Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Five Ideas for Using Comics in Social Studies Lessons

Creating cartoons and comic strips can be a fun way for students to show their understanding of events and concepts. For the student who is intimidated (or bored) by the idea of writing yet another essay or making another PowerPoint presentation, creating a comic strip is a welcome change. Here are five ideas for using comics in social studies lessons. 

1. Create short biographies of historical figures. Have students select a key moment from a person’s life. Then ask your students to illustrate that moment. For example, students studying John F. Kennedy could use Make Beliefs Comix to illustrate a conversation between JFK and Bobby Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis. If you want students to illustrate conversations in languages other than English, Make Beliefs Comix is a great choice as it supports six languages in addition to English.

2. Illustrate a timeline of an event or series of events. Rather than simply writing summaries of key events have students create illustrations of the events. ToonyTool is a good tool for making single frame comics that your students could save and then add to a timeline.

3. How might history have been different if the communication technology we have today was available 200, 300, or 500 years ago? Ask your students to think about that question and then illustrate the outcome. Students can use some of the wireframes available in Canva or the SMS Generator from ClassTools.net to simulate text message and or email exchanges between historical characters like George Washington and Ben Franklin.

4. Diagram and explain branches of government. Creating this storyboard is a good way for students to show what they know about all of the powers and responsibilities of each branch of government. You could have students do this in Google Slides by following this model.

5. Create political cartoons. This is the obvious use for cartoons in social studies classes. Cartoons for the Classroom offers excellent, free lesson plans for using political cartoons. Single frame comic creation tools like ToonyTool are adequate for making political cartoons.

Here's an overview of how to create comics with Make Beliefs Comix. Here is an overview of how to create comics in Canva. 



A Good Model for Audio Slideshow Video Projects

This morning I was looking for some short videos about the history of Labor Day. In doing so I came across The History of Labor Day as produced by TAPintoTV. The content of the video was accurate and it provided a nice summary of origins of Labor Day. That's not what made me bookmark it. What made me stop and bookmark it was that it provides a good model to follow in formatting an audio slideshow video like those you can make with Adobe Spark

When you watch The History of Labor Day video (embedded below) you'll see that it uses regular transitions every few seconds. You'll also notice that some short video clips have been interspersed throughout the video. Finally, the video includes background music to go along with the narration. 

Frequent Transitions
Students have a tendency to narrate over the same image for too long when creating audio slideshow videos. When the narration goes for too long the audience tunes out. To keep the audience's attention students should try to have a new image or at least a transition effect (zoom in, zoom out, pan) every few seconds.

Video Clips
Including a couple of short video clips within the audio slideshow is a good way to keep the overall video moving along. Obviously, it's also helpful in illustrating a point within the video project.

Background Music
Including some background music helps to keep the video feel like it's moving along. And it's helpful in covering up some of the "uhs" and "ums" that students sometimes make when narrating a video.

Adobe Spark Makes This Easy
Adobe Spark makes it easy to incorporate all three of the above aspects of an audio slideshow video project. Adobe Spark limits the amount of narration that students can record on each slide within their videos. Adobe Spark also includes a library of background muic that students can have inserted into their videos. Finally, students can upload short audio clips to include in their audio slideshow video projects. In this short video I demonstrate how to create a video with Adobe Spark.



An Update to Google Meet Call Quality

One of the most annoying things to start any video call is the process of resolving sound quality issues like a persistent echo. Google recently announced an update to Google Meet to address that problem. 

Google Meet will now notify you when your audio is causing an echo for others. In other words, even though you may not hear an echo others in the call may hear an echo generated by your computer. When that happens Google Meet will now display a notification on your screen. Clicking on that notification will take you to the Google Meet help center where you'll see recommended steps to resolve the echo problem (spoiler alert: it's usually due to having a microphone too close to audio output). 

Applications for Education
Students have enough trouble focusing on your online instruction without having to fight through the distraction of poor audio quality. If you're using Google Meet for classes this year, this new echo notification in Google Meet could help improve the meeting quality for your students and help them focus on your instruction.

Like almost all updates to Google Workspace tools, this update will be rolling out over the course of a few weeks. 

Monday, August 23, 2021

In Pictures - A Good Resource for Prompting Current Events Lessons

Over the weekend while browsing some news articles on the BBC News I was reminded of a good resource that I used for many years to prompt discussion and small research activities in my current events class. That resource is the BBC's Week in Pictures which is a section of their more general In Pictures collection. 

The Week in Pictures displays a small collection of photographs from around the world. The pictures capture a mix of  serious news stories and lighter cultural stories. The Week in Pictures collections are part of a much larger resource from the BBC simply called In Pictures. The In Pictures resource provides hundreds of images in a variety collections and slideshows about current events throughout the world. Some of the slide shows even include narration. All of the images include captions explaining what is happening in the picture and a little background knowledge about the event being photographed.

Applications for Education
For years I used the Week in Pictures pictures as conversation starters for current events discussions in my current events classes. For visual learners the images from the In Pictures collections are helpful for providing visual connections to and context for a story.

When using the Week in Pictures as the prompts for short research activities, it's helpful to remind students that they can refine their Google search results according to date of publication. This is a good tool to use whenever students are researching current events, trending topics, or any rapidly changing topic  In the following video I demonstrate how students can refine search results according to publication date.



It's important to note that most of the images in the Week in Pictures collections are copyrighted images. 

Sunday, August 22, 2021

How I Created "Vintage" Travel Posters With Canva

In the past I've written about using the Library of Congress vintage travel posters collection in Google Earth. Last week I read a new Library of Congress blog post the vintage travel posters collection. Reading that post inspired me try my hand at creating a "vintage" travel poster of my own. Drawing is not a talent that I have developed in my life so I turned to my favorite graphic design tool, Canva, for help. 

In Canva there are lots of templates for making posters for all kinds of purposes. There is also a massive library of drawings and clipart that you can use in those templates. I chose not to use a template and instead chose one of the drawings that I found to be the background image for my poster. I then inserted a drawing of woman wearing a backpack and looking through binoculars. Finally, I used one of the text templates to add "Explore America" to my poster. You can see my finished product below. 


Applications for Education
Creating travel posters could be a nice way to have students summarize what they've learned about a national park, a city, or another travel destination. I'm not an art or graphic design teacher, but I can see a project like this one being used to help students develop skills in those areas as well.

Here's a video of the process that I outlined above.