Posted on November 30, 2010 by Ollie Dreon
I’ve been known to agonize over the images I include in presentations or projects. I search around looking for the perfect photo that communicates exactly what I want to say. In the past, I’ve avoided Microsoft’s Online Clip Art site. The site was difficult to use and most of the content was not that usable. Some of the content was cartoonish and not really acceptable for a professional presentation or any sort of publication.
Over the summer, however, the Microsoft Clip Art website underwent some tremendous improvements. By partnering with companies like iStockphoto and Fotolia, the website now offers professional quality images that can be found and downloaded easily. While the old version of the Microsoft Online Clip Art site only allowed images to be downloaded into Microsoft’s Clip Art application, the new site allows users to download images directly to their hard drive. Rather than saving the files in some odd file type that is proprietary to Microsoft, all of the images are now downloaded as JPEGs, a common file type that can be opened by many applications. This allows the images to be used in a variety of projects, both online and in traditional print.
It is easy to forget that our students receive information through a variety of different channels. While it is important to select informative texts for our students and structure engaging classroom discussions, we also need to attend to the visual aspects of our lessons. Selecting relevant high quality images that correspond to the content of our lessons is one step in this process. The updated Microsoft Clip Art website has made the process of finding and downloading images a little easier.
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Posted on November 23, 2010 by Ollie Dreon
I’m a huge fan of Wallace and Gromit. For those of you who have never crossed paths with the British duo, Wallace and Gromit are clay figures who are brought to life through a painstaking process called stop motion animation. In stop motion animation, lifeless objects are photographed as they are manipulated through a series of subtle changes. The photographs are assembled into a film which makes it look like as if objects are actually moving. The final products are impressive and represent thousands of hours of work.
SAM animation brings the stop motion animation process to the classroom. Designed specifically for students and educators, SAM animation allows users to take photos through a webcam to seamlessly create short stop motion videos. The product is extremely easy to use. Students can place a laptop in front of a dry erase board, turn on their webcam and start recording their first stop motion videos. The best feature of SAM animation is that the previous image appears like a ghost over the active screen, allowing users to make a subtle change based on an object’s previous placement. A demonstration copy of SAM animation is free and allows users to access most of the basic features of the product.
Stop motion animation can be a powerful addition to our classrooms. Instead of assessing students through traditional paper and pencil means, products like SAM animation allow students to take the role of a movie director and author content to share with the world. When developing a stop motion animation video (or any digital story), students must access a multitude of cognitive skills and abilities to create their finished product. While the movies can still be used to assess student learning, stop motion animation projects incorporate 21st Century Skills and encourage students to apply their learning in the creation of new media.
Check out this example created by one of my students, Marshall Edens. Marshall is currently an intern teacher at Conestoga Valley High School and created this stop motion video on Mitosis. The most entertaining part of the video is that he uses candy like Pixie Stix and Tootsie Rolls to demonstrate a complicated science concept. Great job, Marshall.
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Posted on November 23, 2010 by Ollie Dreon
Congratulations to Dr. Jennifer Shettel from Millersville University who won the drawing for a copy of Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts by Will Richardson. Thanks to all who participated by commenting last week and for all of you who have been loyal readers of the 8 Blog.
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Posted on November 15, 2010 by Ollie Dreon
Happy Birthday to the 8 Blog! So, it has been a year since I started this blogging adventure and I wanted to mix things up a little to celebrate the 8′s birthday. For the last year, I’ve been sharing ideas for how educators can build more social learning experiences into their classes. I have introduced blogs, wikis, social networks, Google Docs and bunch of other tools that can make classrooms more collaborative environments for student learning. Despite its meager beginning, the 8 Blog has been a real success. Almost 3,000 visitors have checked out the blog in the last year and visitors have come from 27 different countries across the globe. Even though I teach my students about the power of social media, I’ve honestly been very humbled by this entire experience.
But one of my original objectives with starting this blog was to foster conversations around teaching with technology. While I’ve received a few emails from readers and a few people have commented on posts I’ve made, the online discourse has been limited. Rather than post a new idea this week, I’m encouraging my readers to go to the 8 Blog and post a comment. You can share an idea for a future post or talk about a project you’ve developed with one of the tools I’ve featured. You can respond to a comment from another reader or just say “Hello.” Whatever participation you choose, stop by the 8 Blog and post a comment. Next Monday, I’ll randomly select one person who has left a comment and send him or her a copy of Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts by Will Richardson. It’s my way of thanking all of you for your loyal readership and support this last year.
Filed under: Blogging | 5 Comments »
Posted on November 9, 2010 by Ollie Dreon
Some people look down on comics and comic books. They probably remember some nerdy kid sitting in the back of the classroom hiding an Iron Man comic behind his geography textbook. Although I may or may not have been that nerdy kid, I must say that comics have come a long way since my childhood. Take a look at literature. Graphic novels are now part of mainstream literature with books like The Complete Persepolis and The Watchmen receiving widespread acclaim. These stories are complex works of literature that masterfully balance the visual and textual to deliver a unique experience for readers. These “comics” are much more mature works of fiction than those stories of Superman saving Lois Lane from a burning building.
If teachers can take a step away from their preconceived notions of those superhero comics or the Garfield dailys and examine a graphic novel (or any comic) from literacy and educational perspectives, it’s pretty clear that comics can be ideal ways to engage students. Incorporating comics as forms of literature may help some students visualize the story better. In comics, characters and setting are visually established and much of the story is offered through written dialogue. Besides reading comics, however, students could also be involved in writing their own comics. When creating a comic as a classroom assignment, students would need to convey their understanding of a topic through their writing and then use the content as a vehicle to tell a story. Include the creative aspects of laying out the panels artistically and comics become a tremendous interdisciplinary assessment tool that draws on the multitude of talents that our students possess.
While there are many comic creating tools available to educators (ComicLife, for instance), one of my favorites is Pixton. Pixton is a web-based application that allows users to create multi-panel comics. Pixton offers free accounts to users and the site is really easy to use. Check out this comic I created thanking all of the 8 Blog readers:
Pixton also offers an educational site so teachers can create classroom projects. The educational site allows teachers to set up student usernames and passwords (with email addresses) and helps with assigning and collecting Pixton assignments. With these added features, students can use the site safely and not have to worry about sharing their creations with the whole world. While the educational site is not free, Pixton offers free 14 day trials for teachers to test the site out. The licensing fees are not tremendously cost prohibitive and teachers may find the site affordable enough that they use Pixton with their students regularly.
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