Monday, May 11, 2015

Story Prompts - 20 Random(ish) Pictures at a Time

My dog, Morrison, smiling
in a canoe.
Pechaflickr is a neat little tool built by Alan Levine. Pechaflickr displays twenty random images pulled from Flickr based on a tag (keyword) that you enter. For example, enter the word dog and twenty pictures of dogs will appear. But all of the the images don't appear at once. Instead each one appears for only twenty seconds. Alan built the tool as a fun way to get people to try their skills at giving impromptu presentations. But as he wrote in a recent blog post, people are using it in other ways like learning a second language.

Applications for Education
As I tested Pechaflickr I started to think about using it as a source of story starters for students. Enter a tag into Pechaflickr and as each image appears have students try to write down the first word or sentence that comes to mind. At the end of the set of images students can pick their favorite images to write about in their stories.

How Sound Is Produced Through Brass Instruments

How Brass Instruments Work is a relatively new TED-Ed lesson. The video provides an overview of how sound is produced and changed through trumpets, trombones, and tubas. The lesson within the video is rather basic but it does do a nice job of clearly conveying how a musician makes music on a brass instrument.

After students learn how brass instruments work, they can visit SFS Kids to learn how brass instruments fit into symphony orchestras. In the "performance" section of SFS Kids students learn about the instruments commonly heard in a symphony orchestra. After learning about how the instruments are played it is time for students to jump into the "composition" section of SFS Kids where they'll work through a series of lessons on the basics of composition and begin writing their own pieces.

Ten Sites and Apps to Inspire Creative Writing

Last week at the Riding the Wave conference in Gimli, Manitoba someone asked me for suggestions on sites that her students could access to find story prompts. was the first thing that came to my mind then. I also suggested Make Beliefs Comix. Those are two of the ten options that are included in my slideshow of suggestions embedded below.

Use Google Scholar to Support Student Research

This is a guest post from Jennifer Carey (@TeacherJenCarey) of EdTechTeacher - an advertiser on this site.

If you have asked your students to engage in research, then undoubtedly they have returned with a fresh list of results from a Google search. It can be a challenge in this era of search engine algorithms to teach students to engage with more traditional research methods and tools. Google Scholar is a great way to introduce them to this work while simultaneously working in a mode that is more familiar to them.

Google Scholar Search

Google Scholar is a Google search engine that allows you to look specifically for academic articles, theses, books, technical reports, abstracts, patent information, and case law. Just like Google’s search engine, you can use basic and advanced search options and find articles that are related to one another. It is important to note that Google Scholar does not contain everything. Much of the material you find may require a subscription to that specific journal article or to use a service like JSTOR. Therefore, this is a good tool to use in conjunction with other search methods and a great way to incorporate librarians into lesson plans and activities.

Just like a traditional Google Search, you can simply enter a keyword or phrase and find all relatable content. You can also do an “advanced search” to limit results to keyword, title, date, source, etc. One of the features I really like about Google Scholar is that if you find a good article or source, you can also select “related articles” to advance your research. You can also save the article to your own Google Scholar Library for later reference.

Google Scholar Search Results

If there is a topic that is of special interest to you (a research project you are working on, a pet project, or just a subject of interest), you can also create an alert to email you when something is published on that set topic. Simply click on the down arrow in the top right of the page, select “create alert,” enter your search query, the number of results that you want, and press “create alert.” Now, your research can even come directly to your inbox.

Google Scholar Alerts

Google Scholar is an excellent tool to expand your Google Searches and teach students about academic research and sources. While it doesn’t replace traditional databases or the skills of a good librarian, it is a great supplement to traditional tools. Also, if you like to research while you browse, look at adding the Google Scholar Chrome Extension.

EdTechTeacher will be offering a number of Summer Workshops that will be addressing Google Scholar as well as other research tools. In particular, you may be interested in Teaching English with Technology, Teaching History with Technology, as well as Reading, Writing, & Research.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

By Request - Five Options for Creating Videos on Chromebooks

On Friday I posted Seven Steps for Creating Videos in Your Classroom. Since then I've had a handful of people ask for suggestions for tools for creating videos on Chromebooks. These are the tools that I frequently recommend. All of these tools work well in your web browser so they're not limited to just Chromebook use.

Wideo is a neat video creation service that allows anyone to create animated videos and Common Craft-style videos online through a simple drag-and-drop process. A couple of months ago Wideo started offering templates to help users start their video projects. Wideo templates provide a basic framework for a video's theme. A couple of the templates that might be of interest to teachers are the slideshow template and the curriculum template.

WeVideo is an online video creation tool that I have written about extensively over the last few years. WeVideo offers templates that new users can follow to create their first videos. Advanced WeVideo users can skip the templates, use the full editor, and apply themes to their videos by choosing them from the themes menu in the editor. In the video editor you can upload your own media clips or use stock media clips to produce your video. WeVideo's Google Drive app allows you to save all of your video projects in your Google Drive account. WeVideo also offers an Android app and an iPhone app that students can use to capture images and video footage to add to their projects.

Magisto is a video creation tool that allows you to quickly drag videos and images from your desktop and or Google Drive account to your Magisto account. From the videos you upload, Magisto will select the best portions to remix and blend with images. After you've uploaded the media that you want mixed, select a theme and music for your video. Magisto creates your video after you've completed the steps of uploading media, selecting a theme, and choosing music. The final video is emailed to you. In addition to the web-based service Magisto offers a Chrome app, an Android app, and an iPad app

PowToon is a great tool for creating animated videos online. PowToon provides a drag-and-drop editor for creating animated videos. 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.

Within YouTube there is a free tool for creating audio slideshows. You supply the images and YouTube supplies the audio track. You can pick from thousands of audio tracks to match to your slides. After adding your slides and selecting an audio track you can add speech bubbles to your slides. I demonstrate all of these steps in the video embedded below.