Sunday, September 29, 2013

Apps for Six-word Memoirs

The 11th grade ELA teacher recently asked me to help with a project where students would summarize their recently completed memoirs into just six words, then add those words to a photo of themselves.  This notion allegedly stems from a challenge made to Ernest Hemingway when he was asked to write just such a short story.

Any search will bring up a ton of examples and challenges related to the idea. I like this project as we are doing it because students are always eager to present their passions in fun ways and the technology is just a tool, not taking the spotlight.

Our first task was to create a video of examples from the teaching staff.  I used those memoirs and photos to zero in on a good, flexible way for students to make their memoirs. Students will be using their own devices or possibly computers in the lab this upcoming week. 

I started with the Aviary app (available on Android and iOS) on my iPad because it is simple, but has a lot of good features for adjustments and effects. It is usually my go-to app for quick classroom projects involving photo editing. I made the first few memoirs with it, but soon grew tired of the one available font. Here's an example where I simply cropped the picture and added text using Aviary.

This led me to try Pixlr Express, another app I have on my iPad, but rarely use. I always liked the control it offers, but with control comes more options. aviary had been my preference as it fell between Instagram and Pixlr for control and simplicity

After editing several of these memoirs on my iPad and computer, though, I have to say I am very impressed with Pixlr. I am now recommending that to the students for their devices for this project. Since the same tool is available on their website as well, it makes a perfect option all students can use after seeing just an example or two.  As you'll see on the website, there are three versions.  I recommend the Express version as a good blend between ease of use and control of the final result.

Here's my six-word memoir for this project. Most of the look of the photo came from the room's lighting rather than a feature of Pixlr. I really appreciate the variety of fonts and the ability to adjust the strength of any effect with the slider. The only downside I had to get used to was it is easy to accidentally apply a bit of text before moving it in place. There's an undo button, but it still requires the user to start that piece of text from scratch. 

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