Tuesday, November 24, 2020

An Easy Way to Make Videos on Windows 10 Computers

Sometimes the simplest solution is the one that gets overlooked the most. That's often the case when people ask me for a recommendation for making audio slideshow-style videos. I was reminded of this earlier today when one of my students asked, "can I just use the Windows app?" in response to a short video assignment that I gave my class. I said yes to his request because while there are lots of great online tools like Adobe Spark and WeVideo for making videos, there's also a good one built right into Windows 10. 

Microsoft Photos includes a video creation tool for making short audio slideshow-style videos. You'll find this by just opening the native photos app in Windows 10. Within the editor there are tools for adding animated effects to still images, insert your existing video clips into a video project, and tools for adding audio to your video. There's also a great option to search for Creative Commons licensed images and insert them directly into your video project. The best part of that feature is that attribution information is automatically added onto the images you choose through the built-in search tool. 

In the following video I provide a demonstration of how to create a video in Microsoft Photos in Windows 10. 


Applications for Education
Today, I gave some of my students the assignment to make short videos about different types of computer and network security threats and how to prevent them. These are going to be short (30-60 second) videos that serve as public service announcements. My student who chose to use the Microsoft Photos video editor is recording a little voice over that will sync to the images. 

Years ago I had a group of students make audio slideshow-style videos as biographies of past Presidents of the United States. And I've worked with a lot of elementary school teachers over the years who had students make audio slideshow videos about animals, habitats, their families, and many other topics. Overall, these videos tend to be summaries of what students have learned in class and through short research tasks. They're often more exciting assignments for students and more fun to review than a five paragraph essay. 

Good Places to Make and Find Story Starters

For some students the hardest part of a creative writing assignment is developing an idea to write about. Fortunately, there are many good tools and websites that teachers can use to generate writing prompts. Likewise, there are lots of good websites that offer creative writing prompts for students. Here's an updated list of some of my favorite tools for creating story starters and favorite sites for finding story starters.

Flippity Templates X3
Flippity is a great place to find Google Sheets templates to create all kinds of things including random story starters, random name/ word pickers, and Mad Libs-style stories.
Flippity Mad Libs template.



Flippity Randomizer template.



While it was designed to randomly select a student's name from a list, you can use Flippity's random name picker template to create story starters. Instead of listing names you could list story prompts in a Google Sheet and have it display a random story prompt every time the picker is shuffled. Here's a video about how it works.


Make Beliefs Comix
Make Beliefs Comix is a creative writing platform that I have recommended for years. The core of Make Beliefs Comix is a free set of tools that students can use to create their own comics in multiple languages. Here's a video overview of how it works. In addition to the comic strip creation tools, Make Beliefs Comix hosts free ebooks that you can use online or download for free. All of ebooks are designed as fillable PDFs that your students can write in. The ebooks are intended to inspire students to write about a variety of topics around the ideas of kindness, courage, hopes, and dreams. 



500 Prompts on The Most Dangerous Writing App

The Most Dangerous Writing App is a website that provides a blank canvas to write on for a minimum time of your choosing. The catch is that if you stop writing before the time is up, you lose your work. 500 writing prompts are provided for those who need a little inspiration to get started. In the following video I demonstrate how to use The Most Dangerous Writing App.



Writing Sparks

Writing Sparks offers timed writing prompts to share with your elementary school students. Students can respond to the prompts by writing on paper, in a word processing document like MS Word, or by writing on the Writing Sparks website. The Writing Sparks website provides students with templates to complete as they respond to each writing prompt. In the video that is embedded below I provide a demonstration of how to use the free Writing Sparks service.



Scholastic Story Starters
Scholastic Story Starters is a great tool that students will enjoy using to create short, creative fiction stories. Scholastic Story Starters offers four story themes; fantasy, adventure, sci-fi, and scrambler. To create a story on Story Starters a students picks a theme, enter his or her name, chooses his or her grade, and spins the big wheels of prompts. The student can spin the wheels until he or she finds a prompt he or she likes. After the prompt is selected the student can write his or her story using the letter, postcard, notebook, or newspaper format provided by Scholastic Story Starters. When the story is finished it can be printed.

Monday, November 23, 2020

How to Move Google Tour Builder Files Into Google Earth

Last week Google announced that support for Google Expeditions and Google Tour Builder would end in July 2021. I've already published a preliminary list of alternatives to Google Expeditions. If you're looking for alternatives to Google Tour Builder you don't need to look much further than to Google Earth. 

Google Tour Builder includes two options for moving your projects from Tour Builder into the web versions and desktop versions of Google Earth. 

The simplest way to move your projects from Tour Builder into the web version of Google Earth is to just select "Export to Earth" from the menu in the upper-right corner of the screen when you're viewing one of your Tour Builder projects. You'll then be asked to confirm that you want to connect your Tour Builder and Google Earth accounts. After that you'll get an email to notify you that your Tour Builder project is now viewable in Google Earth under "projects." 

The other option for moving your Tour Builder projects into Google Earth is to select the download option in the upper-right menu when viewing a Tour Builder project. You can then download your project as a KML file that you can then manually upload to the web version of Google Earth and or manually import into the desktop version of Google Earth. 

Both methods for moving projects from Tour Builder into both versions of Google Earth are demonstrated in this short video

Ten Google Meet Features for Teachers - Fall 2020 Update

Back in the late winter/ early spring of this year I published an overview of Google Meet features you should know how to use for teaching online classes. Since then Google has updated old features and introduced new ones. To reflect the updates made since the spring I created this new video overview of ten Google Meet features you should know how to use. 

The ten features covered in my new video are:

  • Meeting nicknames
  • Blurring and custom backgrounds
  • Disabling/ enabling student screen sharing
  • Disabling/ enabling chat for students
  • Disabling/ enabling "quick access"
  • Captioning meetings
  • Changing layout
  • Using Jamboard in meetings
  • Recording meetings

Parade 101 - Hands-on STEAM Activities for Learning About Macy's Thanksgiving Parade

Like millions of other Americans the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade will be on the television in my house on Thursday morning. In the past Macy's has published some resources for learning about the history of the parade. This year they've expanded their offerings to includes some ideas for hands-on STEAM lessons related to the parade. 

Parade 101 features four video demonstrations of hands-on activities that students can do at home with their parents or in your classroom. The four activities include inflating balloons through the use of baking soda and vinegar, designing balloons for the parade, making and using sculping dough, and building model floats. All of the videos include lists of needed supplies. 

I like all four of the activities. If I was to recommend one for Thanksgiving day it would be building model floats or designing because they can be done with cardboard, paper, glue, markers, and other common household materials that don't make a mess and don't have to be done in a kitchen. That said, I think the most fun one is the inflating balloons activity. 

In addition to the videos and STEAM projects Parade 101 offers some printable coloring sheets and puzzles. The interactive timeline of the history of the parade is still available to view as well. 

Finally, if you are looking for some history of the Macy's Thanksgiving Parade videos, take a look at the following videos that I've shared in the past. 

History of the Thanksgiving Day Parade.



The History of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade