Here's a place to find creative, educational ways for your children and students to use the computer and lots of online tools. They'll have fun and be learning about computers at the same time. Adults will have fun too!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Animoto

There are a number of slide show creation sites available not to mention what you can do with a Mac or Picasa.  One I've found recently that I really like is Animoto.  As always, it's got to be easy to use.

Animoto Lite is free (yeah!) and gives several easy options for creating simple videos but the videos have a certain polish to them that I haven't found with other sites. There is currently a free offer for educators for Animoto Plus and a $5.00/month option as well as an option for a yearly subscription.  I like that they offer the monthly option too so you could do a project for an incredibly reasonable price and then be done.

You do need an e-mail address in order to sign up for Animoto so a teacher or parent will need to help younger students.  In my class, I was able to create multiple copies of template under my own log in so when the 6 year olds came in all they needed to do was enter the text that went with each picture.  I was able to open my account on several computers (20 in fact) at once with no problems or slow service which was wonderful.  You just can't have more than one person working on a single video at a time.

I liked the way the program is set up into 4 simple steps for creative a video.  First you choose your background and then you get this screen:

Older kids could upload their own pictures.  In the case of the young students I was working with, I did step one for them and uploaded the pictures into the template.

Then you get a template that looks like this:

The menu line along the bottom allows you to simply click to add pictures, text, delete slides and more.  Once you've added the slides you want it's easy to drag and drop them into the correct order.  This is the screen that confronted the first graders when they made their space movies.  All they had to do was click on the squares with a letter T in them and type their text into this:

There is only space for 52 characters which isn't much.  A couple of students needed more space so they added more text slides and created more space.  It's also a great vehicle for teaching editing as most students were able to reduce their character count to make it fit.

There is a sample on the site of an alphabet video that I really love too.  I think the creative possibilities for Animoto are endless and I hope you and your children and students will enjoy it too.



Image credits on the Animoto Screen Shot: Animoto Stock Photos

Monday, March 21, 2011

Shape Poems

Readwritethink.org has lots of great ideas for teachers, parents and daycare providers and lots of great online templates for kids to use.  One of my favorites is the Shape Poems, especially for younger children - maybe 1st through 3rd or 4th grade.  There are 4 categories of shapes to choose from, Nature, School, Sports and Celebrations.  This is just enough for young kids to enjoy choosing but not so many as to be overwhelming.  I like readwritethink's format because it allows for a little bit of brainstorming before the "writing" on the page where students put words they think of in relation to the shape they've chosen.  I find that the brainstorming section takes the pressure of the student to "write."  Children who are nervous about writing a poem or choosing the correct words for their poem don't have as much trouble just making a list of words that come to mind when they imagine the shape they've chosen.  And once they have some words  typed in that's half the battle.  All they need to do now is string them together and voila, they are poets.

The one thing I wish the template would also do is allow copy and paste or some other transfer of the words already brainstormed into the spot where you type your poem because it's not easy for little folks to type those words twice.  So if your student or child already has a handwritten list of brainstormed words I would skip typing them into the brainstorm page and go directly to typing into the shape page.

Here's one that I did.

I like how the shape and title even have cutout lines around them because shape poems are a great way to combine technology with old fashioned, tactile, cut and paste and glue and paint.

Readwritethink.org doesn't require a login or a subscription which is another great plus.  If you use this resource I'd love to hear your comments.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Glogster and Glogster Edu

A couple of weeks ago I saw this tweet by @PracticalWisdom, "How would you define interactive and digital technologies to Luddites?"  My response was that technology is just another tool like paper and pencil but with increased options for learning, creativity and information sharing.  Glogster and Glogster Edu are quintessential examples of this.   Glogster is a program that creates an online poster.  You can include pictures, graphics, links, video and audio with your poster.  Both the paper poster and the Glogster give the viewer information.  I like paper and pencil(marker, crayon, paint)for the physical action of drawing and combining colors and the way it is different in its permanency than digital creations.  I like Glogster because in addition to the static visual presentation, the viewer has audio, video and immediate access to further information through links.  This is the aspect of technology that a creative kid can fly with when they use Glogster.

Unfortunately, Glogster Edu at least seems to be riddled with bugs and I did not find it particularly user friendly.  I tried to create a Glog of all the schools in our school district thinking it would be cool to have a picture of each school with its name and the link to its homepage.  Unfortunately, I couldn't load two of the pictures for unknown reasons and some of the title templates I tried to use shut down the program every time I entered them.  I was also disappointed that there is no search option for the pictures that are included in the site.  After several hours of trying, the best I could come up with was a half finished Glog that I would not be proud to submit as finalized work.  It shouldn't take that long or be that frustrating.  And in the end, neither the embed code nor the share on Blogger options worked to actually put the Glog into this post.  Each time I backspaced to correct a typing error I got pushed from my finished Glog to the edit screen again.  The best I can give you here is a link.  Let's hope it works.

Glogster is a bit of a mixed bag in my opinion.  I hope they keep working on it because in concept it's a really great way for kids to be creative with computers if they have a personal interest they want to explore or express or if they have a school project they need to present information about using technology.  That said, I would not use it with my kids at home or at school yet because I believe they would find it frustrating.  It's important to note that I was working with the free edition of Glogster but if I don't enjoy the free edition I'm not likely to pay money to try again.

Parents and teachers should also be warned that if browsing regular Glogster as opposed to Glogster Edu there may be some objectionable material for younger folks.  I didn't see any problems on Glogster Edu but adult supervision is always recommended for children on the internet.

If you have used Glogster or Glogster Edu and have a comment, please leave it.  I'd love to hear about other experiences with it.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Giggling to the Toons

My 13 year old son and I just spent a fun and funny 45 minutes exploring ToonDoo.  While I haven't spent the hours and hours on it that I can foresee, it was intuitive enough to create this cute guy in our first 45 minutes.


You can use the preset characters, backgrounds and props or you can create your own characters.  The extent of free options to choose from seems endless but the very best part is that the characters can change poses and facial expressions.  Even the characters you create yourself can change, which surprised me.

The storytelling, retell, artistic, body and facial exploration options with this are so endless that I don't need to expound much on the ways kids can be creative with ToonDoo.  Younger kids can do a simple one frame face and explore different emotions without having to add text.  Older children can write full comic strips and then convert them into books.  I love the idea ToonDoo offered to have language students write a comic strip in the foreign language!

The site is free for individual users with an option to buy for easier use in schools and groups.  The paying option is called ToonDoo Spaces and allows for security and content moderation as well as creating multiple users without needing e-mail addresses.  Teachers and parents, in the paying option there is a note that says you can, "block inappropriate content."  I didn't see any inappropriate content but I didn't look at every single picture so you may want to explore it more fully than I have before you show it to students or your children.

I hope you enjoy this idea and let me know what you do with it.