Thursday, February 24, 2022

NASA From Hidden to Modern Figures

NASA's From Hidden to Modern Figures is an excellent resource for teaching about the women who made significant contributions to the development of NASA's space program. The site features written and video biographies of Katherine Johnson, Mary W. Jackson, and Dorothy Vaughan who were instrumental in many of NASA's missions including the first orbit of Earth. Here's a short video introduction to the series. 

In addition to the profiles of the Johnson, Jackson, and Vaughan there are nearly a dozen other women featured in the Modern Figures video library.

Applications for Education
As a dad to two little girls who often reminds them that they can do anything that boys can do, these are the stories that I want them to hear when they're in school.

To support the use of the Modern Figures resources in classrooms, NASA offers a Modern Figures Toolkit for teachers. The toolkit includes eight lesson plans for elementary, middle, and high school classrooms. The lesson plans cover things like the effect of gravity on orbit, calculating launch windows, moon phases, and designing landing equipment. The toolkit also includes some nice handouts like this collection of bookmarks that contain short biographies of the women featured in Hidden Figures.

Brush Ninja - Make Animated GIFs, Emoji Art, and More!

Brush Ninja is a tool that I've been using and recommending for a few years now. Brush Ninja makes it incredibly easy to draw a series of images and quickly turn them into animated GIFs. In the fall of 2018 I used Brush Ninja with some middle school students to create animations to illustrate their understanding of forms of energy. You can read more about that activity right here

Brush Ninja is still a great tool for making animated GIFs. In fact, it has gotten better since I first started using it. You can now use custom backgrounds including background pictures that you take with your webcam. The animated GIF creator also now lets you change the size of the canvas you're drawing on. And there are now twice as many stickers available in the GIF creator than when I started using it. 

In addition to making animated GIFs, Brush Ninja now has three other tools. Those are an emoji art creator, a collage maker, and a comic book creator. The emoji art creator lets you click on a canvas to place any of hundreds of emojis into a pattern to create digital artwork. The collage maker is exactly what it sounds like, a tool for making photo collages. The comic book creator simply lets you upload a series of images to a comic book template that you can print and fold. 

An overview of all of the Brush Ninja tools is provided in this new video that I recorded on Wednesday. 

Applications for Education
As I mentioned in the opening paragraph, I've had students use Brush Ninja to make animations to illustrate their understanding of forms of energy. I longer explanation of that instance can be read here. An explanation of my initial introduction to the concepts behind sketching in the classroom is available here

One of the reasons that Brush Ninja continues to by one of my go-to tools is that it doesn't require students to register or sign-up for anything in order to use all of the available features. 

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