Friday, July 12, 2019

NowComment - A Good Tool for Hosting Online Discussions

NowComment is an interesting tool for creating online conversations centered around shared documents. While you could do something similar in Google Docs, NowComment was designed for hosting threaded discussions and works with a wide variety of document types including PDFs and Word files.

NowComment lets you upload a document then create a discussion about the document as a whole or about selected portions of the document. If your document includes images, you can create discussions about those images as well as the document and selected portions of the document. In other words, you could have three threaded discussions running at the same time about the same document. In this scenario you would have a discussion about the whole document, a discussion about a selected portion of the document, and a discussion about the image in the document. That might sound like it would be confusing, but it's not. At the top of the document that you upload into NowComment you can select the conversation(s) that you do or don't want to view.

Applications for Education
NowComment is the kind of tool that can be helpful in facilitating a discussion about a primary source document in a history class. Similarly, it could be a good option for facilitating online discussion and evaluation of research reports.

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo for adding NowComment to his list of tools for annotating websites

A Free Service That Lets You Print Almost Any Poster

Canva is a great service for designing all kinds of graphics for online and offline use. Canva includes a gallery of templates for making classroom posters. Once you have designed your poster you can use Canva's print-on-demand service to have it printed and mailed to you. Canva charges a nominal fee for their print-on-demand service. Alternatively, you can download your poster as PDF for free and then print it yourself.

If you have designed a poster in Canva or with a similar graphic design tool, save your design as a PDF. Then use Block Posters to print your poster for free on your own printer. Block Posters is a web-based tool to which you can upload a high quality graphic then divide it into letter-sized chunks for printing. Print out each section and put them together on a poster board to make your own poster.

Applications for Education
When you have designed a great infographic or poster online that you want to display in your classroom, Block Posters is a great tool for you to use to print it. Want to create a giant jigsaw puzzle? Block Posters could be useful for that. Or if you have students create their own infographics that they want to display, you can print them out with Block Posters.

How to Create a Green Screen Video on an iPad

Last night I posted a tutorial on how to create a green screen video in iMovie on a Mac. After I Tweeted that some folks asked me about making green screen videos on iPads. As I promised to them, here's my tutorial on how to create a green screen video on an iPad.

Materials and Tips for Making Green Screen Videos

  • Your live action needs to be recorded in front of a green screen. You can purchase screens specifically made for this purpose or do what I do and head down to your local Walmart an purchase a queen size green bed sheet. 
    • If you do choose the green bed sheet option, make sure you stretch the sheet tightly enough to remove any wrinkles.
  • When it comes to lighting, the goal is to remove any shadows and cast an even light on person(s) in the video and on the screen itself. Again, you can buy lighting kits made specifically for this purpose or use a couple of cheap clamp-on lights like these that I have in my office.
  • Whenever possible try to have students use images and video clips that are in the public domain as the background for their videos. Pixabay and Pexels offer large collections of public domain videos and pictures. 
If you're interested in making green screen videos on Chromebooks or Windows computers, I recommend trying WeVideo. You can watch my video tutorial on using WeVideo to make green screen videos here

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