One of the most annoying features of the digital landscape is the nasty little surprises one gets when trying to change a document from one format to another. It is very easy, for example to change a Word document to a PDF document, but when you try to convert it the other way round, you will find that a PDF document saved as a Word document emerges with the text as an image, which you cannot then edit to suit your own purposes.
There is a fantastic array of worksheets, lesson plans and so on, available for download off the Internet, which the authors are offering for others to use, free of charge and free of copyright. And many of these have been saved as a PDF to ensure cross-platform compatibility. The other day I wanted to use one of these worksheets I had downloaded some time before. I wanted to keep the original citations, but I did want to format the page a little, and re-size it so that I could ensure that it fitted on a single page. Unfortunately the PDF format meant that I could not do any useful editing once converted to Word, since the conversion process rendered the text as an image. I have also, in the past wanted to take text from a PDF to use for a comprehension passage, and have found this extremely frustrating.
I was very pleased to learn about a service offered by CometDocs at http://www.convertpdftoword.org/ which allows you to convert PDF to editable Word documents. To use it you go to the website. It requires no sign up. You upload the PDF file you wish to convert (apparently up to 40MB) and enter your email. After a short while you receive an email with a link to where you can download the file in Word Format. I found the conversion very faithful and fully editable.
What I found impressive about this was the prospect it opened up for much easier editing of PDF documents generally. At my school I am responsible for running off progress reports, which we PDF at the end of each run and archive. Invariably we get requests, even years later, for changes to be made to the reports. While one can edit a PDF it is not the easiest or most user-friendly thing you have ever done. Often fonts are affected or blocks of text displaced in the process. I tested Convertpdftoword.org to see if I could edit it more easily using this service, and the results were not only excellent, but the process quick as well.
How can this great tool be used pedagogically then? To my mind, the ease with which this allows one to convert from PDF to Word, and then back again using the save as Word function inside Word, allows one to consider using a far wider range of resources for use in comprehension tests, examination papers, worksheets and so on. So long as you do not breach copyright, or plagiarism protocols, this frees up a whole new world for in-house materials development. This is especially important when creating Blended Learning course-work. You will often need to adapt work created for face-to-face situations for an online purpose, and this requires substantial editing so that parts of a text can be highlighted, or scaffolded in some way. This free to use web service makes this easy!