Tuesday, November 16, 2021

My Top Three Tools for Creating Audio Slideshow Videos

The audio slideshow style of video is probably the easiest of all video formats to create. It's also one of the most misunderstood when it comes to using it in classroom. For an audio slideshow project to be effective students first need to plan the sequence, find the best visuals, apply appropriate text (but not too much), and choose an appropriate soundtrack. If you want to take it a step further, you'll want students to create a script to narrate their videos. Here's an overview of attributes to look for when students create audio slideshow videos. 

Here are my top three choices for students to use to make audio slideshow videos. 

Adobe Spark Video
Almost since its initial launch five years ago, Adobe Spark has been my go-to recommendation for this style of video project. Adobe Spark makes it easy for students to create succinct audio slideshow videos. 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.



Canva
Canva now offers two ways for students to create audio slideshow videos. The first way is to simply put together a series of slides and then select a soundtrack to play in the background. That process is demonstrated here. The other method is to use Canva's full video editor to add narration an custom timings to an audio slideshow video. That process is demonstrated in this video.



Microsoft Photos
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.



What About Animoto?
I can't write about making audio slideshows without mentioning Animoto because otherwise I'll get five emails from people asking me why I didn't include it. Animoto was one of the first tools that automated the process of making a quick audio slideshow video. It's still around and still good at what it does. It's free plan is just a bit more limited than what's available with the tools I listed above.

Mapping Where Food Comes From

Where Does Your Thanksgiving Dinner Come From? is an interactive storymap that I've shared in the past and still find to be a neat resource. The map displays where eight popular Thanksgiving foods are grown and harvested in the United States. The storymap includes a map for each ingredient. Each map shows the locations of commercial producers. Fun facts are included in the storymap too. For example, did you know that Illinois has at least twice as many acres of pumpkins as any state?


Applications for Education 
Students can create their own storymaps about Thanksgiving with tools provided by ESRI or by using StoryMap JS. In the following video I demonstrate how to create a storymap with StoryMap JS.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Seven Good Tools for Making Animations

Making animations is a great way for students to bring their written stories to life on screen. Depending upon the story, the animation could be as short frame or two that plays for twenty seconds or it could be a five minute story.  

Making animations can also be a good way for students to explain and show their understanding of non-fiction things like historical events and people. Creating animations can also be done to explain complex concepts in simple animations like Common Craft does. 

However you choose to use animations in your classroom, the following seven tools offer good ways for students of all ages to make their own animated videos.

Draw and Tell
Draw and Tell is a free iPad app that has been on list of recommendations for K-2 students for many years. In this free app students can draw on a blank pages or complete coloring page templates. After completing their drawings students then record a voiceover in which they either explain the drawings or tell a story about the characters in their drawings.

Brush Ninja
For almost five years now I've been using Brush Ninja to create simple animations. Here's something I wrote about using Brush Ninja a few years ago in an eighth grade class. This video provides a demonstration of how to use Brush Ninja which is free and doesn't require registration. 

Wick Editor
Brush Ninja is still a great tool for creating animations, but if you want to add sound effects to your animations then you might take a look at using Wick Editor instead. One of the things that I like about it is that you can add sound effects to your animations. Additionally, you also have the option download your animations as GIF or MP4 files. In this short video I demonstrate how to use Wick Editor to create an animation.

ChatterPix Kids
ChatterPix Kids is one of my favorite digital storytelling apps for elementary school students. ChatterPix Kids is a free app that students can use to create talking pictures. To use the app students simply open it on their iPads or Android devices and then take a picture. Once they've taken a picture students draw a mouth on their pictures. With the mouth in place students then record themselves talking for up to thirty seconds. The recording is then added to the picture and saved as a video on the students' iPads or Android devices. Watch my tutorial videos below to learn how to use ChatterPix Kids on Android devices and on iPads.




Slides + Screencasting
Google Slides, like PowerPoint and Keynote, provide users with lots of ways to animate elements within their slides. Use those animation tools to make clipart and simple drawings move on the screen. Then capture those movements with a screencasting tool like Screencastify or Screencast-o-matic. Of course, you'll want to include a voiceover while recording. This method can be used to create animated videos like those made popular by Common Craft. You can read about and then watch this whole process in this Practical Ed Tech article.

Canva
Canva has lots of animation options that you can add to almost any graphic that you create in it. You can animate text, make objects spin and move, and even add audio to play in the background when you make a graphic in Canva. Your finished designs can be downloaded as animated GIFs and as MP4 files. In fact, that's how I make the videos for my Practical Ed Tech Instagram account. Additionally, Canva's new video editor can be used to create animated videos. That's a process that I demonstrate in this video

PowerPoint
Good old PowerPoint has many little features that people overlook or don't even associate with PowerPoint. For example, did you know that PowerPoint has a built-in image background remover? Or that you can create animated GIFs in PowerPoint? You can do both of those things with PowerPoint. Mike Tholfsen has a great video about how to create an animated GIF in PowerPoint.



And here's my video about removing image backgrounds in PowerPoint.

The Science of My Favorite Thanksgiving Foods

I don't think there's a meal I like better than a classic Thanksgiving turkey with potatoes, squash, stuffing and cranberry sauce from a can (my mouth is watering just thinking about the "shlop" sound the cranberry sauce makes as it pops out of the can). Behind all of that deliciousness is a whole lot of interesting science. The Reactions YouTube channel, produced by The American Chemical Society, has a few good video lessons that address the science of a traditional American Thanksgiving meal. 

Better Thanksgiving Potatoes Through Chemistry explains the chemical properties of raw potatoes and which ones to pick for roasting based on their chemistry. The video then goes on to explain the science of roasting potatoes before finally revealing the best method, based on science, for roasting potatoes.



The Truth About Tryptophan explains why it might not be just the turkey that is making you sleepy after a big Thanksgiving dinner.



Finally, How to Fry a Thanksgiving Turkey Without Burning Your House Down provides an overview of the science involved in deep frying a turkey and how you can use that knowledge to avoid a disaster on Thanksgiving.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

My Big List of Activities and Resources for Geography Awareness Week

This week is Geography Awareness Week. It's one of my favorite weeks of the year! Every year at this time I publish an updated list of some of my favorite games, activities, tools, and lessons to promote geography awareness. Here's my updated list for 2021. 

The first place to start a search for geography awareness week resources has to be National Geographic. On their Geography Awareness Week page you'll find lots of ideas including this one for hosting a geography quiz night (link opens a PDF).

WorldCover Viewer
WorldCover Viewer is an interactive land use map produced by the European Space Agency. The map lets visitors see how land is used worldwide and in specific places. Visitors can pan and zoom to see land use for an area or use the statistics explorer tools built into the map to see land use statistics for a country, state, or province. Views of the map and associated data can be downloaded from the WorldCover Viewer. As you'll see in my video overview of WorldCover Viewer, it include a tool for measuring areas of land use. In my video overview I also demonstrate how to enable different layers on the map. 



I'm Feeling Lucky!
From voyages to games to simple measuring tools, the web version of Google Earth has a lot of neat features that can help students learn about the world. One of those neat features is the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button that is found on the left hand toolbar in Google Earth. Clicking that button will take students to a randomly-selected place in the world. 

On its own the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button provides a good way for students to discover new places. That said, students learn more through the "I'm Feeling Lucky" button  if you give them a little more direction than just "click the button and look around." That's why I created a little question sheet to prompt students to do a little research about the places they discover in Google Earth via "I'm Feeling Lucky." My question sheet can be found here as a Google Doc

This short video demonstrates how students can explore Google Earth in more detail after clicking "I'm Feeling Lucky."



City Guesser 3.0
City Guesser 3.0 offers twenty-one games based on countries. There are also more than two dozen games based on major cities around the world. And there is a game based on monuments of the world. In addition to the new games, City Guesser 3.0 has two new game play modes. There is a "streaks" mode in which you try to make as many consecutive accurate guesses as possible. There are also two new "challenge" modes. There is a challenge mode in which you cannot move the imagery and have to guess from just one view. The other challenge mode is a timed mode in which you have to guess before time runs out. Watch this video for an overview of City Guesser 3.0.

MapBox Studio
With a free Mapbox Studio account you can create a custom outline map of any city, town, or neighborhood of your choosing. You can choose how much or how little detail you want to include in the map. Once you've made your selections you can save your map as a PNG or JPG file to print and distribute to your students.In this short video I demonstrate how to use Mapbox Studio to create your own custom coloring maps.



Mult Dev
Mult Dev is a free tool that lets you quickly create animated maps. In the time since I wrote about Mult Dev a couple of updates were made to it. The most notable of those being that you now need to sign into the service with a Google account or a GitHub account. In this short video I demonstrate how to create an animated map with Mult Dev.

Roadside America
The Library of Congress houses the John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive. That archive contains nearly 12,000 photographs of interesting roadside attractions all over the United States and eastern Canada. The collection includes pictures of things like gas stations shaped like a dinosaur, windmills that serve as ice cream stands, funky miniature golf courses, and lots of neon signs for motels and restaurants. 

The Library of Congress published an ESRI Story Map of photographs in the John Margolies Roadside America Photograph Archive. The map is titled Roadside America. You can view the images on an interactive map or simply scroll through some curated collections of images from the collection. I found it fun to click on the markers on the map to discover some roadside attractions in my home state as well as others around the country. But before you head out on the road to look for them I should point out that many of the photographs are of things that are no longer out on the roadside.

Roadside America provides a nice way for students to discover some pieces of Americana past and present. I'd use the map as a way to spark students' curiosity to conduct a little research about some of these interesting roadside attractions. I might also use the map as a model for having students create their own roadside attractions maps of places in their home states that they may have seen and or taken pictures of.

Drawing on Digital Maps
Creating layers and tours in Google Earth and Google My Maps can be a great way for students to assemble collections of geolocated information to summarize research, create a book tour, or even develop safe walking and biking routes. But sometimes you just need to quickly draw or pin things to a digital map. In those cases, launching Google Earth or My Maps is a bit more than you need. That's when Scribble Maps, Google Drawings, or Google Jamboard are handy. 

Scribble Maps is a digital mapping tool that lets anyone make free-hand drawings on top of a variety of base maps. To use it simply head to ScribbleMaps.com/create/ and select one of the drawing tools. Registration is not required in order to use it although there are some pop-ups that will try to sell you on upgrades from the free version. Here's a short overview of Scribble Maps. 



Google Drawings and Google Jamboard both let you import images that you can then draw on top of. To do that just open a new Google Drawing or new Google Jamboard then use the integrated image search to find a map. Once you've selected a map you can use the drawing tools to mark on it. Here's a demonstration of how that process can work in Google Drawings.



The process that I described above for using Google Drawings and Google Jamboard can also be done with the online version of PowerPoint. To do that, create a new slide then use the integrated Bing Images search to find a map. One of the nice things about the Bing Images integration in PowerPoint is that it will automatically search for Creative Commons licensed works and automatically insert an attribution link. Once the image has been added to the slide you can use the built-in drawing tools to mark on the map.

Strange Borders
Earlier this year I read an interesting article titled Belgian Farmer Accidentally Moves French Border. The whole story is almost exactly what the title says. A farmer moved a stone that was in his way when plowing a field. It just happened that the stone he moved is a marker for the border between two small towns in Belgium and France. The border itself is not in dispute and the border is a relatively normal one between two friendly neighbors. Still, reading the story reminded me of a couple of videos that I've bookmarked about irregular country borders. 

Countries Inside Countries (Bizarre Borders, Part 1) was produced by CGP Grey seven years ago to illustrate where some of the landlocked countries of the world are and how they became landlocked. The video also highlights countries that have only one neighbor. 

Canada & The United States (Bizarre Borders, Part 2) explains why border between the United States and Canada might look like a long straight line in many places, but is not a straight line. The video also delves into some border quirks and disputes. The Google Earth file used in video is available to download here on CGP Grey's website.



Tom Scott has also produced a couple of interesting videos about interesting borders between countries. In The Most Complex Borders in Europe: Why Do We Have Nations? he explains the complicated border between Baarle-Nassau in the Netherlands and Baarle-Hertog in Belgium. 

In The US-Canada Border Splits This Road Down the Middle he visits the border between Stanstead, Quebec, Canada and Derby Line, Vermont, United States where the border really does split a road or, depending upon who you ask, the road splits the border. In the video he explains what you can and can't do on the road as well as how border enforcement has increased in the last couple of decades. (Speaking as someone who has lived relatively close to the US-Canada border for all of my adult life and has crossed the border countless times, border crossings today are much more regulated today than they were the first time I crossed in the late 90's).





GeoQuiz
GeoQuiz is an online geography game that just asks you to try to name as many countries as you can in fifteen minutes. As soon as you enter a country's name the globe on the screen spins to center on that country. If you misspell a country the globe doesn't spin and your entry doesn't count. You can play GeoQuiz on your own or you can compete against other players in online rooms. Either way, you don't need to register or enter any personal information in order to play GeoQuiz. To play against others you can join an existing room or create your own and invite people to join it. To have others join your room all you have to do is pick a name for your room and tell people to join it in the "online mode" on the GeoQuiz homepage.

The Mind Blowing Map Quiz
The Mind-Blowing Map Quiz is designed to help students understand how Mercator projection maps distort our view of the world. It does this by asking relational questions like "how much bigger is Australia than Alaska?" and "how close are Russia and the United States?" A few fun facts are thrown into the explanations of each answer. Can You Make an Accurate Map? is a good video to show after students have played The Mind-Blowing Map Quiz. The video provides a concise explanation of why Mercator projection maps don't accurately represent the size of things near the poles but are none-the-less used in many applications.



What is a Map?

By watching What is a Map? students can learn how maps evolved over time, the political implications of maps, and how maps are used to represent data as well as locations.

City Walks
City Walks is a neat website that you can use to go for a virtual walk in more than a dozen cities around the world. You can experience the cities with or without sound. You can go for virtual walks in the daytime or at night. At the start of each walk you'll see some quick facts about the city that might help you understand a little more about what you're seeing during the walk.City Walks is essentially a really nice display of street-level YouTube videos with some additional menu options overlaid on them. That's not meant as a knock on the site as it is a nice site. That does mean that there isn't any interactivity built into virtual walks like you might experience in a virtual reality experience. The video sources for City Walks are clearly labeled in the lower-right corner of each screen.

Quizzity!
Quizzity is an online geography game that uses a concept found in lots of map-based games. That concept is to show you the name of a place and then have you guess its location by clicking on a map. Quizzity quizzes you on cities all over the world. To increase the accuracy of your guesses you should zoom-in on a region before clicking the map. Each round of Quizzity presents you with six city names. Points are awarded for accuracy and speed.

Seterra
Seterra offers hundreds of geography games in 39 languages. You can play the games online in your web browser or download the apps to play on a phone or tablet. In the following video I demonstrate four ways that you can play the online version of Seterra's geography games.


Go Geocaching!
Geocaching is a great activity to get kids outside for hands-on learning experiences. Last summer I outlined a handful of ideas for using geocaching to teach lessons on geospatial awareness, Earth science, and digital citizenship. Read more about those ideas here. If you can get parents to install the Geocaching app on their phones, geocaching could make for a great "at-home" geography lesson for parents to do with their kids.

Find the Towns of the Same Name
This is a modification of an activity that I did as a sixth-grader in Mrs. Carlson's class in Manchester, Connecticut. She had us use atlases to see how many other Manchesters there are in the world and where they are. Then we had to write a short blurb about each Manchester. The modern version of this activity is to have students choose a common town name like Manchester and use Google Maps to find out how many towns in the world have that name. Then on their Google Maps or Scribble Maps students can add placemarks in which they write about interesting things about those towns. Students can add videos and images to their placemarks too.

Make a Group Map of Stories
This is an idea that I got many years ago from my friend Jim Wells. Jim had his students write short stories of happy memories and then place those stories on a printed map. Today, you can have students do this on Google Maps or Scribble Maps. This activity can help students see the significance of place in the formation of memories. You can even have your whole class contribute to one map by having them enter their stories in a Google Form then using the corresponding spreadsheet to create a Google Maps of stories. My video on how to do that is embedded below. 

Find Out What Geographers Do
There's a lot more than just "make maps" to say in response to the question, "what are you going to do with a degree in geography?" The American Association of Geographers has a nice list of career paths in geography. Here's a "day in the life of a geographer" video from that same page. 



Make Your Own Compass
Make Your Own Compass explains to kids what a compass is, how it works, and how they can make their own with common household products. 



Mathigon Maps Lessons
In Surface Area of a Sphere Mathigon includes an interactive diagram that illustrates the problem that cartographers have when trying to create maps of the world. The interactive diagram shows four map projections and the areas of the map that are distorted by each projection. Students can click on each of the map projections to see a comparison of an area on the 2D map to the same area on a globe. Overall, it's a good way for students to see how two dimensional world maps can distort the size and scale of an area. 

Mathigon's Map Coloring Challenge asks students to use as few colors as possible to color in all 50 U.S. states without having the same color touching two states at the same time. For example, if I color New Hampshire purple, I can't use purple on Vermont, Maine, New York, or Massachusetts but I could use purple on Pennsylvania.

On a related note the USGS offers a free map projections poster (link opens a PDF). You may also want to take a look at Projection Wizard as another tool for showing students how various projections distort the regions of the world. 

Timelapse Imagery in Google Earth
In this short video I demonstrate how to view timelapse imagery in the web version and in the desktop version of Google Earth.


In the video above I showed some of the timelapse imagery of urban sprawl around some cities in the United States. That imagery could be used as the prompt for a research assignment for students to investigate the causes of the growth of those cities.