Thursday, November 18, 2021

Five Helpful PowerPoint Features You Might Be Overlooking

PowerPoint isn't the flashiest ed tech tool on the block and it certainly isn't the newest. In fact, you might have read "PowerPoint" and thought "old." But as old as it is (34 years) there are new things added to it and hidden gems within it that keep it going strong. If it has been a while since you looked at PowerPoint, here are some features you might not be aware of that can be helpful to you and your students. 

Record a Video in PowerPoint
The Windows 10 desktop version of PowerPoint has some neat features including the option to record a video and instantly insert it into your presentation. Watch this tutorial to learn how that's done.



Remove Image Backgrounds
PowerPoint has a handy built-in tool for removing the background from your images. Here's a demonstration of how to use that feature.



Get Instant Feedback on Your Presentation
Presenter Coach is a great tool for getting instant feedback on your presentation pacing and more. It's available in the online version of PowerPoint. This tutorial shows you how it works.



Automatic Captioning of Your Presentation
PowerPoint includes features for automatic captioning of your presentations. Captions appear while you speak. The captioning tool will also translate your presentation while you speak. Watch this video to see how it works.



Accessibility Checker
If you're not sure whether or not your slides will be accessible to all students, you can run an accessibility check on your PowerPoint slides. This video shows you how to run an accessibility check on your PowerPoint presentation and how to add alt text to pictures and videos in your PowerPoint presentation.



Add more features...
Through the use of PowerPoint add-ins you can add even more functionality to your PowerPoint slides. For example, you can quickly add a countdown timer to your slides. Here's a demo of how to add a countdown timer to your slides. This video shows you how to find and install add-ins.

How to Create Digital Thankfulness Turkeys

Last fall the switch to online and hybrid classes presented lots of challenges and required changing the way that we have done some of our "old standby" activities. For example, last fall I received a few emails from readers looking for some ideas on how to do a digital version of the classic Thanksgiving Thankfulness Turkey project in which students add feathers to a drawing of turkey and each feather has something they're thankful for written on it. 

My suggestion for creating a digital version of the Thankful Turkey was to use a combination of Pixabay and Google Drawings. I made this short video to illustrate how that process would work. 

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.