Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The 12 Days of Techmas - Day 12: Voicethread

On the 12th day of Techmas, my Ed Tech brought to me...

I've quite possibly saved the best for last here, but I'll let you be the judge of that. If you've missed the past 11 days, here they are in a quick list. Be sure to check them out:

Voicethread might best be described as interactive media albums. They are online slideshows of images, documents or videos where viewers are able to comment on each slide. Comments can be made by typing, recording an audio or video comment, or drawing on the image itself. What happens is a conversation around the image, video or document where students can engage and reflect upon the material. Students could reflect upon something the teacher has posted, or a teacher (and peers) could leave feedback for a student's work. Voicethread has become so popular in the education community that they have created a secure Education version ($$). Here you have the option of keeping the Voicethread private or publishing them publicly on the Voicethread site. You always have the option of embedding your Voicethread on your blog (see below).

To get started on Voicethread, they offer a number of easy tutorials and you can also check out Youtube. You begin by uploading images, videos or documents that you have. Add a title, description and some tags to your Voicethread.

Each picture or video needs to have a title added. You can comment on each picture by selecting the picture and clicking comment. Before you share your Voicethread, be sure to select which Playback and Publishing options you would like. You can then export or embed your Voicethread. Here is a quick one that I've created (feel free to leave comments):

Here are some ideas for how to use Voicethread in the Classroom - Voicethread 4 Education Wiki. Alternately, look at the Voicethread below on 100 ways to include Voicethread in the Classroom:

Merry Techmas Everyone!

Monday, December 20, 2010

The 12 Days of Techmas - Day 11: Primarypad

Primary pad (aka. Etherpad - RIP, Titanpad, babelwith.me, typewith.me) is a collaborative tool that can be used for many purposes. It is a web-based word processor that allows real-time collaboration. Many people can simultaneously type and create a document together. Each incarnation of Primarypad has slightly different settings. For instance, Primarypad allows up to 5 simultaneous users at one time.

Security isn't generally an issue because you can create custom URLs which the general public would have a very difficult finding. To do this, simply type in your custom URL at the end of the URL (see below where I've typed in gsd 2011).

As long as no one has used this custom URL in the past, you will be prompted to create a new pad. To share your pad with others, simply copy the URL and email it to them by selecting "Share this pad" and then "send an email invitation."

In the pad, there is a main window where the document is created. Each user gets a different color of type making it easy to distinguish who is doing the writing. In the bottom right corner there is a chat window where participants can chat about things not directly related to the document.

When you are finished you can export the pad in a variety of formats, such as a Word file, for later viewing. You don't need to export the pad, however, as it is stored in that URL forever (unless the site disappears).

Go ahead and give it a try here: http://www.primarypad.com/gsd2011

TOMORROW: VOICETHREAD! Don't miss the final day!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The 12 Days of Techmas - Day 10: Answer Garden & Urtak

Today's 2 for 1 special features two distinctly different polling websites, Answer Garden and Urtak.

Answer Garden is an easy to use tool to generate feedback on any topic. You could also use it for brainstorming. Once your create an Answer Garden, students can navigate to the URL and type in an answer to the question you have posed. Alternately, students can click on one of the answers that has already been inputted by another to vote for that response. The more one response is selected, the larger that word becomes (similar to a wordcloud). You also have the option to set a password for the Answer Garden to keep unwanted people from answering. Try out this AnswerGarden below:

How could you use Answer Garden in the classroom?... at AnswerGarden.ch.

Urtak is another polling website with one crucial difference. It only asks Yes or No questions (you do have a "don't care" option as well). This site allows you to get quick feedback from students or parents in a simply way. When creating an Urtak, you can ask up to 10 Yes or No questions at a time.

Blog Post Questions

TOMORROW: Primarypad (or one of its many pseudonyms)

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The 12 Days of Techmas - Day 9: Animoto

Animoto claims to be the "end of slideshows" and it might just be. Well, probably not but it is a nice alternative. Using Animoto you can create up to a 30 second movie for free. It is incredibly simple to use because it does most of the work for you. As a bonus you can sign up as an educator to get an all-access pass for you and your students for 6 months! With the all-access pass, you can create full-length videos, have the ability to download them and create greeting cards. There is also an option to create a classroom and sign your students up under your name so that you can view their work. Click below to get registered.

Animoto for Education - Bringing your classroom to live
Animoto for Educators

When you create a video, you begin by starting picking from a variety of themes. These are similar to the design templates in Powerpoint.

After you have a theme, upload all of your pictures (see the video in this blog if you need to resize your pictures) and begin arranging them in the order you want them to be seen in the video. You can add in text slides, such as a title, as well as rotate pictures that are sideways. If there are particular pictures you want to emphasize or create a greater focus on, you can click on the picture and then select spotlight.

The next step is to choose your music. You can upload a song from your computer (like something you've created after reading this blog) or choose from a vast selection in the Animoto database.

Before you finish your video, you can choose the speed at which the images are shown during the video. After this, simply give the video a title and brief description and select create video. It will take a few minutes for the video to be processed, after which you are able to view, edit, share or remix the video. If you're not happy with it, make changes and remix until you are. There are many options for sharing your video, such as downloading, email, embedding, facebook, youtube or twitter.

Here is my Christmas Animoto video:

TOMORROW: Answer Garden & Urtak - 2 for the price of 1!

Friday, December 17, 2010

The 12 Days of Techmas - Day 8: Soundation Studio

On the 8th day of Techmas, I bring you Soundation Studio. For those of you that are Mac users, you have Garageband and probably don't need to read any further. For those of use that are suffering through the imperfection that is a PC, Soundation Studio is a free program where you can create original music. Students can use this music during their own videos or presentations without any need to worry about copyright infringement (a special concern if they are posting their work to Youtube).

While this site is free to sign up and use basic features, there are plenty of pay-for-use options. These pay areas can make it a bit of a chore to navigate around the site sometimes, but just keep looking for the "studio" and you'll be fine.

In the studio you have access to free sound clips on the right-hand side that vary according to instrument and music type. Select one that you like and drag it out into a channel. There are 4 channels you can work with that will allow you to easily overlap sounds and adjust volume levels in each channel.

There are a variety of effects you can add to any channel, such as reverb, delay, compressor, and equalizer to further modify your sound. If you're like me, then those words mean absolutely nothing to you, but for true audiophiles it makes sense. Clips can also be easily clipped, cut and copied or moved around by clicking and dragging to modify the order they are in and the length they play for. If you find a good beat, you can repeat it by clicking the top-right corner of the clip and dragging it out (thus making the clip longer). To delete any clip, simply click on it and press delete on your keyboard. You also have the option of recording a sound clip directly into the software, allowing you to customize it even further.

Save your clip in the File menu and if you wish to download your song, select Mixdown. You can download it as a .wav file (the same file type as CD music). If you have a blog or wiki page, there is also an embed code available after you get the URL for the song. Here is my original song:

TOMORROW: Animoto - The end of slideshows

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The 12 Days of Techmas - Day 7: Cooltext

Cooltext is bar far my favourite website for creating unique, exciting text logos. This is where I created the banner for Techronicity (try Alien Glow). It is similar to Wordart found in the Microsoft Office Suite. There are a number of preset logo types to choose from. You simply click on the type that you like and change the text in the box. Logos created here can be used in a variety of places, from classroom websites to student presentations.

If you need more variety than the preset logos, you can modify the presets in a variety of ways. Fonts can be changed to your liking and there are a variety of funky fonts to try.
In some of the text options colours can be manipulated, while in others the texture of the writing can be changed. You can also modify the thickness of borders as well as the location and thickness of shadows.

For some logos you can also add in a background image from a variety of default patterns. This can help your logo stand out.

The final step is to render the image. This is where your selection is created by the website in whatever file format you choose. If you choose a logo that has a transparent element to it (either a background or within the logo itself), you should render your image in a .png format (GIMP friendly). However, many websites and programs cannot handle .png files, in which case you should download your image as a .jpeg. Once your image is rendered, right-click on it and select Save Image As...

You may also want to check out Cooltext's Buttons. They would be a great addition to your website, blog or wiki page.

TOMORROW: Soundation Studio - Create your own music

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The 12 Days of Techmas - Day 6: Picnik

Picnik is a fantastic, easy to use photo editing site. With this site, you can really spice up your photos and get creative. The great bonus with this website is that you are not required to sign up. You can just start editing right away! While there are some advanced features and items that are available if you pay, there are more than enough free options on Picnik to satisfy the photo enthusiast.

Some of the basic editing features are crop, resize, sharpen,red-eye removal, and modifying the colours.

When you switch over to Create, that is where the fun begins. You can choose from Featured designs (ie:Christmas), effects, text, stickers, touch-ups, frames, advanced options or Seasonal effects. Here are some pictures I took while enhancing my photo:

Finally, here is the cover of a famous Christmas CD I created using Picnik:

TOMORROW: Cooltext - one of my favourites.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The 12 Days of Techmas - Day 5: Blabberize

On the 5th day of Techmas, my Ed Tech brought to me... Blabberize! Blabberize is a very funny website where you can add sound and animate any picture you'd like. Take some time to browse through the thousands of pictures that have been Blabberized.

Blabberizing a picture is not simply just for fun. It can actually be used as an educational tool. For instance, if students were researching someone famous, they could blabberize a picture of that person and present their research from the famous person's point of view. Here's a great example of an educational use:

Once you've signed up to Blabberize, click on Make to begin animating your picture. You can upload any picture that you have (again, why not choose a funny one?). You select the mouth area and the degree to which you want the mouth to move.

When adding sound, you have the option of recording through a microphone or uploading a file that you already have (like a song). Blabberize will automatically move the mouth to the sound file. When you're done, click on Save, add a title, tags and a description. You then have the option to make your blabberized picture private (not searchable publicly) or mature (yes, there are some blabberized pictures with mature content - always preview first!). When finally saved, you can share your blabberized picture via email, URL or by embedding it into your page (see below). As an added bonus, you can actually convert your blabberize picture into a video for downloading!

Monday, December 13, 2010

The 12 Days of Techmas - Day 4: Card Funk

On the 4th day of Techmas, there was Card Funk. On this website, you can create animated cards and video greetings (just in time for Christmas!). You don't need to sign up, simply click on the Start Now button to get going.

You can choose from a number of different free greeting cards or video greetings, but make sure you take a close look at your options because there are a couple of slightly racy options.

Once you have chosen your template, you have the option of choosing the number of characters. Then you will be directed to a page where you can upload a face shot of yourself (and others, depending on your number of characters). At this point, I would recommend uploading the funniest picture you can find of yourself (or others).

Then choose a background for your greeting card/video as well as some music and you're done! After entering in your information, you have the option to share your card/video in a couple of ways. First, you are sent a link to your card/video via email. Simply copy the URL into another email and send it off to everyone. Alternately, you can embed your masterpiece into your blog or wiki page (see below):

This funky card is created by Andy Cunningham.
Create your own funky card at CardFunk.


Saturday, December 11, 2010

The 12 Days of Techmas - Day 3: Wallwisher

On the 3rd day of Techmas, I bring you Wallwisher. This fun site allows you to create a message board where people can post sticky notes in response to a question that you leave them. The sign up and page setup is extremely easy. The best part of all is that it's free!

To leave a comment on a wall, simply double-click to begin typing. You also have the option of linking to a website, video or picture from the internet. Want to try it? Leave a comment on this wall:

When setting up your wall you have the option to customize the URL of the wall as well as the background and icon of your page. All that is left is to type in a question along with a subsection for instructions. Before activating your wall, you can specify who can see your wall, as well as who can post to your wall. An added bonus for teachers is that you have the option to approve any comment before it becomes public. This works well in situations where you aren't looking for immediate feedback.

Here are some of my favourite ways to use Wallwisher in the classroom:

  • Book Reviews - students can create quick book reviews along with images
  • Feedback - students can leave you feedback on how your lesson went
  • Students Questions - allow students to ask questions anonymously
  • Image Search - students search for and post images
  • Polling Students - get more objective responses from students
  • Thank You Wall - allow students to leave a short thank you message to someone
  • Previous Learning - students write about what they already know about a topic before they learn

For some more suggestions check out "31 Interesting ways to use Wallwisher in the classroom:"

TOMORROW: Card Funk - just in time for Christmas

The 12 Days of Techmas - Day 2: Livebinders

Livebinders is a website where you can create, store and share valuable information for the classroom. After creating your virtual binder, you can upload pictures and files as well as create links to important websites. The websites will be displayed within the binder, meaning that students or collaborators do not have to navigate away from the other resources.

Within each binder, you can create different tabs (like pages), as well as sub-tabs to house specific links or documents to accompany what is on the page (See this Christmas binder). Speaking of examples, there is a large selection of featured binders that you are welcome to use. After signing up for your free account you can actually copy and modify public binders that others have created.

To learn how to use Livebinders, they have a tutorial section with videos and print help. You can also utilize Youtube for helpful videos.

Sharing is the greatest benefit of using Livebinders. When creating a binder, you can specify whether it is public (open for everyone to use and manipulate) or private (for your or you invitee's eyes only). When sharing your private binder, you can allow others to collaborate and build the resource with you (student project, possibly?). Students do not need to become users of the site to be able to access and use the binders. You also have the option of embedding your binder into a blog or wiki site.

For the visual learners out there, watch this:

TOMORROW: Wallwisher

Friday, December 10, 2010

The 12 days of Techmas - Day 1: Symbaloo

Over the course of the next 12 days I will be sharing 12 different websites/services that are handy for the classroom. I know there are still 15 days until Christmas, but I'm sure no one will be reading this blog in the 3 days leading up to the big day.

Today's website is called Symbaloo. Symbaloo is a site where you can store your bookmarks visually. After creating an account, you can customize your webmixes (fancy word for bookmark) with little icons that represent your pages. When adding new bookmarks, you have the option of searching through their database for bookmarks created by other users, potentially saving you some time. If you cannot find what you're looking for or want a more specific page, you can create your own. You simply need to plug in the URL and upload an icon for your bookmark (you can choose from some clipart alternately).

You can also customize the number of webmixes on display and move them around. One tip is to group webmixes into content or subject areas (see picture below), a handy way to organize your work.

Not only would this be a great place for you to organize your bookmarks, students could create their own accounts as well. They could even use Symbaloo as a method for keeping track of their sources when finding information. One quick click and they're back to the page they used before.

If you're really keen, for a small fee you can get a custom URL. This would mean that students in your classes could simply go to your Symbaloo page for all of the weblinks they need. Doing this may be of benefit for young students and students that are just acquiring English, as it would eliminate the need for reading and typing.

TOMORROW: Livebinder - Who needs USB sticks anymore?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Educational Technology: One Man's Journey

Over the past year, I've had the privilege of getting to know over 75% of the teachers in my district during my travels as an ET. My skills as a teacher have soared during this time, because I've been able to have in-depth pedagogical discussions with a great number of experienced and master teachers.

Also during this time, I've been working on completing my Master's Degree in Educational Leadeship through the University of Lethbridge. The research and knowledge that I have accumulated throughout that program has helped inform my practice as an ET, leading me to even greater heights.

Below is my capstone presentation, the final activitiy of the program:

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Don't Re-invent the Wheel! Check out Smart Exchange.

If you would have asked my opinion about the Smart Exchange website two years ago, I wouldn't have spoken very positively about it. What a difference two years can make!

The Smart Exchange is now the best resource for finding lessons to use on your Smartboard. If you are lucky enough to have access to a Smart Response system (formerly Senteo), you can also find pre-made question sets. There are also other types of Notebook files that can be found there such as attendance files (search term: attendance) or kooshball activitites (search term: kooshball).

To begin with, I always like to start by searching through the "Standards-Correlated Resources" which allows you to search through specific Programs of Study. Make sure you change to the Canadian version of the website, as the US version is usually the default (top right corner, click on the flag).

Standards-correlated searches do not always reveal every resource that relates to the outcomes you are trying to teach, so it is always a good idea to do a search from the main page as well. To take a quick look at your search results without downloading or opening any files, click on the preview window. This will allow you to cycle through the slides in the file, however, any flash interactive pages will not show up properly. For these pages, you'll need to download or open up the entire file.

When you find a file you'd like to use, or a selection of pages, there is a simple way to copy them into your own Notebook file. I quite often take a few pages from each resource and compile them into my own lesson. Watch the video below to see how:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Bring out the Gimp!

I've always been interested in photo editing but never had the opportunity (or funds) to learn how to use Photoshop. Paint has allowed me to resize, crop, delete and edit photos for years, even though it is quite rudimentary and simple. Microsoft Office Picture Manager has shown me that there are more options to do the same painstaking things in less time.

Then one day, I discovered an icon which I hadn't seen before on my desktop. GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program). In essence, GIMP is a Photoshop-like program with one major benefit - IT'S FREE!

The program itself seemed quite intimidating at first, however, after searching Youtube, I've found a number of handy videos that have helped me learn.

Here are some pictures that I've manipulated using GIMP:

Selective Colorization (Youtube Video):

Cutting out a picture - "Photoshopping" (Youtube Video):

There are a number of other techniques that can be done with GIMP including face replacement, teeth whitening, blemish removal, skin airbrushing, and pop art creation.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Comics in the Classroom

When you work with people whom you respect and whom you like and you admire because they're so good at what they do, it doesn't feel like work... It's like you're playing.

Stan "The Man" Lee

As the Dalai Lama of the comic book world, Stan Lee knows a thing or two about story writing. His words of wisdom serve two purposes here. First, this quote illustrates (pun intended) how I often feel about my job working with teachers across our district. Secondly, I would be amiss if I didn't mention Stan Lee in some capacity on a blog post dealing with comics in the classroom. 'Nuff Said.

Comics are an excellent option for students to express themselves when writing. They can be an effective tool for motivating students who do not take interest in "normal" types of writing. Even for ESL students, comics can offer a method of storytelling that requires less text and is more manageable. They can communicate their ideas through both text and drawing. Read this article or this blog for more information about using comics in the classroom or find more helpful links here.

While there are a number of pay for use comic sites for education, here are a sampling of my favourite free options:

Official Super Hero Squad Show
- options to create a comic strip or a comic book with Marvel characters. Very customizable and colourful. When you are finished, you can either print or download as a pdf file.

ReadWriteThink - online comic creator with lesson plans for classroom inclusion. Simple to use and has an option to print when you're finished.

Witty Comics - comic strip creator where students can customize backgrounds, characters, and add narration. You have the option to save online and print afterwards.

Comics Master - graphic novel creator. Customizable page layouts, backgrounds and a number of characters to choose from. You can save and print your graphic novel.

StripGenerator - comic strip creator that allows you to make customized frames as well as select from a number of characters and items. You can print your comic strip when finished.

ToonDoo - Easy to use comic strip creator with tons of clip art. You also have the option of uploading pictures from your computer. Use Smart Notebook Screen Capture to save your pictures.

To save your comics as picture files, watch this video.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Word Clouds

Word Clouds are a fantastic visual for any situation where writing is involved. WordItOut defines them as "an attractive arrangement of randomly positioned words, where the most important words are bigger than the others." You simply access a web cloud website (see examples below) and paste in your text. The words with the highest frequency in a selection of text become the most prominent in the picture. You could use this to analyze key themes in writing. For instance, here is a word cloud generated from Winston Churchill's famous speech "Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat" on the website Wordle:

Another way to use word clouds is to analyze students' writing, checking for themes or even words that are being overused. Here is a word cloud generated from my master's capstone paper using the website Tagxedo (my personal favourite):

Other uses for word clouds include comparing and contrasting writing (analyzing the difference between 2 different speeches), creating word walls, analyzing historical documents (ie: Canadian Charter of Human Rights), polling your class, or creating a gift (What words would you use to describe Mr. Cunningham?).

There are a number of different websites that allow you to create word clouds. Each one has slightly different features than the others, usually in terms of how you can customize the look of your word cloud. My best advice is to try them out for yourself. Here are a few of my favourites:

Wordle - the most famous and easy to use
Tagxedo - customize the shape of your word cloud
ABCya - easy to use
WordItOut - lots of options to customize
Tagul - click on any of the words to initiate a google search. Great for vocabulary.
TagCrowd - basic word cloud website
TagCloudGenerator - creates word clouds from web site URLs

If you are having trouble downloading or saving your word cloud, the video in this blog post will help you out.

Here is a word cloud of Hamlet's soliloquy from the website ABCya:

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Death by Powerpoint

Powerpoint is dead.

At least many people wish it were so. Years of powerpoint presentations have rendered the program stale to say the least. By the time they graduate, students have been using it over and over again for the greater part of a decade.

For most, it is the only presentation tool that is used, apart from the occasional
poster or the increasingly extinct diorama.

The answer is in the
cloud. Below are 5 of my favourite presentation alternates. All of these services are free and, better yet, web-based. Everything is stored online, freeing up your network space at school and allowing you to work on it anywhere.

Better yet, you have the ability to share these presentations. Not just with your class or colleagues, but with a
global audience. Students can also use these to share their learning with parents, classmates and teachers to receive feedback.

In no particular order, here they are:
Prezi - the zooming editor
Prezentit - easy slideshow creator
Sliderocket - slideshow creator with some unique features
Glogster - interactive poster creator
Xtranormal - text to movie creator

These are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of online presentation tools. More to follow in future posts. Go through the Prezi below to learn more. Click here if the presentation does not load.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Time Management

"Time is what we want most, but what we use worst."
- William Penn

Time management can be an asset to both teachers and students. Teachers need to keep track of the time during lessons, while students will benefit from building their time management skills. To help with this, try out this handy website: Online-stopwatch.

Online-stopwatch is exactly what it sounds like - an online stopwatch. You have the option of counting up or down, as well as using the timer in a full-screen mode. It is very simple to use and beeps when the time has elapsed. Click here to try it out!

I always found it helpful to have a timer running in my classroom, especially when students were given a certain amount of time to work on their own or with partners. Having a visual for transitioning between subjects has proven to be very beneficial for students and it doesn't hurt the teacher either!

Smart Notebook also has a variety of timers in the Gallery which function identically to this one. They work just fine as long as you don't need to use your computer for anything. Once you switch slides or open another program, the Notebook timers stop. Online-stopwatch will work in the background, freeing you up to use your computer or Smartboard for other purposes.