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Tuesday, March 27, 2018

How to Create Animations With ABCya Animate

ABCya Animate is a free tool that students can use to create animations. It can be a great tool for elementary school and middle school students to use to create animations to use to tell a short story. For example, in my demonstration video the animation I started to make could be used as part of a larger story about marine life or ocean ecosystems. To complete the story I would need to add some more drawings and perhaps some text for clarification. Your students might also use short animations as part of larger multimedia project. Watch my demonstration video embedded below to learn more about how to use ABCya Animate.


Three more free animation tools were featured in this Practical Ed Tech post.

Story Dice - Roll the Dice to Get a Story Starter

Story Dice is the name of two different, but similar apps that can be used to generate creative writing prompts.

Story Dice for iOS is a free app that lets you select up to ten dice from four story categories. The dice feature pictures that are intended to prompt you to write about them or include them in a story. You can roll the dice by shaking your iPad or by just tapping the roll icon. Want to write your own Star Wars fan fiction? Story Dice has a Star Wars category.

Story Dice for Android is made by a different developer than the app with the same name for iPads. Story Dice for Android displays nine dice in a grid. Tap the dice to roll them and get a set of pictures to use as story prompts.

Applications for Education
The thing that I like about both of these apps is that you can use them in almost any classroom in which students need a little inspiration for writing a fiction story. Because the prompts are image-based, you don't have to worry about students not knowing the definition of a word and therefore not getting the benefit of the story prompt.

Seven Good Resources to Help Students Learn the Periodic Table

Learning the periodic table of the elements is not one of my fondest memories of high school, but it was a necessary experience to get through chemistry. My classmates and I memorized  all of the elements, at least temporarily, by using flashcards to drill each other. Today, students have more options at their disposal. Here are seven good resources to help students learn the periodic table of elements.

Ptable is an interactive display of the Periodic Table of Elements. Place your mouse pointer over an element to access the basic information about it. Click on an element to open a Wikipedia article about that element. The article opens within a dialogue box within Ptable so that you don't have to leave the site and then come back to use the table again.

The Periodic Table of Elements, in Pictures and Words is an interactive site that shows students how each element is used or is present in familiar products. When students click on an element in the interactive display an image of a familiar product or object appears along with a description of the element and its characteristics. For example, if you click on aluminum an image of airplane appears along with a description of aluminum, its uses, and its characteristics.


The Periodic Table of Comic Books is a project of the chemistry department at the University of Kentucky. The idea is that for every element in the Periodic Table of Elements there is a comic book reference. Clicking on an element in the periodic table displayed on the homepage will take visitors to a list and images of comic book references to that particular element. After looking at the comic book reference if visitors want more information about a particular element they can find it by using the provided link to Web Elements.

The Periodic Table of Videos is produced by The University of Nottingham. The table features a video demonstration of the characteristics of each element in the table. Each element in the Periodic Table displayed on the home page is linked to a video. The videos are hosted on YouTube, but don't worry The University of Nottingham provides an alternative server through which you should be able to view the videos.

The Elements is an interactive periodic table on which students can click an element and learn about that element. Clicking on an element describes all of the element's properties and the common uses of that element. If students just need a snap shot of information, simply placing their cursor on an element reveals a snap shot of information at the top of the page.

ABPI Schools offers an online game in which students have to use their knowledge of the elements in order to correctly place them into a blank table. Students are scored according to time and accuracy. A penalty time is added for each incorrect attempt. The game is available in three difficulty levels. 

Finally, AsapScience has released an updated version of the Periodic Table Song. Watch the music video here

Three Mistakes Students Make In Online Research

Whether it's a simple question or a complex research task, the first thing students do is turn to Google for help. They might type a query into a Google search or, increasingly, they'll speak their query into Google Assistant, Alexa, or Siri. That practice in itself can be a mistake. Here are three other mistakes that students often make when conducting research online.

1. Not asking the most qualified person for help!
Your school probably employs a teacher-librarian. He or she is there to help students utilize many different research techniques and many different databases. In many cases your school has access to materials and databases that cannot be accessed through just a generic Google search. So encourage your students to ask the teacher-librarian for help.

2. Not thinking about how other people think.
It is easy for students to fall into the trap of thinking about a topic in only the way that they describe it or how you've described it to them. Students should take some time to think about the similar words and phrases that other people might use to describe a topic.

3. Only looking on web pages or not opening files.
Google, Bing, and other commercial search engines tend to serve up HTML webpages as the first results. Occasionally, you'll find a PDF or Word document mixed in there too. If they never search for specific file types, students are potentially missing out on some great information. For example, if the topic is related to geography or geology, they might find a lot of value in refining the search to return only KML and KMZ files.

To learn more about search strategies that students should employ, join me on Thursday for a Practical Ed Tech webinar called Ten Search Strategies Students Need To Know.