Call us toll free: 210-710-2434
Best WP Theme Ever!
Call us toll free: 210-710-2434
29 Aug 2011
Comments: 2

Everything Explained: Devour Deluxe Screencasting

In the techchef4u kitchen, ingredients and tools tend to be free… but I am making an exception…

Explain Everything: Screencasting App

I am typically quite skeptical when I come across paid apps that do the same thing as free ones. That being said… I have been looking for an advanced screencasting app for some time and was quite elated with the features, design, and potential Explain Everything promised. While I am still partial to Screenchomp (as it is free, simple to use, and offers the ability to download an mp4 video file without having to upload it to Youtube), it only offers simple color annotation with no shapes or arrows and will not allow you to annotate over documents, presentations, or multiple images. While this is perfect for elementary and Khan-esque videos, secondary students, teachers, and the tech world need the advanced functionality that Explain Everything offers.

In corresponding with the Explain Everything app developer, I discovered the reason I truly love this app. As you will see it is easy to use with profound functionality, but the real “you had me at slide to unlock” moment was the innate educational value and potential the app possessed. With this said, I wasn’t at all surprised that a Director of Educational Technology was behind such a polished gem.

So without further ado… let’s delve into the features of Explain Everything:

Explain Everything features:

Explain Everything: Screencasting App

  1. Multiple ways to access your documents: Begin with a blank project or import from photos (similar to Screenchomp) as well as import from Evernote and Dropbox. While there are a few files that were not compatible for import, I did like the fact that you could import a group of photos rather than one at a time.
  2. Slide Sorter: If you have imported multiple pages/images, you have the option to change the order of the slides (or images) and delete them (much like in PPT). Users also have the option to add a blank side in the beginning, middle, or end of a presentation.
  3. Annotation: You can write/highlight and add shapes, lines, arrows, and text. Within each of the annotation drop-downs, you have options to change color, size, transparency, font size, fill color, etc… (Note: the drop-down menu features accessed during your recording do not appear in the final recording).
  4. Insert images: You can insert and edit images (crop and rotate) from Dropbox, Evernote, Camera, or Photo Roll. (Note: The process of importing and editing the image will not appear in the video – recording automatically pauses during this process.)
  5. Layers: You can layer images as well as resize them on the canvas. (This is a slick feature!)
  6. Undo: You have the option to undo/remove a whole object rather than have to erase it in sections (Note: this is selected in the “preferences”: drawings become objects.)
  7. Save: You can save within the app.
  8. Export Images: Images can be exported to the photo roll, emailed, or saved to Dropbox or Evernote.
  9. Export Video: Videos can be saved to the photo roll, emailed, uploaded to youtube, or saved to Dropbox or Evernote. Projects can be emailed or saved to Dropbox or Evernote (they appear to save as an xpl file).
  10. Help menu: Though the app is extremely user-friendly and straight-forward, they do offer a wonderful help section with screenshots and further directions if needed. (If that wasn’t enough, they offer a video and print guide on their site.)

Problem-Solving Explained: While I created the first video to highlight all of the features available in the Explain Everything app, I wanted to model how the Explain Everything app could be used as a vehicle for instruction and learning in the video above. I had previously created this story problem with Prezi to model how the tool could be used as a problem-solving piece in mathematics. In hindsight, I truly believe Explain Everything is a far more useful tool for this purpose as teachers can create instructional videos and students can compose a rich problem-solving process in mere minutes.

  1. Students could create their own story problems with Doodle Buddy (free), Comic Touch Lite (free), or Cartoon Studio Free images saved to the photo roll. (Consider using 123 Charts (free) to produce more advanced data for word problems and critical-thinking projects.)
  2. Teachers could also create images in a Web 2.0 tool and save to Dropbox.

The idea of narrating, presenting, critical-thinking, problem-solving, story-telling, analyzing text, and creating screencasts/tutorials can be adjusted and modified in any content area or grade level to meet the diverse needs of teachers and students making the Explain Everything app a staple in any school setting. (Visit Explain Everything’s site to see the showcase of user examples and submit your own.)

 

Note: Stay tuned for an update in the next few weeks. I have been informed features to be released are:

  • *PPT, PPTX, and Keynote files now auto-separate into slides (like multi-page PDFS)
  • *Added a new Draw Tool pen tip option (a “hard” tip in addition to the default “soft” tip)
  • *Option to export the MP4 file without the audio track
  • *Option to save a copy of the movie to your iPad photo roll when you do an export to YouTube

While the app doesn’t currently allow for the ability to import and annotate over a video due to current iPad processing and memory specifications, the developer suggested using Explain Everything products in conjunction with the iMovie app, so you could get very creative and make a production using video clips, Explain Everything exports, and iTunes music.


24 Aug 2011
Comments: 0

Adobe Reader X Offers "Read Out Loud"

Web 2.0 Tools for Revising & Editing via Scoop.it

I have been working on assembling and updating a list of tools that could be used for brainstorming, revising, and editing in the secondary ELAR classroom. A particular interest of mine is the text to speech feature on a Mac (“Voice Over”) as it is a great way to review a paper in an auditory manner to catch mistakes you may have overlooked in previous revisions. It is also a wonderful tool to use with ELL/ESL  and SE students. But what happens if you don’t have a Mac or an iPad?

Well, my initial suggestions were HearWho which will turn any text into mp3 for free using text to speech technology but it has limitations of 400 characters without a login. Google Translate is another tool but sometimes the translations and text to speech features are a bit wonky.

Then I came across Adobe Reader X which I use on a daily basis. As most users, I never truly explored all of the functionality of this free tool. Did you know that Adobe Reader not only allows you to comment, and highlight…. but…wait for it….

Adobe Reader X: Highlight, Annotate, and "Read Out Loud"

 

… offers text to speech (“read out loud” option found under the view tab)! I was floored and had to share it immediately with the world… or at the very least my global community. I immediately added it to my Scoop.it page for Web 2.0 tools for Revising & Editing and set to compose a post to share my new yummy tech morsel.


24 Aug 2011
Comments: 0

Inspire and Ignite Political Debate in the Classroom

Container Ban on River Passes

As a local New Braunfels resident and an educator, I thought the current river ban debate would make an excellent post for a research and persuasive paper assignment. It is also is a nice pairing with my recent Fakebook post as there are Facebook pages both for (“It’s Time to Protect Our Comal and Guadalupe Rivers“) and against the ban (“The River Belongs to Us Not City Council” & “Sign the Referendum to Recall the New Braunfels Container Ban Ordinance“). While I would not recommend using the actual Facebook pages for research as some of the comments have proven to be heated and inappropriate, teachers could glean both pages for arguments and direct quotes from both sides to provide a point of reference for the debate.

Last night the New Braunfels City Council by a vote to 5 to 1 banned disposable food and beverages from waterways within the city limits. This ban has ignited the interest of many residents who may or would not have been active in local government and want to have a voice… and a vote.

River Video taken August 15th, 2011 after a clean-up. 

Ignite Debate: Such a hot topic also proves to be a great fodder for classroom discussion and a wonderful vehicle for debate. Trying to say as unbiased as possible, I decided to build off of my previous Fakebook post:

New Braunfels City Council Meeting

  1. Teachers could create a simulated discussion to highlight basic arguments from both sides (by pulling quotes and posts from FB).
  2. Students would then get a RAFTS  assignment. (Consider all of the the parties (roles) that the ban will affect and all of the vested entities: NB City Council, NB Police, locals, residents on the river, river-oriented business, NB businesses, tourists, the media, state politicians). See Reading Rockets RAFTS info and templates.
  3. Based on their given or selected role, students would research arguments, statistics, and facts/info that would support their stance on the issue. The recent article from My San Antonio provides a great start.
  4. Students would complete a graphic organizer to record their findings before finalizing their project.
    1. Web 2.0: ExploratreePopplet, or HOLT Interactive Graphic Organizers
    2. iPad: Popplet or T-Charts (123 Charts for stats and data)
    3. iPod: T-Charts (123 Charts for stats and data)
  5. Students could then present their persuasive argument in multiple formats:

    Created with T-Chart app

    1. a news broadcast (using Videolicious and images from the council meeting and river)
    2. an letter/email to a local Congressman (When writing a letter/email, remind students to: know their facts, state their purpose, be personal, stay on message, don’t be partisan, be courteous, and request a response). Researching voting records and public stances for multiple congressional figures may help students locate Senators and Representatives that would be more sympathetic to their cause.)
    3. a website (Glogster EDU) or brochure/flier with all information gathered for or against ban that could be presented to locals and/or voters
    4. a persuasive essay
    5. a debate (live or virtually with Edmodo)
    6. a song/rap/poem (quick songs could be completed in using Songify)
    7. a proposal to provide alternate solutions to the ban or a revised law
    8. a 30-second commercial for or against the ban (check out Photostory)
    9. an interview with a RAFTS stakeholder

 River Video taken after Memorial Day, 2011 used in the media to support the ban


23 Aug 2011
Comments: 0

Fakebook Profiles aren't just for English classes

One of the favorite parts of my job as an Instructional Technology Specialist is to research and locate tools to support teachers in the classroom. I had co-taught a few lessons with Mr. Wayment last year and had been excited to receive his email of tentative lesson ideas and themes a few days ago. He outlined 5 or 6 lessons with an overarching theme/topic with suggested student projects and had requested my assistance in locating Web 2.0 tool or apps to facilitate and support the execution of his lessons.

Read Write Think Profile Publisher

Autobiographical Profile: The first lesson idea was to have students create an autobiographical Facebook-like profile of themselves. As this project was scheduled for early September, I wanted to focus on a tool that did not require logins or the ability to have profiles post or comment to other students’ walls. My first thought was Read Write Think’s Profile Publisher. The tool is free and allows you to create a profile for yourself or a fictional character highlighting a favorite song, quote, about me, latest blog entry, and favorites/interests. The interactive tool doesn’t require a login and is very easy to use. The end product is a printed page. The main downside is that students would have to hand draw their profile pic or copy and paste one on the sheet.

Another option would be to download a PPT template, Word template, Google Docs template which would be a functional option but might require more time in class to complete.

Scholastic Character Scrapbook: Ophelia

Literary Character Profile: Once the students were familiar with the tool(s), they could create a Facebook-like profile for a literary character from a fictional story. If teachers would like to have students simulate the online discussion feed, they could have students create a static profile with one of the tools above and use Todays Meet for the actual debate or discussion.

If teachers are looking for a tool that has the profile and feed capabilities all in one, they might want to test out Fakebook or My FakeWall. Of the two, my preference is Fakebook. It doesn’t require a login to utilize the standard features. Students can upload a profile pic, edit basic profile info, add posts and friends, and even include YouTube videos (which would be great to utilize Talking Heads, Sock Puppets, Puppet Pals, or Videolicious to create your own content or use current YouTube videos as a point of reference.) The Fakebook can be saved and generates a random URL which the user creates a password for to edit. If the ads become too distracting, there is a paid premium option. Fakebook can be exported as a PDF or embedded in a website or blog.

View Fullscreen |I created a sample with Ophelia: http://www.classtools.net/fb/28/PDQ4DW.

MyFakewall might be a bit more robust but will require logins. As it is still in beta, students may also experience some glitchyness. 

 

Fakebook profiles aren’t just for English: Consider using them across the curriculum:

Aphrodite's Wall via Shmoop

 



17 Aug 2011
Comments: 0

Surprisingly Educational Apps: Talking Homophone Heads

My two-year old son is overjoyed as he claps his hands in glee when Talking Tom Cat repeats his spoken phrases, “my mama” and “tractor”. While Talking Tom Cat and his friends were created as interactive pets with built in voice repetition, they can be used to engage learners in repetitive tasks that may not be as intriguing if completed in a low-tech manner.

Talking Tom Cat is quite the social butterfly and has many friends (Larry the Bird, Lila the Fairy, Gina the Giraffe, Ben the Dog, Harry the Hedgehog, John the Bacteria, Rex the Dinosaur, Roby Celik the Robot, Santa, and Baby Hippo) but I try to focus on ones that hit the right price point… free. Tom Cat 1 & 2, Gina, Ben, Roby, and John are all free and can be used at multiple grade levels across various content areas. (I did utilize paid Talking Rex as he fit the homophone lesson quite nicely. Gotta love carnivores with the best of intentions.)

Talking Tom Cat will record for 45 seconds. The resulting video can be exported or saved to the device. If a teacher chooses to export to YouTube, he/she will want to set up a class YouTube account and ensure privacy settings are initiated as well as individual student AUP’s are being followed. Students can also email the video from the device as an mp4. If a student needs longer than 45 seconds, consider breaking the activity into parts or acts.

Roby Celik, the talking robot, is also free and allows users to either speak or type text. In testing him, we found that he took about three lines of text before he would stop recitation (probably about 45 seconds).

Talking Homophones Lesson with Juxio

 

Roby: “My robotics teacher always tells us to cite our references when doing research.”

Rex: “Even though I had the best of intentions to become a vegetarian, I feel like I lost sight of my goals.”

Tom: “I was very excited when I visited the site for the new creamery. They even gave me a free sample.”

  • Student use: Consider using a talking character app to recite a speech, practice foreign language, or create word problems for your peers to solve. Students could also create two videos (one from each perspective of an argument/debate) and have a third group compose a persuasive essay as a follow-up writing assignment.
  • Teacher use: Create your own Talking Tom video to provide directions (e.g. lab safety rules, task instructions, login protocol) for a center or a learning station activity (see homophones example above). Teachers could also set up a center with prefixes, suffixes, and root words and have students assemble words, look up definitions, create a sentence that uses the new word in context, and then have a talking character recite the text. Consider using the videos as an introduction to a new topic or unit (as seen in Talking John below). From there, have students answer questions about the statements about bad bacteria, research bad bacteria further and create a KWL, Popplet Lite, a Frayer Model. Students could even compare & contrast good bacteria to bad bacteria, etc…

Bacteria John: “Bacteria are one-celled creatures that get nutrients from the environment to live. They can produce insude the body and cause infections. These are bad bacteria.”

Note: As the apps were created as interactive pets and not necessarily for instructional use, teachers will want to restrict “in-app purchases” to ensure students do not accidentally or intentionally purchase an added feature. This is quick and easy to do in the general menu of your iPad settings. Teachers will also want to test each app as to the appropriateness of the interactive features with the age group they intend to use it with.

Please comment with other ways you have and could use these talking characters in the classroom.

 


14 Aug 2011
Comments: 1

Surprisingly Educational Apps: iPad Blog Hop Host

In honor of the launching of Techchef4u’s Blog Talk Radio Show “Appy Hour”, I decided to cook up my first ever iPad Blog Hop Contest (the winner will receive a $20 iTunes Gift card!). The rules are fairly simple:

 

  1. Compose a blog entry on your blog with the title “Surprisingly Educational Apps”.
  2. Select one free iPad/iPod app: Apps can be covertly educational like Talking Tom or Songify or somewhat transparent like U.S. Quarters and Magnetic Alphabet Lite. The task is more to shine a light on these gems and highlight how they would or could be used innovatively for educational purposes. Please hyperlink to the app’s iTunes page.
  3. Highlight how it could be creatively used in the classroom (the app must not contain inappropriate material). Please include a screen shot or video (so others will fully comprehend your vision) with your apptivity description. Screenshots of apps can be pulled into Doodle Buddy, Popplet Lite, or ScreenChomp to be easily annotated. Chosen App can be used in conjunction with another app. 
  4. Include recommended age group and content area for your apptivity suggestion(s) within your post.
  5. Finally, include a link back to the iPad Blog Hop’s host site (www.techchef4u.com).

 

More info: The U.S. Quarters app is not innately educational like Number Line (activity-based) or Khan Academy (instructionally-based). Other than supporting the U.S. Congress’s mission to honor the federal republic and “promote the diffusion of knowledge among the youth”, the app itself doesn’t truly teach or produce anything more than basic facts about the fifty states (e.g. motto, date ratified, and symbols). Thus, it is up to us to create a surprisingly educational experience with this app… in a middle school mathematics classroom or elementary social studies… perhaps. I decided to showcase the app to teach mathematics vocabulary and proportional reasoning (scale factor)I will be including my full post on U.S. Quarters and the other apps we discuss before the 25th.

The winner will be determined by a group of Instructional Technology Specialists from NEISD and announced on my first installment of Appy Hours 4 U with my Co-host Yolanda Barker: Thursday August 25th at 10am. Submissions will be judged on creativity/ingenuity, supporting materials (screenshots, videos, etc…), and appropriateness for the classroom.

The winner will receive a $20 iTunes Gift card!



05 Aug 2011
Comments: 1

Take a Chomp out of Your Learning Goals

Challenged and inspired with the task of designating my own professional learning goals, I retreated to my iPad kitchen to reflect upon which appy ingredients I had in my pantry. What would be the best app to share these goals? After running into ScreenChomp in TCEA’s Twitter feed last night, I was eager as ever to take a bite out of the new app. Indeed, it did not disappoint my appalicious taste buds.

  • Intuitive & Cost-effective: The app is free and user friendly.
  • Flexible backgrounds: Users can either use an image from their camera roll (which opens up the many possibilities as most apps will save their products as images: cartoon strips, mindmaps, notes, etc…) or create their recording using a blank whiteboard as a background.
  • Built-in Image Editing: The app also allows you to move, zoom, and rotate images from the camera roll so portrait and landscape orientation do not become an issue.
  • Chomp into Color: Once you have chosen your background, simply press record and you can annotate while you talk with the three provided markers or customize the color of each.
  • Sharing: Once your recording is complete, you can share it in multiple ways (e.g. email the link, copy the link, or tweet it).
  • Downloading & Publishing: When you access the link, you will then be given the option to download the video as an mp4 (which could be added to any iDevice or uploaded to YouTube as I have down with mine).

What a fantastic tool for student discussions/presentations, problem-solving/mathcasts (ala Khan Academy), highlighting apps, or conducting professional development (similar to Atomic Learning mini tutorials). Can’t wait to incorporate this into an appy hour! Consider the many ways you would use this app in your classroom or with your students.

As the focus of this post was learning goals, let’s close on that note. Setting goals for personal or professional learning is the only true way to be an agent of change in your classroom and with your students. As I ponder what tools I will need and what trainings I will seek out to meet my own needs, I propose the same task to teachers on my campuses so I am able to tailor the resources I cook up to better serve their palette for technology learning.

 


02 Aug 2011
Comments: 2

Blue October: Cooking up Educational Experiences

Blue October: The Chills: As I have been accused of having iPad and apps terrets, I wanted to share another passion of mine… music. More specifically, Blue October, a band that I have been following for over 10+ years.

On the evening of June 27th my husband and I had just nestled in bed to watch the premier of True Blood. As he was checking his FaceBook feed, he noticed Blue October had posted a notice that they were shooting the video for the single “The Chills” (the song is not rated as explicit but does have some mild profanity) from their upcoming album and anyone that could make it there before 9pm could be in the crowd. Needless to say, I threw on some jeans and a tank and I was out the door. The shoot was absolutely amazing but I don’t really need to share all of the details as I have created a tagged narrative of my evening via BlipSnips.

Blue October: The Chills

BlipSnips: I was very eager to find some way to share my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity with my colleagues. As I am an Instructional Technology Specialist, I had to find a way to put an educational spin on the experience . Thus, I decided to seek out Web 2.0 tools that educators can use to edit and annotate YouTube videos. Blipsnips will require a login. It is quite easy to use and the end result is a tagged list (you can click on the times to transport you to that moment in the video) as you see below. I will say that I was a bit disappointed that the blipsnips didn’t appear more ala VH1 pop-up video or even at the bottom of the page as a news ribbon as that was my original attention. Nonetheless, I was able to share both my story and a useful tool for educators. (Couldn’t resist…Blipsnips is also a free app!)

Got a pic with Justin at a 5591 show in 2004

How might this tool be used educationally?

Consider annotating a you tube video for students with questions at certain time markers or having students create their own tagged list of facts, misconceptions, character traits, plot analysis, etc… for an educational video selection. There is quite a bit of research that goes into such fact-finding and the activity is high interest. Not to mention that music is a powerful teaching resource and fits in quite nicely with elements of digital storytelling.

Check out these YouTube tools too: Quietube, ViewPure, and TubeChop.

Please share other tools to annotate or edit YouTube videos for educational/classroom use and the resulting lessons and activities associated with them.

 


01 Aug 2011
Comments: 0

Take Home Chef: Appy Hours Direct 2 You

What a great idea! Wish I had thought of this. I am in the process of looking at ways to create appy hours that can be delivered at any time and from any place. Apptivities on Demand… if you will.

20 Apps in 20 Minutes Ipad Edition from TJ Houston on Vimeo.

Previously, I have been creating Appy Hour Menus with a Techchef4u Signature List accompanied by a Jog the Web tour of apps which provided links to the specific iTunes page, descriptions of how they could be used in the classroom, and more suggestions of similar apps to the recommended ones.

While these appy hours are typically presented to a live audience during a professional development session and the resources are available to be reviewed online at a later time, the idea of a 30 apps in 30 minutes video webinar that could be held as a synchronous live session or be referred to at a later date and time is such a wonderful tool for teachers.

Stay tuned for a HOT Apps for HOTS  Appy Hour Tour in the next few weeks!