Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Is Your Message Clear? Have Someone Else Animate or Illustrate It

This is a problem we all face at times; we think that we've created a great presentation or developed a great story yet it just doesn't resonate with our audience. This happens to our students too. One way to avoid this situation is to have someone else illustrate or animate what they think are the important aspects of your presentation. Think about having your students do this as an extension of a peer review activity. Here are a few tools that your students can use to create animations and illustrations:

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 and audio files to use in your videos.

PowToon is a nice service for creating explanatory videos through a drag and drop process. The videos that you create feature digital paper cut-outs on a colorful background. Think of PowToon as an online tool for creating videos in the style made popular by Common Craft. PowToon provides drawings of people and objects that you can arrange on blank canvas. After adding your narration to the arrangement you can publish your video. PowToon's free version limits your videos to 45 seconds. 

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.

ABCya Animate is a fun new tool from ABCya (disclosure, an advertiser here). ABCya Animate allows students to create animated GIFs containing up to 100 frames. On ABCya Animate students build their animation creations by drawing, typing, and inserting images. Students can change the background of each frame, include new pictures in each frame, and change the text in each frame of their animations.

Narrable Launches New Education Plans - Create Unlimited Audio Slideshows

I have just received an exciting email from the folks at Narrable. They have launched a new plan for educators. The new plan includes free unlimited Narrables. Now to be clear, I'm not sure if this has been rolled-out to everyone yet, their email message didn't specify.

Narrable is a neat service for creating short narrated slideshows. Narrable is kind of like VoiceThread mashed with Animoto. To create an audio slideshow on Narrable start by uploading some pictures that you either want to talk about or have music played behind. After the pictures are uploaded you can record a narration for each picture through your computer's microphone or by calling into your Narrable's access phone number. You can also upload an audio recording that is stored on your computer.

Applications for Education
Narrable could be a good service for students to use to tell a short story by adding narration to pictures that they have taken or found online. Have students search for some Creative Commons licensed images arranged around topics that they're studying then record a short slideshow about them.  

Here are the details of the email I received from Narrable regarding their new education plan. 
You talked, and we listened. We’ve been hard at work implementing your suggestions and we are excited to introduce the Narrable Teacher Account!
How To Upgrade your account for FREE:
  1. Since you're logged in, click on your name in the upper right-hand corner to reveal an account overview window.
  2. Click on the blue "Upgrade" button to see the Plans and Pricing page.
  3. Find the "Teacher" account and click on the associated blue "Select Plan" button.
  4. Please enter the name of your school, the subject(s) you teach, and the grade(s) that you teach and click on the blue "Submit" button.
  5. Congratulations! Your plan is successfully changed. Click on the "Okay" button and know how grateful we are to have you as a part of the Narrable EDU Community.
You now have FREE UNLIMITED narrables!
If you have any trouble along the way, simple click on the "Support" tab on the left side of your browser window and let us know how we can help. Don't worry - you're a part of the Narrable community now. We won't leave you stranded.

Exploring Flipboard Magazines On the Web

Since June Flipboard has made it possible for people to collaboratively create digital magazines on their iPads, Android tablets, and in their web browsers. But to read those magazines you still had to use the Flipboard iPad or Android app. Last week that changed when Flipboard announced that you can now read Flipboard magazines in your web browser. I gave it a try this morning.

Flipboard magazines in a web browser look and act much like they do on an iPad or Android tablet. In fact, if you have a touch screen laptop you probably won't notice a difference at all. In your web browser you can flip pages, expand articles, bookmark articles, and share articles to your favorite social networks. You can browse for new magazines by visiting the Flipboard community page. I recommend that teachers follow the Flipboard magazine created and curated by Vicki Davis.

Applications for Education
Collaboratively creating Flipboard magazines could be a great activity for students studying current events. Your students could share the articles that they're reading and put them into one magazine for the whole class to read.

As a professional development activity collaboratively creating Flipboard magazines could be a great way for teachers to share articles with each other. Use a few of those shared articles as the starting point for discussion during your next department meeting.

DictaNote - Speak to Create Documents

A couple of years ago I tried out a Chrome extension called Speech Recognizer. Speech Recognizer allowed users to speak to create text. Speech Recognizer has been updated and is now called DictaNote. Along with the new name came a some new features of note.

DictaNote can be used as a Chrome extension or as a stand-alone tool in your Chrome browser. As a stand-alone service DictaNote allows you to create new documents by speaking into your computer's microphone. You can edit your DictaNote documents much like you would edit them in any other word processing program. DictaNote allows you to insert images and hyperlinks too.

Applications for Education
DictaNote could be great for students who need a speech-to-text to help them create documents.

Three Responses to "But I Don't Have Time to Blog"

Earlier this month at the Authentic Learning Workshop I was asked, "what do you say to teachers who say I don't have time for a blog?" I offered a few responses and here they are:

First, don't think of blogging as something you have to do on a daily basis. Some of my favorite bloggers only publish once or twice a week. Set a goal of writing one post per week to start. Think of the activity as simply a way to document your reflections on what you tried in your classroom that week or what you're thinking about trying next week. Reflecting on what we're doing should be a part of our lives anyway. (On a personal note, I set aside uninterrupted three hours every week just for thinking and reflecting).

Second, think about a blog as a living document. You don't have to publish complete thoughts in every post. Start a thought and ask readers to join in a conversation. Spelling and grammar don't count as much as think they do. The goal is to publish not practice proof-reading. Of course, if you do see a glaring mistake you can go back and fix it.

Third, think about all of the time that you spend on activities that don't benefit you or anyone else. In a typical one hour television program you will see twelve minutes of commercials. How many television shows are in your weekly "must watch" list? Use those commercial breaks to tap away at a blog post. How much time do you spend waiting in traffic? Use an app like SoundCloud to create a mini-podcast that you later post on your blog. Or use Evernote's speech to text function to dictate part of a blog post.