Wednesday, August 1, 2018

How to Use Google's VR Tour Creator

The new school year will be here soon and I haven't taken a break all summer. I'm taking a short break from the Internet to go fishing at one of my favorite places in the world, Kennebago Lake. I'll be back with new posts on Saturday. While I'm gone I'll be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year so far. 

In May Google announced the launch of their new VR Tour Creator. This free tool lets everyone create their own virtual tours to view in Google Cardboard and or in the Chrome web browser. Tours are created by selecting locations in Google Maps and then selecting 360 degree Street View imagery. There's also an option to upload your own 360 degree imagery.

The process of creating a tour in the Tour Creator is straight-forward one. Watch my video embedded below to learn how you and your students can create virtual reality tours in Tour Creator.


Five Tools for Creating Animated Videos on Chromebooks

The new school year will be here soon and I haven't taken a break all summer. I'm taking a short break from the Internet to go fishing at one of my favorite places in the world, Kennebago Lake. I'll be back with new posts on Saturday. While I'm gone I'll be republishing some of the most popular posts of the year so far. 


Creating animated videos can be a great way for students to explain a science concept, to tell a history story, or to bring to life short stories they've written. One of last week's most popular posts was about how to do those things on an iPad. Chromebook users have some good tools available to them too.

Option 1: Toontastic 3D
If you have a Chromebook that supports the use of Android apps, Toontastic 3D is a tool you must try. On Toontastic 3D students can pick from a variety of story setting templates or they can create their own. 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. Check this list to see if your Chromebook supports the use of Android apps.

Option 2: Animaker Edify
Animaker Edify is the classroom version of the popular Animaker animation creation tool. To create a video on Animaker Edify students start by selecting “video” from the menu of project options. Then they can choose to make a video by following a template or by building from scratch. Creating a video in Animaker Edify is done on a frame-by-frame basis. Each frame can be designed by dragging and dropping individual characters, speech bubbles, background scenes, and clip art into the scene. Animaker Edify provides tools for animating each character. For example, you can make a character appear to be running across the screen, walking, or talking. You can build as many characters and animation actions into each scene as you need. Once you have built the frames for your video you can add sound effects, music, or narration. Animake Edify provides a large gallery of royalty-free music and sound effects that you can use. But you can also record your own voice by using the built-in voice-over capability.

Option 3: PowToon
Creating a video on PowToon is similar to making one on Animaker Edify. It has been a popular platform for creating animated videos for many years. In PowToon students create animated videos on a scene-by-scene basis through a series of slides. Students can choose background scenes, characters, and scene objects from a huge media gallery. After configuring the scenes of their stories, students can record voiceovers or play music in the background.

Option 4: Animatron
Animatron is a nice tool for creating animated videos and images. To create a video on Animatron you start by dragging and dropping characters on a background scene and then choosing how long each character will be displayed in a scene. You can also set the length of time for each character in a scene to be in motion. By using Animatron's timeline editor you can make objects appear and disappear from a scene. The best feature of Animatron is that you can record audio directly over the animation. The built-in recording tools lets you see the scene while you're recording so that you can precisely synchronize each scene with its audio track.

Option 5: MySimpleShow
MySimpleshow is a free tool for creating Common Craft-style explanatory videos. MySimpleshow requires you to write a script for your video before you can start adding illustrations and sounds to it. In MySimpleshow you will find a wide variety of script templates that will help you plan your video. The script is written in chapters that become the outline for your video. After you have written your script MySimpleshow will take your chapters and give you suggested images and animations to use. The suggestions are based on the keywords in your script. You also have the option to upload your own visuals to use in your video. Adding narration to your video is the last step in the MySimpleshow editor. There is an automated text-to-speech narration that will read your script as narration for your video. Completed videos can be downloaded and or directly uploaded to YouTube from MySimpleshow.

Disclosure: Animaker and Mysimpleshow have been advertisers on this blog at various times. 

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Scratch 3.0 and a New Creative Computing Curriculum Guide

Earlier this summer I shared the news that Scratch 3.0 would be available in a beta form in August. August is still a couple of hours away, but Scratch 3.0 is actually available now. I just went to the Scratch 3.0 beta site and it is live. You can try the new Scratch online editor right now!

Scratch 3.0 offers the following new features:
  • A new extension system for programming physical devices.
  • New characters, sounds, and backgrounds.
  • Updated editors for characters and sounds.
  • Improved support for use on tablets. 
It is important to note that Scratch 3.0 is still a beta product. The full, stable version is expected to be ready in January. The current desktop and browser versions of Scratch (Scratch 2.0) are still available and all projects created in those versions will continue to work as normal. 

New Creative Computing Curriculum Guide!
A big Scratch conference at MIT just wrapped-up. I wish that I could have gone. Fortunately, some of the conference presentation resources are available online. One of those resources is the new Creative Computing Curriculum Guide (link opens PDF) published by the ScratchEd team at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. The 32 page guide includes a nice template for planning a mini Scratch project, prompts for thinking about remixing projects, and guidelines for assessment. 

GIFs, Forms, and Math - The Month in Review

Good evening from Maine where the sun has set on July. As I do at the end of every month I've put together a list of the ten most read posts of the previous 30 days. It's interesting to note that not all of the posts in the list were published in July. In fact, some of them were published last year, but for some reason saw a lot of visits in July.

These were the most popular posts in July:
1. The Periodic Table in Pictures and Words
2. A New Grammar Checker is Coming to Google Docs
3. PhET PowerPoint Add-in - Add Science & Math Simulations to Slides
4. Say Goodbye to Old Google Forms
5. MathsLinks - A Good Place to Find Resources for Math Lessons
6. 82 Math in Real Life Lessons
7. 10 Tools for Gathering Real-time Feedback From Students
8. 51 World Geography Games for Kids
9. 4-H STEM Lab - A Good Place to Find Hands-on STEM Activities for K-12
10. An Easy Way to Create a GIF from Google Slides

On-site Professional Development
My fall calendar has only three openings left! If you would like to bring me to your school for a professional development day, please get in touch. I offer professional development workshops on G Suite for Education, Teaching History With Technology, and many other topicsClick here to learn more or send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com to book me today.

Book Me for Your Conference
I’ve given keynotes at conferences from Australia to Alaska for groups of all sizes from 50 to 2,000+. My keynotes focus on providing teachers and school administrators with practical ways to use technology to create better learning experiences for all students. I like to shine the light on others and so I often share examples of great work done by others as well as my own. Send an email to richardbyrne (at) freetech4teachers.com book me today.

Please visit the official advertisers that help keep this blog going.
Practical Ed Tech is the brand through which I offer PD webinars.
TypingClub offers more than 600 typing lessons for kids. 
Storyboard That is my go-to tool for creating storyboards.
Kami is a great tool for annotating and collaborating on PDFs. 
University of Maryland Baltimore County offers a great program on instructional design.
PrepFactory offers a great place for students to prepare for SAT and ACT tests.
Boise State University offers a 100% online program in educational technology.

Try Using Icebreaker Tags at New Staff Orientation

The new school year is almost here and that means there will be new staff orientation meetings are happening everywhere. Rather than using generic name tags or ID badges for that first meeting, try using Icebreaker Tags. IceBreaker Tags is a free tool for making your name tags that can help people break out of the typical "what do you do?" questions that are asked when meeting for the first time.

To use Icebreaker Tags just go to the site, enter your desired display name, upload an image to display on your name tag, and type your ice-breaker question or statement. When you hit the print button your customized name tags will be displayed in a sheet of eight name tags that you can download and print on sticker paper (here's the kind I use).


On a related note, while looking for the sticker paper link mentioned above, I found these cool super hero name tags on Amazon.