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Thursday, March 6, 2014

Best of the Web 2014

Earlier today at NCTIES 2014 I shared an entirely new version of my popular Best of the Web presentation. In this version I shared only tools that are new-to-me since last year's NCTIES conference and or have released significant enhancements in the last year. The slides from the session are embedded below. If you would like a copy of these slides click here to open them in Google Drive then select "File,""Make copy" to save a copy for yourself. I will be updating the speaker notes to include more links.

Tynker Launches an iPad App That Helps Kids Learn Programming

The online programming education service Tynker has released an iPad app for students. The Tynker iPad app features stories that students animate by completing a series of programming challenges. The programming happens by organizing a series of blocks that represent commands. In that way it is similar to apps like Daisy the Dinosaur and MIT's App Inventor.

The Tynker iPad app provides the first story / programming challenge for free. The subsequent challenges require in-app purchases. The first story contains twenty challenges for students.

Applications for Education
The Tynker iPad app could be a good one for elementary school students to use to begin to learn about the logic that is used in programming. Students older than ten or eleven may find the challenges too simple.

Create Your Own Geography Games With These Free Tools

One of the fun things that we did earlier in my NCTIES workshop about Google Maps and Earth was to play a couple of rounds of GeoGuessr. GeoGuessr shows you a Google Street View image and a clue to try to guess where in the world the imagery was captured. Playing GeoGuessr is a fun way to get students to look at all of the visual and text clues they have in order to form a good guess as to where in the world they think the imagery came from.

You can create your own GeoGuessr games by using GeoSettr. When you visit GeoSettr you'll see two screens. A map with a Pegman on your left and the Street View imagery for the Pegman's current location on your right. Move the Pegman around, zoom-in if you like, until you find the location that you want people to guess. When you've found the right location click "set round" to save the location. When you've set five rounds (locations) your game is assigned a URL that you can distribute. Just like any other GeoGuessr game when someone plays your GeoSettr game he or she will try to use the visual clues in the Street View imagery to guess the location. After making a guess GeoGuessr shows you the correct location and how far away from the correct location your guess was.


Mission Map Quest
, developed by Russel Tarr, is a map-based tool for creating virtual treasure hunts. The concept is simple, you create a series of clues that your students need to follow to identify places around the world. You can add as few or as many clues to your Map Quest as you like. When you're ready to have students try your Quest just give them the web address of the challenge or have them scan the QR code assigned to your Quest.

An iPad App, Android App, and Web App for Drawing Animated Comics

Earlier today in my NCTIES workshop about creating media with mobile apps we talked about having students create comics to tell a story. Two of the apps that we looked at for that purpose were Animation Desk and ABCYa Animate. Unlike apps that are designed specifically for the purpose of creating comic strips, Animation Desk and ABCYa Animate don't include a standard comic frames format nor do they include pre-made characters for students to drag and drop into place. Instead Animation Desk and ABCYa Animate require students to draw each frame. When all of their frames have been drawn, students can play back their animations in a flipbook style.

Animation Desk is an iPad and Android app (free and premium versions available) for creating short, animated videos. The app allows you to create drawings using just your finger on your tablet's screen. In the free version of the app (the version that I tried) you can create up to 50 scenes in each of your projects. In each scene you can include as little or as much as you want to draw on the canvas. There are a few different brush and pencil effects that you can use in your drawings. The opacity of the colors you choose can be altered too. When you have completed drawing all of your scenes hit the play button to watch your animation unfold. If you're happy with your animation you can export it to YouTube. And as Kathy Schrock pointed out to me today, you can export all of your drawings as a set of PDFs.

ABCya Animate from ABCya (disclosure, an advertiser here)allows students to create animated GIFs containing up to 100 frames. On ABCya Animate students build their animation creations by drawing, typing, and inserting images. Students can change the background of each frame, include new pictures in each frame, and change the text in each frame of their animations. The feature that I like best about ABCya Animate is that students can see the previous frames of their animations while working on a current frame. This helps students know where to position items in each frame in order to make their animations as smooth as possible. Students do not need to register on ABCya Animate in order to use the tool or to save their animations. When students click "save" on ABCya Animate their creations are downloaded as GIFs.

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