Friday, December 30, 2011

Most Popular Posts of the Year - #4, 10 Comic & Cartoon Creators

Like a lot of other people are, I'm taking this week to relax a bit and do some things that I haven't had time for lately. Therefore, all this week I'm rewinding the year with the 25 most-read posts of the year. I hope that those of you who are also on vacation this week, enjoy every moment of it. See you (virtually) in the New Year.

Creating cartoons and comic strips can be a good way to get reluctant writers writing. While creating comics you and your students can work through the elements of fiction in a context that is fun and familiar to them.

Witty Comics provides a simple platform that students can use to create two character dialogues. To use Witty Comics students just need to select the pre-drawn background scenes and the pre-drawn characters they want to feature in their comics. Writing the dialogues is the creative element that is left to the students.

Artisan Cam is more than just a comic creator, it is a comprehensive collection of online art activities. On Artisan Cam students can use the Super Action Comic Maker to build a six frame comic. The Super Action Comic Maker has a drag and drop interface which students use to select a background and character for their comics.

The Super Hero Squad invites kids to create their own super hero comic strips and comic books. The Super Hero Squad provides users with templates for comic strips and comic books. Users select the backgrounds, characters, and special effects from the provided menus. Arranging each scene and re-size the characters is an easy drag and drop process. After creating their scenes, users can add dialogue boxes to their comics. Completed comic strips and comic books can be downloaded and printed. 
Pixton is a drag-and-drop cartoon creation tool which allows anyone regardless of artistic ability to create comics. Users can join the Pixton community to share their creations with other. In addition to the free individual accounts Pixton offers Pixton for Schools (not free) which allows teachers to create private rooms in which only their students can create and share comics. To learn more about Pixton, watch this short video.

Strip Generator allows anyone, even people who claim they can't draw, to create a good-looking black and white comic strip. To create a comic strip all you need to do is select the number of frames you want then drag characters and objects into those frames. The menus for characters and objects are fairly extensive. Once you've selected a character or object you can adjust the size to fit your scene. Adding text is a simple matter of selecting a speech bubble and typing text. When you're happy with your comic strip you can save it online, print it, or embed it into your blog.

PikiKids provides a variety of layouts to which students can upload images then edit the images or add text bubbles and titles. The comics that students create can be embedded into a blog or website as well as be shared via email. PikiKids is free to use, but it is a for profit website as it offers options for buying tee-shirts or mugs with user-created comics.

Write Comics is a free, simple tool for creating comic strips. Write Comics doesn't require any registration to use. In fact, registration is not even an option. To create a comic on Write Comics just select a background from the menu, choose some characters, and add some speech bubbles. You can continue adding frames until you've completed your story. Write Comics is quite easy to use, but there is one short-coming and that is the only way you can save your work is to save it to your local hard drive.

Make Beliefs is a free comic strip creation tool that provides students with a variety of templates, characters, and prompts for building their own comic strips. Make Beliefs provides students with a pre-drawn characters and dialogue boxes which they can insert into each box of their comic strip. The editing options allow users the flexibility to alter the size of each character and dialogue bubble, bring elements forward within each box, and alter the sequence of each box in the comic strip. Students that have trouble starting a story can access writing prompts through make beliefs. Most impressively, Make Beliefs allows users to write their comic strip's dialogue in English, Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portugese, or Latin.

Be Funky is a simple tool for turning digital photographs into digital comics. The image you see to the left is a cartoonized image of me based on a photograph I took with my webcam. Be Funky can be used for simple one frame images or be used to create an entire strip of cartoonized images with inserted text.

Chogger is a free comic strip creation tool offering a good selection of editing tools. Chogger allows you to draw images from scratch or use your existing images. You can even connect your webcam to Chogger to capture pictures for use in your comic strips. Once you've added images to your comic strip, you can add effects such as fading and outlining. Chogger also allows you to customize the look of each frame in your comic strip. Comic strips created in Chogger can have as few as three frames or as many as twelve or more frames.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
20 Ways to Use Comics in Your Classroom
More than 100 Editorial Cartoon Lesson Plans
Pictures and Cartoons from PRI's The World

Most Popular Posts of the Year - #5, Super Book of Web Tools

Like a lot of other people are, I'm taking this week to relax a bit and do some things that I haven't had time for lately. Therefore, all this week I'm rewinding the year with the 25 most-read posts of the year. I hope that those of you who are also on vacation this week, enjoy every moment of it. See you (virtually) in the New Year.

There are many teachers who want to start using technology in their classrooms, but just aren't sure where to start. That's why I got together ten prominent ed tech bloggers, teachers, and school administrators to create The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators. In this book there introductions to more than six dozen web tools for K-12 teachers. Additionally, you will find sections devoted to using Skype with students, ESL/ELL, blogging in elementary schools, social media for educators, teaching online, and using technology in alternative education settings.

Here's the list of contributors to The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators:
George Couros, Patrick Larkin, Kelly Tenkely, Adam Bellow, Silvia Tolisano, Steven Anderson, Cory Plough, Beth Still, Larry Ferlazzo, Lee Kolbert, and Richard Byrne. If you like what you read, please visit the contributors' blogs and let them know.


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The Super Book of Web Tools for Educators -

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Remember 2011 - A Map of 2011's Biggest Stories

Maps of World has produced a neat interactive map of the world's most important news stories in 2011. The map is titled Remember 2011. Visitors to the map can click on the stories on the map to reveal more detailed information about each event. You can browse the stories on that map by clicking on  locations. You can also browse by month through the timeline at the top of the map. You will find stories from the areas of politics, business, technology, and society. Maps of World encourages visitors to vote for what they think is the most important event of the year.

Maps of World has also produced a sixty second video review of 2011's most important stories.


Applications for Education
The Remember 2011 map could be a great tool for students to use to review the year's most important stories. You might ask students to view the map then defend to their classmates their choices for "most important story of the year."

Most Popular Posts of the Year - #6, Jeopardy Labs

Like a lot of other people are, I'm taking this week to relax a bit and do some things that I haven't had time for lately. Therefore, all this week I'm rewinding the year with the 25 most-read posts of the year. I hope that those of you who are also on vacation this week, enjoy every moment of it. See you (virtually) in the New Year.

Playing Jeopardy-style games is a review method that teachers and students have been using for quite a long time. I remember playing Jeopardy games in the 4th grade 20+ years ago. Over the years the game hasn't changed, yet the means of delivering the game have changed.

Jeopardy Labs is a free service you can use to create your own online Jeopardy game. Jeopardy Labs provides a blank template on which to build your game. You do not need to register in order to build your own game. However, if you want to be able to edit your game at a later point you will want to create a password before you create your game. When completed your game is given its one unique url. Post that url on your blog, wiki, or website and anyone can then play your game.

Applications for Education
Jeopardy Labs provides a good way for teachers to create a review game that students can play independently or in the classroom. You could also have students create games that they share with each other.

Here are some related items that may be of interest to you:
Jeopardy PowerPoint Game Template
Parade of Games in PowerPoint

Most Popular Posts of the Year - #7, 11 Science Resources

Like a lot of other people are, I'm taking this week to relax a bit and do some things that I haven't had time for lately. Therefore, all this week I'm rewinding the year by republishing the 25 most-read posts of the year. I hope that those of you who are also on vacation this week, enjoy every moment of it. See you (virtually) in the New Year.

To help you start off the new year on the right foot, each day this week I'm featuring eleven good resources to try in different content areas. Today's list is for science teachers, yesterday's list was for mathematics teachers, and tomorrow's list will feature resources for language arts teachers.

Sumanas is a provider of animations of science and statistics concepts. Their public gallery of animations is divided into ten categories dealing with various topics in biology, chemistry, Earth science, and statistics. Many of the animations are narrated, but even those that aren't are very clear none-the-less. The largest selections of animations are found in the biology categories.

Celestia is a free space exploration simulation program. Celestia is a free download that works on Mac, PC, and Linux systems. The advantage of Celestia over other satellite imagery programs is that in addition to seeing the Earth's surface, students can zoom in on moons, stars, and planets. The user controls what they see. Operating the program is easy enough to be used by students as young as six or seven. The user guides for Celestia are very thorough and available in four languages. There is a companion website to Celestia called the Celestia Motherlode that features add-ons to Celestia and educational activities that teachers can use in their classrooms.

The Chemical Education Digital Library is a large collection of resources for teaching and learning chemistry. The ChemEd DL contains tutorials for students, 3D models, lesson plans, and more. The tutorials include 3D chemical models and explanations of what each part of the models does and how those parts work together. In the lesson plans section you will find downloadable lesson plans organized by subject. ChemEd DL also features a periodic table that links each element to data and explanations about that element.

Hey LHS Kids is a science activities website for kids developed by the Lawrence Hall of Science at UC Berkeley. Hey LHS Kids features some good activities for elementary school students. One of the activities on the site that I think would be fun for elementary use is Measure Yourself. Measure Yourself asks students to measure the size of their ears, feet, and overall height in centimeters. Students then plug those numbers into Measure Yourself and are shown a list of animals that have similar dimensions. I tried it and learned that my ears are almost as big as an armadillo's ears, my feet are longer than a bear's, and I'm taller than a grizzly bear walking on all four feet.

The Periodic Table of Comic Books is a project of the chemistry department at the University of Kentucky. The idea is that for every element in the Periodic Table of Elements there is a comic book reference. Clicking on an element in the periodic table displayed on the homepage will take visitors to a list and images of comic book references to that particular element. After looking at the comic book reference if visitors want more information about a particular element they can find it by using the provided link to Web Elements. 

The University of Pennsylvania Health System provides nearly 200 video animations and explanations of injuries, diseases, and body systems. The animations, like this one of a balloon angioplasty, are concise which makes them good for general reference purposes.

Body Browser gives you a 360 degree view of the human body. You can turn on layers to see bones, muscles, organs, and the nervous system. You can turn on all the layers at the same time and alter the transparency of each layer. Turn on labels to have labels appear each time you click on a part of the body. For example, if I have the bones layer turned on along with the labels, when I click on a bone a label will appear. Watch this video to see the Google Body Browser in use.

Knotebooks is a neat service that allows users to create, customize, and share lessons composed of videos, images, and texts from all over the Internet. Knotebooks uses the term "lesson" to describe what users build, but I think a more appropriate description is "multimedia reference article." Using Knotebooks you can organize information to create a reference article for yourself or to share with others. You can also browse the articles published by others, add them to your account for later reference, and or alter the articles that others have written to suit your needs. For example if I find and article in Knotebooks about Newton's Laws but some parts of the article are too difficult for me to comprehend, I can click the option for "easier content" and Knotebooks will change the article to meet my needs. Knotebooks is a great concept, learn more about it and see it in action in this video.

The WorldWide Telescope makes very detailed, high resolution images (scientific quality) from space available to anyone with access to a computer and an internet connection. The goal of the WorldWide Telescope is to enable users to use their computers as virtual telescopes. The WorldWide Telescope can be downloaded and run on Windows-based computers. Mac users will have to use the web client to access the WorldWide Telescope. The educators page on the WorldWide Telescope site has lesson resources and ideas for middle school and high school use.

Shape It Up is one of many good educational games and activities on Kinetic City. Shape It Up is an activity that would be good for use in an elementary school Earth Science lesson. The activity presents students with "before" and "after" images of a piece of Earth. Students then have to select the force nature and the span of time it took to create the "after" picture. If students choose incorrectly, Shape It Up will tell the student and they can choose again.

The Molecular & Cell Biology department at North Dakota State University hosts a nice collection of virtual cell animations. The collection of virtual cell animations introduces students to seventeen molecular and cellular processes. For each process there is a series of annotated images, a text explanation, and a video explaining the process.