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Thursday, December 19, 2013

Five Tools That Help Students Plan Stories

As a student the importance of planning a story before writing it was driven into my head. Then when I became a teacher, I drove that same message home to my students. Here are five free tools that students can use to plan and outline their stories.

Yesterday, Amazon released Storybuilder. Storybuilder is a free service for planning screen plays and other stories. In the testing that I did of it, it was easy to use and could be a great tool for high school and college students. On Storybuilder you can write your stories in a series of virtual sticky notes. Your corkboard can be arranged in columns for each act and scene in your story. If you would like to try some tools that elementary and middle school students can use, take a look the following four options.

Story Map is a free interactive story planning tool from Read Write Think. Story Maps provides four templates for outlining stories. To use the templates students title their stories then choose one of four templates to outline their stories. The four template choices are conflict, setting, character, and resolution. Students can print their completed templates.

The Australian Centre for the Moving Image has a nice resource for creating storyboards. The ACMI Storyboard Generator provides templates with video directions for creating a storyboard from scratch. Alternatively, students can build a storyboard without using a template at all. Students needing a little inspiration for a story can consult some of the examples showcased under the "themes" tab and view the showcased videos.

Storyboard That is a nice tool for planning and creating stories online. Storyboard That provides templates in which you can create your stories in a comic strip style. To help you create your story Storyboard That provides dozens of scenes, characters, and text bubbles to fill your storyboard's frames. Each element that you drag into your storyboard's frames can be re-sized, rotated, and re-positioned.

Cube Creators provide templates designed to break the writing process into six distinct parts. There are templates for writing biographies, mysteries, short stories, and a blank template that you can customize. Students enter the required information into the online template. When the template is completed, it can be printed with lines for cutting and folding to create an actual cube.

GeoStories - Map-based Stories from National Geographic

GeoStories are short, map-based stories featured on National Geographic Education. The stories combine text, maps, and pictures to tell a story as a series of slides connected to placemarks on maps. National Geographic Education currently offers twenty GeoStories. The current GeoStories cover subjects in the areas of politics, ecology, music, and exploration.

Applications for Education
Even if there isn't a GeoStory that fits with what you're teaching at the moment, the stories do offer a good model of using maps to enhance the telling of a story.

Kahoot Adds New Features for Creating and Displaying Quizzes In Students' Browsers

Kahoot is a slick service for creating and delivering quizzes to your students' tablets, iPads, and laptops. On Kahoot you create a quiz or survey that your students respond to through any device that has a web browser (iPad, Android device, Chromebook). Your Kahoot questions can include pictures and videos. As the teacher you can control the pace of the Kahoot quiz or survey by imposing a time limit for each question. As students answer questions they are awarded points for correct answers and the timeliness of their answers. A scoreboard is displayed on the teacher's screen

Recently, Kahoot added a couple of handy new options for teachers. You can now duplicate quizzes that you have made or duplicate any quiz that has been publicly shared by another teacher. Duplicated quizzes can be edited. This would be handy if you teach multiple sections of the same course and want to use the same basic questions in each section, but want to change the order for each class.

The other new feature in Kahoot is an option to embed YouTube videos into the "waiting" room that students see while waiting for you to start an activity. This could be a good way to share a video that introduces or reviews the content your students are about to be quizzed on.

Applications for Education
Students do not need to have a Kahoot account in order to participate in your activities. To participate they simply have to visit Kahoot.it then enter the PIN code that you give to them to join the activity. Using Kahoot, like Socrative and Infuse Learning, could be a good and fun way to conduct review sessions in your classroom. Using Kahoot could also be a good way to gather informal feedback from your students.

Magisto for Chrome - Magical Video Editing

Magisto is a video editing service whose mobile apps I've featured in the past. This morning I tried tried their free Chrome App. The Magisto Chrome App makes it easy to stitch together video clips and pictures to create short videos.

The Magisto Chrome App allows you to quickly drag videos and images from your desktop to your Magisto account. From the videos you upload, Magisto will select the best portions to remix and blend with images. After you've uploaded the media that you want mixed, select a theme and music for your video. Magisto creates your video after you've completed the steps of uploading media, selecting a theme, and choosing music. The final video is emailed to you.

On the Magisto website you can create albums of your videos. Your albums can be made public or private. If you want to create a group album, you can invite other Magisto users to contribute to an album. From an album you can download videos and grab embed codes for your videos.

Applications for Education
The Magisto Chrome App is a good option for teachers who would like a simple video creation tool that offers a little bit more than Animoto in terms of sharing and length of videos that their students can create.

Three Ways for Students to Create and Send Digital Holiday Greetings

Image credit: Jen Deyenberg
Tomorrow is the last day of school before winter break for many students. If you're looking for a good elementary school or middle school activity for the last day before break, consider having students create and send digital greeting cards. Here are three tools students can use to create and send digital greeting cards.

Animoto offers video themes for every season. Their holiday themes include "starry night," "wonderland of snow," "eight days of lights," "pop-up pandemonium," "gifting gifts," "spirit of December," and "wrapping scraps." To send a video greeting card through Animoto just select one of the themes, upload images or choose images from the Animoto gallery, select a soundtrack, title your project, and then let Animoto mix it into a beautiful video greeting. Students can share their video greetings through email, Facebook, or by embedding it into a blog.

PicMonkey is a great image editing and collage creation tool. They're currently offering a variety of holiday themes that students can use for their collages. Your students could create a holiday collage and share it via email or post in on your classroom blog.

Its A Message is a neat site for sending digital greetings that uses Google Maps Street View as its basis for generating location-based greeting cards. To send a greeting through Its A Message start by specifying any location. Its A Message will then take you to that location in a Street View display that has been enhanced for the holidays. For example, the imagery of Portland, Maine has been drawn with lights and snowflakes. After settling on a location click "share your message" to customize what appears on the screen and to send the greeting to friends.

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