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5 of the Best Digital Storytelling Applications

Posted on Wed, Jul 03, 2013 @ 12:07 PM

In our experience, one of the best ways to reach our reluctant readers is with digital storytelling applications. Sure, digital storytelling still involves writing, but what makes it more engaging—and often less intimidating—than traditional writing is that it uses technology like audio, video and digital imagery. We’ve talked about Storybird and digital comic book generators before, but we want to share a few more of our favorite digital storytelling applications with you.

5 of the Best Digital Storytelling Applications

digital storytellingPeanut Gallery is a free web application that allows users to add inter-titles to silent films like Phantom of the Opera, Voyage to the Moon, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Dick Tracy Meets Gruesome and seven other films. What’s unique about this application is that the inter-titles are created by speaking into a computer microphone. Now for the bad news: Peanut Gallery can only be run in Google Chrome because it requires the Web Speech API to turn your audio into text.

digital storytellingBombay TV is one of the quirkiest digital storytelling sites we’ve come across. Select clips from old Bollywood movies and write or record your own subtitles. Once you’re done, enter an email address and send it off.

Pic Lits. We’vdigital storytellinge written about Flash Fiction before, but if you need a refresher, it’s basically prose of extreme brevity. Writers like H.P. Lovecraft, O. Henry and Kurt Vonnegut were fans of it, but we became acquainted with it after reading Earnest Hemingway’s six-word story.

Pic Lits is the perfect place to put the Flash Fiction into practice. Here you’ll find a gallery of photos and a collection of nouns, adjectives, adverbs and universals that you can drag and drop onto the photo. If you prefer not to limit your word choices, you can always freestyle and add your own. When you are done, you can either save, share, or email your work.

digital storytellingUsing Comic Master’s sleek and intuitive interface, users can design their own graphic novel. Browse characters, add backgrounds, props, dialogue, captions, special effects and simply drag and drop. When you’re happy with your graphic novel either save it to your hard drive or email it.

digital storytellingDigital Films gives users the ability to choose and customize background scenes, characters, animated actions, dialog as well as intro and ending credits to their digital movie. Registered users will be able to access more advanced features and save/edit the movies that they create.

 

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Topics: Technology in the Classroom, apps for educators, apps for teachers, reluctant writers, digital storytelling, reluctant readers

Enhance your science curriculum with 5 free science video series

Posted on Tue, Jun 11, 2013 @ 10:06 AM

We’ve often wondered where our science curriculum would be without all of the free videos we find on the Internet. Not only do videos introduce a new voice into the classroom, they help us bring clarity to abstract concepts and present them in engaging (and often very entertaining) ways. So that you don’t have to spend hours perusing the Internet for the best videos to enhance your science curriculum, we’ve done it for you. Here are five of our favorites:

Enhance your science curriculum with 5 free science video series

science curriculumVideoSci curates the best science videos from all over the Internet, so you don’t have to wade through the clutter yourself. Each video offers a brief synopsis along with a commenting and rating system. There is an extensive tag system and categories for exploring videos of your taste easily.

science curriculumWe’ve gushed over the Green brothers before (we’re big fans of their Crash Course video series), but we only recently discovered another series they’ve put together called SciShow. Like Crash Course, SciShow is substantive, but also entertaining. Their series offers a wide range of videos that cover anything from “The Science of Lying,” and “What is the Oldest Tree in the World?” to Great Minds, a series in which each episode highlights a new scientist.

science curriculumThe periodic table contains 118 elements and the University of Nottingham has made a video for each one! In addition to these videos, you’ll find films about other areas of chemistry along with the latest news and occasional adventures away from the lab.

science curriculumPerhaps you’d like to take a 3D hike at Machu Picchu? Maybe you want to know how you can get an ant to carry a sign with a personalized message on it or know why a cat always lands on its feet? Smarter Every Day can help.

 



science curriculumMinute Physics
offers a collection of narrated, time-lapsed drawings to explain physics-related topics in roughly one minute. Henry Reich, the creator of the series, will cover anything from “How Big is the Universe?” and “Top 10 Reasons Why We Know the Earth is Round” to “Is There Poop on the Moon” and “Is it Better to Walk or Run in the Rain?”

 

 

Download our FREE guide:  50 No-Nonsense, No Fluff Apps for Teachers

Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Instructional Technology Graduate Programs, Best Apps for Educators, Technology in the Classroom, apps for educators, science curriculum

Enhance your reading curriculum with these 3 free audiobook databases

Posted on Thu, May 30, 2013 @ 15:05 PM

One of our colleagues, an English professor and self-proclaimed book addict, once admitted that he always kept a book of literary theory on the passenger seat of his car so that he could read during red lights. While we can’t in good conscience recommend this, we do want to refer you to three free audiobook databases that’ll give you the ability to safely polish off a classic and drive at the same time.

Why audiobooks?

  • They make sitting in traffic tolerable—even pleasant
  • We’ve also seen how enthusiastic our struggling readers are about them
  • They’re completely free
  • They give students’ digital access to many of the texts we use in our literature courses

Enhance your reading curriculum with these 3 free audiobook databases

To date, LibriVox has 6,483 audiobook titles and all of them are free. All of the works on the site are in the public domain and are read by volunteers. If you or your students are so inclined, you can become a volunteer reader. No experience is required and LibriVox accepts everyone regardless of their language, accent or delivery style. That said, we continue to be impressed with the quality of the readers.

 reading curriculum

Lit2Go is another free audiobook collection of stories and poems. Not only is the site sleekly designed and easy to navigate, you’ll also find an abstract, citation, playing time, and word count for each text. Many of the passages also identify related reading strategies. Each reading passage can also be downloaded as a PDF and printed for use as a read-along or as supplemental reading material for your classroom.

reading curriculumOpen Culture is in the business of curating any cultural or educational media as long as it’s free. In addition to a nice collection of free audiobooks, expect to find free online courses, textbooks, movies and language lessons.

reading curriculum

 

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Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Instructional Technology Graduate Programs, Best Apps for Educators, Technology in the Classroom, apps for educators, Master's in Educational Technology Online, audiobooks

Rebecca Black, “Friday,” and your students’ digital footprint

Posted on Tue, May 21, 2013 @ 08:05 AM

digital footprintWhen 13-year-old Rebecca Black’s parents handed ARK Music Factory a $4,000 check to have them cut a single and create an accompanying music video for their daughter, they couldn’t possibly have imagined what would happen.  

Four months after “Friday” was recorded, filmed and posted to YouTube it went viral, receiving 166 million views and 3.2 million “dislikes.” Not long after, comedians like Jimmy Fallon and Steven Colbert lampooned the “so-bad-it’s-good” single and critics unanimously echoed that “Friday” was “the worst song ever written.” The derision must have stung, but it was only further exasperated by bullying at school, ominous phone calls and emails containing death threats.

Browse YouTube and you’ll see hundreds of thousands of videos and songs far worse (“worse” is relative, of course) than Rebecca Black’s. Few of them will ever be noticed; few will ever receive 166 million views and twice as many “dislikes”; few of them will be remembered a decade later and come up in conversation at a cocktail party.

This 13-year-old did absolutely nothing wrong—and as cliché as it is to say it, she was truly in the wrong place at the wrong time. Nonetheless, odds are that “Friday” is going tag along with Black this Friday, the Friday after next and the one ten years after that. Time will tell.

What does this have to do with our students?
Although Rebecca Black’s experience may be a bit of a hyperbolic way to segue into a conversation about our students’ digital footprint, her experience does give them reason to reflect on the marks they leave behind when they post pictures, comments and videos on the Internet.

Everything we do online leaves a trail; it may wind and evolve as we age, but it will always point back to us. Colleges and universities are increasingly reviewing this footprint when they decide who is going to be receiving a letter of acceptance. Employers, too, are beginning to conduct informal digital background checks on applicants before offering them a position. Showing up for the interview is the second impression, not the first. And thanks to our digital footprint, personas begin to take shape the moment our parents post photos of us as newborns.

A discussion that truly unpacks the impact of our digital footprint deserves a book. We simply wish to get the conversation started so that you can continue it with your students. If you’re looking for a way to get started, we recommend checking out a five-minute, TED-Talks episode featuring Juan Enriquez. In it, Enriquez uses insights from Greek and Latin American mythology to make sense of the surprisingly permanent effects of digital sharing on our personal privacy.

Download our FREE guide:  50 No-Nonsense, No Fluff Apps for Teachers

Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Instructional Technology Graduate Programs, Technology in the Classroom, classroom technology, Online Education, digital footprint, Rebecca Black

5 Apps to Enhance Those Run-of-the-Mill Poetry Lessons

Posted on Tue, Apr 16, 2013 @ 10:04 AM

April means a couple of things to educators: poetry and taxes. Although we hate to make any associations between the two, the way we feel about taxes may (unfortunately) mirror the way many of our students feel about poetry. In a recent blog we offered two alternative poetry lessons to make enthusiasts out of even your most reluctant students, but we realized that our technologists may be feeling a bit left out. So here are 5 of our favorite apps for enhancing your April poetry lessons.

5 Apps to Enhance Those Run-of-the-Mill Poetry Lessons

poetry lessons 1The Poetry App (free)
We’ve always believed that good poetry should be read aloud and it looks like the Josephine Hart Poetry Foundation shares our opinion.

The opening screen of The Poetry App takes you into a cozy, book-lined study, complete with portraits and a crackling fireplace. Tap paintings on the wall and you’ll be able to listen to 30 performers (including Juliet Stevenson, Jeremy Irons, Dan Stevens and Eileen Atkins) as they read work from some of the most beloved poets in history. This is only half of it.

Tap on "My Poems" and you’ll find a template not only to write your own poems, but also to record them and then share (both text and performance) via email. Stuck for a word? There is an "inspire me" button that provides word clouds of poets' favorite vocabulary that just may ignite a creative spark!

poetry lessons 2Instant Poetry ($2.28)
By providing your students with random words, which they can simply drag and drop onto their screen, Instant Poetry gives your students the creative nudge they need to create their own masterpiece.

After students select a theme, the app’s algorithm provides you with an endless stream of related words. Your students will also enjoy adding their own backdrop photos, customizing font, and having the ability to email their work.

poetry lessons 3.jpgMagnetic Poetry (free)
Magnetized words have found their way onto countless refrigerators and for good reason: they’re a blast. Now your students can have the same fun, but do it online. Like Instant Poetry, this web application allows users to simply drag and drop words. Don’t like the “word hand” you’ve been dealt? No problem, click on “more words,” piece together your poem, and email it when you’re done.

poetry lessons 4.jpgRhyme Zone (free)
If you’re worried about your students “playing tennis with the net down” and feel, like Robert Frost did, that poems must have form and rhyme, send them over to Rhyme Zone. Your students will appreciate being able to organize the results by syllable and letter. You can also include phrases, which renders some interesting results. 

poetry lessons 5Poetry (free)
Poetry allows you to take thousands of poems—from Shakespeare to T.S. Eliot and Emily Dickinson—with you wherever you go. We’re particularly fond of the app’s “shuffle effect,” which randomly selects a poem whenever you give your phone a shake.

 

 

Download our FREE guide:  50 No-Nonsense, No Fluff Apps for Teachers

 

 

Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Instructional Technology Graduate Programs, Best Apps for Educators, Technology in the Classroom, writing strategies, writing skills, apps for educators

Effective feedback made easy—or at least easier—with GradeMark

Posted on Thu, Mar 21, 2013 @ 16:03 PM

Providing our seffective feedbacktudents with effective feedback is a challenge not only due to the sheer volume of essays many of us have to read, but also because it can be so tedious. Often there are so many things we want to address that we wonder where or how we should begin. We recently offered a few tips for giving effective feedback and thought a discussion about GradeMark, a new online tool for grading papers, would make a nice companion piece.

Effective feedback made easy—or at least easier—with GradeMark

Instead of submitting hard copies of their work, students simply upload their essay to GradeMark. This not only frees you from having to lug around stacks of essays, you’ll also save printing ink and never again will you chase down hard copy papers (that may or may not have been submitted to your mailbox). “But I can already do this through email and Microsoft Word,” you say.  Not so fast.

Once you open a document in GradeMark, you are free to:

  • Add comments within the body of the paper
  • Point out grammar and punctuation mistakes
  • Evaluate the paper against qualitative or quantitative rubrics
  • Assess the student’s performance within the class
  • Reduce plagiarism by running an originality report
  • Enter a grade for the paper that is automatically saved into GradeBook.

Here’s the best part: Grademark combines several methods of evaluation which makes providing effective feedback infinitely easier than working with hard copies or within Microsoft Word:

  • Drag and drop fully-customizable comments. Say, for example, that your student commonly misuses the comma. Instead of inserting all of the commas for the student, simply drag and drop the “missing comma” icon onto the page and type up a short explanation about why the comma is necessary.
  • Add marginal comments by typing directly on the draft or drag and drop quick marks. You can also attach lengthier comments to the essay.
  • Add voice messages. There are times when it’s easier to just say what you mean instead of writing it. Now you can. 
  • Use rubric scoring. Set up rubrics and attach them to the assignments so you can illustrate what specific improvements need to be made.

We’re sorry to say that we can’t tell you how much the program costs, but GradeMark will provide you with a quote if you fill out their short request form—which will only take you a minute.

If you’re looking for more ways to offer your students’ effective feedback, check out one of our recent blogs, “Are you providing effective feedback? Or are your students just ignoring you?”

 

Download our FREE guide:  50 No-Nonsense, No Fluff Apps for Teachers

Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Instructional Technology Graduate Programs, Best Apps for Educators, Technology in the Classroom, classroom technology, writing strategies, effective feedback, writing skills

How to “Declutter” webpages & save your school ink and paper

Posted on Tue, Feb 26, 2013 @ 13:02 PM

Print friendlyHow much paper and ink do you think you and your students waste every day printing out needless advertisements and sidebar images instead of the web copy you actually intended to print? A couple of wasted pages might not seem like a big deal, but when you factor in the number of print jobs happening at your school on a given day, it’s going to add up.  

If you’d like to get rid of ads, navigation tools and sundry web garbage, all you have to do is copy and paste the webpage URL into PrintFriendly.

Instead of looking like this:

Print Friendly

 

...PrintFriendly will make your webpage look like this:

Print Friendly
PrintFriendly also allows users to easily edit webcopy, change text size, and remove images. Once you’re done you can either convert your text to a PDF file, email or print it

We’d like to thank our friends over at Educational Technology and Mobile Learning for turning us on to this awesome app. If you’re looking for more ways to “declutter” your Internet experience, check out one of our recent blogs, “5 YouTube shortcuts Every Teacher Needs to Know.”

 

 

Download our FREE guide:  50 No-Nonsense, No Fluff Apps for Teachers

Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Best Apps for Educators, Technology in the Classroom

Make Writing Less Intimidating with these 5 Digital Storytelling Apps

Posted on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 @ 10:01 AM

Storytelling is an indispensable human activity, one that we use not only to convey our identity and experience, but also to convince others of our arguments. Because storytelling is so important, we believe it’s important that we encourage students to tell their stories—and in a way that challenges and inspires them. One way to get students excited about storytelling is by using a medium that they not only love, but are completely comfortable with: technology.

As with  traditional storytelling, students must write, but what makes digital storytelling engaging—and often less intimidating—for students is that it gives them the ability to add computer-based images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips and/or music. If you’re looking for a few applications to get your storytellers started, we’ve got 5 of them to get you on your way.

Make Writing Less Intimidating with these 5 Digital Storytelling Apps

digital storytelling1Scared of Words
(Free)
The folks over at Learn Direct have created two digital story generators that give students visual and textual control over the plot. Once students have customized their character, dragged and dropped animals, food or accessories onto the pages, they’re asked to rewrite words and phrases in the story to reflect those changes. And once your students have created their masterpiece, they can either print or save as a PDF. In addition to this, they can even enter their story into a competition for a chance to have their book professionally printed and bound! 

digital storytelling2Marvel Kids (Free)
Pop culture can’t get enough of superheroes and neither can our students—which is why you may want to swing by Marvel Kids! We’ve talked about using comic book generators in the classroom before, but this website wasn’t on our radar at the time. With Marvel Kids, users can create a 1 to 3 page panel strip or, if they’re ambitious, a 1 to 22 page comic book where they control the sound effects, characters, thought bubbles and dialogue. Once they’re done, they can save to the desktop or print.

digital storytelling3Storyboard That (Free; limited account)
Storyboard That gives students the ability to create rich and powerful storyboards without having to download or negotiate tedious software. Choose from either three or six frame templates and browse their library of over 25,000 images. And when you’re ready, start customizing your dialogue and text boxes.

The app is free, but users can only create two storyboards a day and will have limited editing capabilities. Monthly accounts ($2.79) give teachers unlimited usage and access to a portal for up to 50 students—which means that they can view all of their students’ storyboards, offer editing suggestions or collaborate with students to change them.

digital storytelling4.pngTalking Tom and Ben News (Free)
Tom and Ben, a dog and cat news-anchor duo, have a show, but you’re in charge of what they say and do. Younger students will love having them talk to one another, repeat what you say in turns and record it for playback.

Users are also able to customize the app by uploading personal videos! Just press the TV button in the app to record a video with the camera or choose one of your existing videos from your Photos gallery. Once your personal video is in the app, you’re ready to get this canine-feline duo talking.

digital storytelling5.png.jpgStudent Publishing (Free)
Want to make your students into published authors? No problem, Student Publishing will provide the platform to make it happen. Use Student Publishing’s online book-making tool to illustrate 12-page stories with paintable backgrounds, sticker graphics and uploaded photos. Use the PDF upload option to easily publish work your students create by hand or with other computer programs. But that’s not all! Student Publishing even gives you the ability to create a free, hardbound classroom book up to 64 pages long!

If you're looking for new ways to enhance your curriculum or capture your students' attention, download our guide, Surfing for Substance: 50 No-Nonsense, No Fluff Apps for Teachers.

Download our FREE guide:  50 No-Nonsense, No Fluff Apps for Teachers

Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Instructional Technology Graduate Programs, Best Apps for Educators, Technology in the Classroom, classroom technology, apps for educators, Master's in Educational Technology Online, digital storytelling

Start building vocabulary with these 5 interactive websites and apps

Posted on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 @ 12:11 PM

building vocabulary with iPadsWe’ve all experienced the frustration of having a brilliant, ten-thousand-dollar idea and then stammering because we couldn’t conjure up the right word(s) to articulate it. Even worse than that is having to admit that we never knew the word we were looking for in the first place! You may pride yourself as a wordsmith, but be honest, this has happened to you—and it certainly happens to our students. Make stammering history and start your students’ vocabulary building routine with these 5 FREE (or nearly free) websites and apps:

5 vocabulary building websites and apps

Chicktionary (FREE)
This game is too cute for its own good—that is, until you misspell a word and experience the roosters’ curmudgeonly squawk.

As you may have guessed, it’s a chicken-themed spelling and vocabulary-building game and this one is truly a physical experience. Unscramble a “roost” of letters and create as many words as you can in as little time as possible. Spell your word and tap on it to reveal the definition. Not satisfied with your choices? Shake your iPad to shuffle the letters and get a “farm-fresh” look at your word options.

The Opposites (FREE for a limited time period)
This vocabulary building app will work for anyone between the ages of seven and seventeen. The Opposites asks students to match up pairs of opposing words in increasingly difficult levels. It starts easy enough, but gradually introduces your students to more challenging and ambiguous word combinations. Eventually they’ll be working with stranger and more esoteric pairings from biology, economics, medicine and poetry. Included is a customized, user-friendly dictionary designed specifically for the game.

Vocabulary.com (FREE)
With more than 100,000 multiple-choice questions and an intuitive system that refines word choice and grows with your students, vocabulary building is a cinch. Got a question wrong? No problem, the system will take note of it and schedule review and progress questions. Are your students preparing for the SAT exam? Are they reading The Life of Pi or studying The Emancipation Proclamation?  How about one of President Obama’s press conferences? No problem, Vocabulary.com has a rotating section where users can create and share their own vocab lists.

Weird Word of the Day (FREE)
We were going to try to introduce this app in a witty way, but alas, they beat us to it: “Sometimes when I'm riding in my telega, and I come to a quadrivial, I get out my peirameter for a bit of stradometrical fun. Is this mazy description giving you a scotoma? Maybe you should download this free app and mundify the situation.”

This app contains over 15,000 new weird words, which should—if our math is right—cover you for the next 41.096 years.

Word a Day Visuals and Audio ($.99)
Say “vocabulary building” and watch your students’ faces sour. Pull out your iPad, say “Word a Day Visuals and Audio” and stop the groaning once and for all. This app uses funny illustrations, word scrambles, news items and audio content to help your students build and retain their vocabulary.

Download our FREE guide:  50 No-Nonsense, No Fluff Apps for Teachers

Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Instructional Technology Graduate Programs, Best Apps for Educators, Technology in the Classroom, classroom technology, Master's in Educational Technology Online, vocabulary building

Tired of lugging around notebooks? Try student blogs instead!

Posted on Wed, Nov 07, 2012 @ 09:11 AM

We love reading our students’ journals—but honestly, we could do without the cumbersome, spiral-bound notebooks we lug back and forth from school every day. Our gut tells us that you feel the same, so leave the luggage for spring break and give student blogs a shot. It’s simple, free, paperless and we’re confident that your students will love it.

kidblog student blogsKidblog
Kidblog gives you the ability to create a secure classroom blogging community, one that you are able to oversee and make public at your discretion. But it’s so much more than a student blog:

Create classroom discussions and have your students respond from home after they’ve carefully reflected on the topic; or have your students design an e-portfolio, one complete with their favorite YouTube videos, slideshows and audio clips. If that’s not enough to convince you, how about the fact that it’s cost-free, ad-free, email-free and that set-up time takes 25 seconds. Literally.

edublogs student blogsEdublogs
Like Kidblog, Edublogs allows you to create and manage student blogs and discussion forums. Your kids will love the fact that they can customize their blog by choosing from over 140 unique themes, widgets, colors and custom backgrounds.

Want to collaborate with other teachers? Add your blog to the Edublog directory and create a community. Want to limit your students’ web access, go ahead and block search engines. Sick of trying to keep passwords straight, quickly set a single password for your entire blog which you can give out to anyone you want. If 32 MB of storage is sufficient for you, membership is completely free. Need more storage? No problem. For a few dollars a month, you can always upgrade.

Although blogs have been around since the 90s, using blogging in the classroom is, relatively speaking, in its infancy. Nonetheless, educators are finding that student blogs can be an excellent tool to promote literacy and writing skills; blogging can also increase student involvement because it uses a medium students find engaging and comfortable. If you’d like to read more about student blogs, check out one of our recent articles, 5 reasons you should consider using blogging in the classroom.

 

Download our FREE guide:  50 No-Nonsense, No Fluff Apps for Teachers

Topics: Educational Technology, Educational Technology Master's Degree, Educational Technology Programs, Best Apps for Educators, Technology in the Classroom, classroom technology, Virtual learning, Elearning

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