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Monday, December 11, 2017

The Science of Snowflakes

Here in western Maine we're expecting our second real snowstorm of the winter to arrive tonight. This has reminded me of a couple of educational videos that explain the science of snowflakes.

The Science of Snowflakes is a TED-Ed video lesson that explains how snowflakes are formed, why they're all different, and why seem to be "wetter" than others. The video also explains why all skiing is water skiing.


ByteSize Science also offers a good video about how snowflakes are formed.

Three Sites That Help Students Compare the Size of Countries and States

Over the weekend Open Culture featured one of my favorite websites to use in geography classes. That website is called The True Size Of... and it lets you quickly compare the size of two countries or two states within the United States. To compare two countries simply enter one into the search box then enter a second one into the search box. Both countries will be highlighted for you. You can then drag and drop one onto the other to see a size comparison. The same process can be done with U.S. states.

If It Were My Home is a neat site that provides comparisons of countries. If It Were My Home will show you a comparison of geographic size of your country with that of another of your choosing. Beyond the size comparison, If It Were My Home shows you comparisons of twelve health and economics statistics about life in different countries. To view the comparisons just select two countries from the lists and click compare.

Overlap Maps is a free service that can be used to quickly compare the size of countries, states, provinces, and some bodies of water. To create a visual comparison of two countries select one country from the "overlap this" menu and select one country from the "onto this" menu. The comparisons you make are displayed on a map. You can make comparisons from different categories. For example, you can overlap Lake Erie onto New Hampshire.

How to Create a Distraction-free Video Playlist

A couple of weeks ago I shared a few ways to display videos without the distraction of sidebar content on YouTube and Vimeo. Another way to display videos without the sidebar distractions is to play them through Padlet. In Padlet you can use the "playlist" template to make a list of videos and then display each of them without the sidebar content that appears on YouTube or Vimeo. You can make the playlist yourself or you can invite others to collaborate with you just like you would with any other Padlet wall. Watch my video to learn how to make a distraction-free video playlist on a Padlet wall.

SkyView - An Augmented Reality App to Help Students Find Constellations

SkyView is a free augmented reality app (an Android version and an iOS version is available) that helps students identify stars and constellations. With the free app installed students can point their phones at the sky and see constellations identified on their screens. In addition to constellations the app will identify planets, satellites, and some individual stars.

There are other apps that do similar things to the SkyView app. One thing that makes SkyView different from some similar apps is that it has a "time travel" function. The time travel function will show users what the sky above them looked like on past nights and what constellations and other objects will appear in future nights.

Applications for Education
You could spark your students' interest in using the app by first teaching a lesson about constellations and the myths associated with some of them. Then have students use the app with their parents to try to identify some of the constellations that they have learned about in your classroom.

Five Tools for Creating Animations on Chromebooks

Yesterday's post about the PuppetMaster app prompted a couple of people to ask me if there is anything similar available for Chromebook use. While I can't think of anything that is free and exactly like PuppetMaster, here are some options for creating animated videos on Chromebooks.

Animatron is a nice tool for creating animated videos and images. To create a video on Animatron you start by dragging and dropping characters on a background scene and then choosing how long each character will be displayed in a scene. You can also set the length of time for each character in a scene to be in motion. By using Animatron's timeline editor you can make objects appear and disappear from a scene. The best feature of Animatron is that you can record audio directly over the animation. The built-in recording tools lets you see the scene while you're recording so that you can precisely synchronize each scene with its audio track.

PowToon is a popular platform for creating animated videos. In PowToon students create animated videos on a scene-by-scene basis through a series of slides. Students can choose background scenes, characters, and scene objects from a huge media gallery. After configuring the scenes of their stories, students can record voiceovers or play music in the background.

Toontastic 3D is available to use on Chromebooks that support the use of Android apps. Check this list to see if your Chromebook supports the use of Android apps. On Toontastic 3D students can pick from a variety of story setting templates or they can create their own. Once they have established a background setting students then select cartoon characters to use in their stories. Students can choose from a wide array of customizable cartoon characters or they can create their own from scratch. Once characters are placed into the story scenes students can begin recording themselves talking while moving the characters around in each scene. Students can swap characters between scenes, change the appearance of characters between scenes, and move characters from one scene to the next.



MySimpleshow is a free tool for creating Common Craft-style explanatory videos. MySimpleshow requires you to write a script for your video before you can start adding illustrations and sounds to it. In MySimpleshow you will find a wide variety of script templates that will help you plan your video. The script is written in chapters that become the outline for your video. After you have written your script MySimpleshow will take your chapters and give you suggested images and animations to use. The suggestions are based on the keywords in your script. You also have the option to upload your own visuals to use in your video. Adding narration to your video is the last step in the MySimpleshow editor. There is an automated text-to-speech narration that will read your script as narration for your video. Completed videos can be downloaded and or directly uploaded to YouTube from MySimpleshow.

Scratch is designed for introducing students to programming. Creating animations is part of the programming that students can learn through using Scratch. ScratchJR, available for some Chromebooks, is the version of Scratch designed for students in K-2. Plenty of tutorials abound for getting started using Scratch. The best place for teachers to start is on the Scratch for Educators site. There you will find many tutorials, activity guides, and a curriculum guide. The ScratchEd community is the place to go for inspiration from other teachers who are using Scratch in their classrooms. For example, in ScratchEd you might find something like this Google Doc filled with ideas for using Scratch in elementary school mathematics lessons.


  Scratch Overview from ScratchEd on Vimeo.

Disclosure: MySimpleshow is currently an advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com