Monday, May 23, 2016

5 Tips for Better Smartphone Photos

Summer is almost upon us!

The best camera is the one you have with you, and most likely that is the camera on your smartphone. But, while your phone can almost certainly take good photos, it might need a little help to be the best camera it can be. Here are 5 tips for taking great shots with your smartphone camera.

1. Line up your Photo
How you frame your shot can be the difference between a good image and a bad one, regardless of the quality of the camera. Ensuring your subject has the right amount of prominence is key to a well-framed shot.

The general rules are:
  • Fill the frame with your subject and limit the superfluous.
  • Use the camera app’s built-in grid to line things up vertically, horizontally and according to the rule of thirds. 
  • Holding your phone horizontally will create photos that look better when viewed on a widescreen computer or television (i.e. no vertical black bars on each side of the photo).
  • Use selective focus on your subject (press on your focal point). Once close in, this will give you the most amount of ‘depth of field’ that your smartphone’s camera can muster.

2. Get Close
 One of the biggest problems with smartphones is that they don't provide optical zoom. That means anytime you zoom with them, you are going to end up with a blurry picture. You can crop later, but the less cropping and editing you do results in a better photo. This means you need to get close to your subject.

You can practice by finding small objects to photo and take a picture from where you would normally take it, and then take another photo after stepping in closer. You'll see the difference right away.

3. Lighting
Make sure there are no shadows in the way of your subject you can turn on your flash, or move your subject for a better photo. Avoid harsh mid-day lighting. If possible, move your subject to the shade. A second smartphone works great to provide a secondary light source in low light situations. 

4. Avoid the Blur
Moving your elbows into the sides of your body can give a bit of extra stability where needed, as can physically resting the smartphone on a stable object.
If you want perfect stability, it is possible to get a tripod attachment that you can slot your smartphone into. You’ll probably look a bit silly bringing a tripod out and about to use with your phone, but I have seen and achieved myself some fantastic shots with a tripod in hand.

5. Accessorize!
GripTight GorrilaPod Stand

Amir 3 Clip-on Lenses

Zonman® Mini LED Light Portable Pocket Spotlight+Bluetooth Wireless Remote

Software - For photo editing on your smartphone: 

Adobe Photoshop Express App
Free: iOS/Android

Free: iOS/Android

Now get on out there, take some awesome pictures, and have a great summer!

Monday, May 16, 2016

Avery Design and Print Online

Avery Design and Print Online

Avery Design & Print Online

Personalize and print projects right from your device.

I'm an office store junkie. I am particularly fond of the Avery section of the store. Years ago, I discovered Avery Design and Print Online, and I have used it for work and personal projects ever since. It's easy to use, and I get professional results without an exorbitant price tag.

Compatible with PC and Mac
No Download
Thousands of pre-designed (and blank) templates
Save your design online
Import your own images or use Avery image library
How many times have you spent hours creating handwritten tags and labels? or struggled with Publisher or Word to get a design that worked for your project? Check out Avery Design and Print Online for an easy, time-saving option.
Here are a couple of resources especially for elementary/middle school teachers:


I could hardly contain myself when Avery recently released a tablet version of Design and Print. 

I downloaded the app, signed in, and there were all my projects I had saved online! Easy to create new designs, use mail merge, and edit existing designs right from my iPad!

Click the links below to install the app on your device.

Download the App

Download the iPad app

Download the Android app

Download the Kindle app

Monday, May 9, 2016

Privacy Checkup

Privacy Checkup
I am not one to worry too much about online privacy. After all, I lead a pretty boring life, and I’m very careful about what I post. However, I do take the ownership of my personal data seriously. I have members of my family that don’t want pictures posted on social media, and I respect their wishes. Sometimes, as careful as I am, I feel invaded.  It drives me a little crazy when I shop online for say, bookends, and every website I visit after that search sports an ad for bookends. Really?
It is a good habit to perform privacy checks every so often. Here are a couple of tips to get you started:


Thanks to a recent viral post from Imgur user XZorbys, here is a list of websites to check out and see what exactly Google knows about you.
  1. To see your search history: This will show you how much you search and what.
  2. To understand what ads the company shows you and why: You can adjust these ad settings and turn them off.
  3. To see what places Google knows you've gone to: Here, you can search by year, month, or day.
  4. To go through every piece of information the company has about you: Check out all your data from every single Google product you use by exporting it.
  5. To find out what Google products you're using: With this feature, you can see what products you've used and how much information (like docs or contacts) is in them.
  6. To look at what your search history on YouTube is like: Look at how many times you've actually listened to "Sugar" by Maroon 5 by glancing at your search history.
  7. To see what exactly you've given permission to: Ever just let some random website use your Google account to log in or do something else? You can see what those apps and sites are.
Note: Your District 50 account will not have any results for search history and ad settings as we have Google for education accounts.
Don’t forget to do this checkup on any personal Google accounts you may own. Be sure to log into Chrome with your personal account before visiting the websites listed above.


It’s hard to keep up with the changes Facebook makes to Privacy. An easy way to see just how your Profile looks to others is to go to your Profile, click the “…” next to Activity Log and then click View As. You’ll be able to see exactly what the Public sees.
(To close this view, simply click the X in the black bar just below the blue Facebook bar at the top of your screen.)

Bonus Tip

Finally, check out a website called MyPermissions.
MyPermissions makes the data security process very easy by linking directly to app permissions pages for services like Google and Facebook.

MyPermissions doesn't require access at all to your accounts. It's basically a simple but really useful bookmark to the permissions pages for Facebook, Twitter, Google, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Dropbox, Instagram, and Flickr—services that often are made more robust when you connect other apps to them.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Google Drive Plugin for Office

Google and Microsoft -
Together at Last!
Google and Microsoft.png
Google Drive is a great resource, as it makes collaborating on projects much easier and provides a safe place to back up files - however, it does lack some of the functionality and formatting of Microsoft Office. With this Microsoft Office/Google Drive Plugin, you'll easily be able to upload and access Microsoft Office files through Google Drive, as well as integrate some of Google Drive's features into the Office environment. Google Drive is a great substitute for a network folder, as it has unlimited storage. With this plugin, you'll be able to easily move all of your Office documents to Google Drive without losing the formatting.
Note: Sorry, my Mac friends, the plug-in does not work with Office for Mac.
Installing the Plugin
A plugin is a small program that can easily be installed, usually, it modifies some aspect of a web-browser. In this particular instance, the plugin modifies both Google Drive and Microsoft Office (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint) to create an overlap between their features. Because plugins are so small, you will not need administrative credentials on your account to install it.
  1. To download the plugin installer click here. The download button is at the bottom of the page.
  2. You will then be prompted to accept Google's Terms of Service. Click "Accept and Install".
  3. The executable file (driveforoffice.exe) should appear at the bottom of your browser, click it. (If you do not see it at the bottom of your browser, check your downloads folder (C:\Users\username\Downloads). Double-click on the file to run it.)
  4. This will launch the installer. Once it opens, click "Run".
  1. At this point, you might be prompted to log into Google. If you are, enter your email address and your password.
Office plugin6.PNG
  1. Follow the onscreen prompts. Once the installer is finished, close the window.
  2. The plugin has been installed and new features should appear in Microsoft Office as well as Google Drive.
Drive w markup.jpg
Using the Plugin to Open Word Documents/Excel Spreadsheets/Powerpoints Stored on Drive (Figure 1)
These instructions are compatible with any of the three Microsoft Office programs. For the purposes of example, I will be explaining how to open a Microsoft Word Document stored on Google Drive.
  1. Open Microsoft Word. Several different options will come up. If you installed the plugin correctly, one of these options will be "Google Drive". Click on Google Drive, and then select the folder or file that you're looking to open.
  2. The file will be open in Microsoft Word. When you save the file it will be uploaded back to Google Drive.
It is important that you use this method to open Office files stored on Drive. If you open the files through Drive, rather than through the proper Microsoft Office program, Google Drive will create a copy of your original document and convert it to its respective Google file type. This will create an issue, as any changes you make will be saved to the Google file, rather than your original Microsoft Office document. (See Important Things to Note While Using This Plugin).
Uploading New Files to Google Drive: (Figure 2)
  1. When saving a new document, proceed as you normally would, selecting "Save As".
  2. Several different options will pop-up, "Onedrive", "Computer".  If the plugin was installed correctly then there should be another - "Google Drive".
  3. Select where on the Drive you want to save it, then click on "Save to Google Drive".
  4. The new document is now saved to drive.
Important Things to Note While Using This Plugin:
  1. This plugin allows for collaboration on Microsoft Office documents through Drive's "Sharing" feature, however, multiple people cannot edit the same file at the same time. If you open a document, and someone else makes changes to and saves that document between the time you open it and you attempt to save it, you will receive a warning message when you try and save. If you do save, the edits of the person you were collaborating with will be lost, as their document will be overwritten with yours. When you receive this warning message you should select "No". Then go to the "Google Drive Options" menu (see Accessing New Features in Word/Excel/Powerpoint) and select "Rename". By renaming the file you'll create a new file, and avoid overwriting the other one. Currently, there is no way for multiple people to work on the same Word document at the same time. However, it is possible to share the document with others. You just have to perform your edits at different times to avoid overwriting anyone else's work. If you need to work simultaneously on a document, you will have to open Google Drive. There, find the document you are collaborating on, and right click on it. A menu will pop up with a list of options, select "Open With" and then "Google Docs". This will create a copy of your original document and import it into Google Docs. From here, you can work on the google document through google drive with your peers.
  2. You can use multiple accounts - when saving there will be an option that says "Settings". Select it. This will give you a window to switch accounts.
  3. When opening an Office Document (.doc,.xls,.ppt) you will need to open it through its respective program (Word,Excel, Powerpoint) not Drive. If you open it in Google Drive it will make a copy of the original document, and import it into its respective google format (Google Docs, Google Slides, etc.). Any changes you make to this Google document will not be reflected in the original Microsoft Office document.