Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Tools for Creating Stop Motion Movies

Kevin Hodgson recently updated his excellent Making Stop Motion Movies website on which he features examples of student projects and provides good information about the process of making stop motion movies. I particularly like the page about claymation movies. Looking at Kevin's site got me to revisit some of my own posts about tools for creating stop motion movies. Here are four that I have used at various times over the years.

Stop Motion Animator is a free Chrome app for creating stop motion videos. The app is free and easy to use. It does not even require students to create accounts in order to use it.

JellyCam is a free program for creating stop motion 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 it takes just a couple of minutes to install it on your computer. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to use JellyCam.

Parapara Animation is a free animation creation tool developed and hosted by Mozilla. The tool is easy to use and it does not require registration in order to use it. In the video embedded below I demonstrate how to create an animation with ParaPara Animation.

Stop Motion Studio is a great app for creating stop motion videos. The app is available for iOS, Android, Windows, and Mac operating systems. The basic (free) version of Stop Motion Studio lets you take as many pictures as you like and string them together in a sequence that plays back at a frame-per-second rate of your choosing. Each frame can be edited individually before you produce the final video. You can also add narration to your video in the basic version of the app. Completed projects can be saved to your device and from there you can share them on YouTube or on your favorite social network.

Three Good Resources for Learning About Careers

One of my favorite things about working and living in a small community is that I get to see what many of my former students are doing after high school and college. Some of my former students have joined the teaching profession themselves. Some of always knew that they wanted to become teachers and others came to the profession after leaving a couple of other career paths. The point being that often we don't understand what a particular profession is really like unless we hear from people who are in it themselves. That's why resources like iCould, Next Vista, and What People Don't Get About My Job are excellent to share and discuss with students.

iCould is a UK-based website that features videos of people sharing their career stories. The stories cover people in all types of careers and at all phases of their working careers. One of the the main purposes of iCould is to expose viewers to what different types of jobs really entail. Visitors to iCould can search for stories by job type, life theme, or keyword tags. The teaching resources section of iCould includes some classroom activities that your students can complete to help them learn more about a particular career path, discover their own interests, and learn about what makes people successful in their careers.

What People Don't Get About My Job is an older piece from The Atlantic, but is still worth sharing and discussing with your students. The article is comprised of 26 contributions from readers explaining what most people don't understand about their jobs. There is one job for every letter of the alphabet. In the article you will find jobs like Kindergarten Teacher, IRS employee, zookeeper, and even unemployed.

Next Vista for Learning offers more than one hundred short videos of people talking about their careers. Some of the careers in the video library include librarian, nurse, engineer, musician, and chemist.

Writing Sparks - Writing Prompts for Students

Writing Sparks is a new writing platform developed by the same folks that created the popular Night Zookeeper platform. Writing Sparks provides you with timed writing prompts to share with your students. As a teacher you simply go to the Writing Sparks website then choose an age range and a type of writing prompt to give to your students.
After choosing a writing prompt category on Writing Sparks you should choose the length of time that you want your students to spend writing in response to the prompt. Once those three steps are complete you can project the prompt onto your whiteboard or just read the prompt aloud to your students. Writing Sparks times the activity. Time segments for discussion and brainstorming are included in the Writing Sparks timing.

Students can complete the Writing Sparks activities by writing on paper, in a Word or Google Doc, or on the Writing Sparks website. I like the option of having them write on the Writing Sparks website because it will provide students with a template that they can use while writing. For example, if students are responding to a "story" prompt they will complete a template that asks them to include the nouns, verbs, and adjectives they will use in their stories.

Writing Sparks does not require you or your students to register in order to use the site. If your students use the Writing Sparks writing tool, they will have to download their work as PDFs in order to save it and share it.

Thanks to Larry Ferlazzo and David Kapuler for the tip about Writing Sparks. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

DIY Augmented Reality - 3 Ways To Use It In School

Disclosure: Metaverse is a new advertiser on FreeTech4Teachers.com 

Metaverse is an amazing platform that brings that for the first time enables anyone to create rich augmented reality experiences. In many ways the capabilities within Metaverse remind me of the early days of Minecraft (before it was sold to Microsoft) except that instead of creating games and experiences that only exist on your computer's screen Metaverse lets you create experiences that exist in augmented reality. What does that mean? It means that can create games, quests, and other activities that are completed by locating digital artifacts in a physical world. In other words, you could create your own educational version of Pokemon Go.

Here are three ways you can use Metaverse in your school:

  1. Create augmented reality scavenger hunts for historical landmarks in your community. You can make this as simple or as complex an activity as you want it to be. Start by giving players a clue to the first landmark then when they arrive at the landmark they can use the Metaverse app to see if they're in the right place, to learn more about landmark (you can make videos and animations play when people get to the right place), and answer questions to get a clue for the location of the next landmark.
  2. Have students develop augmented reality choose-your-own adventure stories. Have students first write their stories and the possible paths that readers can take in the story. Then have students use Metaverse Studio to put the story into an interactive format that readers can follow on their phones. In the process of using Metaverse Studio students will have to verify that the logic blocks that they use will correctly lead followers from one scenario to the next. Students' stories can be location based or be location-independent.
  3. This last idea is a fun one for the first day or school or any other time that you need an ice-breaker activity. Google Vision is one of the logic blocks within the Metaverse Studio. With Google Vision in Metaverse Studio you can create an app that detects if someone is smiling or not. See this logic block illustrated in the video below then read on for my idea on how to use this as an ice-breaker.

  • I think it would be fun to create an ice-breaker activity that has people snap a picture of a person's face either smiling or not smiling. Then have the app prompt the user to ask, "why are you smiling on the first day of school?" or "why are you frowning? Can I do something to make you smile?"  
Still not sure how Metaverse works? Check out this playlist of videos or check out one of the free webinars for teachers that are offered through the Metaverse Teachers group on Facebook

Disclosure: I tried Metaverse earlier this summer on my own, loved it, and brought it to a couple of workshops. Since then Metaverse approached me about advertising on FreeTech4Teachers.com and I was excited to help them reach more teachers. Everything you read here is my writing

Three Countdown Calendars For Your Classroom Blog

In my workshops about developing blogs and websites for classrooms I always make the point that you should add some content that will appeal to all students and parents when they visit the homepage. This content can include links to handouts, a calendar of due dates, and current announcements. Another item that you can add without taking up too much space is a countdown timer to an important date like the start of a vacation. Here are three countdown calendars that you can add to your blog or website (note, none of these work in the new version of Google Sites).

It's Almost is the simplest of the countdown calendars in this list. To create a countdown calendar just go to the site and complete the phrase, "It's Almost..." and then select a date. You can get the embed code for your calendar by clicking "share this" below the running countdown that is displayed immediately after you choose the countdown target name and date. It is important to note that when you embed it into your blog, you must display it at a size of at least 275px wide or it will not work.

TickCounter is another simple countdown calendar service. It offers a little more customization than It's Almost offers. You can customize the colors for the display title and the numerical display in the countdown. When you embed a TickCounter countdown calendar into your blog, it is automatically resized to fit in the space allotted by your blog's template.

CountingDownTo offers the most customization options of the three countdown calendars in this list. You can customize the layout design and the color scheme for your countdown calendar's display. And the display is mobile-friendly. The downside to CountingDownTo is that it does add a watermark to your embedded calendar unless you subscribe to a CountingDownTo paid plan.

Applications for Education
When I was in the third grade my teacher, Mrs. Turkington, had two countdown calendars on the wall near the chalkboard. One calendar represented the number of days left in the school year and the other represented the number of days until our next "special event" (those events were birthdays, field trips, or school assemblies). Today, Mrs. Turkington could put those calendars on a classroom blog's homepage.

(Side note, Mrs. Turkington is now retired and living in Florida. We became Facebook friends 30 years after she was my teacher).