Friday, March 13, 2015

The Black Death In 90 Seconds - Three Years Later

Almost three years ago now my friend Rushton Hurley sent me an email about a video that had recently been uploaded to his video sharing site Next Vista for Learning. That video was The Black Death in 90 Seconds. Since the day that Rushton emailed me I have had the video bookmarked and I frequently show it when I conduct workshops about making and using videos in the classroom.

The Black Death in 90 Seconds is a great example of teaching a lesson in a concise and engaging format. Anyone who has access to iMovie, WeVideo, or Windows Movie maker could create a similar video that is equally as entertaining and informative as The Black Death in 90 Seconds. I show the video to demonstrate that video lessons don't have to be boring and don't have to have a lot of high-end editing in order to be effective.

Thinglink Now Offers Verified Accounts for Schools

Thinglink is one of my favorite tools for creating multimedia, interactive collages. Last year Thinglink introduced Thinglink Edu. This week they took things a step further and introduced verified accounts for schools.

Verified Thinglink educational organization accounts will receive the option to give access to a managing teacher to view student accounts and group accounts from one dashboard.

Applications for Education
Verified Thinglink accounts should provide an extra measure of control and security for schools that are having students use the service to develop interactive images.

Last summer Shawn McCusker wrote a great overview of four ways to use Thinglink in the classroom. I encourage you to read Shawn's post here.

5 Free Tools for Creating Whiteboard Videos

One of the many things that we tried today in my Future Schools workshop was creating whiteboard instructional videos. Someone in the group suggested using those videos as layers in Aurasma that would trigger when students scanned a geometric shape. Even if you don't use Aurasma to showcase your videos, whiteboard videos can be helpful in helping students understand a process or concept. Here is a handful of tools for making whiteboard videos.

Clarisketch is a free Android app that has great potential for classroom use. The app allows you to take a picture or pull one from your device’s camera roll and then add your voice to it. While you are talking about your picture you can draw on it to highlight sections of it. Completed projects are shared as links to the video file hosted on Clarisketch. You can share the link to your Clarisketch video and have it play on nearly any device that has a web browser. Clarisketch is also available as Chrome app.

PixiClip is a good option for creating simple instructional videos in your computer's web browser. PixiClip provides a whiteboard space on which you can draw, upload images to mark-up, and type. While adding elements to your PixiClip whiteboard you can talk and or record a video of yourself talking. In fact, you can't use the whiteboard without at least recording your voice at the same time. Recordings can be shared via social media, embedded into blog posts, or you could grab the link and include it on webpage.

30hands is a free iPad app that makes it very easy to create a narrated slideshow and or whiteboard video. To create a basic narrated slideshow on 30hands all you need to do is import images from your iPad’s camera roll then press the record button below each image to record your narration. If you don’t have any pictures on your iPad you can take pictures using the 30hands app. 30hands also allows you to draw images instead of importing pictures. You can combine imported pictures with drawn images in your presentations. And you can draw on top of imported images. When your project is complete you can save it on your iPad or share it with the 30hands community.

Knowmia Teach is an iPad app for creating instructional whiteboard videos. The app allows you to create your video on a slide-by-slide basis. You can draw and talk on slides in the app. You can pause the app between slides. Images can be inserted into the backdrop of each slide which is great when you want to explain a diagram to students. An option for recording your face on each slide is also including in Knowmia Teach.

ScreenChomp was one of the first whiteboard iPad apps. Other apps have surpassed it in terms of optional features, but ScreenChomp still shines when it comes to ease of use. ScreenChomp provides a whiteboard on which you can demonstrate things by drawing and talking people through your instructions. You can draw and talk over a blank whiteboard or you can upload an image and draw on it while you’re talking. Either way, ScreenChomp records your voice as you go. When you’re done recording ScreenChomp provides you with a unique URL for your recording. Share that URL through email, social media, or post it on your blog for students to watch.

Putting Our Heads Together and Trying New Apps

Today, I had an enjoyable day leading a small workshop at the FutureSchools Expo in Sydney. There were only seven of us in the workshop which was great because it allowed us to talk and share ideas for using a variety of apps and sites in classrooms. The workshop started out with my outline for the day and me sharing some of my favorite apps. By the time our afternoon break came around everyone was trying something new to him or her. It was a pleasure to see how the group tried new things and shared their ideas with the group.

Highlights of sharing:
Using ChatterPix Kids in conjunction with Aurasma to create a talking coffee cup. The idea was extended to having students create videos about their favorite characters from books.

Using Showme in conjunction with Aurasma to create mathematics tutorials that play when students scan a geometric shape.

Using PicMonkey in conjunction with Thinglink to create interactive, multimedia collages.

Using Tellagami to create videos to provide directions to primary/ elementary school students as they learn to navigate an LMS.

Everyone in the group tried something new today and equally importantly shared with the group their first attempts at making a media type that was new to him or her. At the end of the day trying new things and sharing our successes and failures with colleagues is how we will ultimately develop better learning experiences for our students. Thank you to Bree, Darryn, Todd, Rebecca, Scott, and Carol for sharing and making today a great experience for all of us.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Five Common Mistakes Made When Starting a Classroom Blog

This afternoon Sue Waters and I revived a presentation on blogging that we gave together six years ago at ISTE (formerly NECC). One aspect of our presentation was to share some of the mistakes that we frequently see people make when starting classroom blogs. I made all of these mistakes myself when I started blogging with students nine years ago.

1. Making it optional:
If you make it optional for students and parents to visit the classroom blog, they'll generally opt not to view it.

2. Inconsistency:
It is better to post once a week on the same day than it is to post three posts in one week and two the next and four the following week.

3. Lack of purpose:
I often hear people say, "I don't know what we should blog about." Without a defined purpose for a blog it is hard to come with ideas for individual blog posts. If you identify a purpose, "weekly reflections on learning" is a good purpose, you will find it easier to come up with topics for individual blog posts.

4.  Running before walking or biting off more than we can chew:
Set realistic goals for your first semester of blogging. Big goals are great, but balance them with smaller goals like "posting once per week for a month" to give you and your students a sense of accomplishment.

5. Creating too many blogs too soon:
Sue sees this one more than I do because she is an administrator for Edublogs who responds to users help requests. The problem here is that teachers set-up many blogs either for themselves or their students without being able or ready to manage all of them.

I'll be covering these topics and many more in my upcoming webinar series Blogs & Social Media for Teachers and School Leaders.