Tag: writing

Podcast #23: Do This

My latest podcast discusses Tech Fair, some astounding tech news, and podcasts. Remember a few years ago when everyone in education was talking about podcasting? We still should be!

New Podcast: #16–Digital Storytelling-Ric Camacho

In the latest edition of the Moss-Free Show, I decided to show off some local talent. Ric Camacho is a great teacher at Mercer-Bloomberg Learning Center, our district’s alternative high school. Ric decided to give digital storytelling a try with his students this year, many of whom are kids who might struggle with a traditional high school setting. He was kind enough to talk about his experience and the kids’ responses to publishing their writing in such a rich, creative way.

10 Curricula-Spanning, Learning-Boosting, Creativity-Inspiring, Must-Have Apps

Because there are just not enough app lists, I decided I needed to throw in one more. There are tons of lists that tout subject-specific apps for students at all levels. The following apps have broad applications in virtually any subject area, and they promote important higher level skills such as critical thinking, analyzing, researching, planning, and communicating in engaging and powerful ways. The biggest advantage each offers over similar tools on traditional desktops or laptops is their fantastic usability and short learning curves. They can also accomplish these things on the go–at the museum, on the bus, on the camping trip, etc., potentially turning any event into a true learning experience.

  • Catch Notes (FREE) – Fantastic tool for taking and organizing (via tags) text, audio, or visual notes, independently or collaboratively. Notes can be accessed via apps or through the Catch.com website.
  • Pearltrees (FREE) – Pearltrees is a creative social bookmarking tool that lets individuals or groups create collections of bookmarks organized into webs by subject. It is a fantastic organizational tool, and it gives students a powerful visual representation of their saved resources. The app walks you through setting up a mobile Safari plugin that lets you add “pearls” on the go.
  • VoiceThread (FREE) – Still one of my favorite digital storytelling tools, VoiceThread’s app makes the creation process even faster and easier. Still need to sign up for a free account at Ed.Voicethread, but now VTs can be created on the go, using the built-in cameras and microphones of the iPad or iPod.
  • Explain Everything ($2.99) – Simply a phenomenal screen-casting tool, Explain Everything lets students create narrated, annotated presentations that include drawings, images, websites, and videos. Resulting movies can be shared in a wide variety of ways. The applications are limitless and could certainly fit any subject area. This is perhaps the most powerful tool on this list.
  • Spreaker Radio (FREE) – Spreaker is my new favorite podcasting/broadcasting tool. The web-based platform has as good of a free podcast system as I’ve ever seen, incorporating tools reserved for paid services. The app lets you or your students broadcast live Internet shows on the go or record shows for future listening. It’s very intuitive for students and only requires that an account be set up on the Spreaker site to use.
  • ShowMe (FREE) – ShowMe’s ease of use and versatility make it a must-have. Students can create narrated videos explaining anything they can draw, write, or illustrate. Videos are saved on the ShowMe site, also free.
  • Popplet ($4.99) – Popplet is a slick tool for creating mind maps, flow charts, or other graphic organizers. Charts can include text, drawings, or images, and can be exported as .pdf or image files. Use Popplet for brainstorming, group planning, project management, process illustration, or many other applications.
  • Animation Studio ($2.99) – The best animation creation tool for the money, by far. The feature list of Animation Studio is too long to list, but features like text-to-speech, the library of animated characters, music tools, YouTube sharing, etc. make it the best. Students can use this app to create original videos describing, depicting, or explaining anything imaginable.
  • Dragon Dictation (FREE) – Dragon Dictation is an oldie (in iOS terms, anyway) but a goodie. It turns spoken words into printed text, and it does so pretty darned accurately. Great for many applications, such as allowing ESL students to transcribe their English practice or other special population accommodations. Also makes a fantastic note-taking tool (SOME people even use it while driving, I have heard…cough.).
  • Google Earth (FREE) – Still a powerful tool for research, the Google Earth app includes many of the standard maps and search tools, plus a fantastic gallery of user-currated maps and tours. Kids can research settings in literature (using built-in Wikipedia links), map historical events, study geologic or political processes, and more.

That’s my list. What apps would you add that could be used across the curriculum?

Using iDevices to Enhance Creativity

The iPad and iPod have great potential as tools for promoting the 21st century skill of creativity. Apps designers have produced an endless stream of tools for making music, creating works of art, creative writing and storytelling, and promoting outside-the-box thinking. The following apps are but a few examples that hold promise for the classroom teacher. If you have favorite creativity apps not mentioned, please feel free to share them!

Music

  • Magic Fiddle($2.99)–This app turns the iPad into a concert violin. The app includes an interactive tutorial, songbook, free play, and world feature, which allows users to listen to other users around the globe.

    Sixstring

    Sixstring

  • Songify (FREE)–Songify is a fun app that lets users create and share original songs. Users simply speak the lyrics into the iPad or iPod microphone, and Songify puts the lyrics to music. Songs can be saved and shared through email, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • Six Strings ($6.99)–Play a variety of virtual stringed instruments (guitar, mandolin, banjo, ukulele) or drums. Users can select a variety of chords and keys. Songs can be mixed with loops from a built-in library, saved, and exported.
  • LaDiDa ($2.99)–Creates songs by automatically putting users’ singing to music. Songs can be shared via email, Facebook, or Twitter.
  • Ocarina ($.99)–Turns the iPod or iPad into a beautiful electronic flute. Users can record and share songs via email. Like Magic Fiddle, users can also listen to others playing Ocarina around the world.
  • LeafTBone ($.99)–Fun app turns iDevices into virtual trombones, played either by touch or by a combination of blowing into the built-in microphone and touching the screen.
  • Garage Band ($4.99)–Powerful app lets users play and record virtual instruments, record voice tracks, mix and edit multiple tracks, and share songs via email or through iTunes.

Painting/Drawing

  • Animation Studio ($1.99)–Powerful, bargain-priced animation tool. Create frame-by-frame animations, import photos, record audio, use text-to-speech, and more. Files can be saved as .mov files or exported directly to YouTube.
  • DoInk($4.99)–Great animation tool lets users create frame-by-frame animations or use a built-in library of backgrounds and props. Animations can be shared via the DoInk website.

    Flipboom Draw HD

    FlipBoom Draw HD

  • ShowMe (FREE)–Record drawings and narration on a virtual whiteboard. Share via the ShowMe website. Great tool for recording instructional videos. Videos can be shared via Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, or email.
  • ScreenChomp  (FREE)– Another wonderful tool for recording drawings and voice narration. Videos can be shared to ScreenChomp’s website without an account, where they can be viewed by URL or downloaded as .mpeg files.
  • ArtStudio ($2.99)–Great drawing tool with a wide variety of brushes, textures, and effects. Create layered drawings, similar to Photoshop or Illustrator.
  • DrawCast (FREE)–Simple but powerful drawing tool. Drawings can be saved or shared via email or Facebook.
  • FlipBoom Draw HD ($4.99)–Frame-by-frame animation app suitable for even younger students. Animations can be stored in the image gallery or shared by email or through YouTube.
  • Scribble Kid (FREE)–Simple drawing app suitable for primary students. Includes shape and background library.
  • Drawing Pad ($1.99)–Fun drawing tool with a wide range of pencils, pens, brushes, stickers, and more. Suitable for elementary aged students. Drawings can be stored to the image gallery or shared via Twitter, Facebook, or email.
  • Singing Fingers (FREE)–Create drawings by touching the screen while making sounds, then swipe over them to play back.

Creative Thinking

  • Total Recall (FREE)–Nice, basic mindmapping tool. Create mindmaps and share via email as .pdf files or as images.
  • iBrainstorm (FREE)–Cool brainstorm tool that uses drawing tools and sticky notes. Best of all, users can install the free iBrainstorm Companion app, which lets multiple users connect to the same project for collaboration. Share products through email or save as images.
  • Mindjet (FREE)–Tons of features for a free app. Mindjet lets users build powerful mindmaps including images and links. Users can share as .pdf files via email or sync directly to DropBox or the Mindjet Connect website, where maps can be shared or edited collaboratively.
  • SimpleMind+ (FREE)–Stylish mindmapping app allows for creation of large maps in a range of styles. Maps can be shared via email as .pdf or image files. A desktop application is available (paid) that lets users share and collaborate on maps directly on a Mac or PC.

Creative Writing

  • StoryLines (FREE)–App lets students create collaborative stories. Participants take turns alternately adding text or drawings to produce creative stories, which can be shared via Facebook.
  • StoryKit (FREE)–Create digital storybooks using text, images, and drawings. Upload stories to the Storykit servers and share with others via URL.
  • StoryRobe ($.99)–Create digital stories using images and recorded narration. Stories can be shared via email or by uploading directly to YouTube.
  • DemiBooks Composer (FREE)–Create interactive books, including effects such as sound, motion, gravity, and more. Books can be shared via iTunes or Dropbox (must be viewed in Composer).
  • Scribble Press (FREE)–Create books from drawings, photos, or text, share with a global audience as ebooks or order printed copies.

Video

  • DV Prompter (FREE)–Simple teleprompter app.
  • Green Screen Movie FX ($1.99)–Tool for creating green screen effects, superimposing video on top of other video.
  • Silent Film Director ($.99)–Create retro-looking videos, including 6 filters, included soundtracks, speed controls, more.
  • Splice (FREE)–Remarkably powerful free video editing tool, includes ability to use photos, videos, soundtracks (included), special effects, adjust speed, more.
  • Super 8 ($.99)–Create cool, retro videos, including scratched film effects, credits, titles, more.
  • ReelDirector ($1.99)–Easy-to-use video editor, allows use of video or images, cropping clips, special effects, layered music/sound, more.
  • Videolicious (FREE)–Create short movies with video introduction, narration, background music, and transition effects.
  • 8mm ($1.99)–Another tool for creating retro video effects; includes 7 filters, ability to include filmstrip sounds, jitter effect.

Design

  • Home Design HD (FREE)–Create 3D floor plans, including furniture, doors, windows, custom floors, walls, etc. Images can’t be saved by the free version, so use the iPad/iPod screen grab feature to save.
Games
  • Casey’s Contraptions ($2.99)–Solve puzzles by creating virtual Rube Goldberg machines, or simply create your own imaginative machine.
  • Scribblenauts Remix ($.99)–Use imaginative means to get characters through, over, or around obstacles and enable them to complete a variety of tasks.

Animation Fun with Xtranormal

There are growing numbers of Web-based tools for creating animated stories today. When combined with good writing instruction, these offer a motivating and engaging means for students to publish and share their work. One interesting tool I just discovered, thanks to a teacher at one of my campuses, is Xtranormal. Xtranormal allows users to create animated stories including a variety of settings and characters, computer generated voices, character animations, facial expressions, background music, and more. Stories can be private or public, and they can be published easily to YouTube accounts. The site also includes a rating system, including G, 13+, and 18+, and users can select account settings to allow or block content rated for older audiences.

The user interface is relatively easy to learn. To begin, creating a movie involves selecting a story’s characters and setting (such as animated animals, super heroes, etc.). Within a chosen scene, users are then able to choose various camera angles and specific characters. Once the scene is set, characters are put into action by clicking to select and then typing dialogue. Animated effects and facial expressions are added by inserting the cursor into the desired point in the dialogue box, then clicking on the effects icons and selecting the desired options.

Xtranormal workspace

Xtranormal workspace

I created the video below in just a few minutes. It is included as part one of a series (assuming I get around to creating more), another cool feature of the site.

Overall, I really like the possibilities of Xtranormal. There is one animation effect called “up yours”, and you can probably imagine the accompanying effect, so be forewarned. Other than that, however, it appears to be very kid friendly, and would seem to be particularly useful for upper elementary through high school students. If interested in exploring other animation sites, here are a few more you might want to check out:

Students Talk About Blogging

I finally was successful at uploading a video of some interviews I conducted this spring with students who published their writing to a class blog this year. In just six months, the students’ blog had over 1,000 visitors from six continents! What an effective way to motivate our students to write! The blog also includes some good insights by the teacher.

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