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Thursday, April 3, 2014

Webinar Recording - Empowering Elementary Learners With Technology

Earlier today I posted a list of alternatives to Kerpoof which is shutting down on April 15th. Shortly after I posted that list Beth Holland at Ed Tech Teacher emailed me with the recording of a webinar she recently facilitated in which many digital storytelling tools, including Kerpoof, were featured. The webinar was designed for elementary school teachers. The video of the webinar is embedded below as is the slide deck from the webinar.




 If you want a copy of these slides, open the editor (gear icon) then select "make a copy" from the "file" drop-down menu in Google Slides. Click here for directions. 

By Request - 5 Resources for Teaching About the Forces of Nature

I'm starting to get caught up on a backlog of requests that have come through on the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page. If I haven't gotten to yours yet, I will soon. One of the recent requests was for resources for teaching elementary school students about the forces of nature. Here are five resources for that purpose.

Forces of Nature is a film produced by National Geographic designed to educate students about volcanoes, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. The Forces of Nature website provides a nice list of complete lesson plans for teachers of students in grades K through 12. Even if you can't get a copy of the movie, most of the lesson plans and activities are still very usable. Teachers of grades K through 6 may also want to check out the National Geographic Kids page titled Ten Freaky Forces of Nature.

Shape It Up is one of many good educational games and activities on Kinetic CityShape It Up is an activity that would be good for use in an elementary school Earth Science lesson. The activity presents students with "before" and "after" images of a piece of Earth. Students then have to select the force nature and the span of time it took to create the "after" picture. If students choose incorrectly, Shape It Up will tell the student and they can choose again.

Stop Disasters is a game designed for students to learn about natural disasters, disaster prevention, and city design. There are five game scenarios that students can play. Students can plan to prepare for hurricanes, floods, earthquakes, wildfires, and tsunamis. The scenarios are set in geographically accurate contexts of Europe, Asia, Australia, and the Caribbean.

The BBC has a series of interactive guides that explain how natural disasters are caused. Included in this series is a twelve part animated explanation of volcanic eruptions. The series also includes explanations of hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, and tsunamis.

The USGS produces a good assortment of resources for teaching and learning about earthquakes. The USGS has resources for teachers and for students on every grade level from elementary school through college. Not included in the teachers resource section, but including in the general education page, are these flash animations of earthquakes and seismic activities. For Google Earth users the USGS produces Google Earth files for viewing earthquakes. One set of Google Earth files that the USGS produces allows you to view seismic activity in near-real time (the file refreshes every five minutes).

Storytelling Tips from the Producers of BBC Explainers

BBC Explainers are short explanatory videos produced for the BBC. Through Lee LeFever's recent post I learned about the process used to create the BBC Explainers videos. Central to Lee's post is this video explanation of the creation process. The video might be over the heads of middle school and some high school students. The video is worth watching for the information that you can pass to your students.


BBC Explainers from After the Flood on Vimeo.

7 Online Tools for Creating Charts & Diagrams

Through the Free Technology for Teachers Facebook page I recently received a request for some suggested online chart creation tools.


Lucidchart is an easy tool to use to create flowcharts, mindmaps, and graphic organizers. Lucidchart offers a simple drag and drop interface for creating flow charts, organizational charts, mind maps, and other types of diagrams. To create with Lucidchart just select elements from the menus and drag them to the canvas. You can re-size any element and type text within elements on your chart. Arrows and connecting lines can be re-sized, repositioned, and labeled to bring clarity to your diagrams.


Lucidchart offers Google Drive integration through a Chrome web app. If your school uses Google Apps for Education, you can add Lucidchart to your domain. Both of these options make it easy for students to save and share their work online. Lucidchart charges business customers, but makes all of their tools free for teachers and students.

Google Fusion Tables is a neat spreadsheet application that makes it easy to create visualizations of data sets. Fusion Tables can also be used to create visualizations of data set comparisons. At its most basic level Fusion Tables can be used to visualize existing data sets with one click. At a deeper level, Fusion Tables can be used to compare your own data sets and create visualizations of those comparisons. The types of visualizations available include tables, maps, charts, and graphs. As a Social Studies teacher, I really like the map visualization options.

Hohli Online Charts Builder is a nice tool for creating a variety of charts for online display. Using the Hohli Online Charts Builder you can create bar graphs, line graphs, pie charts, Venn diagrams, scatter plots, and radar charts. To use create your chart first select the type and size of display that you desire. Then fill in the corresponding form with the information that you want displayed. Your chart will be generated as you enter information so that you can see how each piece of information influences the chart. When you're satisfied with your chart just click on it to save it to your computer or to grab the embed code to use on your blog or website.

Infogr.am is an online tool for creating interactive charts and graphs to use in interactive infographics. There are four basic chart types that you can create on Infogr.am; bar, pie, line, and matrix. Each chart type can be edited to use any spreadsheet information that you want to upload to your Infogr.am account. The information in that spreadsheet will be displayed in your customized chart. When you place your cursor over your completed chart the spreadsheet information will appear in small pop-up window. Your Infogr.am charts can be embedded into your blog, website, or wiki.

Better World Flux is a free data visualization development tool that was created for the World Bank's Apps for Development Challenge. The purpose of the challenge was to encourage app developers to create products that could be used to highlight the development data hosted by the World BankBetter World Flux allows users to create animated visualizations of development data. To use Better World Flux (no registration required) all you have to do is select a data set from the menu provided and select a country or countries from the menu provided. From there Better World Flux creates an animated data visualization for you. The visualization will change as the years on the timeline at the bottom of the visualization change. This way users can see growth and recession of a statistic over time.

Gapminder is a great tool for creating data visualizations. Gapminder gives users the ability to create graphs of hundreds of demographic and economic indicators. I like Gapminder because it provides a good way for visual learners to see data sets in a context that is significantly different from standard data sets. Gapminder has a page for educators on which they can find thematic animations, graphs, quizzes, model lessons, and a PDF guide to using Gapminder. For teachers working in schools with slow Internet connections or very strict filtering, Gapminder has a desktop application that you can download and install for Mac or Windows computers.

Haiku Deck's web application is a great tool for designing visually-appealing slideshows. The latest update to the Haiku Deck web app includes support for charts and graphs. Now in your Haiku Deck slides you can create bar graphs, pie charts, and stat charts. You can adjust the values in bar graphs by clicking and dragging each column. Pie charts are made by typing percentages. Stat charts are simply captioned columns of statistics.

Kerpoof is Closing - Here Are Some Alternatives

Kerpoof is closing on April 15th. This week I've had a few requests to share some alternatives to Kerpoof. The following resources offer many of the elements that Kerpoof offered.

Storybird provides templates and artwork for creating digital stories. To use Storybird you simply select a theme (layout) then drag and drop the drawings you like into your story. Once you've selected drawings for your story, you then write in the text of your story. Using Storybird, anyone can create great-looking digital picture book stories regardless of your drawing skills or lack there-of.

Little Bird Tales is a nice site intended for younger students to use to create digital stories. Little Bird Tales walks users through each step of creating a multimedia story. Users can upload images, draw images, or record from their webcams. Stories can be written with text or narrated by students using microphones connected to their computers. Watch the video below to learn more about Little Bird Tales.



Picture Book Maker allows students to create six page stories by dragging background scenes into a page, dragging in animals and props, and typing text. All of the elements can be sized an positioned to fit the pages. Text is limited to roughly two lines per page. Completed stories are displayed with simple page turning effects. Stories created on Picture Book Maker can be printed.

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.

Crayola's online drawing canvas provides students with a blank canvas on which they can draw using virtual markers, crayons, pencils, and paints. Drawings cannot be saved online, but they can be printed. Pre-K Teachers looking for coloring pages can create their own or have students create their own using Crayola's Create & Color tool. Create & Color provides templates for creating custom coloring pages. You can pick a background template and modify it by adding speech bubbles and pictures. Coloring pages cannot be saved online, but they can be printed.

Stop Frame Animator from Culture Street is a neat tool for creating animated stop motion movies. Creating your animated stop motion video is a simple drag and drop process on Stop Frame Animator. To get started creating your stop motion video select a background scene  then drag your characters into place. While you have nine background scenes to choose from, the only characters you can use are wooden manikins. You can position the manikins' arms and legs in every scene. After choosing your scene and characters you can add some other props like chairs and beach balls. And if you want you can add sound effects and music to your video by selecting them from the Stop Frame Animator gallery.

Creaza Education is a great suite of tools that contains a video editor, an audio editor, a cartoon creator, and an excellent mind map builder. To access all of these tools create an account on Creaza Education then select "tools" after you sign in. Creaza Education offers a free plan with limitations on the amount of content you can create, the premium plans have variable pricing.


Creaza Education's movie editor is similar in layout to WeVideo and Pixorial. The movie editor provides you with some stock media clips and transition effects to get you started. You can upload your own audio recordings, videos, and pictures and store them in your account to use in all of your video projects. To create your movie just drag media elements from your library into the track for that media type. For example, if you want to use a video clip drag it to the video track. You can trim the start and end times for your video elements. Rearranging the sequence of elements in your video is just a drag and drop process.

Cartoonist is Creaza Education's cartoon creation tool. Creaza provides eight templates to get you started. The Manga, Crazy, and Norwegian Woods templates offer the most variation in settings and characters. The Historical Universes template is appealing to me too. The cartoon creation process is the same regardless of which template you choose. To create a cartoon drag items to each cartoon frame from the menus of settings, characters, and props. You can upload your own props and images to use too.

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