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Gratitude about the Imperfect

Social media can really skew our view of ourselves. I don’t know about you, but the more I see people’s perfect families, perfect houses, and perfect lives, it makes me feel like there’s something wrong with me. It can make my gratitude meter run a little low. However, in this month of gratitude, I want to be very intentional to be thankful for the imperfect.

Thankful for Imperfect suzylolley.com

Three Ways I’m Still Grateful for the Imperfect

Specifically in teaching, when you have a whirling dervish of thirty students or more, there will be imperfect moments. Plenty of them. It’s time, as we celebrate Thanksgiving, to be thankful for those classroom days that don’t always work out as they should. Or the things that seem to be imperfect expectations placed upon us. The tasks that we vow we wouldn’t put on people if we were in charge. If we take time to be conscious of what the blessings behind the imperfections are, we won’t have to yearn for someone else’s happy social media life; we might just have a happier life ourselves.

Imperfection #1: Others’ Expectations

It wasn’t the worst part of teaching, but having to write lesson plans wasn’t the best part either. When I taught at my most recent high school, we had to write very detailed lesson plans. I could get so stressed out trying to write exactly the perfect plan in case of observation and adding all the ways I was going to differentiate or substitute or color code. You get the drift.

But here’s the deal and the blessings in that imperfect expectation. Now I can teach anywhere. Ask me to go to a conference and I can quickly write at least a rough draft of my plan in no time. Ask me even to teach at church, and my lesson is ready to go. I now can form an outline in my head, and lesson planning for any situation is much quicker. As a tech coach, I’m able to quickly direct teachers in their own lesson planning to add the right technology application or lesson hook or check for understanding to their lessons. If I hadn’t worked so hard in my own lesson planning, which was definitely imperfect, I would never have been able to do any of what I can do now.

Imperfection #2: Technology

Oh technology. As a coach now but also as a classroom teacher, don’t I know that it the tech we love is sometimes the tech we love to hate. It’s imperfect when we need it to be more than that. When I was coaching in the middle school two years ago, our whole school launched OneNote pretty successfully. However, the very next year, our district decided to switch to Canvas Learning Management System. It was a great switch, however, the thing that people had just gotten used to they were now being asked not to use anymore.

It’s never ideal to launch something in a big way and then abandon it in favor of something else the next year. Here are the blessings I found in that in imperfect situation, though. By preparing ourselves with OneNote the year before, we now were doing things we never could have done before. We were no longer having to require kids to bring a pencil or remember to write a name on a paper or even keep up with a paper, for goodness sake. Even when technology doesn’t work, we’re still further along than we used to be. It gives us a chance as teachers to model perseverance despite frustration. It also allows us to break down the instant/microwave speed that students think should accompany every task. If we model viewing the positive through the imperfect, we and the students are able to practice the gratitude we say we celebrate this month.

Imperfection #3: My Own Failures

Probably the hardest place to forgive or even be thankful for imperfection is when we mess up as a teacher. I messed up so many times in the classroom, but one of my most recent snafus actually involves my first year as a tech trainer.

Picture this: I had ninety high school students in a room with no whiteboard on which to project my technology lesson, of all things. Recipe for disaster, right? Well, one of my pupils was a boy who had been very hateful the year before when I taught at the same school and had lunch duty. He never would clean up his trash and then would even have an attitude about it. Well of course I recognize this kid, so in a situation that was already frustrating, he and I exchanged some words. I felt terrible, of course, because I was the adult and should know how to be more professional. I let my emotions get in the way. The worst part was that this encounter was on a Friday, and I had to think about it all weekend. What did he think about my words? Worst of all, would he tell his parents on me, haha? Monday morning, I determined to be at his first period class. As soon as he got there so that we could talk, I was able to apologize to this kid, and  he actually apologized to me as well. Come to find out, this kid could have been showing off for his friends in lunch was actually very pleasant in real life and very forgiving of me for having lost my temper.

Here’s what I learned from the situation; We can be thankful when we mess up because that disaster gives us an opportunity to be raw and vulnerable and model for student what it’s like to be human. To model for students what it’s like to apologize sincerely. To model for students what it’s like to eat some humble pie and be a little nervous when we’re worried that our actions will have bad consequences. In my story, three blessings came out of one situation that was imperfect for sure and could have been much worse.

The Takeaway: Grateful is Possible

Whether it’s the time we spend on our imperfect attempt to meet impossible requirements or the technology that doesn’t work when we really need it to or the times we mess up as people with our students, we must still be grateful. We are living a life that, although it’s not perfect, makes a difference in young people every day. What other job in the world allows one person to impact so many over the course of a career? In my sixteen years,  I’ve impacted well over a thousand students. Some of them probably experienced a negative impact, but so many more were impacted for the positive. And whether I ever hear from them again, or whether I’m ever featured in their perfect social media post, I have something to be grateful for. And I don’t even to be perfect to appreciate it.

What have been your imperfect moments that still made you grateful? I’d love for you to share in the comments below.

With Tech and Twang,

Yes, I’m Telling You to Be Grateful for Stress

I hope you enjoy this second guest post on our month of gratitude, one from Melissa Pilakowski.

“It’s been a stressful past two weeks. I was senior sponsor for Homecoming. We’ve had daily rehearsals for our one-act play. I’ve had observations by our local service unit and the department chair of our local college (and as much as I’d like to say that doesn’t make me nervous, it’s still an energy zapper).

I may or may not have eaten an entire bag of cheese popcorn and a bag of dark chocolate chips this weekend.

This was the first time this school year when I felt myself slipping under the water, where every time I crossed something off my to-do list, two more things popped up. I was simply surviving the days, dragging myself home, and procrastinating my ever-growing list. I was missing the proverbial forest for the trees–focusing only on what I had to do and forgetting about my long-term goals, my vision to help others, my commitment to my blog.

Then I ran across this Facebook post…”

Want to hear what the Facebook post said? Click here to read the rest of Melissa’s article.

Gratitude: A Month of Guest Posts!

Welcome to November! I am most definitely NOT one of those people who skips straight to Christmas, thank-you-very-much…so that’s why I feel so privileged to have been asked to join a seasonal blog hop. Our theme for the whole month? Gratitude. Along with sixteen other educators, I will be putting my words about gratitude out into the world. I can’t wait for you to read, share, and love every single post. Who knows? You just mind find something else to be thankful for. 

About Our Guest Writer

Our first grateful guest is Adam Powley, who lives near the beach in South Carolina, and enjoys teaching in a gamified high school social studies classroom. You know that word gamified sparks one of my passions for this blog, so his words will be extra special. Start reading below…

Words on Gratitude from our Guest

“There is an interesting phenomenon when two people are in a long term relationship. Eventually the two extended families’ traditions and customs begin to merge and combine. Early in my relationship with my wife I was invited to her family’s Thanksgiving day meal which was very different than my own family’s traditions. In my family Thanksgiving a day about hunting and football with a meal thought of as secondary. Growing up in rural western New York late November is both freezing cold and deer season.

My father and uncles would all wake up at 4am dress, have coffee, and meet in some frozen field, usually covered in snow, to go hunting. Before I was legally old enough to hunt I was dragged out on this tradition as a “runner”. My job was to run through the woods making noise in an effort to chase out any sleeping deer. Thankfully, one dinner didn’t rely on actually getting any venison because another part of this tradition was that no one ever actually shot a deer. In fact I don’t ever remember a shot being fired; not by choice of course I guess the deer were smarter than our hunting party…”

Want to read more? Visit Adam’s blog to see the rest of the post, and make sure to leave a comment telling him how much you loved it. 

With Tech and Twang, 

10 Teacher Timesavers to Help You Become a More Efficient Teacher Today

In last week’s Facebook Live session, I shared ten ways you might be an inefficient teacher. If you missed that session, watch it here, and remember that you can tune in live each week at 8 PM EST to get even more valuable tips for use technology in your classroom.

Now that you’ve gone back and watched the video (you did, right?), you might feel like you have a problem (or ten of them) but no solution. That was exactly the point. I wanted us to spend time together focusing on your pain points (and mine) as a teacher. Teaching, by nature, is inefficient. That’s because we’re not dealing with machines. We’re dealing with people, and those student-people are usually not mature yet, so the very process of managing a classroom where they are the focus is going to be messy.

It may feel hopeless to you that you will ever spend less time and get more done in your classroom. But you can! In this week’s episode and post, I’m going to share ten solutions to last week’s problems, so here they are:

10 Teacher Timesavers to Help You Become a More Efficient Teacher Today

Problem #1: Too Many Tools

You might have one for grading, one for delivering content, one for student blogging, and one for assessing.

Solution: Though they’re all cool, I’m sure, your life could be simpler if you had one program that hosted content for, delivered content to, and received work from your students. We call such a program an LMS. If you are just getting into LMS world, let me recommend Edmodo. It has a Facebook-like look and has a free version you can use with your students. However, if you want a more robust and even system-wide solution, Canvas is the best program out there. It looks clean, functions well, and I can say with certainty, it will handle just about any classroom task you can throw at it.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Yolanda Payton’s session includes Canvas and will show you how simple it is to drive instruction through an LMS.

Problems #2 and 3: Lack of Purpose, Priorities, and Balance

You spend plenty of time at work, but you wake up out of a stupor at your desk after several unpurposeful hours and haven’t accomplished anything, OR you might be a rockstar at work, but you scream at or neglect your family at home.

Solutions: An efficient teacher knows how to manage her time and balance her life well; she can’t be made just by a certain tool or set of tools. You could be the most efficient teacher in the world and still waste the time that you gained back. Scheduling and prioritizing have to be goals each day. One of my favorite virtual mentors for the prioritized schedule is Angela Watson, and you can read an article she shares on the topic here.

But you don’t have to take my word for it, or even Angela’s… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here.  Kelsea Studebaker’s session will show you the top characteristics of an efficient teacher. If you can become more efficient, you can get your life back!

Problems #4 and 5: The Paper Nightmare and Your Messy Desk

If you’ve heard any of my Facebook Live videos, you’ve heard me talk about how my desk was always a mound of papers waiting to be taken home in a rolling crate and (possibly) graded.

Solutions: Use paperless or less-paper solutions like OneNote Class Notebook to deliver work straight to your students and receive no papers back! Kids don’t even have to remember to put their names on their papers or bring pencils to class. There’s no more messy desk for you, and the students have clean desks too!

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Tammy Dunbar’s session to find out how you can even be more efficient by using OneNote from your phone. Grade and deliver work from anywhere!

Problem #6: Inefficient Hallpass Systems

if you’re like me, you’re always looking around for a scrap sheet of paper or a kid’s often-lost agenda in order to write a hallway pass. Then, when the kid goes somewhere, you forget where he went or how long he’s been gone.

Solve that problem for good! Use a Google or Microsoft Form accessible with a QR code right by your door, and kids can scan to sign out on the way out the door. To combat the additional problem of kids staying gone forever and you forgetting, place a kitchen timer hung with command strips right beside the QR code. Kids push start when they leave, and have it set to beep after five minutes, so that you can track down kids who might be “lost” on the way back.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Missi Love’s session and find out even more tricks you can do with free Google tools.

Problem #7: Struggling to Enforce the Rules

Imagine this: Your class is a zoo. The kids don’t seem to know how to line up, their papers are everywhere, and they are rude every time you have a sub. Maybe you don’t have to imagine very hard, because you are picturing your very own class.

Solution: An efficient teacher makes rules and sets of classroom systems from the very beginning of the year. The more the kids are taught to follow a routine, the more efficient they are in it and the less you pull your hair out. Baldness would be very inefficient 🙂

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Ashley Millar as she shares plenty of tips on efficient behavior management in her session.

Problem #8: Poor Parent Communication

I don’t know about you, but in my classroom, I toggled among many forms of parent communication. From website to those carbon message books you use in offices to paper agendas to emails, it was always a struggle to keep up how I was communicating and how often.

Solution: Use one system to communicate. My favorite is Remind, but maybe you’d prefer to check out Bloomz, recommended by Vicki Davis. Whatever you choose, make it simple for you and the parents. Use one system that allows for two-way communication, and use it all the time.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch

Problem #9: Assigning Student Supplies

Maybe you’re a math teacher, and students borrow a calculator from you every day. The problem is, you never know who took which one, who pried the keys off, and who walked out the door with that expensive pocket computer. Or you’re a teacher with laptops, books, crayons, or anything else kids use regularly. You don’t have a system for signing items out and checking their condition upon return.

Solution: I love the number system for so many reasons and used it often in my class, including when I assigned supplies to kids. Check out this post for more information.

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Tanya Marshall’s session and learn several time-saving systems to stay organized, whether online or off.

And finally, this #10 item is keeping you from being efficient, and it’s the elephant in the room: Slow and Stressful Grading

The problem: I think you know it. It’s why you avoid grading (if you’re like me) in favor of any other activity. It’s grading where you learn just how little of what you taught the kids retained and where you just can’t seem to go quickly, no matter how hard you try.

Solution: Embrace digital and manual systems that will let your students evaluate themselves and each other, or allow tech tools to do the grading work for you. Here are a couple posts chock-full of information to help you with either of these concerns:

But you don’t have to take my word for it… starting September 9th, I am co-hosting a conference called The Efficient Teacher, and you can register for free or purchase lifetime access to the videos here. Watch Meredith Dobbs wow you with her ideas for using audit-style grading to give good feedback while saving time.

 

Well, there you have the them, the 10 teacher timesavers to help you become a more efficient teacher today. But what if ten aren’t enough? What if you need 100 more, from all different subject areas? The Efficient Teacher Conference was created with you in mind. I knew what stressed me out as a teacher, and I painstakingly sought out teachers who could give real-life, effective advice to help you become more efficient in the classroom. Won’t you grab your free ticket today? 

With Tech and Twang,

 

 

Tech Tuesday #20: Putting Differentiation on Auto-Pilot

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Did you ever read a choose-your-own-adventure book? If so, you know that the reader controlled what happened in the story. Differentiation should be the same way. Students who need help should get it, and those who have mastered content should be able to move on. Further, it should not be labor-intensive for teachers to set up such differentiation and try to keep up with which student is on what track. Today, let’s explore innovative uses of OneNote, Microsoft Forms, and Canvas LMS, three tools with features that make differentiation easier and even automatic.

In OneNote, we will:

  • explore the individual and groups distribution features
  • see how you can reward students with badges using those features

In Forms, we will:

  • turn on the branching feature
  • try a sample branched activity

In Canvas, we will:

  • create a module
  • turn on the Mastery Paths feature

Intrigued? Watch the video embedded below, taken from my Tuesday weekly Facebook Live session at 8PM EST, where I discuss all the features in detail and show them in action. Like the page now so you never miss another video!

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #19: The Power of Student Self-Assessment

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I want you to take a minute and do the math on how much time you spend grading.

For one set of essays for me, I figured out once that if I spent ten minutes per esssay, it would take me a full twenty-four hours just to grade one class set. That was just for essays–the calculation didn’t include all the reading quizzes, warm-ups, and packets I had to grade as well. In addition to the time-suck all this grading induced, I was also burdened with carrying papers to and from school in a rolling crate, honestly many times just to return them to school again.

As I stayed in the classroom longer, I constantly looked for ways to save time, and one major area I addressed was in my grading. I’ve heard many educational gurus say it, but if the students are supposed to be the ones working so hard, why are the teachers the tired ones at the end of the day? And why don’t kids take our feedback seriously, using it to improve future work?

Easy–it’s because we’re the ones doing all the evaluation. If you’ve never thought about involving your students more in the evaluation process, or if you’re worried that kids can’t grade themselves accurately, think again. It worked in my classroom of high school students, and I know it can work for your kiddos as well.

In the video below, which is embedded from my weekly Facebook Live sessions I host each week at 8 PM EST, you’ll learn:

  • The four ways student self-assessment can make your grading more effective and efficient
  • Two resources for tips on quick-grading essays
  • My simple student self-assessment method (tongue twister!)

Push play to watch, and I hope you’ll tune in live next week!

How have you used self-assessment in your classroom? How has it helped, or what pitfalls are you still trying to work on? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Resources:

Tech Tuesday #18: Interactive Worksheets

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Worksheets. Dittos. Activity sheets. Whatever you call them, if you’ve been a student or teacher ever, you’ve done them or you’ve assigned them. My own worksheet evolution as a student started with handwritten sheets of problems that teachers ran through the intoxicating ditto machine. Then, textbooks came out with the fancier blackline master versions, some of which were copied onto an overhead transparency for us to “go over” in class. Though I never experienced them as a student, graphic organizers were all the rage when I was in college, except that they were always supposed to be student-generated…well, that’s a story for another day. And finally, what would the world be without the cuted-up versions we now pay three to five bucks a pop for on Teachers Pay Teachers.

But has the structure of these worksheets fundamentally changed just because they’ve gotten cuter? It’s the same as with any other assessment–changing the look without the function does nothing to improve teaching and learning. There may indeed be times when a worksheet is the best tool for using the hand-brain connection to help students retain information, but do they have to be so dang boring?

In the video below, which is embedded from the Facebook Live session I do every Tuesday at 8PM EST, I share three of my favorite ways for making worksheets more interactive. Click PLAY to have a listen, and I hope you’ll follow this blog and like my Facebook page so you don’t miss any more great ideas!

What was your favorite idea from the video OR what ideas would you share for making worksheets more engaging? Please leave a comment below.

Resources mentioned in the video:

  1. Worksheet Works
  2. Magic Square
  3. Poetry Packet

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #17: Quizzes that Can’t Be Googled

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The culture of cheating has been around forever. Students have long been keeping cheat-sheets in their pockets, writing answers down their arms, and dropping their pencils on the floor to pass answers to friends. We knew those tricks as kids. However, with the advent of auto-grading quiz technology, many teachers are even more nervous about the security of their assessments.

Maybe it’s time to rethink the structure of our quizzes instead. If we are still creating quizzes where the answers can be Googled, we are not changing with the times and may, in fact, be increasing our students’ temptation to cheat.

In the video below, which is shared from my weekly Tech Tuesday Facebook Live sessions at 8PM EST, I will share with you five tips for changing your mindset on quiz creation. I’ll also share three specific ways you can quiz in a way that creates easy grading plus shows deep content knowledge from students:

  1. The Personal Dictionary Plus Frayer Model Quiz
  2. The One-Question Quizzer
  3. The Fill-in-the-Blank Reading Quiz

Want to hear more? Click to play the video below:

Want the resources I mention in the video? It’s easy! Just click FOLLOW and subscribe to the blog. I will be happy to share my folder with you.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Tech Tuesday #16: Five Tricks for Getting More Out of your Interactive Whiteboard

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For all the thousands of dollars spent on interactive whiteboard technology in classrooms across the world, you’d think those boards would be a little more…well…interactive. But who’s touching, writing on, and playing with those boards? In most classes, it’s the teacher. However, it’s really students who need the opportunity to touch and interact with those boards to cement their learning.

In the video below, I discuss five ways to make your interactive whiteboard more than just a “bedsheet in the backyard.” Let it do more than just project. It can:

  1. help students who missed class interact at home
  2. help you track attendance
  3. help you deliver content to student devices
  4. help you transform dull slide decks into interactive learning experiences
  5. help you engage students with games-based learning

Is your board doing all that? If not, watch the video below, which was recorded from my weekly Facebook Live session every Tuesday at 8PM EST. I’d love to have you join me next week!

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink

Resources:

Smartboard Tips and Tricks Prezi

Tech Tuesday #15: Five Tricks for Working with PDFs

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Adobe PDFs, short for Portable Document Files, have been around for years. We all use them, but do we know everything they can do? And I don’t just mean everything they can do when you pay. I mean how we can use them in and out of Office, Canvas LMS, and even on the web to do some pretty cool tricks. I’m going to share five of those tricks with you today.

Five Tricks for Working with PDFs

  1. Let’s first of all talk about three things that PDFs can do surrounding Microsoft Word. Number one. Have you ever purchased a product, maybe from Teachers Pay Teachers, that you really wanted your kids to be able to interact with? Or you really wanted to be able to customize it in some way and make a slight tweak, but you couldn’t? Try using Word to convert the PDF back to its original Word state! This trick doesn’t always work, but I’ve found it to be pretty effective if the document was originally created in Word. First of all, open Word. Then, go to your File menu, and instead of just browsing for documents, because you would only see Word documents listed, drop down and change your file type to PDF. Now, browse to the PDF you want to open. You will get a message that says it is converting to Word. Be patient! If all goes well, you will have a completely editable copy of your document in Word. Worst-case scenario, it doesn’t work and you can just use PDF document on paper as it was.

suzylolley.com2.  Are you ready for the second tip? It’s easy to take a Word document and convert it to PDF.  All you have to do to make that happen is just go to your File menu and click Export. You’ll find that PDF is the default option. *A side note here to say that it’s generally preferred that you convert documents to PDFs before sharing so that parents can access them from anywhere without having to download any fancy software.

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3.  Once the document’s in PDF form, let’s say you don’t want anyone to be able to access it without special permission. You can go to your same export menu, but this time choose Options, the little button on the bottom right. When you click it, you will see a checkbox to add a password to the document. Whoever tries to open that document will be prompted for that password. Just a word of caution: if you’re going to use this trick and expect to have any security, it is not high-level security, but certainly don’t list your password on a sticky note and stick it on top of the computer:-)

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4.  Your fourth tip is good for when you want to give students access to a document created in PDF, but you only want to share parts of it. For instance, maybe there’s a teacher notes section at the beginning or a key at the end of the document that students don’t need. Most Windows machines contain a PDF printer. So, if I open a PDF and go to my print menu, I can select that printer and then choose certain pages to print. But what if my machine doesn’t have a virtual printer, or what if I need more options than just printing certain pages? Well I have a website for you. I want to give a shout out to my friend Jim Berry for sharing. It’s called PDF Candy. On this website, you will see more than twenty options that you can perform on a PDF. Want to convert the document to an image? No problem. Want to split or reorder the pages? No problem. I find this website especially helpful if I want to embed something on my blog or in my learning management system and have it appear as an image instead of just a link.

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5. The last tip here is especially dedicated to those who use the Canvas learning management system, but if your LMS has a similar trick, I would love to hear it in the comments. When teachers send out documents to parents, their most likely device for viewing those documents is a phone. I don’t know about your phone, but when I used to have an iPhone specifically, I had a hard time opening PDFs. I had to open a special program to launch them. Instead of that, what if you showed your parents an automatic preview of the document that they never had to download? Here’s how it works: On any canvas Rich Text Editor, upload your PDF file. You will see it as a simple link. Then, go up to the File menu and choose the link icon. You will highlight over the link, and choose the check box that says, “Auto-open the inline preview.” Voila! Parents can see the document without downloading it.

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I certainly don’t know every free thing you can do with PDFs. Do you have another trick? Share it in the comments below.

This post is inspired by a session I do every Tuesday on Facebook Live at 8 PM EST. Join me there next week. In the meantime, watch the video below to watch me demonstrate all the tips I share above.

With Tech and Twang,

Suzy Signature Pink