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Friday, August 5, 2016

The Updated 10 Ways to Show Off the Learning Beyond the Classroom

I first made this list last summer. With another year of experience behind me and changes with the tools I'm happy to share this updated and improved version. New items and information are clearly noted below.

When teachers and students show off the best things they learned, perceptions change and the culture changes. I want to make sure my district is known as a place where important learning happens every day.

But a lot of teachers in my district like hands-on, physical projects. Just how many art exhibits and science fairs can you do a year?

So I compiled this list so even those paintings done with real paint and the science experiment made of food can be shown off to the world.

I made this for the teachers I work with daily, so please keep in mind:
  • It is a tool for awareness, not a how-to guide. Teachers in my district would contact me for one on one help. Since most of you won't have that option, I added links below to many of my Tech Project Packs. They were designed to help teachers quickly incorporate tech into their projects. I wrote about them all on this blog here.
  • Most classrooms in my district use laptops or Chromebooks. I didn't include options for tablets with most of the ideas.

1) Live broadcasts of student presentations - Use The Cube
  • You can broadcast to the internet easily with an iPhone or iPad. 
  • Someone from your school will have to sign up and create an admin account at the site.
  • Share the link to your broadcast with parents or to the community beforehand so anyone can watch live. 
  • The recording can be left online, so people can watch it later if you want.
  • When using live video, be sure you have parent permission to post online and remember not to identify students by first and last name.
  • New information:
    • I actually didn't use The Cube in the past year, since I wasn't involved with any live broadcasts in my district. It appears that service still works as described here, but now the two social media options below might be better.
    • I have used Periscope for some personal projects and I love its simplicity.
    • And of course Facebook Live is a very popular way to go now.

2) Websites and Blogs - A simple site or blog (created by you or the students themselves) is the starting point for sharing all the other types of project presentations listed below.

3) A PDF ebook - Within seconds anything students make in Google Docs or Slides can be turned into a PDF. From there it can be posted on any blog or website so anyone can open or download it like an ebook.
  • With the file open, go to the File menu and select the option to Download as PDF.
  • Once the PDF is downloaded, upload it to Drive again and share it as needed.
  • New information: This tutorial is specifically about making a comic, but it does show the process of downloading a PDF from Google Slides.

4) InfoPics - If he didn’t invent this simple concept, Tony Vincent is the one who named it and he sings its praises. This really is just a process of adding notes or other text to pictures that are related to a topic. 
  • Here's Tony’s blog post about it (with examples).
  • It would be very easy for students to make these and share the images on a website or blog.The pictures could also be shared by a teacher or a parent on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook or any other social network.
  • The device you like to use will dictate the tools, but I’d suggest Google Drawings for computers or Chromebooks. is a good tool on many devices if you want to add more effects to your pictures.
  • New information:

5) Infographics
- Students can create infographic images to show facts in a concise, visually appealing way.
  • Finished graphics can be posted on social media or websites and blogs.
  • Piktochart is a great tool for this.
  • Users can log in on Piktochart with their Google accounts.
  • Here’s a good article from Matt Smith with ideas for Piktochart in many subjects.
  • New information:
    • They have added a presentation option to Piktochart. Now with the click of a button the infographic can be used as a more traditional slideshow for live presentations.
    • Here's my Tech Project Pack for infographics.

6) Audio Recordings (podcasts) - Students can create audio recordings and share them online in a variety of ways. These can be completed much faster than a video project. Here are a few details.

7) Virtual books on Flipsnack - This site is a great tool that turns any PDF into a fun virtual book. 
  • Important Note: I found out if students sign in using a Google Apps for Education account it uses the first and last name in the URLs. This is not a good practice. See the link to my new tutorial below about changing the username so it doesn't include student names.
  • I usually create the PDF in Google Slides or Google Docs first, then upload to Flipsnack.
  • Here’s an example I use for a comic assignment.
  • Users can sign into Flipsnack with their Google accounts.
  • Free Flipsnack accounts are limited to three virtual books at a time.
  • New information: Here's an updated video tutorial on turning a Google Slides presentation into a Flipsnack. Be sure to watch the part that shows how to change the username in Flipsnack.

8) Screen Recordings - Think of these as somewhat informal recordings of something the students show on the screen. 
  • These are great for tutorials or presentations.
  • Here’s an example from a teacher who has his students use this method a lot.
  • They’re informal because editing is usually not part of the process. Students need to practice before recording!
  • On a computer with a mic, use Screencast-o-Matic.
  • Final results can be uploaded to Google Drive or YouTube for sharing as necessary.
  • New information: I used to highly recommend the SnagIt Chrome extension for Chromebooks or any computer running the Chrome browser. Unfortunately that will be discontinued. I have heard good things about Nimbus and I have used it a few times. I like it, but don't have a tutorial ready yet.

9) Digital slideshows - These are a series of pictures combined into a video by using an editing program.
  • These are a step up from screen recordings because you can (and should) edit them.
  • Students can add audio. It might be just background music or they can narrate the slideshow.
  • With narration, these become presentations that present themselves.
  • They make a good introduction to video production, but don’t require as much time.
  • New information: Forget everything you read from my blog about previous methods for this! I now recommend Adobe Spark Videos as the best tool by far. See this video tutorial for an example and how-to tips.

10) Videos - Producing a good video is the pinnacle of technology integration in most classes.
  • Good videos require several technology skills and a deep understanding of class content. 
  • There is a huge range of possibilities for complexity. Don’t just tell students they can “make a video”! Know the options and set guidelines that are appropriate for your students.
  • Here are my tips for teachers and students for any video project.
  • New information:
    • I'm in the process up updating some resources for these projects. Honestly, I've found they take a long time and I have been encouraging the digital slideshows over full videos. I will say I now prefer the paid version of WeVideo for the editor. I hope to have more updated information for video projects in the weeks ahead.
    • I did post about two video projects we did this year. One was a team building challenge and the other was designed to introduce students to iMovie on an iPad.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Two Great Tools for Creative Presentation Options - Think beyond PowerPoint

Teachers often ask me for presentation options that get them beyond PowerPoint. Adobe Spark fills this need perfectly!

I just finished new videos for easy, creative presentations and projects using Adobe Spark. I showed these (and Posts, the third option) to teachers a couple weeks ago and they took to it immediately. It came out in mid-May, too late for me to push it big in my district, but I suspect it will be a very popular tool this new school year.

Keep in mind both of these tools should be useful for teachers and students. They work great on Chromebooks or any computer. iPad apps are available too.

I strongly recommend that every teacher learn these tools before school starts up. Believe me, they won't take long to get the basics.

This first video is an overview and some tips for creating what they call Pages. These are very attractive webpages that can be used to tell a story, report on a classroom activity or just about anything else you'd make that uses pictures and text.

The video is below, but here's the sample page I created and that you'll see in the first part of the video.

This next tutorial features the Adobe Spark Videos. The tool is by far the simplest one I've found for making an attractive digital slideshow. Even adding narration is a breeze.

You might be interested in these related posts:

Friday, June 24, 2016

Comic resources updated for 2016 and a new page added

I had the privilege of presenting at the Chrome Lab conference in Milan, Michigan this week. It was at the Milan Center for Innovative Studies, which is one of my favorite facilities to teach and learn*.

Many thanks to the two fine teachers pictured at the right for their help in posing for our comic. Notice we incorporated "props" from

My session was on Creative Comics with Google Tools, so I put in a lot of time to update the resources. I decided to dedicate a whole page to it here on the blog.

You can find in the menu above or by clicking here.

It links to my comics resource page, which I also updated considerably.

You can also follow the tweets from the section at our hashtag, #CLComics16.

*It was a special bonus for me to visit the Center this year, since I found out one of my former math students teaches math there!

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Question and Answer Sessions with Game Designers

I worked with students in our game design virtual club to generate a list of questions to send to game designers. Here are two replies that I received. In each video the designer answers several questions.

The first response is from John du Bois. He is the designer of Avignon: A Clash of Popes, a game that was successful on Kickstarter earlier this year.

He answered these questions from my group, as well as some from a game design class taught by Kevin Crowther:
  • How do you know if a game you are working on is good?
  • Do the rules of games have to follow certain guidelines or can they be however the designer wants them to be?

The second video is from David Whitcher. Several of David's games have been published, with the most recent one, Star Trek: Five Year Mission, making a big splash at GenCon last year.

He answered these questions and a few from the other class:
  • What kinds of games do you think publishers want? And what are some types you think they don't want?
  • What software and books do I need to get started?

David told me later that the free online class he referred to is from this site. He said it is for both digital and non-digital games and it should be good for beginners. He did point out that he disagreed with the way they used the term "playtesting". Both David and I (in all materials I've written for this blog) use it to refer to the process of testing the game.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Using Adobe Spark to Add Text to Images

A quick "tech project" that can sum up the learning or share good ideas is what some people call "infopics". Students simply add some text to a picture.

I've written about several tools that will let you do this easily. Now Adobe has released Spark, a creative tool that makes this (as well as some other digital creations) simple with very attractive results.

I created this video tutorial that shows the process.

There are Adobe Spark apps for iOS and Andorid as well. Each app creates one of the three project types the web app can create. This particular project is called the Post.

If you're interested in more resources about this image with text project, see my Project Pack about it here. The post with all my Project Packs can be found at this link.