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: