching between tabs is feasible. Finally, cam simply uses the webcam to record video of the user. Users will need to select which of these options they would like to use, as well as any of the other options available under each tab. Then click the orange “Record” button.

Screencastify will do a 3-2-1 countdown, and the recording will begin. Users can pause or end the recording at any time within the time limit.

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If recording a tab or screen, users have a gray toolbar at the bottom of the screen that allows them to use a focused mouse pointer, a pen tool to draw on the screen, and an eraser. There are also options to wipe the screen clean or to embed the webcam in the recording.

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As soon as the recording is ended, a new screen will load. This screen will play the recorded video, and on the far right side will show the information for the recording as it is saved in Drive. Videos can be deleted from this screen, downloaded, or shared. The option to crop/trim is shown, but can only be done with a paid account. The right side of the screen will update as soon as the recording is saved in Drive. Users will be able to copy the link.

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Speaking of Drive, videos taken with Screencastify are saved to a folder in Drive called Screencastify. Videos stored in this folder will need to be renamed once they have uploaded to the user’s Drive, as they are saved with the date and time stamp for a file name. Always make sure to change the name after the file has been uploaded to avoid confusion down the road.

With the recording stored in Drive and renamed, the user is free to share the video as seen fit. Videos are easily uploaded to Google Classroom or shared with other sites. Always check the share settings for the recording first to make sure that the necessary audience can see the video!

Resources

Fluco Toolbox: Remind

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted to be able to keep in touch with parents about their student, all without revealing your personal contact information? Have you wanted to share reminders about trip dates, homework, tests, and more?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Remind

First, the basics:

Name: Remind (Formerly Remind101)
URL: http://www.remind.com
Cost: FREE (with options for paid school & district plans)
Problem this tool solves: Lets you keep in touch with parents and students via email, app, or text message without giving away any personal contact information.

Many times teachers, coaches, club advisors, and more want to keep in touch with parents or students. They might want to share deadlines, upcoming events, or important information. However, they want to do this without giving away any personal contact information. Do you find yourself wanting to do this as well? Then read on!

Remind is a text messaging application that is completely free, and allows teachers to communicate with students and parents, without any need for personal information. Teachers can message individual people, send announcements to the whole class, or start a group discussion (if settings are enabled to allow this). Messages can be received via the website, email, or text message, making it easier to connect with your community where they are.

The first step is to go the Remind website and create an account. If you are part of a Google school, you can easily connect your Google account to the service. Once you’ve created an account, you’ll be taken to your dashboard. Of course, if nothing is there, it will be empty. Once you have classes set up, the first class will show by default, and you can select the other classes as you need them:

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In this example, you can see my default class is a Fluco Game Designers course. I can see any all messages sent to the class, as well as the members. To the left of the screen are further tools for me to utilize.

It’s time to get rid of that empty dashboard. First, click on “Create a Class” on the left side of the screen. A window will pop up, and ask you to provide some basic details about the class. Give the class a name, create a class code (or use the default one provided), and connect the class to a school. If the class is not part of any school, simply select the “Not affiliated” option in the menu. Agree to the terms, and then create the class.

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On the next screen, you can go ahead and add people to your class. You can enter email addresses or phone numbers. If you don’t yet have contact information, or you would rather give your class a code, then explore the other options presented, such as printing a PDF file, telling parents to text the class code to a number, or emailing the code to a group of people. If you prefer not to do anything at this time, simply close the window.

 

Congratulations! You’ve created your first class, and perhaps added some people to it. Now it’s time to take a look at how to change message settings and send messages to your group.

First, we’ll need to customize your message settings. To access the settings, you can either click the circle with your last name initial in the upper left corner, or check the initial welcome message for the class. There’s a link to message settings there.

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Change the types of notifications you receive, and the numbers/email addresses used. If you don’t people to reply to your messages, you can activate this option here, as well as choose to receive copies of class announcements. Please note that whatever you change on this screen applies to ALL classes you have created.

 

Now let’s modify the settings for the class you just created. Return to the dashboard for the class, and click the gear icon in the upper right corner. You can edit the information about a class at any time, and even add more owners to the class. You’ll now notice an option for people in the class to be able to message each other. You’ll want to uncheck this box if you do not want this feature enabled.

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You can send a message directly to everyone in the class from the dashboard of the class by clicking in the message box at the bottom of the screen. You can also send a message by clicking the blue pencil icon by messages. If you click the pencil icon, you’ll see options to send a class announcement, start a group conversation, or send an individual message.

 

Once an option is selected, a new box will appear on the screen. You can create a message, and even translate it into over 70 different languages. There are also options to add files, images, and video to the message. Messages can be sent right away, or scheduled to be sent at a future date. Very handy for scheduling important dates in advance!

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Finally, you’re set! Enjoy Remind, and connecting with all of your parents and students, without the hassle of dealing with personal information.

Worried about how Remind complies with various guidelines and regulations? Check out this link. Remind has provided information to help put one’s mind at ease!

Not in the classroom? You may still find Remind to be a useful tool. I am part of the Remind group for #wvedchat on Twitter. I’ve signed up via text, so whenever there is an upcoming edchat, I’ll get a reminder to my phone about the date, time, and topic.

Resources

Fluco Toolbox: AwesomeDrive and UFO

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wished that you could easily open Microsoft Office files (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint) directly from your Drive, and have any changes sync back to your Drive? Have you hated having to download and then reupload changed files?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: AwesomeDrive and Universal File Opener

First, the basics:

Name: AwesomeDrive / Universal File Opener
URL: AwesomeDrive / UFO
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: Use both of these extensions hand in hand, and you’ll be able to create new Word, Excel, and PowerPoint files from within your Drive. You’ll also be able to edit the files on your computer’s version of Office, and then sync changes back to your Google Drive.

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There’s a wedding set, and you’re invited! Well, it’s like a wedding, in a weird, techy way. I’ve always had people ask if there was a way to get Drive to play well with Office, and thanks to these two extensions by AODocs, there is most definitely a way! I do caution that these extensions are not meant to be used on a Chromebook. However, these extensions will up your PC game, especially if you find yourself working with both Google and Microsoft files on a regular basis.

First, visit the Chrome web store by using the links provided above. Add both Awesome Drive and Universal File Opener to your Chrome browser. Make sure you provide all permissions. Once Universal File Opener is added, you’ll find an alert that says you need to install a sync client to your computer. Don’t worry. This program will allow your Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file to sync changes to your Drive once the file has been saved. It’s a quick install, and once you’ve done that, you’re set.

Now that everything is added and installed, let’s see what kinds of cool tricks we can now do with Drive and Office!

First go to your Drive. With AwesomeDrive, you now have some new features. Try clicking the blue “New” button to create a new file. Before, you were only able to create new Docs, Forms, Sheets, etc. Now, you’ll also see options for Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. When you select one of these, you must name the file, and then it will open with the version of Office installed on your computer.

 

Once you’ve finished editing the document, simply save it and it will automatically sync to your Drive. No more downloading and uploading Office files for you!

Another cool feature you now have, thanks to Universal File Opener, is the ability to open any Word, Excel, or PowerPoint file from Drive. First, locate the file in your Drive. Instead of double-clicking on the file name, move your cursor to the right. You’ll see an icon of a computer with a pencil over it. Hovering over this shows the “Open File” text. Clicking it opens the file in your computer’s version of Office. Make any changes to the file and click Save. A small pop-up will notify you that the file is being synced to Drive. Make sure to save often!

 

After the file has been synced, another notification will pop up on the lower right corner of your screen notifying you that your file has been saved to Drive.

Using both AwesomeDrive and Universal File Opener should definitely make managing your files a lot easier. Give them a try!

Resources

Fluco Toolbox: Kaizena

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever wanted a beefed up version of Google’s comment feature for Docs? Wished you could stop repeatedly typing the same comments over and over, or wanted to add voice comments? Wished that you didn’t need a program that required yet more student accounts and was instant?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Kaizena

First, the basics:

Name: Kaizena
URL: Link Here (Or find with the Add-Ons menu in Google Docs)
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: Kaizena’s recent switch to focusing on Google Docs makes it easy to add text comments, voice comments, track skills, and reuse common comments over and over again. No need for a special account for students, and everything syncs with Google.

If you looked at Kaizena before and cast it aside because you had to be using the website, you might want to give it another shot. I remember looking at this particular tool before and putting it aside because it just seemed like one more thing. However, Kaizena has changed their focus as of the end of January 2018. While their website still exists, and can be used, G Suite schools will find that Kaizena is focusing mainly on their new Google Docs add-on. This add-on is easy to use, and only teachers need accounts to provide feedback. Students do not need any special accounts, just the add-on. Based on that premise alone, I was intrigued, and I think you will be, too.

First, load Google Docs and go to the Add-Ons menu. Search for Kaizena, and add it to your account. Docs will install it in the background. Once installed, open it like any other add-on. A new window will slide into view.

When you first open Kaizena, you will be asked if you are a Teacher or Student. Teachers need to have an account to give others feedback, and clicking the Teacher button will walk you through this process. If you are just a student, chose that route, and give Kaizena any permissions that it asks for to access your Drive and Docs.

Every other time Kaizena loads, you’ll see a screen with a few different options- Voice Message, Track a Skill, Attach a Lesson, and Text Message. Let’s break each of these down:

  • Voice Message: Record your voice and leave a comment for students to listen to later. Students can also download the comment.
  • Track a Skill: This lets you give students feedback in the moment on how they are doing with a particular skill or standard, much like a rubric. Customize and reuse as necessary.
  • Attach a Lesson: When giving feedback, you can attach a lesson that has links to guides or videos about a certain skill, such as capitalizing beginnings of sentences. Reuse your custom lessons again and again!
  • Text Message: Similar to the regular commenting feature, this does just as you think. Write a text comment to be viewed later.

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Since lessons and skills can be used again and again, they are stored and created on Kaizena’s website instead of in the add-on. More on how to create these later in this post.

Let’s look at using Kaizena. First, have a student share a document with you. This can be done in many ways, but chances are that Google Classroom is the most common method. Open the student’s document, and then start Kaizena from the Add-Ons menu.

Read through the student document. When you are ready to make a comment, highlight the text to be commented on. Choose to either make a text comment or a voice comment. Do note that you can change the color of the text that has been highlighted. This can be handy if you and a collaborative teacher will both be giving feedback on the document.

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If choosing to make a text comment, simply type the text and post. If choosing to make a voice comment, first agree to allow Kaizena to access your microphone. Then record your comment. Notice that highlighted text stays highlighted as long as the Kaizena add-on is active. It will be hidden from the screen if turned off, but not deleted.

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Example of a text comment with highlighted text.

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Example of a voice comment with highlight

All comments are immediately available to the student. All the student must do is open the same document and load Kaizena from the Add-On menu. They will be able to review any comments left by the teacher, and leave replies, just as with the regular Google commenting feature.

Commenting, whether text or voice, is a great tool, but Kaizena lets you do more than just that. By utilizing their website, you can create reusable lessons or track skills. Let’s take a closer look at each of those.

Any time you make a comment on a student’s work, you can attach a lesson. Lessons can be customized and reused. They must be made on the website side of Kaizena. For example, if students are always forgetting to capitalize letters at the beginning of sentences, you can create a lesson on capitalizing that includes what students should do, and provides links to other websites or resources.

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Click + New Lesson to create a new lesson for your Kaizena account.

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Add comments that include links to videos or websites. You can even add voice comments as well!

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Go back to the document and Add a Lesson. Start typing the name of the lesson, and click to add it.

Track a Skill is like a mini rubric. If you are focusing the assignment around certain skills, such as organization, this tool will let you track student progress toward mastery. Create a skill on the website and then edit to provide further details. You can describe what it means to receive each level, or modify the number of levels for a skill.

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On the website, click the + New Skill button to begin.

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Name the skill, and edit the different levels, as well as provide descriptions for each.

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Go back to the document and Add a Skill. Start typing the name of the skill, and click to add it.

With all of these extra features, Kaizena takes adding comments and feedback to student work to the next level. Step up your feedback game and give this add-on a try!

Resources

Fluco Toolbox: Formenate

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever had a multiple choice quiz set up in Google Docs, and wished you could easily make it a Google Form as well? Ever wished that the process was quick and easy?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Formenate

First, the basics:

Name: Formenate
URL: Go here (or get the Add-On in Google Docs)
Cost: FREE
Problem this tool solves: Take a multiple choice quiz that has been set up in Google Docs and easily convert it into a Google Form. Don’t spend wasted time copying and pasting each question. Just select your desired options and go!

I stumbled onto this Google Docs add-on by accident. A colleague had told me to check out another add-on that allowed a user to convert a quiz set up in Google Docs to Google Forms. I installed it, and found it was almost as much of a hassle as simply copying and pasting. It was quickly removed, and I searched for another option instead. Formenate popped up in my results so I gave it a try. Right away I knew my teachers would love it!

First things first: Open up Google Docs and click the Add-On menu button. From there, select to get add-ons. Formenate will appear after a search, so go ahead and install it. Give Google Docs time to install the add-on before going to the next step. It will take less than a minute.

Once the add-on is installed, then you’re ready to convert a Docs quiz to Forms. First, open your multiple choice quiz in Docs, or create a new quiz. Formenate requires that the quiz be set up as a Numbered list. If you’re creating a quiz from scratch, then this is easy. Just make sure to select the icon on the right side of the that has numbers 1, 2, 3 and what looks like writing beside it. Now, type in 1. and press space. Your document will automatically be formatted. Finish typing in the question and press enter. The next line is automatically formatted to be 2., but if you press the tab key on your keyboard, you can tab in and have the options to add answer choices a, b, c, etc. Use the decrease indent button to move back to using numbers and to start the next question.

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Make sure to select Numbered List before creating your form. Make sure any already created quiz is formatted this way!

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Decrease Indent button

Once the quiz is created, go to the Add-Ons menu button. Look for Formenate and select “Start”. A new window slides in from the right side of the document. Select the options that apply to your quiz. Give it a title, select if all questions are required (or not), whether to collect email, and so on. If you need Forms to grade, make sure to select to make it a quiz at the bottom. Choose how many points each question will be. If the option you are looking for is not available, don’t worry. You’ll always be able to edit the settings once the Doc has been turned into a form.

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After all necessary options have been selected, click the blue “Formenate” button. If you have done everything correctly, you’ll see a red “Success!” message below this button, and if you scroll down, you’ll find links to preview your form, as well as to edit it. Your form is saved in the main area of your Drive, so make sure to move it to the appropriate folder.

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Now that your quiz is in Google Forms, you can finish making any necessary changes. Don’t forget to complete the answer key portion! Formenate doesn’t do this, so it must be done in Forms instead.

This tool will help you save so much time, and you can now have copies of the Doc and Form version of your quiz. Easily edit the Doc version of the quiz and create a new form with the click of a button. From looking at the creator’s website, it seems that there will be an add-on in the future that will allow you to convert from a Form to a Doc. If one is released, you can bet it’ll be featured on the Toolbox!

Resources

Minecraft & the Ideal School, Day 2

When you let your imagination run free, you’re sure to come up with some amazing ideas. That’s exactly what some of my students are doing with the Ideal School project.

Day 2 began with students picking up where they left off. Many of them had completed half of the work with the 3 different Padlets. They spent some time today working on their School Design questions, which many enjoyed, and of course, some got distracted with all of their ideas. There was definitely some great discussion between students about the facilities they would offer, and how they would design their schools.

Once work was completed on all 3 Padlets, students were able to begin Task 4- Sketching their School Design. Prior to the class meeting, I had modified this section of my original lesson plan. I wanted students to be able to messy sketch and just get an idea of what would be in their schools and where it would be located. I didn’t want them to have to worry about carefully plotting the design layout just yet. I had made my own samples of a messy sketch and a good sketch to share with them in Google Classroom. My samples only show a small section of a school building.

This is where many students ended class. They were laying out the messy sketch designs. Some will have a school with multiple floors, and others will have a single level school. I even had some students want to come down during dismissal time to continue working on their sketches. This is perfectly fine by me, and I love that they are eager to keep working outside of class time. Students will be able to move on to the second sketch when they show me their completed messy sketch and I make sure that the requirements for the school are met. They will not get to the end of the project, only to be told they are missing something.

Overall, day 2 went well, but I think that was mostly because I spent time before the class tweaking the lesson plan again so that it was more specific, and really got students to put some thought into their work. Originally I just had them graphing their sketch with all measurements and such, but I realized that this was not a good idea because they would have had no idea how the overall sketch of the school should look. I felt that this could lead to mistakes and frustration. I also added into the lesson that the messy sketch needed my approval before the good sketch so that I could make sure that all required pieces were included.

This revision led to me creating my own examples of both the good sketch and the messy sketch. I wanted students to see a model so that it would be clearer to them, and many did appreciate it. I am really hoping that the graph version turns out well, because I have so many students who struggle with this when it comes to Minecraft. They have trouble creating their design on graph paper so that it transfers easily into Minecraft.

I am certain that my changes to Day 2’s part of the lesson made the difference in how the activity proceeded. Day 3 is meant to be a continuation of Day 2, and I expect most students to finish the messy sketch and be working on their good graph copy. Below, you can see the work from Day 2 from some of the students:

Very much looking forward to Day 3 next week. I am looking forward to seeing what the students come up with for their ideal schools!

Fluco Toolbox: Extract Pages from a PDF

Welcome to Fluco Toolbox, a series of posts that showcases potential edtech tools for the Fluvanna County classroom. Each post will discuss the tool, the type of problems it can help solve, and how it can be used in the classroom. If you’re a Fluvanna County staff member and want to learn more about using the tool in your own classroom, please schedule to see your ITRT and we will develop professional development based around your needs. If you’ve stumbled upon this post and you’re not part of the district, no worries! Feel free to use the information provided to jumpstart your own research.

Have you ever opened a PDF document and needed to extra just a few pages from it into a separate file? Tried to upload a large PDF as a resource, when you only needed one page and had the site tell you the file is too large?

Today’s Fluco Toolbox tool is: Extract a Page from a PDF

First, the basics:

Name: Extract a Page from a PDF
URL: n/a
Cost: n/a
Problem this tool solves: Easily use this trick to extract one page from a PDF and save as its own file instead.

Today’s Fluco Toolbox is more of a trick than a tool, but it is a handy one at that. One weekend, my wife was trying to upload documentation from her recent Army Reserves drill. She had a copy of the sign in roster. The file was a PDF, and included 26 pages of soldiers who had signed in during the 4 day drill. She really only needed page 16, the one that showed her own attendance each day. When she tried to upload the entire file, the website told her the file was too large. I stepped in and began researching, thinking there had to be a way, and turns out, there is!

When you think of working with PDFs, you might think you would certainly need the paid version of Adobe Acrobat to extract a page. It would certainly seem like it, especially since this can’t be done with the free version. However, all you really need is your Google Chrome browser.

First, open Google Chrome. Open a new tab if you wish; it doesn’t matter. Then press CTRL + O on the keyboard. This shortcut will open the Open File window. Locate the PDF you wish to use and open it.

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Next, locate the printer icon in the upper right. Chrome sometimes hides this bar, but as long as you hover your mouse on the screen, it will appear.

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Once the printer dialog box is open, change the destination to print to. Typically, the default printer for your device appears, but when you change the destination, the option you are looking for is “Save as PDF”. Next, type in the page/s you would like to extract. Make sure you have looked at your PDF in advance to make this easier.

Finally, click “Save” and choose a new location for your PDF file on your computer. Once you’ve done that, confirm the save, and then you are set.

Save this trick for a rainy day. Life becomes a lot easier when you can create a separate PDF of only the pages you need from a large one!

Resources