Monday, March 4, 2013

WWF Together - A Beautiful iPad App About Endangered Animals

WWF Together is a wonderful, free iPad app that I have featured on iPad Apps for School in the past. I installed the update for it over the weekend and found myself exploring the app all over again. It's too good not to share with as many people as possible.

WWF Together features ten interactive stories about endangered animals around the world. Each of the interactive stories includes beautiful images and videos, facts about the animals and their habitats, and the threats to each of the animals. The animals currently featured in the app are pandas, marine turtles, elephants, tigers, polar bears, bison, whales, gorillas, rhinos, and snow leopards. Stories about sharks and jaguars are slated for addition to the app later this year.

Applications for Education
Students can explore the WWF Together app in a couple of ways. Students can choose an animal by selecting it from the menu that unfolds when the origami polar bear is tapped. Alternatively, students can find animals by spinning a globe in the app and tapping on the blue dots that represent the locations of animals. If students have location services enabled on their iPads they can quickly learn how far the animals are from where they are using their iPads.

Teaching Art Online and Other Art Talks on Google+

When Google launched the the Google Art Project in 2011 I said that it was a "must bookmark" for art teachers. Then in 2012 it improved again by adding Street View imagery for dozens of museums featured in the project. Today, Google announced another offering through the Google Art Project. Google is now offering Art Talks on Google+. The talks will be held as Google+ Hangouts On Air.

The first talk in the Art Talks on Google+ series is happening on this Wednesday, March 6 at 8pm ET. The talk will be held with the Museum of Modern Art and the topic is teaching art online. Anyone can join the Hangout. If you have a question that you would like to ask in advance, you can submit it here.

Applications for Education
One the best parts of the Art Project powered by Google is the option to create your own artwork collection while visiting each museum. As you're touring a museum click on the "+" symbol on any work of art see it in greater detail, to add it to your collection, and to open background information about that work of art. You could have your students go on an art scavenger hunt to create collections of art according to a theme, time period, or artist.

TagCrowd Offers Three Easy Ways to Make Word Clouds

Yesterday, I shared a handful of free tools for creating word clouds. Those were all tools that I had previously tried. This afternoon I set out to find some more word cloud creation tools. You Are Your Words was suggested to me and it's a nice looking site, but it's not functioning like it should right now. To Cloud works, but it's clunky (who wants to spend time explaining "interpolation" to kids just to get them to create a word cloud?). TagCrowd, however, is a winner in my book.

TagCrowd offers three ways to create word clouds. You can create a word cloud by copying and pasting text into TagCrowd, you can upload a plain text file, or you can copy and paste a web address into TagCrowd. After using one of those three methods you can specify how many words you want to display, you can select to show the word count in your word cloud, and you specify words to exclude (common words like "the" are automatically ignored. TagCrowd supports fifteen languages.

Applications for Education
TagCrowd, like other word cloud generators, can be useful in helping students identify the words that are emphasized in a written article or a speech. After creating their word clouds ask your students to think about why the author or speaker used some words so frequently.

Word clouds can also be used to help students see which words that they have frequently used in their own works. Have your students create word clouds of their work during the revision process of writing a story or essay. The word cloud will quickly show students which words they have used a lot. Then ask them to think about synonyms for the words that they have used most often in their writings. 

5 Apps and Sites for Creating Animations

This afternoon on Twitter I was asked for some recommendations for tools that students can use to create animations. The first one that came to mind was the one that was freshest in my mind, that was Sketch Star. After sharing that link I went back into my archives for some other tools that students can use to create animations and came up with four others. Here are five tools that students can use to create animations.

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.

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.

Animation Desk is an iPad app (free and premium versions available) for creating short, animated videos. The app allows you to create drawings using just your finger on your iPad's screen. In the free version of the app (the version that I tried) you can create up to 50 scenes in each of your projects. In each scene you can include as little or as much as you want to draw on the canvas. There are a few different brush and pencil effects that you can use in your drawings. The opacity of the colors you choose can be altered too. When you have completed drawing all of your scenes hit the play button to watch your animation unfold. If you're happy with your animation you can export it to YouTube.

Draw Island is a free online tool for creating drawings and simple GIF animations. Draw Island offers you your choice of four canvas sizes on which you can draw. Draw Island offers two canvas sizes for creating simple GIF animations. To use Draw Island just head to the site and select a drawing tool. You can draw free hand (or should I say free mouse?) or select pre-defined shapes to use in your images. When you're done drawing just click the save button to download your drawing or animation.

Wideo is a service that allows anyone to create animated videos and Common Craft-style videos online. You can create an animated video on Wideo by dragging and dropping elements into place in the Wideo editor then setting the sequence of animations. Each element can be re-used as many times as you like and the timing of the animation of each image can individually adjusted. Wideo's stock elements include text, cartoons, and drawings. You can also upload your own images to use in your videos.

Connect and Collaborate With NASA

It's not a secret that I enjoy many of the educational resources that NASA offers to teachers and students. I enjoy visiting the NASA website because it seems like every time I visit it there is a new resource to investigate. This afternoon I discovered Connect and Collaborate With NASA. Connect and Collaborate With NASA is a page linking to all of NASA's iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile apps. The page includes apps that I've previously tried Spacecraft 3D (my review) and Sector 33 (my review) as well as some new-to-me apps like Comet Quest (free iOS app) and Be A Martian (Android).

Applications for Education
If you're looking for some free apps to support your lessons in engineering and science, take a look at Connect and Collaborate With NASA before you jump to searching in the Google Play or App Store. Some of the apps that I recommend starting with are Planet Quest, the Lunar Rover Simulator, and Earth as Art. All three of those apps are available through Connect and Collaborate With NASA.