How to: Turn Web Pages into PDFs and EPUBs on the iPad

A photo of my iPad

A photo of my iPad

Looking for a Simpler Way to Do Things

I frequently find myself wanting, or needing, to turn webpages into PDFs for use in my classrooms as supplemental materials. Whether it is an article to use as an example of literary analysis in my English classes, or  a sports article to use as an example of sports writing in my journalism classes, the need to convert an article on a website into a form my students can access on their iPads is something I deal with several times during a week.

Up until recently, converting web pages into PDFs for my students meant copying the text from the website, pasting it into Microsoft Word on my laptop, printing as a PDF file, then emailing the file to the students. Granted, that isn’t too bad as long as you have some software on the laptop that allows for printing to PDF from Microsoft Word. But, giving in to human nature, I was always on the lookout for something simpler.

In this case I was looking for something that would let me make PDFs on the iPad so that I wouldn’t have to switch to my laptop. I also wanted to cut down on having to switch between apps on the iPad when making PDFs there. Sure, you can use Pages to make a PDF, but you have to email the file in order to do it. I definitely don’t like having to email something to myself and then open it in something else just to use it.

2 Simpler Ways

Enter dotEPUP and Joliprint. These 2 solutions to my PDF creation quest are pretty simple to use and they aren’t even downloadable apps. They are both web based services usuable on the iPAd that convert web pages into a format you can then access on the iPad. They also have the added benefit of being free. All you have to do to use them on the iPad is set up a bookmarklet you press to convert the webpage you are viewing.

The main difference between dotEPUP and Joliprint is that dotEPUP converts the webpage into a EPUB for reading in iBooks or a MOBI file for reading in Kindle. Joliprint converts the webpage into a PDF file you can open is apps like Goodreader or Notability (just to name a couple). Joliprint also lets you collect webpages and then create a digital magazine (you have to create a free account to do this).

The steps to set up dotEPUP and Joliprint bookmarklets are basically the same:

  1. Go the the service’s site
  2. Create a bookmark in Safari
  3. Save the bookmark
  4. Edit the book mark by replacing the url address with a bit of javascript you copy from each service’s setup guide(Joliprint’s Guide, dotEPUB’s Guide
  5. Save
  6. Whenever you visit a site you want to convert to a PDF or EPUB, just click on the bookmarklet for dotEPUB or Joliprint

So, now you can easily convert any web page when you are using Safari on the iPad. Both methods send the converted webpage to the app of your choice for viewing. The benefit of using a PDF is that you can annotate it if you have an app that supports that function. Using either the EPUB or MOBI format means you can use the highlight and note funtions in iBooks and Kindle. I will admit that of the two, dotEPUP is faster and easier to use. When using Joliprint you have to hit a download button to finish the conversion process.

In my experience so far, using either of these two methods for converting webpages seems to save time. Not having to jump back and forth between my laptop and iPad  is well worth the 5 minutes it takes to set up both of the bookmarklets.

How do you use PDFs or EPUBS in your classroom? What tips do you have for creating PDFs or EPUBS on the iPad? Please feel free leave advice or ideas in the comment section.

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13 Apps I Use as a Teacher

iPad 3G and iPad Wi-Fi

Image by Yutaka Tsutano via Flickr

Just the other day I posted a list of the iPad Apps I use in a personal capacity; so, I thought I would make a list of the apps I regularly use as a teacher. These are in no particular order.

My Favorite Teacher Apps

  1. Goodreader: This is just an awesome app for reading and annotating PDF files. I can give feedback on student essays, mark up pages from the textbook, present documents with the projector and write on them. I use this every day for something. This has been a big part of my attempt to go paperless in my classroom.
  2. Feeddler Pro: I use this RSS feed aggregator to easily track all of my students’ blogs for my classes. I group them by period and can tell by looking at the list for each period who has posted their assignment. I can then drill down from the app and go to their blog if I need to.
  3. Calculator Pro: I like having a big honkin’ calculator right there whenever I need it. This one is pretty handy. I got the pro version just so I wouldn’t have to look at ads.
  4. Dropbox: This is another app I use everyday. It makes moving files from my laptop to the iPad so easy. Not having this app would seriously diminish what I do everyday. I always have to move something.
  5. Pages: At first I was a little skeptical about a word processor on the iPad, but I find myself using this more and more.
  6. Keynote: I just like the simplicity of this Powerpoint alternative.
  7. Splashtop Whiteboard: I have an interactive whiteboard in my room. So, I hook up the laptop to the board and projector-run the little Splashtop piece of software on the laptop-fire up this app on the iPad and–Boom–I can write or type on the board from anywhere in the room. Plus, I can control my laptop from anywhere in the room.  Definitely one of my favorite apps.
  8. Kindle: I use this for just about all of the additional readings like novels that I assign.
  9. Instapaper: I use this to save articles I find on the web I think about using for class.
  10. PDF Printer: I got this out of necessity. As I mentioned above, I use Goodreader to provide feedback on essays. Well, at the start of the year I found myself in need of this app to convert their submitted files into a PDF just so I could get them into Goodreader and use all of its tools to write on their submissions.
  11. iPad Mail: It may seem a bit silly to include this on the list, but I like being able to see all the folders for my school account and the gmail account I set up for collecting homework at the same time. It also makes it very easy to move things into different folders, or even to the other account.
  12. Safari: I like the built-in browser Apple has on the iPad. So far I haven’t felt the need to use another browser app.
  13. Notes Plus: I am constantly jotting down things and this app fills the bill. I can sort things into different notebooks and I really like the handwriting ability.

Well, there it is: my list of favorite apps as a teacher.  There are some others I use, and I am always trying out new ones, but these are the ones I use regularly, if not daily.

Let me know which apps you like to use. I am always looking for the next great app.

The Journey into the (Almost) Paperless Year

Photo of paper and books from my desk

Paper and books on my desk

The Challenge of Going Paperless

So, we are a little past the halfway point of the school year and my jump into trying to go paperless in my classroom. When I set up this blog back in the summer, one of the things I said I wanted to do was go paperless–at least as much as I could. I thought now would be a pretty good time to take an assessment of where I stand on that journey.

During the summer I knew that I needed about key areas and come up with some kind of plan before school started. The more I had in place and ready to roll on day 1, the easier my life would be in those first days and weeks of school. I felt that with all the students coming into class with an iPad for the first time they were going to expect some differences while they were learning to use the new device in their hands–why not change the way they receive, complete, and turn in assignments. Just about all of the planning I did centered around my English classes because my journalism students did most of their work on computers anyway and computer class speaks for itself.

So, with my English classes in mind, I thought about the following:

  1. Reading assignments/textbooks
  2. Distributing and receiving assignments
  3. How to handle big projects
  4. What to do about quizzes and tests
  5. How to give feedback

I thought that if I could come up with a plan that required the students to use only their iPads in regards to those areas I had a pretty good chance of going paperless in my classroom.

The Plan

1. Reading assignments/textbooks: I knew this was going to be a problem area pretty quick. Our school was adopting new literature textbooks; and while I hoped for an accompanying etext or online version, I knew chances were slim. Most of the online version of high school literature books required flash–and we all know the iPad doesn’t do flash. Shortly after school started I discovered that our new textbooks did have PDFs available of almost every page in the hard copy. So, students didn’t have to lug home the heavy textbook if they didn’t want to. I am also able to email copies of the reading assignment to students who were absent.

For my college credit English class I knew from the start that their textbook was not available. So, I just accepted that the best I could do was to provide additional reading materials in an electronic form, usually through email.

For any outside readers like novels, the students have the choice to either buy a hardcopy or an ebook.

2. Distributing and receiving assignments: This was probably the easiest area to plan. I decided that anything that would have been given to students as a handout would now be emailed to them. As far as turning in homework, the students wold just email them in to me. I set up a gmail account just for sending and receiving assignments. On the first day of school I had the students send an email to the account so that I had all the email addresses and could sort their addresses into groups by class period. I also set up folders for each class period to hold their assignments. This has worked pretty well so far.

3. How to handle big projects: When I say “big projects” I mostly mean things like research papers, or assignments that are a collection of smaller, linked assignments. For this I decided that I would set up a blog for each student using Edublogs with the intent of having them use the blog as an alternative to a 3-ring binder or portfolio. My classes are just about to begin their big projects for the year, so I can’t come to any conclusions on the project aspect yet. The students do use the blogs regularly to complete various assignments that have them respond to what we are reading and each other’s ideas. To keep track of the blogs, and to speed up assessing them, I used Google’s reader service on the account I set up for receiving homework. I then installed Feeddler Pro on my iPad and have it linked to that gmail account. The blogs are listed in groups according to class period so that I can tell at one glance who has completed their blog assignment.

4. What to do about quizzes and tests: During the summer I worried that this was going to be the area that kept me from completely gong paperless. I wanted a system that allowed students to take quizzes and tests on their iPads but minimized any temptation to cheat. I found some apps and software systems that would work, but they all meant the administration would have to spend some more money. So, I am still in a holding pattern on this one. My students take quizzes and tests in the traditional paper form.

5. How to give feedback: This turned out easier than I thought. For ordinary homework assignments I reply in an email to the assignment the student emailed me. For blog posting I leave a comment on their post. For longer assignments like formal essays, I use the Goodreader app on my iPad to annotate a PDF of their essay and then email that back to them. I absolutely love Goodreader because I can circle, highlight, and write comments on the essay like it was a printed version.

The Results Thus Far

At this point in the school year, I think the move towards a paperless classroom has gone pretty well. On the few occasions that there are stacks of paper on my desk from students, it is far, far smaller than in previous years; it also means that the stack consists of quizzes,tests, or a homework assignment from a student whose iPad is out of the picture for some reason.

At some point in the future, I may have to do a post about some of the challenges involving some students having their iPads–and some general challenges that pop up from time-to-time.

As always any comments, questions,  or suggestions are welcome.