We probably take more pictures and record more video during the summer than at any other time of year. Vacations or time spent outdoors in the warm summer sun offer many opportunities for gathering the raw materials of some fantastic multimedia projects. For teachers, it is also a rare opportunity to explore some great tools in a more relaxed atmosphere, free from the demands of lesson planning, grading papers, etc. Below are listed 5 projects, with a couple of examples, that you might consider trying for yourself or using with your own children. This is a great way to encourage writing, storytelling, and creativity, as well as a fantastic way to preserve memories. My 8-year old daughter completed her first summer project just today, and her VoiceThread is shown below.

  1. Animoto. One of the easiest ways to create professional-looking slideshows, complete with dramatic animations/transitions, audio, and text. Simply upload your images, add any desired text, and select your music. Animoto does the rest. 30 second videos (12-15 images) are free, and educators can sign up for full-length videos. An example of a 30-second video can be seen below.
  2. Glogster. Glogster enables users to create online, virtual “posters.” They can include images, text, audio, video, and hyperlinks. There is a little more to the site, so a slightly greater learning curve does exist, but I have seen Glogster used very effectively with elementary kids, so don’t hesitate to try this for a summer project for your children. Again, educator accounts are available.
  3. VoiceThread. Possibly the easiest digital storytelling tool out there, VoiceThread simply requires images be uploaded and comments added, either through text, audio, or webcam. The interface is simple to learn (My daughter took control shortly after we began.), and, perhaps most exciting, comments can take the form of text, scribbles, audio, or video. Here is Reagan’s first try (We wrote out her comments before recording and practiced reading each one.):
  4. Tikatok. As a way to encourage young writers, why not have them actually publish (and even sell!) their works. Tikatok has a number of publishing tools for children. They can upload their own images or photographs, use a selection of graphics from the site, write original books, or utilize story starters on the site. When books are finished, they can be purchased fairly reasonably, shared with the world, and even sold to other buyers. A very engaging and motivating site!
  5. Photopeach. New to me, this site acts very much like Microsoft PhotoStory. Simply upload images, add any desired text, select from a variety of background music, and publish. There is even a feature which allows users to include quiz questions in their shows. This is a very suitable and easy-to-learn tool that is worth a look.
  6. Father-Daughter Dance on PhotoPeach

These are just a few suggestions. Another idea would be to create a family YouTube channel and have kids create and share videos of the family adventures. There are endless possibilites for combining the fun and adventure of summer with some powerful vehicles for creativity and self-expression. I’ll be posting more as the summer progresses and my children complete new projects. If you have others that need sharing, please do so!

Edit: Another idea that I’m trying with my own daughter, who just finished the 2nd grade, is to use email and a blog to encourage her to write. I’m using Gaggle for both, which allows me to have editorial and administrator rights over what she posts or receives, which is valuable with a new, young user. She is extremely excited about the possibilities of both, and has notified her Nana to be expecting correspondance.