Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Week in Review - The Best of the Web

Doing my best "Ellen impersonation."
Good evening from Maine where I'm home after a great week in North Carolina for the NCTIES 2014 conference. Thank you to everyone that came to one of my workshops or presentations this week. And an extra big thank you to folks who came to one of my presentations for the second or third year in a row. That is the biggest compliment that a speaker can receive.

This morning I stopped by EdCamp Maine. And while I couldn't stay long it was fantastic to see so many teachers their for learning on Saturday morning. In talking with the organizers I learned that 170 people were registered for the day.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Best of the Web 2014
2. Subtext & Tellagami - Two Apps to Attack Reading Comprehension
3. A Comparison of 11 Mobile Video Creation Apps
4. Seven Free Online Whiteboard Tools for Teachers and Students
5. Common Core, Book Trailers, and Three Good Tools for Creating Them

Would you like to come learn with me in Maine this summer?
Click here to learn more about the Practical Ed Tech Summer Camp.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
IXL offers a huge assortment of mathematics lesson activities.
Typing Club offers free typing lessons for students.
Discovery Education & Wilkes University offer online courses for earning Master's degrees in Instructional Media.
MasteryConnect provides a network for teachers to share and discover Common Core assessments.
ABCya.com is a provider of free educational games for K-5.
The University of Maryland Baltimore County offers graduate programs for teachers.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.
EdTechTeacher is offers professional development workshops in Boston and Chicago.
Classmint offers a nice multimedia flashcard service.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.
Fresno Pacific University offers a wide variety of technology courses for teachers.

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5 Ideas for Teaching With Comics and 5 Free Online Tools for Creating Them

I've been thinking about comic strip creation tools quite a bit lately so I decided to share a handful of ideas for teaching with comics and the online tools that students can use to create them.

1. Character Analysis: Have your students choose a favorite character from a favorite story and re-write that character into a comic strip story. In their stories students should attempt to demonstrate how their chosen characters would act in a different situation than is described in the original story.

2. Re-telling of historical events: Have your students create short comic strip stories about significant historical events. For example, students could create comic strips about Alexander Graham Bell inventing the telephone. The comic strip could have scenes of Bell working in his laboratory or talking to friends about his invention.

3. Create alternative book reports: Rather than writing a book report have your students create three to five frame comic strips covering the key parts of books they've recently read.

4. Create digital citizenship lessons. Have your students create comic strips in which they demonstrate the proper responses to unsafe digital citizenship behaviors.

5. Express feelings: Creating comic strips can be a good way for students to re-tell a situation that made them feel happy, sad, or mad. The use of facial expressions on comic characters is a nice way for students to express their feelings even if they don't write much within the scene itself.


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.

Storyboard That provides templates in which you can create your stories in a comic strip style. To help you create your story Storyboard That provides dozens of scenes, characters, and text bubbles to fill your storyboard's frames. Each element that you drag into your storyboard's frames can be re-sized, rotated, and re-positioned. Storyboard That has free and paid plans. The free plan allows you to create three and six frame stories. The free plan also limits you to three storyboards per week. A paid classroom account offers options for managing student accounts, limiting sharing to classroom members only, and a classroom account offers more frames per storyboard.

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.

Friday, March 7, 2014

Use Google Drawings to Start Image-based Conversations

One of the lesser-known features of Google Drive is the collaborative aspect of Drawings. Drawings in Google Drive allows you to collaboratively create drawings from scratch and or alter images that you upload to Drawings. By uploading an image you can draw on it and write on it to add labels. Google Drive Drawings supports commenting just like Google Documents. The sharing options in Drawings are the same as those of Documents too.

By using the collaborative drawing tools you could start online image-based conversations with your students. You could also use these tools to have your student collaboratively label diagrams. Directions for these processes are included in the screenshots in the slides below.

Augmented Reality + Avatars + Video = Fun Storytelling

This week at NCTIES 2014 I've learned as much I've shared. One of the highlights for me was seeing teachers combine the use of multiple apps to create one finished product. One of the combinations that I stumbled upon this week was using Tellagami creations in WeVideo.

Tellagami is a free iOS and Android app that students can use to create talking avatars set in a variety of backgrounds. Tellagami offers a stock background imagery, but you can also turn on your device's camera to place your customized avatar into any setting that you want use. For example, I took a picture of a crowd and put my avatar into the crowd. After customizing your avatar and background you can add your voice to the avatar or you can type text that will be read by the avatar. The finished product can be saved to your camera roll or shared through email. I sent my finished Tellagami project to myself through email where I then downloaded the movie file to use in WeVideo.

In WeVideo in the web browser on my laptop I uploaded my Tellagami file to edit out the "tellagami" banner that rolls at the end of the file. I was also able to add in transitions between multiple Tellagami files. If I had other video files I could have added those into the project too.

Applications for Education
Tellagami alone is a great tool for students to use to create short stories for a variety of purposes. One neat use of Tellagami would be to use a science lab as the background for video about lab safety. Or your have students write short stories then animate them through Tellagami. You might also use the app to have students create animations to represent their understanding of a historical event.

By uploading Tellagami files to WeVideo (iMovie also works for this purpose) your students could create a longer video with separate parts or chapters.

Thanks to Kathy Schrock the many other people who helped me formulate these thoughts at NCTIES. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Best of the Web 2014

Earlier today at NCTIES 2014 I shared an entirely new version of my popular Best of the Web presentation. In this version I shared only tools that are new-to-me since last year's NCTIES conference and or have released significant enhancements in the last year. The slides from the session are embedded below. If you would like a copy of these slides click here to open them in Google Drive then select "File,""Make copy" to save a copy for yourself. I will be updating the speaker notes to include more links.