Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Two Tools for Writing & Drawing Books Online Before Printing

This morning I received an email from a reader who was looking for tools that her students can use to create booklets that they design online then print. The caveat of the request was that the tools had to have an option for students to draw as well as type and insert pictures. A few tools fit that description. Those tools are Buncee and MyStoryBook.

On Buncee students can create a visual story that is unveiled as a viewer scroll across the page. Buncee stories can also be set to play automatically when they are viewed. Students create their Buncee stories by adding custom background templates to Buncee slides. To each template students can add animations, pictures, text, drawings, and videos. Buncee provides a large gallery of media that students can use in their stories. Additionally, students can import media from their computers, from YouTube, from Vimeo, from Dropbox, from SoundCloud, and from Gooru. Completed Buncee projects can be viewed online and or saved as PDFs.

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. After signing into your MyStorybook 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.

Disclosure: Buncee is a client of MindRocket Media Group. I am a partner in MRMG. 

Google Books for Teachers and Students - A Guide

Google Books is one of my favorite research tools that students and teachers often overlook. In a post earlier today I embedded a book that I found through a Google Books search. Google Books allows you to do that with books that are in the public domain. I have done that a lot over the years when I wanted to share all or part of book with my students in an electronic format. Embedding books into blog posts is just one of many features of Google Books that teachers and students can use. In the slides and videos below I provide overviews of the other useful features of Google Books.

Lots of Lessons About Winter Weather

Conditions at my house on Tuesday.
A large winter storm is in the forecast for later this week in the northeastern United States. If you like snow, this is a great forecast for you. If you hate snow, the snow is still coming. I subscribe to the philosophy that you should make the most out of every season. That's why I love living in New England. One of the ways that we can make the most out of every season is to teach lessons related to each season of the year.

Scholastic has a large set of lesson plans and online activities for teaching about winter weather, winter sports, and winter traditions. Within Winter: Everything You Need you will find lesson plans on weather forecasting,  lessons on how animals adapt to winter, and ideas for teaching math through winter weather connections.

My favorite winter weather lesson resource from Scholastic is the Interactive Weather Maker. Using the Interactive Weather Maker students adjust temperatures and humidity levels to create rain and snow storms. Students simply move the temperature and humidity sliders until rain or snow begins to show up in the scene on their screens.

How windchill is calculated:
The windchill was -20F last night at my house. The following video explains how windchill is calculated. The video comes from Presh Talwalkar.

The psychology of extreme weather:
Television news reporters like to use the word "extreme" whenever we have a lot of rain or snow in a short amount of time. Is the weather really "extreme" or is that just our impression of it? The following Minute Earth video takes on the topic of how extreme weather affects our thinking about weather patterns in general. I found the video to be interesting from a psychology perspective. The video is embedded below.

How snowflakes are created:
The following episode of Bytesize Science embedded below explains how snowflakes are created.

Why the moon appears brighter in winter:
In the winter when we have fresh snow combined with a full moon I don't have to wear a headlamp to see my dogs in the yard at night. In the following Minute Physics video we learn why the full moon appears brighter in the winter.

Fun things to do in the snow:
NOVA, as part of their program on Denali, has directions for building a snow cave and directions for building an Igloo. (If you do either of these activities, make sure that you closely supervise students. A collapsed snow cave or Igloo can be very dangerous).

Boys' Life offers a list of outdoor winter games as well as directions for building igloos and snow shelters.

Making your own snowshoes is an activity that can be done indoors with the final product enjoyed outdoors. Mother Earth News offers directions for making your own snowshoes. How Cast has video directions for making an emergency pair of snowshoes.

In the video below BBC Survival Expert Ray Mears teaches viewers how to make an igloo and what igloos were traditionally used for.

When I was about seven or eight I was given a copy of The American Boy's Handy Book(Amazon link). That book is filled with fun hands-on indoor and outdoor activities including an entire section devoted to snow forts and other snow-related activities.

Soundtrap - Collaboratively Create Music Online

Soundtrap is a fantastic tool for creating music. I tested it out last winter and used during a couple of my workshops this past summer and fall. The really cool thing about Soundtrap is that students can use virtual instruments to create music or they can record themselves playing music on an instrument and then use that recording in conjunction with the virtual instruments in the Soundtrap environment.

What makes Soundtrap stand-out from the crowd is its collaboration options. Click the "collaborate" tab in the Soundtrap editor to invite others to create music with you. Soundtrap will work in the Chrome web browser on a laptop, iPad, Chromebook, and Android tablet. In my workshops I often describe Soundtrap as Google Docs for music.

When I started using Soundtrap last year it was only available as a consumer/ free platform. That version was fine if your students were over the age of 13 and you didn't have concerns about them sharing with people outside of your district. This month Soundtrap introduced a classroom edition. The classroom edition of Soundtrap allows you to create a walled garden in which your students can only work with people in your district domain. Soundtap also now has a Google Classroom integration available.

Take a look at the videos below to see how Soundtrap could work in your classroom.

Applications for Education
The best way for students to avoid any worries about copyright infringement when creating a multimedia project is to use audio tracks that they've created. Soundtrap could be a great tool for that purpose. Soundtrap's collaboration option could be a great solution when students working on a group project need to develop spoken tracks. Soundtrap could also be a good tool for students in a music class to experiment with sounds and rhythms to hear how they combine to create music.

One of the things that Soundtrap's founders are sharing during the BETT Show this week is the idea of using Soundtrap's audio recording as an aid in world languages courses. Students can record dialogues and then teachers can give them feedback. Or the teacher can record a passage for students to listen to.

Disclosure: Soundtrap is a client of MindRocket Media Group. I am a partner in MRMG.

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