Wednesday, April 15, 2015

5 Free Tools for Creating Animations in Your Browser or On Your Tablet

Monday's post about Parapara Animation was quite popular and prompted questions from readers looking for similar tools that either work on tablets or offer more features than Parapara Animation. Here are some other sites and apps for creating animations.

ABCya Animate is a web-based tool from ABCya that allows students to create animated GIFs containing up to 100 frames. On ABCya Animate students build their animation creations by drawing, typing, and inserting images. Students can change the background of each frame, include new pictures in each frame, and change the text in each frame of their animations. The feature that I like best about ABCya Animate is that students can see the previous frames of their animations while working on a current frame. This helps students know where to position items in each frame in order to make their animations as smooth as possible. Students do not need to register on ABCya Animate in order to use the tool or to save their animations. When students click "save" on ABCya Animate their creations are downloaded as GIFs. ABCya Animate is also available as an iPad app, but the iPad app is not free.

Animation Desk is an iPad and Android app (free and premium versions available) for creating short, animated videos. The app allows you to create drawings using just your finger on your iPad's screen. In the free version of the app (the version that I tried) you can create up to 50 scenes in each of your projects. In each scene you can include as little or as much as you want to draw on the canvas. There are a few different brush and pencil effects that you can use in your drawings. The opacity of the colors you choose can be altered too. When you have completed drawing all of your scenes hit the play button to watch your animation unfold. If you're happy with your animation you can export it to YouTube.

Draw Island is a free online tool (tablet-friendly) for creating drawings and simple GIF animations. Draw Island offers you your choice of four canvas sizes on which you can draw. Draw Island offers two canvas sizes for creating simple GIF animations. To use Draw Island just head to the site and select a drawing tool. You can draw free hand (or should I say free mouse?) or select pre-defined shapes to use in your images. When you're done drawing just click the save button to download your drawing or animation.

JellyCam is a free program for creating stopmotion movies. Using JellyCam you can create stop motion movies using images from your computer or images that you capture via your webcam. Once you've selected images you can quickly arrange them into a sequence. After the sequence is set you can specify how many images you want per frame. A soundtrack can be uploaded to your video. JellyCam uses the Adobe Air platform. If you don't have Adobe Air Runtime it takes just a couple of minutes to install. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use JellyCam.

CNN Student News Visits North Korea (Kind of)

This morning's episode of CNN Student News features a report from the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) of the Korean Peninsula. It's an interesting look at the nuances of international boundaries, particularly boundaries between enemy countries. The report shows us how a few feet means the difference between legally and illegally being in North Korea.

To learn about the history of the conflict between North and South Korea, take a look at the The Korean "War" For Dummies produced by Keith Hughes.

A Few Resources for Learning About Taxes

Today is the deadline to file and pay your income taxes here in the United States. This is a good time to share some resources for helping students understand the history and purpose of income taxes. And good luck to everyone who is scrambling to file their tax returns today. (This is the first time in years that I'm not scrambling to file on time).

To explain the origins of income taxes in the United States, CBS News hosted author Kenneth Davis. Davis is the author of the popular "Don't Know Much" series of history books.

CNN's Explain It To Me video about the "Buffett Rule" explains why sometimes the super rich don't pay as high a percentage of their income in taxes as the rest of us.

To see how tax revenue is distributed is What We Pay For. What We Pay For uses publicly available tax data to show you how your tax money is appropriated. On the left side of the screen you will see the total revenue and appropriations for the entire United States. On the right side of the screen you can enter your filing status and pre-tax earnings for the year to see the approximate amount you will pay toward US budget items. You can enter your pre-tax earnings as an annual figure, monthly figure, weekly, daily, or hourly wage.

The IRS website, Understanding Taxes, is a good source of lesson plans and individual learning materials about taxes and budgets. In the teacher section of the site you will find lesson plans like this one (opens as pdf) designed to teach students about services for which tax revenue is used.

Finally, for a retro lesson on taxes take a look at the School House Rock Tax Man Music Video.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

TenMarks Offers a Free Summer Math Program for Families

 For the second year in a row TenMarks is making their family math program free for the summer months.

The TenMarks summer program begins with students taking an assessment. After taking the assessment  an individualized program that adapts to his or her specific needs is created for the student. Each student’s summer curriculum is designed to review concepts from the past year, and get introduced to concepts for the year ahead. TenMarks offers real-time feedback to students and their parents. The feedback measures a student's progress toward a standard or goal. Based upon a student's responses to questions the program automatically adjusts to provide more or less of a type of question.

Tenmarks Animation from Nikki Oetinger on Vimeo.

How to Add Page Tabs to Blogger Blogs

This afternoon I received the following email from a reader who needed help with his Blogger blog.

I am using I created 7 different pages and published them, however, they are not showing up on my home page. They only way to see them is if I click on the preview option. Any suggestions?

The short answer to this reader's question is to make the pages show up you need to go into the layout menu. Then select "add a gadget." The gadget you want to add is called "pages." The pages gadget will let you select the pages that will appear on your blog. I demonstrate this process in the following video.

You can find screenshots of this process and many more Blogger functions in my 90 page guide to using Blogger in school.

Applications for Education
The page tabs that I usually add to a classroom blog are a page for a full size calendar, a page for classroom expectations, and a page of resources for parents. I also include a tab that links to the school and or district website.