Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Pixorial Announces Closure - Try These Other Online Video Creation Tools

Pixorial is an online video creation tool that I raved about when it launched a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, the Pixorial team has announced that they are shutting down on July 18, 2014. If you have projects stored in Pixorial, you have until July 18th to download your media.

Three good online video creation tools:
WeVideo is a collaborative online video creation tool. In the video editor you can upload your own media clips or use stock media clips to produce your video. The video editor provides tools for trimming the length of display and or sound of each element you add to your video project. What makes WeVideo collaborative is that you can invite other people to create and edit with you. The WeVideo Google Drive app allows you to save all of your video projects in your Google Drive account. WeVideo also offers an Android app that students can use to capture images and video footage to add to their projects.

PowToon is a nice service for creating explanatory videos through a drag and drop process. The videos that you create feature digital paper cut-outs on a colorful background. Think of PowToon as an online tool for creating videos in the style made popular by Common Craft. PowToon provides drawings of people and objects that you can arrange on blank canvas. After adding your narration to the arrangement you can publish your video. PowToon's free version limits your videos to 45 seconds.

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 and audio files to use in your videos.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Zaption - Video Based Quizzes and More

Zaption is an interesting video assessment tool that I tried when it was in beta last fall. This afternoon I received an email from the Zaption team asking me to take a look at the new version of the service. I was impressed by what I saw when I tried it this evening.

Zaption is a tool for creating video-based quizzes. Unlike some services like TED-Ed that have students watch a video then answer questions at the end, Zaption allows you to display questions for students to answer as they watch a video.

To create a quiz on Zaption you start by creating a "tour" in your account. A tour is a combination of videos, images, and text arranged into a sequence. To add a video to a tour you can search and select one within Zaption. Zaption pulls videos from YouTube, Vimeo, PBS, or National Geographic. After choosing your video, start watching it then pause it when you want to add a question. You can add questions in the form of multiple choice, open response, or check box response. When students watch the video they will see your questions appear in the context in which you set them.

As mentioned above, Zaption tours can include images and passages of text along with your video. You can add questions over images and or between images and text. Take a look at the Zaption showcase for some great examples of Zaption tours that incorporate video, images, and text.

Applications for Education
Zaption could be a great tool for creating flipped lessons to share with your students. Students do not have to have Zaption accounts in order to use the tours that you create. The free version of the service allows you to include one video per tour (you can have unlimited tours).

OpenEd Releases a New Tool for Creating Common Core-aligned Practice Assessments

OpenEd is a free service that has created a huge catalog of educational videos and games that you can browse by topic, grade level, or Common Core standard. The service launched last fall and has steadily added new features since then. The latest addition to OpenEd is an assessment creation tool.

OpenEd's assessment creation tool is designed to help teachers create Common Core-aligned assessments. To get started you have to create an accountant on Click the "assessments" tab then the "create" button to start building your standards-aligned resources. After titling your assessment you can choose the standards that your assessment will address. You can choose as many standards as you like. With your standards identified you can move on to adding questions to your assessment. Assessment questions can be created from scratch you can choose some of the questions that OpenEd recommends based on your standards choices. You can also search for questions on OpenEd and add them to your assessments.

The best feature of the OpenEd assessment creation tool is the option to associate images and videos with specific questions. This option not only allows you to use media in your questions, but it also allows your students to see suggested review resources when they don't reach a standard on your assessment.

Applications for Education
In my testing of the new OpenEd assessment creation tool I had the best experience when I created questions from scratch. The first set of standards that I selected, high school geography, did not yield any question suggestions. When I tested it again with elementary school language arts standards I did find suggested questions.

OpenEd encourages teachers to publish their assessments publicly on OpenEd so that other teachers can incorporate their questions into new assessments. Remember, these are practice assessments.

Technology and Primary Sources

This morning in Dubuque, Iowa at the 2014 TIC Conference I shared some tools and ideas for teaching with technology and primary sources. The slides from the session are embedded below. The images in the slides are hyperlinked to the tools pictured.

On the fourth slide above you will notice a note about using Google Documents to host discussions around primary source documents. The process that I use for doing that is outlined below.

1. Find a digital copy, preferably in the Public Domain, of the primary source document that I want all of my students to read.

2. Copy and paste the primary source document into a Google Document.

3. Share the document with my students and allow them to comment on the document. I usually use the sharing setting of “anyone with the link” and then post the link on my blog. Alternatively, you could share by entering your students’ email addresses.

4. I will highlight sections of the primary source document and insert a comment directly attached to the highlighted section. In my comments I will enter discussion prompts for students. They can then reply directly to my comments and each other’s comments.

Using this process in a classroom that is not 1:1
If you teach in a classroom that is not 1:1 you can still take advantage of some of this process. Consider having one or two students play the role of note-taker in the Google Document while you are hosting your classroom discussion with all of your students reading the printed version of the article. Have your note-takers tie comments to specific parts of the article. When the activity is over, posted the final set of notes on your classroom blog by selecting “public on the web” in the sharing setting of the Google Document and then post the link on your classroom blog.

Remind 101 Drops the "101" and Rebrands as Remind

The popular text messaging service Remind 101 rebranded this week by dropping the "101" from its name. The announcement was made on the Remind blog yesterday. The announcement doesn't explain why "101" was dropped from the name. The good news is that nothing else has changed. All of the great features that we've come to love about Remind 101 are still present in Remind. If you are using the iOS or Android apps, you will not have to re-install anything.

For those who are not familiar with it, Remind is a free service that allows you to send text messages to groups of students and or parents from your computer, your iPhone, or your Android phone. The benefit of using Remind 101 over Google Voice, which I used to use for this purpose, to text students and parents is that your phone number is not revealed and your students' cell phone numbers are not revealed to you. Students and parents have to opt-in if they want to be added to your text messaging list. Students and parents have to enter a confirmation code to state that they do want to be contacted by you through the service.

Remind lets you schedule messages to be sent. For example, if you are planning to take your students on a field trip on Friday you can schedule a reminder message to be sent to all parents on Thursday evening. Your message could contain reminders about what to pack for the field trip and an emergency contact number to use during the field trip.

The attachment option in Remind allows you to add pictures and other files to your messages. You can even pull files from your Google Drive or Dropbox account to send as attachments. If you've ever sent a text message with an attachment then the process will feel very familiar to you.

Applications for Education
Most of us can't help but look right away when we receive text messages. Compare this to email messages that we can easily ignore and you'll know why sending text message reminders is more effective than sending email reminders.

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