eThemes: A Reminder and Time Saver

Look what showed up in my inbox yesterday…

As you have noticed over the past weeks I have been sharing the ins and outs of stop-motion video. During my search for resources I checked eThemes and noticed they didn’t have anything available. Since I am a former eMINTS teacher I can request new eThemes. In just minutes I filled out the form including the types of resources I was looking for, grade levels, standards, and specific details further describing what I needed. I also shared a few links that I had already found to help them understand what I was specifically looking for. In less than 2 weeks they returned my eTheme and I was ready to roll.

For those of you not familiar with eThemes it is a “source for content-rich, kid-safe online resources that will help enhance your teaching and save you time. eThemes provides free, fast access to over 2,500 collections of websites, on topics ranging from Aerodynamics to Zebras and everything in between!”

eThemes saves teachers’ time looking for resources by doing the searching for you. Anyone can use the existing themes and any eMINTS teacher can request a new theme be searched giving them more time to focus on teaching.

Check out eThemes now and make a request to start planning your next classroom project.

Brooke Higgins and Julie Szaj are instructional specialists with the eMINTS National Center.

Stop Motion Animation Made Easy – Part 3

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Welcome back to the third, and final, installment on stop-motion animation. When planning a stop motion animation project with students teachers need to be aware of the tools necessary, the steps for creating a project like this, some tips for success, and  additional resources to ensure students learn, have fun, and create quality products.
Basic materials/tools are all that is needed to get started:

  • Stop-Motion software (JellyCam or StoMo are just a couple available)
  • Digital camera (stand alone, iPad camera, phone camera, web cam)
  • Tripod or sturdy base for camera/computer/iPad
  • Lighting
  • MovieMaker or iMovie *adding audio and splicing with other media like video (optional)

How To:

  1. Plan the movie using a storyboard (visuals and audio/script)
  2. Design set, characters, and props
  3. Determine Frames Per Second (# of images needed to make a second = # of images needed to make the full length feature) Frames Per Second for video are normally 30 but programs can let you adjust that) – let your students do the calculations when planning their projects.
  4. Capture images using stop motion software (with onion screen option)
  5. Export as movie
  6. View movie
  7. *optional – Import Movie into MovieMaker or iMovie and add audio and/or other media, export as Movie, view

Tips for Success:

  • Plan carefully – Make a storyboard before you animate.
  • Keep it simple – Don’t try ambitious models or backgrounds
  • Small movements – A little goes a long way; use the onion-skinning option to see where the last frame was placed.
  • Assign roles – Modellers, clickers, spotters, movers; each student can be responsible for a task.

Resources:

Leave a comment…..We’d love your thoughts and ideas about stop motion animation as authentic products in the classroom. Share links to your student’s stop-motion projects. Tell us about all of your experiences using stop motion animation including implementation ideas, tips, additional resources, etc.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialists for the eMINTS National Center and Allison Byford is the Instructional Technology Coordinator with the Springdale Public Schools in Arkansas and is an eMINTS PD4ETS graduate.

Stop Motion Animation Made Easy – Part 2

Recently, Allison Byford shared the basic tools and steps for helping students to create stop motion animation movies in her post Stop Motion Animation Made Easy – Part 1 . Today we’ll take that a step further and share more examples, tools needed, step-by-step how to instructions, and some tips for a successful implementation.

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Many of you have seen the OK GO video for their song “Here it Goes”,  but have you seen the LEGO “Here it Goes”. It’s an example of how a student with a creative mind and a camera recreated the video. If you are an eMINTS teacher you have surely seen some of the great Common Craft videos covering topics such as “GoogleDocs in Plain English” or  “Electing a US President in Plain English”. While common craft videos aren’t purely stop motion they include some content recorded in stop motion animation as well as video.

When thinking about how stop motion animation could be connected to curriculum teachers can use stop motion video to present new concepts, record what happens during an extended Science experiment, or to present learned content.

Stop motion animation can be used in creative writing lessons to tell story with or without words or retell stories.

Students can present their understandings of math concepts by creating videos that may be used to teach newly learned skills to others.

Students can represent historical concepts, create documentaries, or reenact historical events to show their understanding of the impact of history.

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Not only can curriculum content be covered but students can also focus in on using 21st Century Skills when creating stop motion animation projects. These kinds of projects can require students to Think and Work Creatively with Others, Communicate Clearly, Collaborate with Others, Adapt to Change, Be Flexible, Manage Goals, Time, and Projects, Produce Results, Create Media Products, and Apply Technology Effectively.

Tune in tomorrow to learn the steps for creating successful projects like these.

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialists for the eMINTS National Center and Allison Byford is the Instructional Technology Coordinator with the Springdale Public Schools in Arkansas and is an eMINTS PD4ETS graduate.

Lecture as Scaffold for Inquiry

Lecture Rozhen

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We ran across this blog post yesterday, Teach Paperless: How to Lecture in a PBL Classroom, and connected it right away to our Inquiry training sessions. One of the topics we discuss in this module has to do with when to use Inquiry and when it is maybe not the best teaching approach to use.

The aforementioned blog post compliments that conversation so well and gives another example of how teacher-directed instruction (specifically lecture) might fit into Project-based/Inquiry-based learning. It seems PBL/IBL methods have been pigeon-holed as being only student-centered, devoid of any teacher-centered practices such as lecturing. However, as pointed out in the Teach Paperless post, problem- and inquiry-based learning can incorporate all kinds of teaching techniques.

In the PBL model described in the post, the teachers involved offered voluntary workshops as a way to inject lecture into their student projects. As struggles arose, the teachers offered these voluntary workshops to students in order to help them revise mistakes in their bibliographical work. The big idea here is to offer lectures that support the PBL/IBL process for students who are interested in the topic as opposed to forcing the lecture on a classroom full of disinterested students.

How might a “lecture workshop” fit into the IBL unit you are planning? How might one involve students in facilitating these lecture workshops in your classroom? What are some other ways to make room for lectures in an IBL unit? How does this approach make a lecture relevant to students and their learning over traditional lectures?

Brooke Higgins and Zac Early are instructional specialists for the eMINTS National Center.

Stop Motion Animation Made Easy – Part 1

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Have you ever watched a movie like Wallace and Grommit  or The Nightmare Before Christmas or even films like Toy Story or Up and wished that you were good enough to do that? Have you ever marveled in amazement in what it takes to animate and the frames and frames of footage that have to be created and put in place to produce even one minute of video. The intricacies of this kind of project have to be mind-boggling, right?

Well, I’ve got good news! Animation and creating animated projects is easier that one might think. In fact, not only is it easy to do for one person….but better yet, it’s even easier if you use a team approach with interdependent roles! In fact, it is proving to be, in our district, one of the most engaging ways for students to create a culminating project. They can create movies fast and they love it so much they can’t STOP!!

Stop-motion animation is essentially collecting a series of photographs and rendering them together at a rate of anywhere from 8 frames a second to 30 frames a second. Thanks to some amazing web 2.0 tools, kids (even our youngest) can do this with ease.

At the most basic level, for stop-motion animation projects to be created, you need a storyboard/script, camera, some props, and software that “sticks” all the photographs together. If you are using a PC, a good option is Jellycam. Jellycam has a quick and simple tutorial that will walk a learner through the specifics of the software in just a couple of minutes. It allows the user to easily capture and manipulate the pictures taken with a web cam within the program. Users determine how many images per second and can play back the video as it is being created. It also allows for adding credits and music within the software. JellyCam is a completely free download.

Creating a stop-motion animation project can also be easily created on an iPad2. One favorite App for doing this is StoMo. In this App, you capture images directly into your iPad using the capture button. You can set the rate of pictures being seen per second, arrange and re-arrange the images captured, playback projects as you work on them and use either the front or rear camera. When you export the project to the library, the images are rendered together and the “film” is put in the iPhotos library to be viewed. StoMo does not allow users to add music, voice over, or text to the film but once a project is finished it can be exported to iMovie, Moviemaker, or some other movie editing software to add music, voice over, or text.

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Both of these applications have a key feature that is critical for stop motion creators – onion skinning. If you think about the skin of an onion, it is somewhat transparent. In stop-motion animation it is critical to be able to see the last image taken and be able to compare it to the one about to be taken. Onion skinning allows for the creator to move objects in the films as much or little as desired. Another classroom benefit of onion skinning allows for students, who’s “filming” schedule is often interrupted by the bell, to come back the next day and pick up where left off. They can see the last image captured and begin from there on a new day.

As a teacher, the best part of stop-motion animation projects is that the students REALLY need each other to complete a quality project quickly! In a group of four students each has a vital role. One person serves as the project manager, or director of the project. That person focuses on the vision and directs the project as it progresses. One person needs to focus completely on the software. That person knows exactly how the software works, captures images, and keeps the program running. The other two members of a group are moving manipulatives (characters and props) to create the animated sequences. It takes everyone in the group doing their parts to be successful.

Check out some examples of student stop-motion animation projects below and start planning a project for your students. Stay tuned for the next Stop Motion Animation installment sharing more classroom examples, how-to’s, tips, and resources for classroom stop motion projects.

How might your students express what they have learned with a stop motion animation project in your classroom?

Allison Byford is the Instructional Technology Coordinator with the Springdale Public Schools in Arkansas and is an eMINTS PD4ETS graduate.

Is it About Presenting or the PowerPoint?

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Having students create presentations is a very popular learning activity in many classrooms especially classrooms loaded with technology like eMINTS classes. Teachers love to have students create presentations to demonstrate what they have learned about a topic. Students are often times responsible for teaching others about what they have learned. Asking learners to do this encourages them to take responsibility and internalize content while building the necessary life skill of presenting to an audience.

But here is what is often heard when teachers are giving the assignment….PowerPoint PowerPoint PowerPoint…Is making a presentation all about PowerPoint?

There are many ways that students can show what they have learned. While PowerPoint is a great presentation tool it isn’t the only one out there and it isn’t always the most appropriate tool for everyone and every project. Assigning an entire class to use PowerPoint can make the activity easier to manage and requires a teacher to know how to use only one tool. But giving students an option in what presentation tool has its benefits. Students sometimes get more engaged in a project when they have a say in how it will be completed. Giving students choice can also begin to teach them about the benefits of using one tool over another and how the features of one might be able to help them convey their message in a more effective and meaningful way.

The biggest issue I hear from teachers is they think they need to create a different rubric for each option they give students. My suggestion…How about creating one “Presentation” rubric that could be used for all the different types of presentations in many different units. By including things teachers value like quality and quantity of information, creativity and originality of the media, and presentation skills such as clarity, focus, and eye contact, teachers will ensure that students walk away with the necessary understandings and skills they need in the future. Also creating one rubric for all presentations can save teachers precious time in the future.

Another road block many teachers run in to is the feeling that they have know how to use every tool for each option they give students. While having a good understanding of the basics of how a presentation tool works is beneficial, giving students tutorials for tools a teacher is less familiar with is another option. Another option might be to develop student experts that learn about different tools and be a resource for those using that tool.

Be aware, just like with PowerPoint, students can waste time “exploring” all of the bells and whistles and might need to be reminded that content comes first then customizing. They can easily be reminded of this by using a checklist or rubric to keep them on track.

A few alternate presentation tools you may want to offer students in addition to PowerPoint in your next project could include:

  • SMART Notebook
  • Movie Maker/iMovie
  • Prezi – “The zooming editor” create a presentation on a flat canvas and customize it with panning and zooming, imported media, the ability to collaborate and so much more.
  • Google Presentation Tool - now with drawing tools, animations, and the ability to collaborate
  • Zoho Show – Create, Edit and Share Your Presentations Online
  • Empressr – Media presentation tool. “Tell your story anyway you like. Add photos, music, video, and audio, and share it publicly or privately in an instant.”
  • GlogsterEDU – “Make your interactive poster easily and share it with friends. Mix Images, Text, Music and Video.”
  • TimeToast – An interactive visual timeline builder. “Timetoast is a place to create timelines that you can add to your blog or website.”
  • Animoto – “Turn your photos, video clips, and music into stunning video masterpieces to share with everyone. Fast, free, and shockingly easy!”
  • Extranormal – “Telling your story is easy… Choose from hundreds of actors. Type or record your dialogue. Select your background.” It’s that easy to get started.
  • Go!Animate - “Make a video online for free with GoAnimate!”

What might be some presentation tools you and your students like to use when creating presentations?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read this and more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Harnessing the Distractions: Multitasking and More

Here is my daily problem….I can be working away on something, like a blog post, then an email notification pops up and I think I have to reply. Then my phone beeps at me and it’s a colleague who wants me to look something up for her on the web cause she’s heading to a training session and needs the link for the session opener and can I please send her the link. When I finally put the phone down I get distracted by the website she wanted me to visit. Ten minutes later find myself lost on YouTube not knowing how I got there and completely forgetting my original task at hand so I do a quick check of my Gmail and maybe Facebook. By the time I remember, the blog post is supposed to be done, and then I have to rush to get something, anything written so I can post it on time. AHHHHHH, what a downward spiral I find myself in day after day.

Between work and my personal life I am online and connected what feels like every minute of every day. While being “plugged in” and available all the time is great it is not always helpful for my productivity and can be very distracting (see above).

Rasmussen College has compiled research from The National Academy of Science and Carnegie Mellon University and displayed it as an infographic. The research shows that the time using media and also trying to multitask has steadily gone up over the past 10+ years and that while we might think it makes us more productive it actually leads to stress, inhibition of creativity, inability to solve problems, and slows thinking.

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Your Brain at Work, a book by David Rock, explains how the brain works and why doing things like I try to do only hurts my effectiveness in the end. He does this in easy to understand vignettes focused around examples very similar to those we all face. The sub-title Strategies for overcoming distraction, regaining focus, and working smarter all day long explains how it is helping me to understand how to work more effectively on a daily basis. And really…who doesn’t want to work smarter.

Rock explains that the brain is like a stage and how it takes a lot of energy to keep the show running on that stage. He equates a person’s mindfulness as the director and how much work it is to be the director having to stay highly conscious to what’s going on at all times. In my quest to become less distracted, more focused, and more productive I am learning some new strategies to learn to direct my brain and work smarter. Here are some things I am trying to stay mindful of.

  1. Prioritize the “To Do” List – As I mentioned, Rock suggests thinking of my brain as a stage and you want to get the most important actors (tasks) up first. He says that you need to work on the most important (not the easiest) tasks first since they need the most energy and focus. He is also a big believer in writing things down so that your brain can let go of some information. I start my day now with creating my prioritized to-do list on paper. Then I move on to the task as they are “scheduled”.
  2. Turn off the Distractions – When working on a difficult task I remove distractions before they take over. This means that I may turn off my phone, close out of email, close my office door, and sometimes I even remove myself from my computer totally. I know that the brain gets distracted easily, so I consciously make the decision to remove the distractions that get my brain off task.
  3. Reduce Multitasking – When I find I’m trying to do two things at once I remind myself that my brain can only truly focus on one thing at a time well. To be most effective I need to slow down and continue both tasks knowing I will lose some accuracy and performance or I have to stop one task and focus on the other. Then finish the second task.
  4. Consider Multitasking – If I have to multitask I try to pair a thinking task with a task that is more automatic. Research has shown that the brain can do more than one thing at a time with precision if one of the tasks is embedded and doesn’t take thinking to complete.

With just these few strategies I have started to feel more effective in what I do and guess what…I am only 1/3 of the way through the book. I hope to learn more about my brain and how I can increase my mindfulness in my journey to working smarter and hopefully I can pass on some additional strategies to you.

Have you read Your Brain at Work or other books that have increased your effectiveness and helped you harness your distractions? What tips and strategies would you pass on to help others with these same challenges?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read this and more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Thinking Inside Your Box: an iPad activity without an iPad

I ran across a blog post this morning from iPads at Burley called Photography with 5th Grade Students. The teachers shared an idea for using photos and their student iPad cameras as a learning tool during a short science lesson. At first I dismissed it thinking “eMINTS classrooms don’t have iPads or access to those kinds of Apps”. But then I started wondering how easy it might be to recreate this learning experience with the hardware and access to online software that eMINTS’ students do have.

The person writing the blog post has a classroom full of iPads with Apps that the students used to make this idea possible. But this can easily be done in an eMINTS classroom as well.

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All eMINTS classrooms have digital cameras and the i3 classrooms have student and teacher laptops with a webcam that is similar to the built in camera on the iPad. Students all also have access to websites, like iPiccy or PicMonkey, where they can upload their pictures, edit them, and then save them back to their computer just like the students did with the Snapseed App in about the same time. In fact iPiccy lets you take a picture directly from your web cam into their editing tool. Students can then share the images easily through email, a class blog or student blog (or classroom website), and even Edmodo just like the students in this blog post did using the Edmodo App.

It’s very easy to think something can’t be done just because you don’t have the exact same hardware or web access. But if you take the time to think about what you do have sometimes you can find a way.

What are some ways you have been using media literacy and technology tools to make engaging classroom lessons for your students?

By the way, I came across this and many other great ideas for using iPads in classrooms through the ScoopIt! iPads in Education curated by John Evans. On the same ScoopIt! I also found a PDF app that lets you make your own PDF file editable without converting it to other format and more.

Brooke Higgins is an aspiring photographer and instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read this post and more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

SMART Notebook 11 – Coming Soon

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How did I miss the announcement??? Back on January 9, SMART Technologies announced the updates to SMART Notebook to be expected in SMART Notebook 11. I am super excited!

Here are some of the new features and capabilities:

  • Embedded web browser will allow users to insert a live browser page directly into a SMART Notebook file and then interact with that page. (I can’t wait to see how this works.)
  • Widgets, such as a dictionary and translator, will let users handwrite a search query, receive the answer and move that answer to the SMART Notebook software page. An avatar widget will let teachers bring their dynamic talking avatars into SMART Notebook 11 and save them to the Gallery. (It’s an embedded Voki). Widgets will be available for download at the SMART Exchange. SMART is even allowing 3rd party developers to create custom widgets.
  • Crayon feature that allows users to create authentic crayon drawings on the interactive whiteboard.
  • Customizable creative pen builds individual pen types based on any image.
  • Create activity objects with the activity builder tool that reacts to actions made by students or teachers with animations or sounds for engaging interactions.
  • Contextual toolbar that responds to actions by changing when users choose a certain object, giving them the required tool choices they need to work with that tool.
  • Reset page function brings the SMART Notebook software page back to its last saved state. (So much better than undo or clear page for those teachers that teach the same class multiple times.)
  • SMART Board 800 series interactive whiteboard and the SMART Board 8070i interactive display boards will now have 4 touch capability. (Wish I had access to one of these…I did get to play with one at the eMINTS Conference this past month and WOW it was pretty cool.)
  • SMART Notebook 11 is compatible with Microsoft® Windows 7®, Microsoft Windows XP®and both Mac Snow Leopard® and Mac OSX Lion operating system software. (Possibly my favorite addition – I really hope this takes care of many problems my eMINTS teachers have been having.)
  • Shake feature will allow for quick grouping and ungrouping of objects.
  • Audio recording records sound directly into a file.

To see all of the new features and functions of SMART Notebook 11 visit SMART Technologies. Watch the video Sneak Peak by clicking on the Video tab.

SMART Technologies usually makes the new software available in June or July, right around ISTE, but the media release said this version will be ready this Spring. Going to keep my fingers crossed and keep checking their site.

What new feature are you most excited about and in what ways do you plan on using SMART Notebook 11 to support learning in your classroom?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center. You can read this and more at her blog Higgins Helpful Hints Blog.

Thursday #eC12 – Design Patterns 2.0

Bernie Dodge’s eMINTS Conference breakout session, Design Patterns 2.0, focused around one of the most challenging parts of writing a WebQuest…. developing a task that engages students while pushing them to think at higher levels and then do something with the content they learn is tough. Bernie’s Design Patterns have long been a resource used in the eMINTS professional development sessions to support teachers as they write their first WebQuest. Design Patterns 2.0 is Dodge’s latest attempt to support teachers in the challenge of coming up with a good starting point to create original, quality WebQuests.

When beginning planning a WebQuest, Dodge suggests “starting at the end and looking at the kids”. Asking… What will they be doing for a living 15 years from now? What will they be doing for recreation? What issues will they be faces with? Dodge shared that “the success of people today and 15 years from now is when people have actually practiced and become good at…designing, deciding, analyzing, creating, predicting.” These are the excellent places for teachers to begin their WebQuest planning because “success is not about the nouns…success is about the verbs”.

So what’s new with Design Patterns 2.0? It’s now an interactive (click-able) matrix where a user chooses an anchor (person, place, thing, problem, activity) and a verb (deciding, designing, creating, analyzing, predicting). At the intersection point are questions that guide a user to help develop their WebQuest’s task and “create a lesson that engages higher-level thinking.”

A couple of tips shared at the session…for a beginner, pick one verb and anchor and do it well – for more experienced WebQuest creators build in more than one intersection point and design a more complex WebQuest.

You can see the Google presentation Bernie created to overview his ideas at http://webquest.org/questquilt.html. He hopes to turn it into a web app in the near future.

What’s your best tip for teachers creating their first or fiftieth WebQuest?

Brooke Higgins is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center and presenter at the eMINTS Conference 2012.