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Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Another Fun Middle School Computers Lesson - Making Comics with Google Slides

I've been posting some of the creative projects we used in our middle school Computers class. (See this post on simple podcasts and this one on animation.)

Those of you who regularly follow my work will be very familiar with the basics of this one -- Comics with Google Slides!

When we did this in class, the excitement level went through the roof! Many students in my district have learned this process already, so some took their own pictures instead of using the ones provided in the directions. You can modify those as necessary for your class.

Click here to get a copy of the Google Doc that contains the directions for students. It links to this sample comic.

Those directions take students through the process of creating a comic. It uses some of my resources that you can find on my Comics page.

Also, this video tutorial is referenced in the directions. It shows the basic process.


And in case you missed the header image above, remember you can get my free ebook about making comics like this by joining my monthly newsletter list. Please click here to sign up.

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Fun Animation Project with Chromebooks

This simple animation project from our middle school Computers class proved to be the most engaging one we've done so far. I'll post all the videos, the directions and some tips below so you can easily adapt it for your class.

We used the Stop Motion Animator app on Chromebooks. (They finally released an update for the app after a bug had made the previous version unusable for several months.)

Students had a ton of fun with this project! They watched my simple tutorial (below) and were making animated videos in no time. A few groups didn't want to stop at the end of class!

You can see in the photo that our students used Lenovo Chromebooks with the reversible camera. It allows them to easily capture images on the table in front of the device. If you have Chromebooks with cameras that only face the user, it's a little more challenging to get pictures of objects on the table and see the screen at the same time. (Here's a blog I came across that shows how one teacher addressed this problem.)

Here are the simple example videos that I created for the project:

And here is the short tutorial that shows how to use the app:


This document contains all the directions and links to the above video files.

And here are a few tips and things to consider:
  • I didn't mention in the video that the spacebar is the shortcut key for capturing a frame and that the Undo button will delete the last frame of the animation.
  • In my tutorial I neglected to emphasize the importance of slight movements of the object from frame to frame. I also didn't state that it looks best if the camera stays in the same place. Consequently, some students made a very choppy series of images. It sort of hinted at action, but I wouldn't call it an animation.
  • We had a little trouble with the app when we tried to load a previously saved video or when we were recording audio. Usually restarting the app or the Chromebook solved it.
  • You'll notice the directions refer to a contest for the best animation. I selected five videos from those submitted and posted them on our school's homepage. Students could vote (using a Google Form) for their favorite. Here's the winning video, created by one student who won a snack and soft drink for his efforts.
I hope your students enjoy this activity as much as ours did! If they create videos you'd like to share, I'd love to see them and show them to our class.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Recording Podcasts with TwistedWave in Middle School

Here's a relatively short project we used in our middle school Computers class this week. It takes students through the planning, recording and editing of a short podcast. We used TwistedWave on Chromebooks.

Here is an example created by a pair of our students. While there's plenty of room for improvement, this was a good first attempt at an audio recording. What I loved most about the project was how students got excited about their podcast topics. You can hear that clearly in that recording.

Here is the assignment document. It includes all the directions and it links to the video below. I created that video several months ago and posted it elsewhere on this blog. It serves as a good tutorial for anyone learning to use Twisted Wave.


A couple notes about the project:
  • In order to use TwistedWave, we required the students under the age of 13 to return signed parent permission forms. Even though they sign in using their school Google accounts, I felt this was important after contacting TwistedWave about their Privacy Policy.
  • After assigning this project, I added a part at the bottom of the directions about the important differences between this simple recording and professional podcasts.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Show Off Any Project Using Google Sites

Regular readers and anyone in my training sessions has heard me repeat it. "Show off the learning!"

There are lots of ways to show our best work, but doing it online is certainly one of the best. In my district, many teachers assign a lot of real world products rather than digital ones. That's great, but when I talk about sharing work online, they feel they have no options (or they happily think they're off the hook!).

This week I created a short document and video tutorial to give them one easy way to show any product digitally. It makes use of the new Google Sites, which I absolutely love. 

Google Sites doesn't have a ton of options, which means students won't lose time finding just the right font and background image. 

So imagine students made a physical "something" in class. You could give the students these directions and they'd create a web page that shows pictures or video along with text, showing off what they made and learned. 

Here is the full video tutorial:


And here is the single page of steps that you'd give the students. Notice most of the steps link to the exact place in my video tutorial. That way they don't have watch everything if they're stuck on only one part.

Some things to note:
  • You must tell them what you expect to see on the site. My steps and tutorial only show the how. It directs them to you for the what.
  • Students would need to take pictures or video of their project, then upload those to Google Drive first. I didn't show that in this tutorial, but it's very easy if they have the Google Drive app at their phones. I consider this to be a survival skill in today's world. I'm working on making a good video to show this process.
  • You'll see in the video that images don't always work like they should. I show a workaround if your students experience that problem.
  • Some students forget to do the sharing step (labeled as #1 on my list). If that happens, you won't be able to see their pictures or video when you look at the site. 
  • Step #7 is another common pitfall. Students often will send the link to their side of the website instead of the published version. It is clearly shown in the video, but they need to pay attention.
  • I didn't address adding multiple pages in my steps, but it is very intuitive to add a new page. This could be great for organizing information about a larger project.
  • Note that my final step tells them to turn it in through Classroom. If you use a different process, you'll need to modify that.


Sunday, January 22, 2017

Creativity Game with Google Slides - Abe & Einstein

This post contains a link to the template you need to play this game, but you'll also want to see this post  which explains how to run these creativity games with your class using Google Apps.

My most popular posts on this blog are the creativity games and exercises. Over the past year I have been translating some of those ideas into a Google Slides format.

When played as a classroom game, this one allows 3 - 5 creative students to compete to make up what two random well known people would say if they met. For example, what would you overhear in a chance meeting between Spider-man and Santa Claus? How about Harry Potter and Justin Bieber?

The whole class participates by voting on their favorite response. The creative thinking required for this game can be a challenge, but I've seen middle school and high school students have a lot of fun with these games.

I also have suggestions at the end of this post for other ways to use the activity, possibly with less time or allowing more students to create the fun answers.


First, here's the flow of the game when used with the whole class. There is a video that shows this process below.

  1. Choose 3 to 5 students to be the contestants in the game. They should sit at the front of the room. They'll need either paper or a computer, depending on how you want them to share their riddle answers with you.
  2. The slideshow for the game (at a link below) is displayed so the class can see it. It will usually be on the game slide, slide 2.
  3. The teacher draws two random names from the group and displays them for the contestants to see.
  4. The contestants get two minutes to write a few lines of what those people might say if they met. Each student sends his or her lines to the teacher.
  5. The teacher reads them to the class and they are entered in the game slide so the students can see them.
  6. The students in the class now have the chance vote on the their favorite haiku (using a classroom response system or possibly Google Forms).
  7. Points are awarded to the contestants based on the number of votes they received.
  8. Steps 2 - 6 are repeated three or four times, then scores are totaled to determine a winner.

Here is the Google Slides presentation that you'll need to play this game or to do any of the activities listed below.


Click to have a copy of the Google Slides presentation added to your Google Drive. 

Video Overview


This 4 minute video shows how to play these creativity games with a class. It contains a different game about answering a riddle instead of writing dialogue, but the process is the same. (If you're interested, here's the post about that game.)



Tips and suggestions for other ways to use the activity

  • Obviously this chance conversation should be brief. Students should try for 2 - 4 short lines.
  • To indicate who is talking, students can use initials. So using the Spider-Man and Santa Claus example, a student could write:
    • SC:  Hey Spider-man, can you teach me to crawl walls like that?
    • SM:  Sorry Santa, lay off the milk and cookies then check back when you look this good in tights.
  • You might not be able to fit the whole dialogue in the boxes on the game slide. Read the full submissions from students, but for voting, t's usually sufficient to just sum up it up a few short words to help students remember each one.
  • Usually the students make funny conversations in this game, but you could require different criteria for the "best" one.
  • Have some things to show the rest of the class or to talk about while the contestants write their dialogue. See my post about creativity exercises to get some ideas that will involve everyone.
  • It's easy to change any of the names that I made for the game. Just draw one out and double click on the text. Use names of people related to what you're studying in class. Or pick names of people at your school, like your principal or the custodian. This gives the students a chance to practice being funny while still being respectful. Note that I did put "Your Teacher" in the mix!
  • You can have the rest of the class write their own ideas for dialogue too. After the vote, have some of them share what they wrote if they want.
  • If you don't want to devote much class time to the game, just draw two words at the end of class and have all students make a haiku for homework. You can select your top 5 and have them vote on the best one as a warm-up in a later class.