Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Three Ways That Students Can Create Talking Pictures

A couple of days ago on Twitter someone asked me for suggestions for tools that work like Blabberize to let  people create talking pictures. Blabberize is a site on which you can upload a picture and record audio to turn it into a talking picture. To do this on Blabberize you first upload a picture then draw or select a mouth on the people or animals in it. Then you record yourself talking. The mouth moves while you talk. It's a fun way to add some life to a still image.

On an iPad students can use ChatterPix Kids to create talking pictures. ChatterPix Kids is a free iPad app. 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. ChatterPix Kids doesn’t require students to create an account in order to use the service. Using the app can be a great way to get students to bring simple stories to life. Check out the video below that was made, in part, by using ChatterPix.




On the Android platform Face Changer Video lets you create talking pictures in the same manner as Blabberize and ChatterPix Kids.

Applications for Education
In addition to the example above, another way that you might use this style of talking picture is to have students record short audio biographies of famous people. For example, students could create talking versions of pictures of George Washington in which they share short bits of information about Washington in the first-person.

The Origins of Thanksgiving Foods

On Tuesday I shared ten resources for Thanksgiving-themed lesson plans. This afternoon I discovered another good resource for a Thanksgiving lesson.

The Surprising Origins of Thanksgiving Foods is a new video from It's Okay to be Smart (a PBS production). Through the video students can learn how the most common, traditional Thanksgiving foods originated and evolved to what they are today. This lesson includes an explanation of how archaeologists and scientists determined that turkeys were one of the first animals to be domesticated in North America. We also learn why the turkeys we find in the grocery store today are so much bigger than those of just a few generations ago.


Try using Vizia to turn this video into an interactive assignment. Vizia is a free tool that lets you build interactive questions into any public YouTube video. Your students responses to your questions appear in a Google Sheet where you can quickly grade answers with the help of Flubaroo. Learn more in my video below.

How to Use Wolfram Alpha Inside Google Docs

Wolfram Alpha is a search engine that is probably best known for helping students solve mathematics problems. But there is more to Wolfram Alpha than just computational data. Wolfram Alpha can help students quickly locate information about famous people in history, locate socioeconomic data, find science data, and even help students find information about music theory. Unlike on Google or Bing, when students search on Wolfram Alpha they won't be shown a list of links. When students search Wolfram Alpha they will be shown organized collections of information. That is why Wolfram Alpha and Google searches can complement each other.

Wolfram Alpha offers a free Google Docs Add-on that students can use to conduct research without leaving the documents they're viewing. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to install and use the Wolfram Alpha Google Docs Add-on.



The following video offers a brief overview of what makes Wolfram Alpha different from other search engines.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

10 Thanksgiving Lesson Resources and Ideas

American Thanksgiving is less than two weeks away. Should you find yourself in need of some Thanksgiving-themed lesson ideas, take a look at the following resources.

Favorite Thanksgiving dishes, like all favorite foods, vary from region to region. The New York Times has a neat site about the favorite Thanksgiving dishes served in each state (and D.C. and Puerto Rico). The United States of Thanksgiving lists the signature Thanksgiving dish of each state. Select a state and find a dish. The recipe for each dish is included on each page.

The United States of Thanksgiving could be a good resource to use in conjunction with History of Harvest and Map Your Recipe. By using all three resources your students can identify a favorite Thanksgiving dish then learn about where the ingredients come from and how they get to the dining room table.

Voyage on the Mayflower is a nice resource produced by Scholastic. Voyage on the Mayflower has two parts for students to explore. The first part is an interactive map of the journey across the Atlantic Ocean. Students can click on placemarks on the map to read and hear about the journey. The second part of the Voyage on the Mayflower takes students "inside" the Mayflower to see and hear about the parts of the ship.

The First Thanksgiving: Daily Life is another online activity produced by Scholastic. Daily Life is comparison of the lifestyles of the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag. Students can click through each aspect of daily life to see a comparison of housing, clothing, food, chores, school, and games.

The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings tells the story of Thanksgiving 1939. In 1939 Thanksgiving was going to fall on the last day of November which caused merchants to be worried about a shortened shopping season. In response to this concern President Roosevelt proclaimed that Thanksgiving would be moved up one week. Some states chose to ignore this proclamation and celebrate Thanksgiving on the last day of the month anyway. The conflict was finally resolved in 1941 when Congress passed a law stating that Thanksgiving would always be celebrated on the fourth Thursday of the month. The Year We Had Two Thanksgivings is supported by ten primary source documents. Included in those documents are letters from merchants appealing to FDR to change the day of Thanksgiving and letters opposing the change.

ReadWorks is a non-profit service that offers hundreds of lesson plans and more than two thousand reading non-fiction and fiction passages aligned to Common Core standards. For the (American) Thanksgiving season ReadWorks is offering a set of non-fiction articles about Thanksgiving. The set includes articles appropriate for all K-12 students. Each article is accompanied by ten reading comprehension questions. Those questions are a mix of multiple choice and open-ended questions.

When Is Thanksgiving? Colonizing America is an episode in John Green's Crash Course on US History. The video starts with the history of Jamestown before moving onto Plymouth. Green does a good job of illustrating the differences between why and how each colony was established. This is video is suitable for high school students, but Green's use of sarcasm (which I actually like) and the details would probably be lost on middle school students.



The History Channel's History of Thanksgiving provides a short overview of the history of American Thanksgiving. This video is suitable for middle school students.




Last year my nieces, with the help of their mother, created "thankful posters." When I saw this I thought that it was a perfect fit for a ThingLink project.

ThingLink makes it easy to create interactive, multimedia images. Upload a picture of a turkey and you or your students can add interactive pins to it. Those pins can include text, images, audio, or video. You can go back and edit your image at any time. So in that way you could have students add one new item to their images every day or two. Images can be emailed and or embedded into blog posts so that your students' parents can see them.

The videos embedded below demonstrate how to use ThingLink.



ThingLink Edu provides teachers with tools to manage students' accounts. Students don't need email addresses in order to use ThingLink.

The Great Thanksgiving Listen is a StoryCorps project intended to facilitate conversations between students and adult family members over Thankgiving weekend. StoryCorps has released a toolkit for teachers to use to guide students in the process of recording interviews with family members. In the toolkit you will find an interview planning sheet and two pages of interview question suggestions. The toolkit recommends using the StoryCorps mobile apps to capture the conversations. The StoryCorps mobile apps includes question prompts and a suggested script for conducting interviews.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Four Tools for Making Audio Recordings on Chromebooks

A couple of weeks ago I was mentioned in a Tweet from someone who was looking for suggestions for tools that his students could use to create audio recordings on their Chromebooks. The following are my suggestions based on my preferences.

1. Vocaroo - this is the simplest of all of the recording tools. To record you simply go to Vocaroo.com, hit the recording button, and start talking. When you're done speaking you can download the recording as an MP3 or share it online by distributing the link assigned to your recording or by embedding it into a blog or website. With the simplicity of Vocaroo comes some limitations including the lack of an option to edit your recording. Learn more about Vocaroo in my video tutorial on it.

2. Twisted Wave - Through TwistedWave you can create and edit spoken audio recordings from scratch. Your completed tracks can be exported to Google Drive and SoundCloud. If you have existing audio tracks in your SoundCloud or Google Drive account you can also import it into TwistedWave to edit those audio tracks. TwistedWave's audio editing tools include options for fade-in, fade-out, looping, sound normalization, and pitch adjustments. The editor also includes the typical track clipping tools that you would expect to see in an audio editing tool. Learn how to use Twisted Wave by watching the tutorial on my YouTube channel.

3. SoundCloud - SoundCloud's online platform lets students record and publish from their free accounts. Recordings can be made private or public. Students can add cover images to their recordings which is nice way to provide a visual representation of what their podcasts are about. SoundCloud offers an option to insert comments into the track of a recording. That feature offers a nice way for teachers to provide their students with time-stamped feedback. Learn more about recording on SoundCloud by watching this tutorial.

4. Mic Note is a free Chrome app that allows you to create voice recordings, text notes, and image-based notes on one concise notebook page. The notes that you record with your voice can be time-stamped by clicking on your Mic Note note page while you're recording. You can also take notes without recording any audio. All notes support inclusion of images and links. The best part of Mic Note is that you can sync all of your notes to your Google Drive or Dropbox account. Mic Note is featured in this video on my YouTube channel.