Saturday, January 12, 2013

Simple Machines - Fun Game for Learning About Physics

Earlier this week I wrote about Code Fred from the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago. Code Fred is a fun game for learning about the human respiratory system. This afternoon I had a bit of fun playing Simple Machines which is another game from the Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago.

Simple Machines is a game that is designed to help students learn about the basic physics principles involved in the use of levels, pulleys, planes, axles, and wheels. The object of the game is to help a robot character named Twitch gather the pieces needed to make a simple machine. In order to gather the pieces students have to help Twitch climb over objects using inclined planes, roll to objects as efficiently as possible, and lift objects by using pulleys and levers.

Applications for Education
Simple Machines could be a fun game to use as the introduction to an elementary school lesson about levers, pulleys, and basic physics principles. At the end of each section of the game students can read a short lesson about the planes, levers, pulleys, wheels, and axles.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Morrison ponders the frozen pond.
Good afternoon from Greenwood, Maine. I'm a little late on posting this week's review post because I was so excited to go ice fishing for the first time this winter that I rushed out this morning without even looking at a computer. Now that we're back from ice fishing (no fish were caught), it's time to publish the list of this week's most popular posts. And wherever you are in the world today, I hope that you're making time to do something fun too.

Here are this week's most popular posts: 
1. Share ThingLink Images in Edmodo
2. Inside Islam: What a Billion Muslims Really Think
3. Perfect Pitch - A Game for Learning About Musical Instruments
4. Three Tools Students Can Use for Collaboratively Brainstorming on the Web
5. 26 Ways to Use Comics in the Classroom and 5 Ways to Make Comics Online
6. Crunchzilla's Code Monster Teaches Kids Javascript Programming
7. Use Wolfram Alpha to Create a Strong Password

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Friday, January 11, 2013

26 Ways to Use Comics in the Classroom and 5 Free Tools for Creating Comics

One of the most popular posts that I've published on Free Technology for Teachers is a list of ten free tools for creating comics online. I wrote that post three years ago. Since then some of the tools have gone offline or started charging users. So I think it's time to share a new list. Here are five free tools for creating comics online.

Comic Master is a free tool designed for students to use to create comics in the "graphic novel style" that is popular with a lot of kids in the ten to fourteen years old age range. Comic Master provides a drag and drop interface for students to build their comics on. Students using Comic Master can select from a variety of layouts, backgrounds, characters, effects, and fonts. Students can create free accounts on Comic Master to save their works and edit them whenever they like. Comic Master gives students the option to create and print multiple page stories.

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.

Chogger is a free comic strip creation tool that offers 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.

Marvel Kids invites kids to create their own super hero comic strips and comic books. Marvel Kids 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. 

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.

If you're looking for some ideas for using comics in the classroom, the following Slideshare presentation from S. Hendy contains 26 ideas for you. At the end of the presentation you'll see a list of even more cartoon creation tools.



A Crash Course on The Catcher in the Rye

Just before the end of 2012 John Green launched a new Crash Course series of videos on literature. The latest addition to Crash Course Literature is about The Catcher in the Rye. The video, embedded below is labeled as part one so it's safe to assume that part two will be coming out shortly. I watched part late last night and I have to say that I recommend it more as a discussion prompt than as a review resource.


Augmented Reality Comes to Sesame Street

This week Qualcomm and Sesame Street Workshop unveiled an augmented reality application called Big Bird's Words. The app will prompt students to find objects that match the words on the mobile devices that they're holding. Students point their mobile device's camera at the object to see if they've found it. When the app will be available to everyone and the price for it (if any) hasn't been revealed yet, but I still think it's worth noting an putting on your list of things to watch for in 2013. Learn more about the apps in the videos below.