Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Three Ways to Make Green Screen Videos

Making a green screen video can be a lot of fun for students and also a lot of fun for peers, parents, and teachers to watch. Ten years later I still occasionally refere to this video from Greg Kulowiec's middle school class as an example of a fun green screen project. Making a green screen video can seem intimidating at first, but once you've tried it a time or two you'll find that it's not as complicated as it might seem. Today there are lots of tools for making green screen videos. Here are the three I typically recommend and introduce to teachers. 

Make a Green Screen Video in iMovie
If you have access to a Mac or an iPad, this is the tool to use. It's free (provided you already have a modern Mac or iPad) and has just enough features to make a nice green screen video, but not so many features that it takes a long time to learn how to use it. Watch this video to learn how to make a green screen video in iMovie on a Mac. Watch this one to learn how to make a green screen video on an iPad.



WeVideo
For Chromebook users and Windows users, WeVideo is my go-to recommendation. Here's a demonstration of how it works.



Zoom + Adobe Spark
If you don't have a physical green screen to record in front of, you could use Zoom's built-in virtual green screen capability then import that video into Adobe Spark for final editing. Watch this video to learn how that is done.

The Suprising Origins of Thanksgiving Foods

Yesterday morning I published blog post in which I shared an ESRI Story Map of where traditional Thanksgiving foods are grown today in the United States. That story map covers where food comes from today, but it doesn't cover the historical origins of traditional Thanksgiving foods. That's an interesting topic of its own. It's Okay to Be Smart and TED-Ed offer video lessons that address the origins of traditional Thanksgiving foods. 

Through It's Okay to Be Smart's The Surprising Origins of Thanksgiving Foods students can learn how the most common, traditional Thanksgiving foods originated and evolved to what they are today. This lesson includes an explanation of how archaeologists and scientists determined that turkeys were one of the first animals to be domesticated in North America. We also learn why the turkeys we find in the grocery store today are so much bigger than those of just a few generations ago. 



Corn like that in the picture at the top of this blog post is often seen as a symbol of Thanksgiving. Today, corn and many products made with it are a staple of the diets of many of us. How did corn become a staple of our diets? What has enabled it to become one of the most cultivated crops in the world? And what are the consequences of cultivating so much corn? Those questions and many others are addressed in the TED-Ed lesson titled How Corn Conquered the World.

Applications for Education
In my post about ESRI's Story Map of Thanksgiving Foods I shared directions for making your own story maps. Students could follow those directions to create story maps of their own about the origins of traditional Thanksgiving foods. The process of researching then compiling their story maps could address a number of topics including plant germination and genetics, westward expansion of the United States, and how traditions develop. 

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 my 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.