Monday, March 4, 2013

5 Apps and Sites for Creating Animations

This afternoon on Twitter I was asked for some recommendations for tools that students can use to create animations. The first one that came to mind was the one that was freshest in my mind, that was Sketch Star. After sharing that link I went back into my archives for some other tools that students can use to create animations and came up with four others. Here are five tools that students can use to create animations.

Sketch Star from Miniclip is a fun and free tool for creating animated comics. On Sketch Star students can create draw animations from scratch or use pre-made shapes and characters. Students build their animations frame by frame. Each frame appears in a timeline that can be altered by dragging and dropping the frames into different sequences. The length of time that each frame is displayed can be adjusted too. Completed projects can be saved online.

Stop Frame Animator from Culture Street is a neat tool for creating animated stop motion movies. Creating your animated stop motion video is a simple drag and drop process on Stop Frame Animator. To get started creating your stop motion video select a background scene then drag your characters into place. While you have nine background scenes to choose from, the only characters you can use are wooden manikins. You can position the manikins' arms and legs in every scene. After choosing your scene and characters you can add some other props like chairs and beach balls. And if you want you can add sound effects and music to your video by selecting them from the Stop Frame Animator gallery.

Animation Desk is an iPad app (free and premium versions available) for creating short, animated videos. The app allows you to create drawings using just your finger on your iPad's screen. In the free version of the app (the version that I tried) you can create up to 50 scenes in each of your projects. In each scene you can include as little or as much as you want to draw on the canvas. There are a few different brush and pencil effects that you can use in your drawings. The opacity of the colors you choose can be altered too. When you have completed drawing all of your scenes hit the play button to watch your animation unfold. If you're happy with your animation you can export it to YouTube.

Draw Island is a free online tool for creating drawings and simple GIF animations. Draw Island offers you your choice of four canvas sizes on which you can draw. Draw Island offers two canvas sizes for creating simple GIF animations. To use Draw Island just head to the site and select a drawing tool. You can draw free hand (or should I say free mouse?) or select pre-defined shapes to use in your images. When you're done drawing just click the save button to download your drawing or animation.

Wideo is a service that allows anyone to create animated videos and Common Craft-style videos online. You can create an animated video on Wideo by dragging and dropping elements into place in the Wideo editor then setting the sequence of animations. Each element can be re-used as many times as you like and the timing of the animation of each image can individually adjusted. Wideo's stock elements include text, cartoons, and drawings. You can also upload your own images to use in your videos.

Connect and Collaborate With NASA

It's not a secret that I enjoy many of the educational resources that NASA offers to teachers and students. I enjoy visiting the NASA website because it seems like every time I visit it there is a new resource to investigate. This afternoon I discovered Connect and Collaborate With NASA. Connect and Collaborate With NASA is a page linking to all of NASA's iOS, Android, and Windows Mobile apps. The page includes apps that I've previously tried Spacecraft 3D (my review) and Sector 33 (my review) as well as some new-to-me apps like Comet Quest (free iOS app) and Be A Martian (Android).

Applications for Education
If you're looking for some free apps to support your lessons in engineering and science, take a look at Connect and Collaborate With NASA before you jump to searching in the Google Play or App Store. Some of the apps that I recommend starting with are Planet Quest, the Lunar Rover Simulator, and Earth as Art. All three of those apps are available through Connect and Collaborate With NASA.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Five Ways to Create Word Clouds

This morning at the Massachusetts School Library Association's conference (a fun conference that I highly recommend) Pam Berger presented some good ideas for working with primary source documents and Web 2.0 tools. One of the ideas that she shared and others elaborated on was the idea of using word clouds to help students analyze documents. By copying the text of a document into a word cloud generator your students can quickly see the words that appear most frequently in that document. Here are five tools that you and your students can use to create word clouds.

ABCya! offers a beautiful word cloud generator. Like all word cloud generators you simply copy and paste chunks of text into the text box to have a word cloud created. Common words like "the" are automatically excluded from your word clouds. You can edit the font style, adjust color schemes, and flip the layout of your word clouds on the ABCya! Word Cloud Generator. The one shortcoming of the tool is that it doesn't provide embed codes. You can download and or print your word clouds.

Tagul is a free word cloud generator that offers the option to link every word in your word cloud to a Google search. Click on any word in your word cloud to be taken directly to a Google search results page for that word. Tagul creates a word cloud from text you copy into your Tagul account. Tagul will also generate a word cloud from any url you specify. Just as you can with other word cloud generators, Tagul allows you to specify words to ignore in creating your word clouds. Once your word cloud is created Tagul provides you with an embed code to put your cloud on your blog or website.

Word It Out creates word clouds out of any text that you paste into the word cloud generator. Once the word cloud is created you can customize the size and color scheme of the cloud. You can also customize the font used in your word cloud. The feature of Word It Out that I like the best is that you can choose to have Word It Out ignore any word or words you choose. Ignoring words keeps them out of the word cloud.

Tagxedo makes it very easy to customize the design of your word clouds. You can select from a variety of shapes in which to display words or you can design your shape for your word cloud. You can enter text into the word cloud generator manually or simply enter a url from which Tagxedo will generate a word cloud. As with other word cloud generators you also have options for excluding words from your word clouds.

Wordle is regarded by some as the "original" online word cloud generator. Wordle provides many options for color, shapes, and fonts for displaying your word clouds.

Disclosure: ABCya! gives me money for groceries and dog food every month. Actually, they give me money for advertising. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

How to Create Your Own Search Engine

Yesterday, Google published a new visual explanation of how Google Search works. The Story of Search is part of the Inside Search website where you can find some good tips that will help you search better. Looking at Inside Search reminded me that I needed to update my tutorial on how to create a Google Custom Search Engine and how to put that search engine into your blog. My new guide to creating a Google Custom Search Engine is embedded below.



Applications for Education
One of the reasons that some teachers like to create their custom search engines is so that they can control which websites appear when their students search. You can also control how many sites appear in a search result by building a custom search engine. This can be useful with young students who are just learning to search and can be overwhelmed by the number of results or confused by content that is far above their reading levels. 

The Week in Review - Welcoming March

Good morning from the Free Technology for Teachers world headquarters in snowy and sunny and Greenwood, Maine. How snowy is it? The snow is up to the railing on my back deck and my dogs are up to their necks in snow when they step off of the trails we've made in the woods. In other words, March has arrived like a lion. I like the snow though and my dogs do too so I'm not complaining. 

In just a little bit I'm heading out for the Massachusetts School Library Association's annual conference. I'll be speaking there tomorrow. Later in the week I'll be spending three days at the NCTIES conference in Raleigh, North Carolina. If you're going to be at either of these events, please say hello. 

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. 5 Ways to Add Interactive Elements to Your Videos
2. Why Word Order Matters in Google Searches
3. 5 Good Services to Help Students Learn New Vocabulary Words
4. Why Visuals Matter in Storytelling
5. 76 Examples of Using Haiku Deck in School
6. Presentation.io - Sync Your Presentations to Your Audience's Laptops and Tablets
7. Teaching With Technology and Primary Sources

Would you like to have me to visit your school this year? 
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Vocabulary Spelling City offers spelling practice activities that you can customize.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
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EdTechTeacher.org is hosting iPad Summit USA in Atlanta this spring.

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