Tuesday, May 31, 2022

How to Quickly Remove and Replace Image Backgrounds

At the start of the month I featured four tools for removing image backgrounds. To end this month I have one more cool tool to share with you. That tool is called Strip Background. It does exactly what the name implies and a little more. 

Strip Background lets you quickly remove the background from any image that you own. Simply upload your image and let Strip Background do the rest. If the background isn't removed exactly as you hoped, there are some touch-up tools that you can use to finish the job. Once the background is removed you can download your new image. Strip Background also lets you replace the background of your original image with a new background color or new background image. All of these features are available for free and without any registration required. Watch my short demo video to see how Strip Background works. 

Applications for Education
Removing the background from an image is a good way to protect your privacy and that of people who might unintentionally be in the background of your pictures. Remove image backgrounds is also a good way to get a stand-alone image of yourself to then place in front of a different background. For example, I could take a picture of myself at my local ski mountain then replace the background so that I look like I'm climbing Mount Everest. In the past I've had students do this to create short travel narratives in which they place themselves into their stories.

As I mentioned in the video above, Strip Background was created by the same developers who made Toony Tool. Toony Tool is a great cartoon creation tool that I featured in this blog post.

Monday, May 30, 2022

What is Lightning? - Another Question from My Daughter

On Saturday we had the first thunderstorm of the summer at our house. I made it back from a bike ride just as the thunder and lightning started to crack overhead. The storm prompted my five-year-old to ask, "what is lightning?" We tried to give my daughter a short explanation that lighting is electricity traveling between clouds or between clouds and the ground. That, of course, led to the questions of "how does electricity get in the clouds?" Both were good questions that prompted me to turn to a couple of my old, reliable YouTube channels for answers to questions like these. 

The first place that I turn to for elementary school level explanations to questions related to earth science is SciShow Kids. There I found What Causes Thunder and Lightning? The video begins by explaining that the shock you feel when touching a doorknob after walking across a carpet is caused by static electricity. From there the lesson moves into explaining how static electricity works in a similar manner in clouds. I didn't actually show this video to my daughter, but it did give me a great idea for better answering her questions about what lightning is and how electricity gets in the clouds. 

The other place that I usually turn to for topics like this is National Geographic's 101 series. That was where I found Thunderstorms 101. This video is a bit more advanced than the SciShow Kids video but still appropriate for upper elementary school or middle school. The video explains different types of thunderstorms and the conditions that create them.

Applications for Education
If you teach elementary school and or have kids around the same age as mine, both of these videos could help you explain lightning and thunder to them. And if you have slightly older students, you might consider using these videos in a self-paced lesson in which students have to answer questions before playing each section of the video. Here are a few tools for doing that. 

(By the way, my four-year-old napped through the entire thunderstorm on Saturday).

Improve Your Typing While Reading Classic Literature

There is no shortage of typing games available on the web (find 700 of them right here). Most of those games are based on rote practice and patterns. That's why I was intrigued when the Support Real Teachers Twitter account tagged me in a post about a new typing practice site that wasn't just a big collection of animated games. That site is called TypeLit.io

On TypeLit.io you can develop your typing skills while reading classic literature. The way it works is that you pick a classic work in TypeLit's library and then start typing the text that you see on the screen. TypeLit provides you with feedback about the accuracy and speed of your typing. 

As you can see in my demo video, TypeLit will let you pick a chapter of a book to type or you can type through the whole thing. You can use TypeLit without an account. But if you do create an account you can save and resume your progress. 

Applications for Education
TypeLit.io isn't going to replace "traditional" typing instruction. That said, it could be a place for middle school and high school students to practice their typing skills while reading some classic literature.

Sunday, May 29, 2022

How to Archive Google Classroom

The end of the school year is here or at least very near for most of us. Google Classroom users will probably want to archive their classes at the end of the year. Archiving a class prevents students from accessing it so that you can go on summer vacation without any worry that a student is going to write something in it without you noticing it. 

If you're not sure how to archive a Google Classroom class or how to recover it if you accidentally archive the wrong one, watch this short video on how to archive Google Classroom classes

Two Ways to Quickly Turn Writing Into Videos

Last week I shared some observations from evaluating the websites of a handful of relatively large school districts. In that blog post I mentioned that the better websites put recent and relevant information on the homepage and don't rely solely on social media to disseminate news about their schools and their districts. That's because when you rely on social media, you're hoping that parents and students notice your posts in sea of all the other social media updates they see in a day. 

If you do choose to use social media to share updates about your school district or school, posting videos is a good way to increase the chances that people will see your message. But not everyone is comfortable on camera or is a good video editor. That's why you might be interested in using a tool that turns your writing into videos for you. The following tools will do that. 

Lumen5 is a service that will produce a video for you based upon your written work. To create a video with Lumen5 you can enter the URL of your published work or paste in the text of your blog post. Lumen5 will then select highlights from your writing to feature in a video. Lumen5 generates a preview of a video for you based on the title, keywords, and key phrases in your blog post. The video will consist of images and video clips matched to the words in your blog post. Completed Lumen5 projects can be shared directly to Facebook. You can also download your video to use on Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and anywhere else that you like post short videos. Watch this video to see how Lumen5 works. 

InVideo offers lots of tools and templates for making audio slideshow videos to share on social media and elsewhere. One of those tools lets you copy the text of an article into a template then have InVideo automatically select images to match the text of the article. A similar InVideo template lets you enter the URL of an article and have a video made with images that are automatically selected to make the text of the article. In both cases parts of the text appear on the slides with the images. And in both cases you can manually override the automatic image selections.

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