Thursday, October 27, 2022

Animoto for teacher creations

Animoto, the online video creation software app for desktop and iOS, has been around for a long time. And so have I! 

I made my first video with a free account at Animoto, using my iPhone 3GS, on August 3, 2009. I was amazed how easy it was to put photos up and have Animoto automatically create a cool 432 x 240 resolution video!

Here is that original video.

I soon realized how handy this tool could be! In August of 2010, I was asked to create a promotional video for our school district's new tagline, "Nauset Believes". 

I immediately knew I was going to use Animoto. I had teachers in our seven schools send me photos to include in the video. With music tracks to pick from and automated cool transitions, everyone was wowed by my Animoto creation!

Over the next twelve years, I conducted professional development sessions in my district and at conferences across country and I always included Animoto as a cool tool for any teacher's toolbox and as a great tool for students to showcase their content knowledge as a summative or formative assessment video.

As I continued to use Animoto to create videos, there were tons of additional components to make my videos stand out. It was fun to try the new templates and themes one could pick from!

For all these years, Animoto continued to offer a free basic account. In addition they added all kinds of great new features to their paid offerings. So, when Animoto asked me to review their Professional Plus version, I jumped at the chance! I could not wait to see what cool features I could use!

As educators, we are always looking for free or freemium tools and apps. However, although a free account on Animoto allows us to create curriculum content for our classes, it is always worth trying out a higher tier of any tool for a month. 

You can see if there might be some included features that would help you make the creation process of your instructional videos for students easier, faster, or more engaging. In addition, some of the included features might also replace similar tools you are currently using.


Without reading any directions or learning about the new features, I dove right in and created a digital story. I did not use the new voice-over option, since I had located, in the assets in Animoto, such a great audio background to use!

I was easily able to download my assets from Google Photos to the desktop of my Mac, so I did not use another one of the new features which allows you to to connect your cloud storage (Drive, Dropbox, OneDrive, Box) to your Animoto account. I will try that option, as well as the voice-over option, in my next video!


I decided to take a static Keynote presentation and turn it into an Animoto instructional video. I first exported all my Keynote slides as images and then easily imported them into Animoto. You can also import from any of your cloud-based services, too, as seen in the screenshot below.

I decided to try the voiceover feature. I had the option of recording behind each frame in the video via the site, or uploading an entire voiceover file from my local assets. 

I wrote a script and created the audio file in QuickTime Player on the Mac. I  exported the file it to my desktop as an .m4a audio file. I then uploaded the audio file to Animoto.

I used the Educational Presentation template as my starting point. I replaced all the images in the template with my Keynote slide images. I then took a lot of time investigating the background audio files that were available on Animoto, and imported my choice to the timeline. You can view all of the audio file or pick a "mood" you are looking for.

I then shortened or lengthened the timing of the individual slides to match the uploaded voiceover file. I also decreased the volume of the background audio I had chosen from the Animoto assets.

Rather than download the video and add it to this blog post, I decided to just share the link to where it sits on Animoto's site. I also had a choice to get the embed code for the video or download it, also.

Here is the link to the video: 

The instructional video was easy to create and the number of assets I had access too were awesome! The presentation I made is a standard instructional video, but, since I had already created the slides, it only took about an hour to complete the project. If I had decided to use animated text on each slide instead of the voiceover, it probably would have taken me longer to complete. 

Of course, with a video that has voiceover, it is important to include a transcript of the script online or printed out for any hearing impaired student. In addition, a transcript can help those that are more visual than auditory learners, as well as provide an overview of the information in the video for any student to refer to.

The pricing to subscribe to Animoto is by the month or, to save up to 50%, by the year. Each tier has all the components of the tier below and additional content, too.

  • Standard quality video (up to 720p)
  • 50 music tracks
  • 3 standard fonts
  • 30 color swatches
  • Unlimited social sharing
  • Available on desktop and iOS
  • Screen recording
  • Import from other cloud storage tools
BASIC PLAN ($8 per month)
  • All of the above plus..
  • No Animoto branding on your videos
  • High quality video (HD 1080p)
  • UnlimIted downloads
PROFESSIONAL PLAN ($15 per month)
  • All features of the Standard and Basic plans plus...
  • Add your own logo and colors
  • 1 million+ licensed stock images and videos from Getty Images
  • 3000 licensed music tracks
  • Voice-over
  • 3 saved template
  • 1 saved brand
  • 40 professional fonts
  • High quality video (HD 1080p)
  • All of the features of the Basic, Standard, and Professional plans plus...
  • Accounts for up to 3 users
  • License to resell to businesses
  • 100 million Premium licensed and stock images from Getty Images
  • 30-minute consultation with a video expert
  • Collect time-stamped comments
  • 25 saved templates
  • Multiple saved brands
  • Upload your own fonts

As you think about creating content to support teaching and learning, I encourage you to give Animoto a try. Start with the basic plan to learn how it works and then consider subscribing for a month to one of the higher-level plans to have access to additional components and assets.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Fun with Lucidspark!

I just spent the day exploring Lucidspark, a collaborative whiteboard educators and students can use for many educational activities and assessments!

Lucidspark is brought to you by the folks at Lucid for Education, who have been supporters of education with their Lucidpress and Lucidchart products for many years. 

The Lucidpress and Lucidchart tools have many templates available for teachers, a few of which you can see below. And, of course, you can edit the templates and start from scratch if you want!

However, Lucid for Education is now providing a product to target the interactive educational needs of schools and classrooms with Lucidspark. The ease-of-use, sharing, collaboration, and organizing in this product is so intuitive. I completed my explorations on an iPad but, of course, there is also a robust Web version that syncs perfectly across all devices.

Here is a quick overview video of Lucidspark created by Lucid for Education.You can find them on Twitter @LUCID4EDU.


When you first open up Lucidspark, you are presented with the ability to create a folder, start with a blank document, or pick a template. I decided to look at the templates that were offered specifically for education. You can see from the video below there are a ton!

I wanted to share a closer look at some of the templates.








STICKY NOTES (great for EdCamps, too!)


There is also a built-in timer and a built in vote/poll tool.



The toolbar is quite extensive and uses icons that are recognizable to users!


And you can see from the sharing window below, there are many choices and options for sharing the Lucidspark creation.



One of the very cool things I discovered was Lucidspark includs some templates with instructions and resources right in the template category where it is needed. Having the information close at hand, at point of need, made me feel secure I would become an expert in no time!




And there is even a train-the-trainer module!


Lucidspark has a free version that allows the creation and use of three collaborative boards, with the ability to collaborate and share in real-time, create shareable links, and download your boards. You can add emphasis by using emojis and freehand drawing, too. The free version integrates with Slack, Google Drive, and Microsoft Teams. Just go to their home page to sign up!

There are also more robust paid versions of Lucidspark available and options for integration with additional tools your schools may be using. That information may be found here.

So, sign up and spend some time with Lucidspark and try it out. I am sure you will come up with lots of creative ideas for its use! Share your cool findings with me on Twitter and follow me, too!

Tuesday, March 01, 2022

Brenthaven Edge Companion for iPad Air

Photo courtesy of Sean MacEntee

With the plethora of iPads found on student desks, in classroom carts and in backpacks, it is more important than ever to protect the devices from harm. iPads with attached keyboards have become a popular combinations for students, and I want to introduce you to a cool new case that was created especially for that combo!

The Brenthaven Edge Companion for the iPad Air (10.9", 4th generation), has just been released. I own this particular iPad and was happy to receive one to review!

I have been reviewing items from Brenthaven for years. Most recently, in 2019, I penned a blog post titled I Love Brenthaven. I talked about Brenthaven's well-made and thought-out cases and accessories targeted for the education market. And they have been keeping up with all the change in device use in schools! Brenthaven has iPad cases, MacBook cases, Chromebook cases, sleeves and backpacks, headphones, and keyboards. The listing of all their protective gear and bags may be found here.

The Brenthaven Edge Companion for the iPad Air (10.9", 4th generation) that I tried out is so easy to put on the iPad. It provides tons of protection and has been made so it works perfectly with the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio. It also still protects the iPad Air without having the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio attached.

You can see below, when the iPad is installed in the Brenthaven Edge Companion for the iPad Air, access to all the ports and buttons on the iPad are accessible and protected.

You first put the iPad in the "frame" of the Brenthaven Edge Companion for the iPad Air and then, if you want, you can install the keyboard. 

Take a look at this short video which demonstrates the process.

Here is a photo of my iPad Air (4th gen) installed in the  Brenthaven Edge Companion for the iPad Air from the front and from the rear. The addition of the case makes the iPad and keyboard components feel much sturdier.

I took three photos to show how easy it is to add the Apple Smart Keyboard Folio to the Brenthaven Edge Companion for the iPad Air.

Turn the iPad over and open the plastic door on the left.

Then fold the folio cover into the back of the 

Simply snap down the plastic door and the keyboard is attached!

The Brenthaven Edge Companion for the iPad Air (10.9", 4th gen) has a ton of features. Here are just a few.

The full spec sheet may be found here.

If you are deploying 10.9" iPad Airs (4th gen) give Brenthaven a call for a sample case to try out. And, if you don't have this specific model of iPad in your district, take a look at their site and this page to see if Brenthaven has a great case or sleeve for your district's devices! And don't forget to follow Brenthaven on Twitter @Brenthaven_Edu!

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Higher Ground Gear for Schools

As many of you know, I can't ever have enough technology cases to both protect and transport my laptops and tablets! I love being able to pick out a case that works best for my current road trip, from those that have crossbody and shoulder straps, to those that are slim and protect my devices while in my backpack, to my favorite Vera Bradley and Baggallini laptop totes.

Back in 2016, I reviewed a bunch of Higher Ground Gear’s technology bags and protective cases. The company has always been very thoughtful with their solutions for schools and continues to innovate with their new options for protecting student laptops, iPads and Chromebooks. I have used their products for many years and they never wear out!

Fast forward ahead to the FETC Conference in January 2022, when I stopped by the Higher Ground booth to see what cool new Higher Ground gear was available. I was invited to learn more about their new products and options and to try out a few items of interest to me.

Student needs

Higher Ground Gear has always had a stellar collection of "always on" laptop cases that provide great protection and allows students to work on their computers while it stays in the case. And this year's group of cases is no exception! They have a line of iPad specific cases as well as their upgraded Datakeeper and Shuttle lines of cases that stay on the computer while it is in use and protects it against the elements and drops.

Their Capsule cases are made to protect the laptop/Chromebook when in a student's backpack and are slim and protective.

There are other great choices for shoulder bags and backpacks to allow students to easily carry their devices and accessories.

A cool new innovative option for various collections is Higher Ground Gear’s new CleanShell™ material. This material has been tested with various household cleaners, has a dirt and weather-resistant coating, and can easily be sanitized with wipes and sprays to combat the spread of germs. Perfect for the educators and students!

Teacher needs

I decided to concentrate on educator needs for this blog post. (Not that students can't use the cases I picked.) 

Teachers need to have a protective sleeve or bag for their school laptop or Chromebook as they travel to and from school, too! My three choices to review were the Vert 3.1 convertible shoulder bag/backpack, the Elements Plus slim sleeve, and the Elevate CS Ergonomic laptop sleeve.

Higher Ground Gear: Vert 3.1

The Vert 3.1 is a versatile, convertible case that has two inside pockets so it can hold both my 14" MacBook and my 10.5" iPad Air! My phone and some charging cables can be stored in the front zip pocket. It comes in two sizes, an 11" and a 13" version. (I requested the 11" version.)

The cool thing about the Vert 3.1 case is it can be use as an over-the-shoulder bag ...

or a cross-body bag...

or it can morph into a backpack! 

It is as easy as pie to change it from one configuration to another. It checks all the boxes for how teachers  and students might want to carry their devices! The Vert 3.1 Convertible Case has great drop protection on all sides, too.

The Data Sheet about the Vert 3.1 can be found here with much more information, specs, and measurements for the the small and large cases.

The second item I requested was the Elements Plus Sleeve. For those teachers and students who already have a favorite backpack or "teacher bag", the very slim Elements Plus Sleeve protects the laptop, Chromebook, or iPad when it is carried in a backpack or bag. It also comes with a shoulder strap to use when a teacher wants to travel light! (I did fit both my 14" Macbook Pro and my 10.5" iPad Air in the sleeve, but I would recommend only putting one device in it!)

The Elements Plus Sleeve comes in both  small (11" and 13" devices) and large (14" and 15") sizes. I requested the small size. It has a detachable shoulder strap and a top carry handle, too.

This sleeve provides basic protection from scratches and dings to your devices.

Here is the link to the datasheet with all the specs and options for the Elements Plus Sleeve.

I am always impressed with Higher Ground Gear's attention to detail for even the little things.

For the Elements Plus sleeve, the shoulder strap has a secure and unique connection. 

By snapping the metal loop over the hook, teachers and students can feel confident the shoulder strap will remain securely fastened!

Higher Ground Gear: Elevate CS Sleeve

The Elevate CS Sleeve has a "transformer-like" quality. With its rugged rubberized case, it can protect your laptop from a fall, shocks, and the elements. It has a top handle for carrying and room inside for small cables, dongles, and accessories.

The "CS" in its name indicates that this sleeve is made with Higher Ground's CleanShell™ technology which easily allows the wiping away of dirt and germs from the outside surfaces.

The transformative property of the Elevate CS Sleeve allows a teacher or students to elevate their laptop to one of three ergonomic positions for typing. 

The laptop is removed from the sleeve, the kickplate you see at the bottom of the image above is opened up, the elastic strap you see below is moved to the outside of the sleeve, the laptop is slid through the strap so it rests on the outside of the sleeve, and then the adjustable support you can see on the left below is folded out.

The image below illustrates what the Elevate CS looks like when it is "transformed". The support stand can be set for three different angles, so the teacher or student can pick the angle that feels best for them.

When I use an angled keyboard, I lower my seat so my wrists remain straight and not bent while typing and my bent elbows remain at a 90° angle.

If your district is looking for quality cases or sleeves, get in touch by calling or emailing Higher Ground. They can provide you with the solution you are looking for to protect the devices in your school or district!

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Logitech's Tools for Schools

Logitech for Education is targeting some of their tools specifically for schools. Three that I got to try out are the Logitech Crayon, the Logitech H390 USB Headset, and the Logitech C270 HD Webcam.


The Logitech Crayon has been around for a few years and many iPad schools already use them. If you are not familiar with it, the Logitech Crayon is a rugged, rechargeable drawing tool for the iPad which, in iPad apps that support it, includes a variable line weight, similar to a "real" pencil. It is built using the Apple Pencil technology. When a student angles the Logitech Crayon down a bit, the line one is drawing gets darker and thicker. Another useful feature of the Logitech Crayon is the "palm rejection" feature which ignores stray screen touches.

The Logitech Crayon works seamlessly with the iPad. Simply press a button to turn it on and it ready to write with. There are no delays to get started!

The Logitech Crayon runs for 7.5 hours of writing/drawing time per charge. And, to conserve battery life, it powers off after 30 minutes of non-use. There is also a battery life indicator light which will give the user a clue as when it it time to charge the Logitech Crayon. Charging the Logitech Crayon is easy-- just plug a lighting cable attached to your computer or small charger into the top of the device, as seen below. And the Logitech Crayon charges fast, too!

Having a stylus for each student with an iPad is important. We all know using a finger to draw on a tablet screen does not produce good results. With the 
Logitech Crayon, students can be precise when making a sketch of a science lab result, drawing a prototype of a 3D object they want to design, painting a picture to use in a video or digital story, or even taking notes in their own hand, and, when using a note-taking app like Nebo, Notablity, or Microsoft's OneNote, and convert their handwriting directly into text.

The Logitech Crayon works with many of the apps teachers and students use on the iPad. I happen to use it most with Procreate and Inkflow when I am sketchnoting, since the line weights make a difference in my sketchnote process. Here are a few of many other apps that work with it.

The current iPads that are compatible with the Logitech Crayon include, once they are updated to at least iOS 12.2

  • iPad Mini (5th gen)
  • iPad Air (3rd and 4th gen)
  • iPad (6th, 7th, and 8th gen)
  • iPad Pro 11" (1st and 2nd gen)
  • iPad Pro 12.9" (3rd and 4th gen)



One of the big problems with students creating in a classroom is the noise level. Educators have come up with creative solutions to allow students access to a quiet space in which to audio record a podcast, the narration for a digital story, or even have a Zoom or Google Meet video conference.  I have seen large cardboard boxes, lined with foam, and set up so students can record with al least some of the noise of the classroom filtered out. Educators send students into the hallways to record at times. Some classrooms line the walls with commercial acoustic tiles, which are intended to decrease the noise levels. Other ideas include sending the students who need to record to the band room and using one of the practice rooms to record in. Here are some unique set-ups creative teachers have devised!

Julie Smith set-up a portable recording studio in her kindergarten classroom.

Mrs. Q showcases her recording booths on Instagram.

As all educators know, however, there are very few places in a school setting that are quiet. To eliminate most of the educator stress that comes along with trying to facilitate a recording process, a logical solution is having a headset for each student. By having a microphone close to their mouth and the audio being heard through the headphones, students will have the ability to record with little background noise.

I have used Logitech branded headsets for years and still do. Coincidentally, before being asked to review the Logitech H390 USB Headset, I ordered this same headset to use for my recordings and video conferencing use! I chose it because it was an on-ear headset (not over-the-ear) and had a noise cancelling mic. And the sound quality of the Logitech H390 USB Headset is excellent, as you can hear in this recording I made on a Chromebook. I used Vocaroo, the educator's favorite online audio recorder, to create the recording.

Here is the QR code to the recording in case you want to access the recording this way.

The Logitech H390 USB Headset has a ton of features packed into a very affordable headset for schools. Of course, IMHO, the best feature for the classroom, after the low cost, is the noise-cancelling feature of the boom mic.

Since I am a Mac user, I do not have any USB-A ports on my MacbookPro M1, only USB-C ports. I use a female USB-A adapter to USB-C adapter so I can plug my Logitech H390 USB Headset into my MBP. By the way, I discovered a long time ago audio is much cleaner with a USB headset connection than the standard 3.5mm headphone jack found on computers.

I also discovered I can use the Logitech H390 USB Headset with that same adapter to record audio with my iPadPro 12.9" (5th generation) since it has a USB-C connection, too!

In addition to students recording with the headset, the boom mic on the Logitech H390 USB Headset can be flipped up, and students can be listening to an instructional video, searching for royalty-free music to add to a video they are creating, working in an online tutorial, or searching for famous speeches for an assignment. With a headset on, students can all be working on separate projects without disturbing others.


Almost every computer and Chromebook come with a webcam. However, at times, the quality may not be very good. The Logitech C270 HD Webcam strives to solve that problem at a low cost. It is a basic webcam with a built in microphone. It works with Windows computers, Mac computers, Android devices, and Chromebooks and has a USB-A connector.

The Logitech C270 HD Webcam has a simple way of attaching to a computer for use. The webcam sits on the top of the laptop or monitor and the adjustable universal clip allows the device to be used with any computer by simply adjusting the moveable component to rest on the back of your monitor.

One of the best features of the Logitech C270 HD Webcam for a school setting is the 55° wide angle view of the camera, which makes it easier for two students to create a recording while sitting next to one another and also for taking photos or videos.

The Logitech C270 HD Webcam has a built-in noise-reducing mono microphone, a maximum resolution of 720p and 30 frames per second. and the device has been tested to withstand cleaning and disinfecting between each use. It also has a special feature called "RightLight" which adjusts to various lighting conditions to produce the best look for the speaker.

Here are two photos which compare the Chromebook webcam and the Logitech C270 HD Webcam "RightLight" feature. I took these two screenshots one right after the other.

You can see that the Logitech C270 HD Webcam both brightened my face and zoomed in on it, too! Here is a good online tutorial on how to use an external webcam with a Chromebook.

I then opened a Zoom meeting and recorded both audio and video first with the Logitech C270 HD Webcam and then with the internal webcam and microphone. You can definitely see the difference in the video and the air-conditioner hum is not as loud using the Logitech C270 HD Webcam. (I used my iPhone to record the Chromebook screen.)

Using the Logitech C270 HD Webcam

Using the Chromebook internal webcam and mic

So, take the time to visit the Logitech for Education site and learn more about the Logitech Crayon, the Logitech H390 USB Headset, and the Logitech C270 HD Webcam. These hardware devices can really enhance student creation!

Logitech sent me these three items in return for writing an honest review of the capabilities of them.