Friday, December 11, 2015

CommonLit - Search for Thematic Discussion Questions Paired With Interesting Texts

Almost one year ago I wrote about a new organization called CommonLit that was developing a database of short fiction and nonfiction texts paired with discussion questions. At the time you could only find texts by browsing through the database. Now you can actually search through CommonLit on their search page. Enter a word or term on the search page to find texts with paired questions related to your term. You can then filter your results by grade level, theme, and genre.

The discussion questions on CommonLit aren't your typical "how does the author use foreshadowing?" kind of questions. Rather the discussion questions deal with larger themes like "how do we define the roles of men and women?" and "why do people follow the crowd?"

Applications for Education
Commonlit's thematic questions could be quite helpful in getting students interested in reading. I've always found that if I can get students engrossed in a conversation around a big question, I then have a much easier time getting them to read materials related to the conversation. My students tend to want to read so that they can find more ideas to bring into their arguments in the classroom conversation.

What Happened to Tellagami for Android? - It's on Hiatus

Fans of Tellagami, a popular animated video creation app, may have noticed that the Android version app was experiencing issues after their devices updated to Lollipop. I experienced that last month and thought it was just a quirk on my phone. It turns out that a lot of people had the same problem. So as of right now Tellagami is not available in Google Play, but is still available for iOS. Hopefully, it returns to Google Play soon. I'm a huge fan of the app.

Here's Tellagami's Facebook post about the Android version.

Tellagami fans: Some are experiencing issues on devices with new Android Lollipop updates. So, we removed Tellagami apps...
Posted by Tellagami on Friday, November 27, 2015

A Great Example of a Student Video Made With ChatterPix

Today, during a workshop in Kansas I showed some videos from Next Vista for Learning. One of those videos, titled A Healthy Meal, provides a great example of using ChatterPix to create talking images to use in a video. As you can see in the video below, the students used ChatterPix to create talking vegetables and other foods. Those clips were then put together in a video editor (I can't tell for certain, but I'll guess that they were assembled in iMovie or WeVideo). Watch the video below. It just might be the cutest academic video you'll watch this year.

More about ChatterPix
ChatterPix Kids is a free iPad app that students can use to turn pictures into talking pictures. To create a talking picture just snap a picture with your iPad or import a picture from your iPad’s camera roll. After taking the picture just draw in a face and tap the record button to make your picture talk. Your recording can be up to thirty seconds in length. Before publishing your talking picture you can add fun stickers, text, and frames to your picture. Finished Chatter Pix projects are saved to your camera roll and from there you can export it to a number of services including YouTube.

Five Tutorials on Creating Audio Recordings

One way to engage students in blogging activities is to have them create short audio recordings that serve as blog posts. Their recordings could be simple statements about what they've learned in your class or they could be full explanations of their thoughts on a news story. Students could also make audio recordings of interviews with classmates, parents, or people that they meet on a job shadow trip. The StoryCorps Question Generator can help students format interview questions.

There is no shortage of tools for creating audio recordings. The five that are featured in the playlist below are all tools that I've used with students at various times.

The tools featured in the playlist are Vocaroo, SoundCloud,, AudioBoom, and AudioPal.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Two Ways to Blur Faces in Videos

Whether it's a holiday concert, a science fair, or a sporting event throughout the school year there are plenty of opportunities for creating videos that include images and or raw video of students doing neat things. Not every student wants to appear in those videos. Likewise, not every parent wants his or her child's image to appear in those videos. Fortunately, there are a couple of relatively easy ways to blur a child's image in a video.

How to blur an image in a video slideshow:
If your video is just a set of images set to audio with a bit of text sprinkled-in, try using Skitch to blur students' faces before adding those images to your video slideshow. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how this works.

How to blur an image in a live-action video:
Blurring images in a live-action video is a bit more difficult to do than in a video slideshow, but it can be done. Within YouTube's video editor there is a "blur" function found in the "enhancements" section. Turn on the blur enhancement and YouTube will automatically blur faces in an image. The shortcoming of this feature is that it blurs all faces. There isn't a way to specify which faces to blur and which not to blur.