Web based OCR

OCR or “Optical Character Recognition” is a technology that has been around for some time and allows you to scan a printed document and turn the picture of the text into real text. There are free OCR packages available and there are paid for packages. Some of these are incredibly good and are able to decipher page layout as well as the text eg newspaper columns. I have used OCR for many years on lots of different types of documents, particularly in connection with local and family history documents which can be quite challenging. One of the frustrations I have though is when I am in a school and want to grab the text from a printed document so I was very pleased to find a free web based OCR package that fulfils some of my needs.

free-ocr-logoFree OCR does the basics quite well. You have to put up with some fairly unobtrusive adverts and it is limited to a maximum 2MB file size but documents I have tried out so far have been pretty accurate. The site is explicit about its privacy policy which I am sure will be acceptable for most jobs but I wouldn’t scan sensitive information.



AnswerGarden is a feedback tool that is very easy to use for online brainstorming or for gaining feedback from visitors to your website. At it’s simplest level you enter a question like “What did you think of my lesson?” and publish it, then invite students to visit the site and respond. You can set it so that it only allows one response per IP address per day (that might limit your use of it in school) or you can set it for unlimited answers. The answers then take the form of a word cloud eg if lots of people respond with the word “cool” it will appear larger than a word that is only used once or twice.

Once you have completed a feedback session there is the option to export the answers to Wordle or Tagxedo (these were in beta at the time of writing). You can also generate a QR code.

The website includes the code to embed it into webpages so you may be able to embed it into your VLE. There are also buttons to share your AnswerGarden on social networks if you want to attract even more people.

Below is a simple AnswerGarden that I have embedded into the blog (I didn’t dare ask what you thought of my blog!)

I have had a couple of problems with embedding it, sometimes only one or two words appear and it doesn’t update. If you can’t see more than one word click on the link underneath the example below you should see all of them in the new window that opens. There are some useful tools for embedding into blogs hosted by WordPress but mine is hosted by someone else, I am assuming that there is a plugin missing.


And now you can edit the appearance as well!


What do you think of AnswerGarden?… at AnswerGarden.ch.

Art Resources – Logotype Maker

Logotype Maker is a free web tool that you can use for making logos for printing, web pages, videos, etc. It is very easy to use, you enter some text and it randomly generates some logos. If you don’t like the ones you see hit the refresh button and you get some more. If you select the settings button (the cogs icon) for a particular logo you can then edit it by changing the colour, text, font and image. You can even upload your own image for use. Once finished you can bookmark it or save it as a png, pdf or a zipped file.

red kite_700_300

Here’s one I made earlier!

Art Resources – Aviary

I’ve been meaning to search out some good online art tools for some time and then, today, a fellow blogger has produced a blog with some examples of art tools that can be used effectively with Interactive Whiteboards. My particular interest was in finding art tools that pupils could use from home as well as in school so that they could continue to work on projects. So over the next few weeks I hope to provide some of my suggestions.

My first offering is Aviary. The main Aviary page provides a basic photo editor which is very straightforward to use but it also includes a more advanced set of tools including a photo editor suite (Phoenix, Peacock and Talon), a design suite (Raven, Falcon and Toucan) as well as an audio package (Myna and Roc) – you might notice one reason I was attracted to this suite in the first place, the birds! There are some good tutorials that are graded according to your ability, a Hall of Fame with some stunning examples of what can be done with this suite including some animations.

If you click on the Education tab you will find “a safe, private environment to use the Aviary tools with your students”. First you will need to set up a teacher account for your class and then add students.  Next you can create projects for your class with start and finish dates and a description of what you want them to do. Pupils can then login and work. Although it is a private environment the teacher can extract a bit of code for any of the produced artwork and embed it into the school website or VLE so that the work can be viewed by anyone. See the example of me!
.csharpcode, .csharpcode pre
font-size: small;
color: black;
font-family: consolas, “Courier New”, courier, monospace;
background-color: #ffffff;
/*white-space: pre;*/
.csharpcode pre { margin: 0em; }
.csharpcode .rem { color: #008000; }
.csharpcode .kwrd { color: #0000ff; }
.csharpcode .str { color: #006080; }
.csharpcode .op { color: #0000c0; }
.csharpcode .preproc { color: #cc6633; }
.csharpcode .asp { background-color: #ffff00; }
.csharpcode .html { color: #800000; }
.csharpcode .attr { color: #ff0000; }
.csharpcode .alt
background-color: #f4f4f4;
width: 100%;
margin: 0em;
.csharpcode .lnum { color: #606060; }

I’ve played with a number of the tools so far and I have been impressed with the range of editing tools and the ease in which I can produce new works. I’ve not used it with a class yet and, as you can see, I am not an artist so I would welcome any comments from you if you have used it

bMobLe 2011

Yesterday was the third bMobLe conference in Bradford. bMobLe stands for Bradford Mobile Learning and focuses on “the effective use of new and existing mobile technologies to engage learners, accelerate achievement and stimulate creativity.” This theme this year was “Creating Creativity” and although at one or two times speakers seemed to be focussing on creativity for creativity’s sake most of what was talked about would engage most learners and accelerate achievement.


The bMobLe conference is well worth going to, not just for the inspirational real life examples of how to use mobile technology in the classroom but also for the networking with other educationalists, the chance to chat with pupils who are using this technology, the exhibition and workshops. I know that there are a lot of other events happening at this time of year but if you are interested in the use of mobile technology in education, make sure you book a place for next year! In the next few blogs I’ll write about some of the things that impressed me.

bMobLe is at www.bmoble.co.uk

Google enhancements – Wonderwheel

Well it’s the Easter holidays in Leeds (rather early and very confusing) so I thought I would try and catch up with emails, read a few blogs and play with a few tools. As a result I have just found Google’s Wonder Wheel. It’s an additional tool available from the Google search page – if you type in your search criteria and click search and then choose Wonder Wheel from the options under search tools you find a mindmap style diagram with further suggestions for exploring your topic. A good example of this is if you type in “victorians” it gives you a wheel like this:


You can then follow the link that is of most interest to you. Obviously, this can really help pupils find relevant information as they are normally presented with millions of results and have to sift through them. Wonder Wheel can help them to find relevant information more quickly. Unfortunately I can’t find a link that goes directly to a Wonder Wheel search. More information is available about Wonder Wheel at the Wonder Wheel site with a nice blog entry on Ian Anderson’s useful Undertenminutes website which tells you more about ways in which to use Google.