Thursday, October 18, 2018

Why Have Students Make Simple Animations?

Last week I wrote about having middle school students create presentations from a combination of illustrations and videos that they made. In that post I shared Brush Ninja animation tool. That's just one of many tools that students could have used to animated GIFs to include in their slides. The point of the activity wasn't to have students learn how to use Brush Ninja, it was to have students create animations to demonstrate their understanding of a process.

In the example that I shared last week students made animations to illustrate forms of energy. That topic was a fairly natural fit to illustrate with animations. But animations can be used to illustrate nearly every topic that is taught in K-12 schools. I was turned onto this idea many years ago when I read Dan Roam's Back of the Napkin and Unfolding the Napkin books. These books make the point that if you truly understand a concept, you can illustrate it with simple drawings on the back of a napkin or other blank canvas.

You don't need to be artistically inclined at all in order to make effective illustrations. In fact, in Unfolding the Napkin I learned that simple stick figures were often all that is needed to illustrate a concept. And if you do use the concepts of Unfolding the Napkin in your classroom, you will have to remind some students to focus on the concepts first before getting hung up on the aesthetics of their sketches.

Watch the following video in which Dan Roam explains the concepts of Unfolding the Napkin.

Plickers Brings Back Individual Student Reports!

Back in September the folks at Plickers, a popular student-response service, released a bunch of updates to their mobile apps and website. Some of those updates, like easier display of questions have been popular. Some of those updates were panned by teachers. Fortunately, the Plickers team has been responsive to the voices of their users and is making adjustments accordingly. To that end Plickers once again has individual student reports.

To generate individual student reports in Plickers you do have to assign each card to each of the students on your classroom roster. After you have done that you can poll your class at any time by having them hold up their assigned cards then scan the room with the Plickers app open your phone or tablet. All of your students' responses will then be available in your reports.

The Basics of Plickers
Plickers is a free polling service that I started using back in 2014. It is unlike any other polling system because only the teacher needs a phone or tablet to make the system work.

To use Plickers you have to give each of your students a card or piece of paper that has a large, unique QR code on it. Each edge of the QR code has an "A," "B," "C," or "D" printed on it. When you ask your students a question they all hold up their cards with their answer choices (A,B,C, or D) on top. Then you scan the room with your phone or tablet while you have the Plickers app open. Plickers will quickly tally all responses and put them into a report for you.

You can print the QR codes directly from the Plickers website. If you use that option, I recommend printing on card stock. You can also purchase laminated Plickers code cards on Amazon.

Applications for Education
Plickers is a fantastic polling system to use in classrooms that don't have computers or tablets for every student. The advantage of Plickers over just having students raise their hands is that Plickers can be used for anonymous polling. To conduct an anonymous poll have all students hold up their cards at the same time. Because each card has its own unique pattern students don't know how their classmates are answering a question.

Plickers can also be a good option in classrooms in which taking out a tablet or laptop for a quick activity can be a bit of a hassle (I'm thinking of a couple of 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms that I recently visited).

EDU in 90 - Short Overviews of Google's Education Products

I have published more than 250 Google tools tutorial videos over the last few years. But if my dry screencasts aren't your style, try Google's EDU in 90 series of videos. EDU in 90 offers 38 videos designed to introduce viewers to some of the things that students can do with Google's various products like Google Drawings, Google Arts & Culture, and Google Earth. You can watch the entire playlist here or watch a couple of the sample videos that I have embedded below.

EDU in 90: Google Arts & Culture

EDU in 90: Google Drawings in the Classroom