Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Hello Slide - Easily Add Narration to Your Slideshows

Slides are the medium that most people default to when they need to give a presentation in person or over the web. When used correctly, slides are useful in helping you convey a message. The problem with most slide presentations is that there needs to be a speaker's voice attached to them to make them meaningful. Hello Slide is a tool that you can use to add voice narration to slides that you display online.

Hello Slide is different from services like Slideshare's Zipcast because instead of recording your voice you type what you want the narrator to say. Where you might type "speakers notes" in other slide programs, in Hello Slide you type out the narration. Hello Slide creates the audio and narrates your slides for you. While the voice is slightly robotic, it is much much better than most text to speech services.

To get started using Hello Slide, register for a free account, upload a PDF of your slides, then start typing your narration. It's very easy to use Hello Slide.

Applications for Education
Hello Slide could be a great way for students to construct and share narrated slideshows. I think of Hello Slide as a tool for simple digital storytelling projects. You could have students create a series of slides and add narration through Hello Slide to tell a story.

H/T to David Kapuler

7 Resources for Teaching and Learning Anatomy and Physiology

Thinking back on my undergraduate studies there is one class that instantly comes to mind whenever someone asks, "what was the most difficult class you had to take?" for me the answer is Anatomy and Physiology. Why I was taking that class is a long story, but it confirmed for me that I was definitely not going to medical school. I don't know if the following resources would have helped me with my studies back then, but they certainly wouldn't have hurt to try them.

Healthline Body Maps provides interactive three dimensional models for learning about human anatomy. Body Maps has male and female models. The models have eight layer views, from skin to skeletal, that you can select. You can hold your mouse pointer over any part of the model to view a body part's name and then zoom to more detailed information. For example, if I place my mouse on the stomach I can then click through for a more detailed view and to see how the stomach is connected to other body parts. To rotate the model just click and drag the model to the left or right.

BioDigital Human offers interactive 3D models of human anatomy. You can turn on and off different views according to which body systems you want to view. The models can be rotated 360 degrees and the labels have an audio play-back option. The video below offers an overview of BioDigital Human.

If you are going to use BioDigital Human in your classroom, there are two things to keep in mind. First, the models are 100% anatomically correct. Second, you do need to have your browser updated to the latest version possible to experience all that BioDigital Human has to offer.

In Sponge Lab Biology's Build a Body students construct a human body system-by-system. To build a body students drag and drop into place the organs and bones of a human body. Each organ and bone is accompanied by a description of the purpose of that bone or organ. The systems that students can build in the Build a Body activity are the skeletal, digestive, respiratory, nervous, excretory, and circulatory systems. Build a Body also has a case study menu in which students can read about diseases, disorders, and and other concerns that affect the human body. In each case study students are given a short description of the concern followed by a question that they should be able to answer after completing the Build a Body activity.

Anatomy Arcade is a collection of games about human body systems. The collection is categorized by both body system and game type. The games most frequently appearing in the Anatomy Arcade are jigsaw puzzles, matching games, and crossword puzzles. There are also a few interactive games. The Anatomy Arcade was developed by a science and physical education teacher in Melbourne, Australia.

Get Body Smart has number of tutorials and quizzes divided into eight categories of anatomy and physiology. Each category is divided into subcategories where visitors will find quizzes for each topic. The tutorials and quizzes are best suited to use in advanced high school anatomy and physiology courses.

The University of Pennsylvania Health System provides nearly 200 video animations and explanations of injuries, diseases, and body systems. The animations, like this one of a balloon angioplasty, are concise which makes them good for general reference purposes.

In Man as Industrial Palace Henning Lederer brings this famous drawing to life. In the two minute video viewers will see how the human body's internal systems work together to process food and produce life. The video is embedded below.

Der Mensch als Industriepalast [Man as Industrial Palace] from Henning Lederer on Vimeo.

See the image Man as Industrial Palace below. (If you're viewing this in RSS you might need to click through to see the image).

This Might Be the Worst Idea for "Fixing Education"

I cringe whenever I see a popular blog like Mashable run posts about "fixing education." Last week they ran a  post titled An Idea for Fixing Education: Skip College, Work at a Startup. The author of the article, Sarah Kessler,  proposes that students would be better served by spending two years in internships for these technology start-ups than they would be by going to college. I am all for students getting practical experience in the fields that they have an interest in working in, but to suggest that students can learn everything they need to know through a two year internship is ludicrous.

Internship experience is valuable if it is done correctly. Student teaching is a good example of internships done right because students get actual experience performing the job of teaching. Internships that turn students into glorified personal assistants don't benefit students. I'm not saying that these internships will do that to students, but even at their best good internships don't supply all of the other skills taught and experiences gained by spending four years college. 

Even if you think that spending two years in an internship is better than spending that time in college, committing to two years with an tech start-up is still a risky proposition. Tech start-ups rise and fall with remarkable speed. What happens to a student when the start-up fails one year into his internship? 

Yes, four years of college is expensive and students are increasingly taking on enormous amounts of debt, but the knowledge and experience good students gain are invaluable. An internship can be a part of that four year experience. An internship should not be a replacement for four years of education. The internships with which I am familiar expect that students already know how to write, research, and communicate. The internship is where those skills are refined and put to use in a career field. The internship is not where you learn those skills.

For the writers and editors at Mashable, please stick to making lists of Adorable Google Doodles for Valentine's Day and leave "fixing education" to educators before you send more students down a dangerous path. I know that you all think that anyone can become the next Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates by dropping out of college and working on their tech start-ups. Just remember Zuckerberg and Gates graduated from exclusive prep schools and dropped out of Ivy League schools, so on some level they were already exceptional before they became exceptional. If you can afford (financially and personally) to go to and drop out of Ivy League schools then maybe you should just spend a couple of years at an internship. The rest of us should stay in school, graduate, and then work on building the next big thing.

Award-Winning Science Visualizations

The National Science Foundation's International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge annually recognizes individuals and organizations who produce educational graphics. There are five award categories; videos, interactive games, informational posters and graphics, illustrations, and photography. The awards recognize outstanding visualizations that can help educate students about complex topics in science. For example, Sponge Lab's Build a Body that I wrote about last week was an award winner in 2011. Another example is found in the video embedded below.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for some informative graphics to support your science lesson plans, take a look at the past winners of the National Science Foundation's International Science & Engineering Visualization Challenge.