Friday, February 15, 2013

Create Animated Comics with Sketch Star

Sketch Star has gone offline. 

Sketch Star from Miniclip is a fun and free tool for creating animated comics. On Sketch Star students can create draw animations from scratch or use pre-made shapes and characters. Students build their animations frame by frame. Each frame appears in a timeline that can be altered by dragging and dropping the frames into different sequences. The length of time that each frame is displayed can be adjusted too. Completed projects can be saved online.

Applications for Education 
To save Sketch Star animations you do need to register for an account with an email address. If your students don't have email addresses you could use the Gmail+1 hack to register them. Sketch Star also asks for birthdays. I just selected 1/1/1969 (not anywhere close to my real birthday) and got into the service.

Using Sketch Star could be a good way for students to create animations to go along with creative stories that they write as part of a language arts lesson.

How to Post to Blogger via Email

The impending closure of Posterous Spaces has me back to recommending Blogger for quickly creating group blogs. One of the aspects of Blogger that makes it easy for students and teachers to write new blog posts is to post via email. If you can write an email, you can post to a Blogger blog. The screenshots below show you how to enable posting via email. (click the images to view them in full size)

Step 1: After signing into your Blogger account select settings from the drop-down menu next to the name of your blog.

Step 2: Select "mobile and email" in the settings menu.

Step 3: Specify the secret email address to which posts will be sent. Select "save as draft" if you want to moderate posts before they appear on your blog.

Host Web Conferences and Embed the Recordings Into Your Blog

Big Marker is a service that offers a free option for hosting online conferences. The service allows you to web conference (screen sharing is currently not available) in a manner similar to using the multiple callers option in Skype. Big Marker has a native recording option that you can use to capture your conference. Today, I received an email from BigMarker in which they announced that you can now embed those recordings directly into your blog or website.

Applications for Education
If you're looking for an alternative to Skype to use to bring virtual speakers into your classroom, give Big Marker a try. The native recording option could be great for recording that virtual visit and posting it on your blog for students to watch whenever they like

Teacher2Teacher - My Favorite Annual PD Event

This is a post primarily for folks in western Canada and Montana, but it is open to anyone who is interested. 

For the fourth consecutive year I have been invited to speak at the Teacher 2 Teacher conference in Bow Island, Alberta. This year's event is happening on April 29th and 30th. Over the course of the two days 120 workshops are provided by more than thirty presenters. As usual the conference organizer is bringing in some great people from Canada, the United States, and Australia! I was recently describing the conference to my friend Rushton Hurley who will coming from California to present on video creation in the classroom (I'm presenting on Google Apps among other things). In describing the conference I told Rushton that it has a very EdCamp-like feel to it. There is not a keynote session nor is there any pretentiousness to any aspect of the conference. All of the presenters are very approachable and all of the workshops are held in classrooms or computer labs so that you can actually try the things that you're learning about while the presenter is there to help you.

I strongly encourage anyone within driving distance of Bow Island to put Teacher2Teacher in your spring calendar today.

And a bonus aspect of visiting the Bow Island area is getting to see the world's largest pinto bean and the world's largest teepee.

Interactive Resources for Learning About Asteroids

By now you have probably heard the news about a meteorite exploding over Russia this morning. I've read some good Q&A articles about meteorites on The Guardian and the BBC News. CNN also has some videos and image galleries on the topic. But those resources are fairly basic. I went to NASA's website to see what they had to help students learn about asteroids and meteorites. Asteroid 2012 DA14 is due to fly by Earth today. NASA has some simulation images and video clips about 2012 DA14 here.

Killer Asteroids: Science Fiction or Science Fact is a NASA sponsored site for students. On Killer Asteroids students can learn where asteroids and comets come from, their structures, and the odds of a large asteroid hitting the Earth. Killer Asteroids offers a simulation that you can use to see the potential impact of various sizes of asteroids if they were to hit the Earth. Students can also try their hands at moving asteroids off course in a couple of games on the Killer Asteroids site.

Asteroid Mappers is another NASA supported site on which you can learn about asteroids. Asteroid Mappers gives students access to high resolution imagery of the giant asteroid named Vesta. The site asks visitors to help map the asteroid which will in turn help scientists determine the age and composition of Vesta.