Friday, January 13, 2017

Toontastic 3D - Create 3D Cartoon Videos on iOS, Chrome, and Android

On Thursday Google released a new version of the popular animation creation app, Toontastic. The new version is called Toontastic 3D and it is available to download on the Android, iOS, and Chrome platforms. I installed on an Android phone and found it to be easy to use to create animated videos.

To make a video on Toontastic 3D students first select the type of story that they want to create. Their options are "short story" (a three part story), "classic" (a five part story), or "science report." Once they have selected a story type they will be prompted to craft each part of their stories in order. A short description of what each part of the story should do is included before students start each section.

Students can pick from a variety of story setting templates or they can create their own within Toontastic 3D. Once they have established a background setting students then select cartoon characters to use in their stories. Students can choose from a wide array of customizable cartoon characters or they can create their own from scratch. Once characters are placed into the story scenes students can begin recording themselves talking while moving the characters around in each scene. Students can swap characters between scenes, change the appearance of characters between scenes, and move characters from one scene to the next.

To use Toontastic 3D students do not need to have accounts or log into any service. Their completed videos can be saved directly onto the devices that they use to create their videos.

Applications for Education
Toontastic 3D could provide elementary school students with a great way to create videos for a variety of purposes including mini-biographies, retelling of historical events, or to bring the scenes of a favorite book to life in video form.

18 Cartoon Videos About Cyber Safety for Students

Planet Nutshell produces short animated videos to explain products, services, and concepts. One of their series of videos is all about Internet safety for K-12 students. The series is called NetSafe and it has eighteen episodes covering topics like protecting personal information, responsible posting of pictures, and mobile location privacy. The videos are labeled with grade levels so that students in high school don't watch videos designed for K-3 students. A video for K-3 students and a video for high school students are embedded below.

First Steps With Shared Chromebooks

Earlier this week I received an email from a reader who had just received Chromebooks to use in his classroom, but not enough Chromebooks that every student has his or her own. He had some questions about how to get started using the Chromebooks in his classroom. Those questions and my answers appear below.

What are the initial things/steps I should do first?
Since your students will be sharing Chromebooks you will need to decide if you are going to have students use the Chromebooks as guests or if you are going to let them create profiles on the Chromebooks that they use.

Using a Chromebook as a guest means that nothing will be saved on the Chromebook with regards to downloads and personal settings such as background images or specific app log-ins. It's important to note that students can still log into their personal Google Drive or Chrome accounts while in guest mode. It just won't let them save log-in information or downloads. Directions for using guest mode can be found here.

Using a Chromebook while logged into an account will let students save preferences and downloads. You can have multiple students use the same Chromebook and each will have his or her own log-on information. It's important to remind students to log-out when they are done using the Chromebook. If a student doesn't log-out, the next student to use that Chromebook will have access to the previous user's information. Learn more about adding multiple accounts to a Chromebook on this help page.

For the first steps in using any Chromebook whether shared or not, consult this help page.

What are the necessary things I should be doing with these?
That is kind of a broad question, but I'll take it to mean "necessary things beyond initial set-up." In that case I'll offer that you should be planning to do activities that go beyond the basics of web browsing, word processing, and simple game play. You might start planning a summative video project in which students show what they know. I have list of Chromebook-friendly video tools. I also have an on-demand webinar about planning video projects.

To get the most out of Chromebooks, like any other computing device that you introduce into your classroom, you need to take some time to list the ways that you would like to see them used then look for the apps that can help your students do that.

Any must have apps?
Aside from the standard G Suite for Education tools, the apps that I most often recommend are Google Keep, Nimbus Screenshot,, Twisted Wave, and Task Timer.

Google Keep is great for making to-do lists, setting reminders, and bookmarking websites.

Nimbus Screenshot is a fantastic tool for taking screenshots and or making screencast videos on a Chromebook. I've found the quality of Nimbus Screenshot videos to be better than those of the more well-known Screencastify. is a good tool for students to use to take notes while watching YouTube videos.

Twisted Wave is a free tool for creating audio recordings that can be saved directly to a student's Google Drive account.

Task Timer is just a simple timer tool that students can use to track the time they spend on a task or to set a time limit for an activity.

Any recommendations on how I should use these in my every day math and science classroom?
If you have touchscreen Chromebooks like the Acer R11 or Acer R14, you might start using Google Drawings or Google Forms with the g(math) Add-on so that your students can complete math and science problems while showing you their work and submitting it through Google Classroom. You might also use the Chromebooks as data collection and analysis tools. Google Forms and Spreadsheets can help students see data in a variety of visualizations.

Take a look at using Scratch to teach your students some programming skills. More importantly, they'll learn a bit about logic and sequencing through the process of using Scratch. MIT's App Inventor will let your students develop and test Android apps on their Chromebooks.

You can learn lots of ways to use Chromebooks in your classroom during the Practical Ed Tech Chromebook Camp this July. 

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Tips for Setting Up AP History DBQ Essays

Tom Richey has a great YouTube channel for history students and teachers. In addition to lessons on a wide variety of topics in U.S. and World History, he also offers videos on strategies for studying and writing. One of his recent strategy videos is Setting Up Your AP History DBQ.

Setting Up Your AP History DBQ walks students through what they need to know in order to craft a good essay that meets the benchmarks for the seven tasks of the redesigned AP US, Euro, and World History DBQs. The video is embedded below.

Check out Tom Richey's YouTube channel for more great videos for high school history students.

How Igloos Can Keep You Warm - And Winter Phys Ed Activities

How an Igloo Keeps You Warm is a new video from It's Okay To Be Smart. The video does a great job of explaining how an igloo provides insulation and stays relatively warm when people are inside it. The video also explains the engineering concepts used in the creation of a strong and warm igloo.

Winter is a tough time to get outside and exercise. But if you have some fun activities planned, it is a little bit easier to go outside. Here are some fun and somewhat educational activities to do in the snow.

NOVA, as part of their program on Denali, has directions for building a snow cave and directions for building an Igloo. (If you do either of these activities, make sure that you closely supervise students. A collapsed snow cave or igloo can be very dangerous).

Boys' Life offers a list of outdoor winter games as well as directions for building igloos and snow shelters.

Making your own snowshoes is an activity that can be done indoors with the final product enjoyed outdoors. Mother Earth News offers directions for making your own snowshoes. How Cast has video directions for making an emergency pair of snowshoes.

When I was about seven or eight I was given a copy of The American Boy's Handy Book. That book is filled with fun hands-on indoor and outdoor activities including an entire section devoted to snow forts and other snow-related activities.