Hurray for summer!
When the school year wraps up, I like to catch up on my reading backlog. I also engage in a little summertime learning and exploring. I especially like finding new tools and ideas that will make the next school year even easier. Those all came together as I dug into my backlog of blog reading!
What are “browser extensions”?
One of the great things about modern web browsers (particularly Chrome) is that it’s easy to add enhanced functionality with extensions. A visit to the Chrome Web Store’s Extensions section provides users with one-click access to a host of features and services. Once you add an extension, you usually get a new button or icon in the upper-right corner of your browser, just after the URL bar. Clicking the button activates the extension; right-clicking offers options menus, including “Hide in Chrome menu,” which keeps the extension installed but moves the icon behind the triple-dot “Customize and Control” button at the far-upper-left.
In March, Margaret Sullivan shared “Five ‘Must Have’ Google Chrome Extensions.” She offered some fine choices, but her list was also missing a few Chrome extensions I can’t live without. I’ve already written about Library Extension, but here are five(ish) more great Chrome extensions:
This is a very simple Google-created extension that I use all the time. As I’m browsing the web, I come across a great article or idea that I want to share with a colleague. I click the “Send from Gmail” extension button, and a Gmail Compose window pops up. The subject line (which can be customized) auto-populates with the title of the page or article. The body of the email pre-populates with a link to the page. I add an email address and a little clarifying body text, then hit “Send.” Voila! That link is shared through Gmail!
There are lots of screenshot tools, but I find myself coming back to this one. Click the icon, and Lightshot makes a copy of the window you’re looking at. Click and drag your cursor to select the part of the screen you want to preserve. You can then add annotations, overlay shapes, highlight portions–mark up the screen as you wish! When you’re done, hit the Save button, and a .PNG image file will download to your computer. It’s great for creating follow-along guides for digital processes or projects.
Speaking of great tools for creating follow-along tutorials, there’s Loom Screencast! Set up a free account at www.Loom.com, then you have one-click access to screen recording that saves to your account. Record your full desktop or just your browser window. Choose whether or not you want to include your smiling face via camera. Reposition your camera image with drag-and-drop ease. Pause recording. It’s fast and easy! While the features are not as robust as paid screencasting software, Loom has recently added some new options, with more promised. Plus, it’s super-quick and easy to use! (Screencastify is also pretty great!)
Did you know this tool blocks YouTube ads from playing? That alone makes this tool worth it! AdBlock also prevents ads from appearing on pages as you browse. (At least, it does for now; Google might change that in the future…) This extension allows you to “whitelist” sites whose ads you want to see; many ask you to do so to help them preserve their online revenues. You can also pause ad blocking on specific sites, or on all sites.
It’s always nice to add a fun graphic to documents or communications, especially those meant for students. Bitmoji lets you add a cartoon avatar of yourself to whatever you’re working on. It offers dozens of fun little images of your avatar in different outfits and situations, along with a search bar to help you find just what you’re looking for. You have to sign up for a free Bitmoji account first. Then you build your avatar, playing with hair, eyes, skin tone, and your primary outfit. Once you’ve created your avatar, you can drag images from the extension into whatever you’re working on. Bitmoji also integrates with Gmail so you can easily add your avatar to emails!
Have you ever come across some text online that you’d love to copy into a document, but you can’t because it’s in an image file rather than a text file? This tool lets you extract text from images. For instance, say you come across a photo that includes a block of text. You’d like to copy-and-paste the text to incorporate into a document or presentation. Project Naptha is designed to let you do that! While I wouldn’t call it perfect, it certainly is better than having to transcribe the text manually.
As you add more extensions, you might want the ability to quickly access and control them all. So here’s an extension-wrangling extension!
This extension lets you toggle extensions on or off without having to dig into settings or menus. This is particularly great if you have a ton of extensions. It lets you turn off the ones you’re not using to speed up your browsing. It’s also handy if you have trouble with pages not loading or working correctly. This is often caused by an extension conflicting with something on the page. Extensity lets you turn off all extensions with one click. Then you can add them back one at a time until you find the one that’s breaking the page.
Author: Steve Tetreault
Steve has been teaching for over 20 years, mostly middle school English Language Arts. He has earned an M.Ed. (2006) and an Ed.D. (2014) in Educational Administration and Supervision, and completed an M.I. degree in Library and Information Science (2019). He is certified as a teacher, school library media specialist, supervisor, and administrator. He is an old dog constantly learning new tricks!