Monday, September 15, 2014

MyStorybook - A Good Platform for Creating Picture Books

MyStorybook is a nice online tool for creating short storybooks. MyStorybook provides blank pages on which you can type, draw, and place clipart. Your storybook pages can also include pictures that you upload.

To get started on MyStorybook you do need to create an account (you can test it without an account, but your work won't be saved). After signing into your account you can start creating your first book. Click on the text fields to edit any existing text in the title and author fields. You can add more text by clicking "text" in the editing menu. To add a picture of your own select "items" in the editing menu. At the bottom of the "items" menu you will find an option to upload your own images. MyStorybook provides lots of stock imagery that you can place on a page or use as the background to a page. If you want to branch-out beyond text and images, use the drawing tools on your pages.

When you have completed your MyStorybook story, click the publish button. Stories are assigned unique URLs and published to the public gallery. MyStorybook offers the option to pay to download your story, but you can view and share your stories online for free.

Applications for Education
One way that teachers might use MyStorybook is by creating a story template and publishing it for their students to follow in the construction of their own stories. The stories published in the MyStorybook gallery have an edit option that will allow students to edit a copy of a story.

There are a couple of drawbacks to MyStorybook. First, all stories are published to the public gallery which means that you don't want students to use real names in their stories. You also may not want them to use their own pictures. The other drawback is that you do have to create an account with an email address in order to use MyStorybook. Using Gmail+1 is a possible work around for that issue.

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for sharing MyStorybook last week. 

Socratic Smackdown - A Game for Learning and Practicing Discussion Strategies

Update: February 2020, this resource has gone offline. 

Socratic Smackdown offers a fun approach to having students practice discussion strategies. Socratic Smackdown is a printable game designed to be played with up to forty students at a time. In the game students are awarded points for using each of six questioning and discussion methods. Students can lose points for interrupting or distracting others.

The play of Socratic Smackdown can be organized around a text-based question or organized around debate a question delivered verbally. During the game students can play the role of participant or "coach." A coach's role is focused on listening to the group and completing "coach cards" on which they write observations on what the participants did well and what they can do to improve.

Check out the video below for a short overview of Socratic Smackdown.

Applications for Education
Socratic Smackdown provides a great framework through which your students can develop discussion and debate skills. The game packet (a 23 page PDF available here) includes alignment to Common Core standards for middle school and high school classrooms.

Free Webinar Next Monday - Comics In the Classroom

Next Monday night at 7pm Eastern Time I will be hosting a free webinar on using comics in the classroom. The webinar is sponsored by Storyboard That. StoryBoardThat provides a good way to create comics without having to draw. You can simply select artwork from StoryboardThat's gallery of more than 40,000 items to drag and drop into the frames of your story. In the webinar we will look at ideas and methods for using comics in K-12 classrooms.

Click here to register for the webinar. Yes, the webinar will be recorded. If you cannot attend the live session you will still be able to access the recording.

An Interactive Map of George Washington's Life offers a handful of nice online resources for learning about the life of George Washington. One of the featured resources is an interactive map that is titled Washington's World. Washington's World includes a timeline and dozens of placemarks. Students can explore the map by panning, zooming, and clicking on the placemarks. Students can also click markers on the timeline to jump to corresponding placemarks on the map.

Applications for Education
Washington's World is a great map, but some of the information in the placemarks is incomplete or not present. A good assignment for U.S. History students would be to create their own version of the map and fill in the missing details. Google Maps and Google Earth could be good platforms for students to use to create their own versions of Washington's World.

H/T to Google Maps Mania.

Use Google Drive and Chromecast to Share & Display Videos Without YouTube

Last month I shared directions for privately sharing videos through Google Drive. This morning through The Next Web I learned that Chromebook users who also have a Chromecast device can project their videos from Google Drive. To do this you will have to use the development version of Chrome OS and have the Google Cast extension installed. With those two items in place you will be able to project the videos stored in your Google Drive account.

Applications for Education
Using Google Drive to share videos is a great option when you or your students have videos that you want to share, but don't want to make public for the whole world to see on YouTube. Chromebook using teachers users who want to share and project videos without using YouTube should investigate this new option to project videos stored in their Google Drive accounts.

How to Customize Your Characters in Storyboard That Comics

Disclosure: Storyboard That is a long-term advertiser on Free Technology for Teachers.

A couple of weeks ago I shared the news that Storyboard That now offers fully posable characters. You can use these characters to customize the positioning of legs, arms, and head tilts of your characters. You can also change the facial expressions of your characters. In the video below I demonstrate how to use these features.

Storyboard That is offering a back-to-school 25% discount on their premium plans

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