Monday, July 6, 2015

How to Use a Semicolon - A TED-Ed Lesson for Almost Everyone

When I was a freshman at Central Connecticut State University I had a professor say to me, "you throw around punctuation like it's confetti." There are days when that statement is still true. One of those pieces of confetti punctuation that troubled me then and troubles me now is the semicolon. I know that I am not the only person who has been tripped up by the semicolon. A new TED-Ed lesson, How to Use a Semicolon, was made for people just like me. The video is embedded below. The full lesson with application questions is available here.

A Last Minute Opening at the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp

The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp starts next Monday morning in Portland, Maine. The event has been sold out since May, but I just had a last minute cancellation. There is one seat available now. Click here to register or read on for more information.

The Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is a hands-on exploration of how to use free technology tools in your classroom. This two day workshop is based on my framework for using technology to help students discover new information, discuss their ideas, and demonstrate their knowledge. Registration is limited to ensure that every participant gets the attention he or she deserves.

This year's Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp is being held at the Holiday Inn By the Bay in downtown Portland, Maine. Healthy breakfasts and hearty lunches will fuel your brain for learning and are included in your registration. And when we're done for the day you can walk to dozens of restaurants along the Old Port's cobblestone streets, walk to the ocean, or even hop a boat and take a sunset cruise to see the islands in Casco Bay. Beaches are just a few minutes drive from the hotel.

The two day workshop is based on my framework of Discovery, Discussion, and Demonstration. The first day is focused helping students use technology to discover and discuss. Day two is focused on demonstrating knowledge by creating new digital content including podcasts, videos, and other multimedia productions. Click here for general outlines of the day.

A Short Interview With the Founder of Shadow Puppet Edu & SeeSaw

Disclosure: SeeSaw's parent company is an advertiser on

Last week at the ISTE conference I was able to meet with Carl Sjogreen who is the developer of the popular iPad apps Shadow Puppet Edu and SeeSaw. We talked about how the apps were developed and some features that are rolling-out later this year. Unfortunately, the video did not come out as well as I hoped, but what was usable is embedded below.

About Shadow Puppet Edu:
Shadow Puppet Edu is a free iPad app that students can use to create audio slideshow videos. The app offers an integrated search tool that students can use to find pictures from the Library of Congress, to search for images from NASA, and to find Creative Commons licensed images from Flickr. Students can also import pictures and videos from the camera roll on their iPads.

After selecting a set of images students can arrange them into any sequence by simply dragging and dropping them into order. Then to create a story students press the record button and talk while flipping through the images. Shadow Puppet Edu allows students to add text and stickers to each image too. When they’re happy with their work students can share their Shadow Puppet Edu projects through a variety of methods including YouTube and email. Shadow Puppet Edu projects are automatically saved to the camera roll on a student’s iPad. Students do not have to register for an account or have an email address to use Shadow Puppet Edu.

About SeeSaw:
SeeSaw is available as an iPad app, as a Chrome web app, and as an Android app. Through SeeSaw students can add artifacts to their portfolios by taking pictures of their work (in the case of a worksheet or other physical item), by writing about what they've learned, or by uploading a short video about things they have learned. The SeeSaw apps students can add voice comments to their pictures to clarify what their pictures document. Students can create folders withing their accounts to organize content from multiple subject areas.

To get started with Seesaw create a free classroom account. Students join the classroom by scanning a QR code (you will have to print it or project it) or entering a classcode that grants them access to your Seesaw classroom. As the teacher you can see and sort all of your students' Seesaw submissions. SeeSaw allows parents to create accounts through which they can see the work of their children. As a teacher you can send notifications to parents when their children make a new SeeSaw submission.

Dozens of Online Games About Nature

The Canadian Museum of Nature offers a large collection of online games about mammals, birds, and dinosaurs. Choose one of the three categories on the gallery page to see all of the related games. The games are primarily matching activities with some small interactive elements added into the mix. For example, the game about beaver lodges asks students to help create a beaver lodge by dragging the proper pieces together while also making the beavers swim away from predators.

Applications for Education
The games offered by the Canadian Museum of Nature do provide students with a little bit of context and some instruction before and while they are playing. That said, these games are best suited as review activities in elementary school classrooms.

Stupeflix - Create Audio Slideshow Videos Without Registration

Update October 2022: Stupeflix is no longer online. 

Years ago I used Stupeflix for a couple of classroom video projects. Then the service changed pricing models and I could no longer use it with students. Recently, someone on Facebook (sorry, I now cannot find who) mentioned Stupeflix so I gave it another look this morning. Some great improvements have been made to Stupeflix since the last time that I used it.

Stupeflix allows you to create audio slideshow videos up to twenty minutes in length. You do not need to register in order to create a video on Stupeflix. You can and should register if you want to be able to go back and edit your video after it has been published.

To create a video on Stupeflix start by choosing a theme for your video then uploading pictures from your computer. If you don't have any pictures on your computer you can importing some from your Flickr, Facebook, or Instagram account. Once your pictures are uploaded or imported you can drag and drop them into the sequence in which you want them to appear. You can layer text on each image. To add sound to your video you can select a soundtrack for the entire video or layer sound on each image individually. Stupeflix provides a nice gallery of free soundtracks that you can use or you can import your own audio tracks. When you're ready to see your finished product, click the preview button before publishing your video.
Click image for full size.

With the free Stupeflix plan your videos must be made public and they will have a watermark on them. You can embed them into a blog post as I have done below.

Applications for Education
Stupeflix doesn't require students to register in order to make a video. That could make it a good alternative to Animoto or YouTube's audio slideshow tool. One drawback to Stupeflix is that the advertising displayed next to some free videos might be misleading for younger users. For example, the advertisement displayed next to my free video included a link to download software which some students might think is a link to download their videos. See my screenshot below for an explanation.
Click image to view full size. 

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