Thursday, December 19, 2013

Three Ways for Students to Create and Send Digital Holiday Greetings

Image credit: Jen Deyenberg
Tomorrow is the last day of school before winter break for many students. If you're looking for a good elementary school or middle school activity for the last day before break, consider having students create and send digital greeting cards. Here are three tools students can use to create and send digital greeting cards.

Animoto offers video themes for every season. Their holiday themes include "starry night," "wonderland of snow," "eight days of lights," "pop-up pandemonium," "gifting gifts," "spirit of December," and "wrapping scraps." To send a video greeting card through Animoto just select one of the themes, upload images or choose images from the Animoto gallery, select a soundtrack, title your project, and then let Animoto mix it into a beautiful video greeting. Students can share their video greetings through email, Facebook, or by embedding it into a blog.

PicMonkey is a great image editing and collage creation tool. They're currently offering a variety of holiday themes that students can use for their collages. Your students could create a holiday collage and share it via email or post in on your classroom blog.

Its A Message is a neat site for sending digital greetings that uses Google Maps Street View as its basis for generating location-based greeting cards. To send a greeting through Its A Message start by specifying any location. Its A Message will then take you to that location in a Street View display that has been enhanced for the holidays. For example, the imagery of Portland, Maine has been drawn with lights and snowflakes. After settling on a location click "share your message" to customize what appears on the screen and to send the greeting to friends.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Amazon Storybuilder - Plan Your Stories With Organized Sticky Notes

Amazon Storybuilder is a new tool designed to help aspiring screenplay writers organize their stories. Storybuilder uses a virtual corkboard interface that will feel familiar to anyone that has ever used Padlet or Lino. On Storybuilder you can write your stories in a series of virtual sticky notes. Your corkboard can be arranged in columns for each act and scene in your story. Of course, if you're writing a book you could arrange your columns as chapters. Each sticky note can have a tag assigned to it to make it easier to locate when you have more notes than can appear on one page at time. You can arrange notes by dragging and dropping them on your Storybuilder board.

Applications for Education
You do have to have an Amazon account to use Storybuilder which limits it to use by high school and college students. Younger students could accomplish similar things by using a service like Padlet or Lino to organize their notes while planning a story.

Biology Pop - Videos, Articles, and Apps About Biology

Biology Pop is a site that features videos, articles, games, and reviews of apps about topics in biology. The site features content in seven categories; anatomy, cell biology, biotechnology, genetics, ecology, evolution, and taxonomy. You can browse through the categories in a Pinterest-like style. An option to search by media type is also available.

Applications for Education
Biology Pop seems to be focused on current news and topics in biology rather than trying to be a reference site. If you're looking to bring some current news into your biology lessons, Biology Pop might be a good site to bookmark.

Thanks to Caitlin Cahill for sharing Biology Pop on Google+. 

Visual Metaphors and Ideas for Creating Visualizations of Complex Ideas

Lee Lefever at Common Craft is a master of creating visualizations and explanations of complex ideas. So when he posted a TED-Ed video about making visualizations I knew that I had to watch it.

In Making a TED-Ed Lesson: Visualizing Complex Ideas we learn the differences between written metaphors and visual metaphors and how they can impact your understanding of complex ideas. To demonstrate these ideas we see a comparison between showing someone underlined text on a page and showing someone a map of ideas while talking about those ideas. The video is embedded below.

Applications for Education
This TED-Ed lesson talks about visualizing big data and complex ideas, but the concept of using visual metaphors is one that students can apply to designing presentation slides, videos, and infographics.

How Google Search Works and A Whole Bunch of Search Tips

Google's Inside Search is a good place to find information about how Google search works and to find a slew of search tips. How Search Works is an animated graphic that reveals the basics of how websites are sorted, ranked, and presented to you in your search results. More information is revealed as you scroll down the How Search Works graphic.

The Inside Search Tips and Tricks list highlights the kinds of information that you can discover through Google Search. Some of the tips and tricks highlighted include finding currency and measurement conversions, searching by file type, and using the advanced image search tools. These tips and tricks are what I would rate as beginner tips. To get more advanced search tips I recommend visiting Dan Russell's blog.

Applications for Education
To help your students develop their search skills try some of Google's search challenges and lessons. Or you can try developing your own search challenges as I outlined in this post.

Click here to open and download a PDF of ten search tips for students.