Monday, August 11, 2014

Get to Know Your New Students Through Comics

As every teacher knows, it can take a while for new students to open up to each other and to you. One way to get them to share stories about themselves is to have them put it into a fun comic story. Through creating comic stories you can have students share favorite stories from their summer vacations. In the process students learn how to use a new tool, practice developing storylines, and they let you in on a little bit of who they are as people.

Here are a few web-based tools that your students can use to create comic stories to share with you.

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. By using Comic Master to create their stories about their summer adventures students can turn themselves into the "super hero" of their stories. 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.

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.

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.

Disclosure: Storyboard That is an advertiser on this blog. 

Sunday, August 10, 2014

PDF - Ten Popular Ed Tech Tools That Were Updated This Summer

A couple of weeks ago I published a round-up of popular ed tech tools that were updated this summer. I had a couple of readers ask if they could print the post to pass out in their schools. Yes, you can. To make it easier to print I put the post into PDF format. In creating the PDF I changed some of the "click here" items to written URLs for finding video demonstrations of updated features. The PDF is embedded below, you can also click here for the PDF.

NASA Explains the Supermoon and Perseid Meteors

If you go outside tonight you may notice that the full moon is brighter than usual. This unusually bright moon is referred to as the Supermoon. In the Science At NASA video embedded below we learn why the Supermoon is so bright tonight. The same video also explains Perseid meteor showers and why they might not be quite as visible tonight as on other nights.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Sikorsky Hosts a Helicopter Design Contest for Kids

For the fourth year in a row Sikorsky is hosting a helicopter design contest for kids between nine and sixteen years old. The contest started on June 1 and runs through September 30, 2014. Contestants will design a helicopter that addresses the potential challenges of 2050 and plan for how their helicopters of the Future would overcome those challenges.

The Helicopter 2050 Challenge asks students to design the helicopter of the future. Submissions are judged based on uniqueness of concept, description of the idea, and the potential of the design to overcome challenges. The winning design receives a scholarship from Sikorksy and a trip to Sikorsky headquarters.

Sikorsky has put together a nice brainstorming page to help students develop ideas for their helicopter designs. For schools and museums Sikorsky has a digital binder of activities designed around the Helicopter 2050 contest. Included in both the digital binder and the brainstorming pages is this timeline of Sikorsky helicopter development.

The Week in Review - The Most Popular Posts

Max says, "fire this up!"
Good evening from Woodstock, Maine where it is a perfect evening for barbecuing. Before I fire up the grill, I have this week's week in review post for you. This week I had the privilege of speaking to teachers from Sonoma, California and Oldham, Kentucky. Next week I'll be speaking at Boston College and working with teachers in Delta, Colorado. If you're in either place, please say hello.

Here are this week's most popular posts:
1. Math Word Wall Posters for Elementary School Classrooms
2. Five Good Resources for Teaching Digital Safety and Citizenship to Elementary School Students
3. WordWriter - A New Way of Learning Vocabulary Through Writing
4. Two Ways to Explore the News Through Maps
5. A Round-up of This Summer's Google Drive, Apps, and Maps Updates
6. Thinking Blocks - Model Math Problems on iPads, Interactive Whiteboards, and in Your Browser
7. The NY Times Replica Edition - Free for K-12 Classrooms

Would you like to have me speak at your school or conference? Click here to learn about my keynote and workshop offerings. 

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. 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, Chicago, and Atlanta.
StoryBoard That is a great tool for creating comics and more.
BoomWriter and WordWriter are fantastic tools that help students develop their writing skills.

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