Tuesday, May 27, 2014

2 Cool for School


I am a long-time Microsoft PowerPoint user. I have been using it to #WorkWonders since PowerPoint 2.0 for Windows 3.1 came out in 1992! Over the past few years, in addition to using PowerPoint to create presentations, I have both used and discovered some neat ways it can be used to solve a a few animation problems! You can read about those below.

Want to share how Microsoft Office helps you #WorkWonders in your classroom? What creative ways have you used Word, PowerPoint, Publisher, Access, Lync, or OneNote to help you teach, administer, or help your students learn? Read about the contest and send in your entries!

#WorkWonders and win a Microsoft Surface 2!

Between now and 11:59 midnight US ET on June 2, 2014, follow me on Twitter, submit a public Tweet to me (@kathyschrock), that includes my Twitter handle, a photo, the hashtags #WorkWonders and #contest, the rules and regulations link (http://bit.ly/1od3jSs) and a short overview of your creative project which you used an Office program or programs to plan  make, or create. (The tweet or comment does not have to include the name of the Office program you used.) The winner will receive a Microsoft Surface 2 tablet!

Sample tweets:

@yourtwitterhandle @kathyschrock Used MS PowerPoint for video storyboards to create HS graduation video. #WorkWonders #contest  http://bit.ly/1od3jSs (attached image)

@yourtwitterhandle @kathyschrock Developed an interactive bulletin board to celebrate the "100th Day of School" #WorkWonders #contest http://bit.ly/1od3jSs (attached image)

Hint: if you need to show a series of steps or pictures for your #WorkWonders entry image, consider creating a collage in Publisher or a single slide in PowerPoint and saving it out as a JPEG or picture to attach to the Tweet.

I will be judging the entries, re-tweeting some of them, and will be announcing the winner of the Microsoft Surface 2 tablet on June 9, 2014. The entries will be judged on creativity/originality (25%), quality of submission (25%), and the “fit” to the #WorkWonders theme and use of Office (50%). You can find out more about the #WorkWonders theme on this site: http://office.com/workwonders

Contest rules and regulations:
NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Legal residents of the 50 United States (D.C.), 13 years or older. Enter Promotion by: 6/2/14. To enter and for Official Rules, including prize description, visit http://bit.ly/1od3jSs Void where prohibited.



"Poor Man's Flash" or "Animation on a Shoestring" 

I attended a conference in Australia a few years ago in which a presenter showcased three animations created by students in grades 4, 7, and 9. While watching the short animations, I assumed they were created in Flash. I was very impressed that such young students had become proficient with that software.

Then the presenter surprised us! He hit the escape key, and we saw this on the screen...

PowerPoint slides for a 7th grade student's animation

There was an audible gasp as the audience realized the animation was created using the drawing tools in Microsoft's PowerPoint, with each slide containing a single cell of the animation. The slides were set to advance with an automatic transition after 0 seconds to give the appearance of full-motion animation.

Here is a screencast of the animation as it runs in PowerPoint. I have also shared the PowerPoint presentation in Microsoft's SkyDrive, which will allow you to view and download it to study how it was created.

Below is is a great 3-minute video created by a student who showcases the steps in creating an animation using the tools in Microsoft PowerPoint. He makes it look so easy!


Using Microsoft PowerPoint either locally on a computer or online with Office 365 can be a great way to introduce the art of animation to your students!

Motion Paths are Your Friend

Last year, I was creating a stop-motion animation movie using a camera and stop-motion animation software. The purpose was to showcase how apps were available to replace many of the items in a student backpack with the addition of a mobile device.

I created the first part of the movie by taking photographs as items came out of the backpack. I then wanted the mobile device to pause as it entered the backpack and apps to "fall" into it, each one replacing the physical item that had come out of the backpack.

I tried any number of ways to drop items into the mobile device, but had no luck until I remembered the motion paths that were available in Microsoft PowerPoint. I first took a screenshot from the movie just as the mobile device started to enter the backpack and used this image as the background of a single PowerPoint slide.

I then imported that same image into an image editing program and cropped it so just the lower third of the image was left. I placed that in the foreground on that same PowerPoint slide. My idea was to have each app image "fall" between the background and the foreground images. You can see the highlighted area of the foreground image below.

Cropped foreground image sitting on top of the background image.

I next took all the app images and put them in the area outside of the slide itself, what I call the work area, so I had them handy. You can see what that looked like below. If you zoom out while in PowerPoint, this handy work area become available for use.

Adding all the images in the work area outside of the slide itself in PowerPoint

I created a motion path that started in that same work area, entered the slide from the top, paused, and then slid down between the foreground and background images. I found out a neat thing at that point. 

Once I had one image attached to the top of a motion path, I simply copy-and-pasted that same image and motion path combination. When right-clicking on the copied motion path, I was given the option to "change picture" and replace the image with another app picture. It made things move along very quickly! You can see what that menu looks like below.

Right-click on a image and "change picture" to create a motion path with a new image.

I piled all of the motion paths on top of one another and had them enter the slide area with 0 seconds of time between each one.

Motion paths ready to fall into the mobile device

Here is the finished movie which includes the animation and the motion path segments. Pretty cool, eh?

It's easy to #WorkWonders with Microsoft PowerPoint!

Friday, May 23, 2014

PixiClip for Teaching and Learning

Pixiclip is no longer available online. (5/24/20)
I had a PixiClip account for a while but had not yet put it through its paces. Last week, I was asked to pen a sponsored post and provide ways it might be used to support teaching and learning.

PixiClip describes itself as an "interactive whiteboard" but it is so much more!

PixiClip is a browser-based, screen recording tool. It is simple to use and has the added advantage of allowing the creators of the recordings to include their voice or video of themselves as part of the recording. 

I have been using screen recording tools on mobile devices and stand-alone computer programs for creating screen recordings. Having a browser-based tool like PixiClip, that works right inside of Firefox, Safari, Chrome (even on the Chromebook), and IE, means that once I have created an account, I can use any computer to make a screen-recording.

PixiClip hosts the screen recordings you make, and registered users can keep them private or share them with the public, and they can also delete any older screen recordings as they become out of date.

How it works

I recorded my screen as I created a Pixiclip screen recording. Watch the movie below to see the process. Some of the aspects I point out in the recording are:
  • Start by picking "Start Doodling"
  • Consider using a stylus for writing and drawing; it is more natural
  • Start your Webcam and make sure you are in the picture
  • Gather your image assets to the PixiClip image drawer before you begin
  • As soon as you move an image to the board or start writing, the recording starts, so be ready to begin your lesson or overview
  • When complete, publish the item, give it a name and a description, have the cursor show or not, and make the item public, private, hidden or passworded
  • Share the link via various social networks or email, or grab the embed code to put into a blog entry

Using PixiClip in the Classroom: Students

Having access to a screen recording tool like PixiClip on every computer via the Web browser, both at school and at home, allows students to use screen recording in various ways. In addition, have the ability to post it online with or without a password allows students to share with their teachers and their peers.
  • Each student can create a how-to for a certain mobile app to allow others to access their explanation when needed
  • Students can create a screen recording as a Ticket-to-Leave, summarizing what they learned and allowing them to go over what they were unsure about during that day's lesson
  • Students can create a introduction or "trailer" to a project that they are creating
  • Students can outline the process or storyboard they are going to use to create a project

Using PixiClip in the Classroom: Teachers
  • Teachers can create an introduction to a daily lesson for days when they are attending a workshop and not in the classroom
  • Teachers can use a screen recording as feedback to a student while marking up their paper on the whiteboard in PixiClip
  • Teachers can create their own "Khan-like" screen recordings to provide students with both remediation and instructional videos
  • Create a screen recording exemplar representing what you want the students to create with PixiClip
I have an entire page dedicated to screen recording in the classroom. It includes additional ideas, tips and tricks that you can employ when making your PixiClip screen recordings.

Have you created any PixiClip recordings you would like to share? Can you think of other ways that PixiClip can help support you in teaching and your students in learning? Send me a note with your samples and ideas!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Visme: Online creation tool

I have been working with Visme.co, an online free suite of tools to help you "visualize your ideas". Once you create an account, you have the option to create a presentation, a banner ad, an infographic, start with a blank canvas, and (soon) create a product demo. 

Dashboard of Visme
With the Visme Free account, you can create up to three projects, which are branded with the Visme logo, and have a full set of features to use in your design; there are images, icons, and banners included, you can upload your own images, animate the elements in your project, and publish the finished project online or download it as a JPEG. There are two upgrade options that allow more projects, more storage space, more elements to use in the projects and other useful options. You can find out more about Visme Standard and Visme Complete here. Some new features that are coming soon are a Microsoft PowerPoint import into the presentation project as well as a number of new templates.

I chose to create an infographic, since I have been learning and teaching about them for the past few years. I have used some of the other online infographic-making sites, but I like Visme since there are other types of visual products to create in addition to the infographic. The interfaces are all similar, so it makes it easy to move from type to type for any project I want to create.

I admit that I am an infographic purist. With all of my reading on the topic, I have come to follow the ideas put forth by Eric K. Meyer in his 1977 book Designing InfographicsMeyer states a good infographic should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. He likens the visual elements in an infographic to those in a new story’s headlines and lead.

In addition, he goes on to state that most readers skim both text and images rather than reading them, so a well-crafted visual image at the top of the infographic may just be the hook the viewer needs to stop and take the time to read and look at the information in the infographic. He talks about the way people read an infographic as an inverted pyramid style with the main point at the top and secondary point and supporting details down the page. Meyer also suggests any text in the title of the graphic should communicate facts rather than just label the information. Following is a sample that follows his guidelines.

Sample of inverted pyramid style of infographic

I view lots of infographics and many are just "infographic-like posters" with no weight to the visual information to help the reader understand what the creator thinks is the most important. However, with Visme, I could easily edit the themes to reflect the ideas from Eric Meyer that I wanted to utilize.

The first thing you see in the infographics area of Visme are the themes to pick from to create your infographic. They are colorful and include traditional infographic elements like icons, graphs, and other visual elements that are easy to add, edit, color, resize, and rotate.

Theme choices for an infographic

I chose a template I knew I could easily work with to showcase the data I was presenting which was the overview data from the Pew Internet Research report (March 2013) on what devices students used to access the Internet.

Template default
I first came up with a catch phrase for in the top banner and a text title that was meaningful, but also left the viewer wanting more information. I played around with animating some of the elements, but decided, since I wanted to share this infographic in print form, I would not use this option. Animations would probably be better suited for banner ads, presentations, and product demos. 

 Beginning the infographic
I took a look at the the Web icons that were included in Visme, and then decided to resize one of them to make it the focal point of the infographic. This area included the primary information from the Pew Report.

Focal point of infographic
I liked the graphics that were at the top of the original template and wanted to use them. One great feature was I could CNTRL-CLICK on each part of the graphics and highlight the entire section and then use the arrow keys to move it down the template to the area where I wanted to use the graphic elements.

It is also very easy to add drop-shadows, layer your objects, and take advantage of many other editing features in Visme.

Secondary details of infographic

The Visme projects include a chart maker that allows you to import data, pick a visualization, and add it to your infographic. I did not use the graph engine for this project since I already had the compiled data, but here is what it looks like.

I decided to use one of the other infograph widgets to call out the percentages on each line of the secondary data on the infographic.

And, at the bottom of the infographic I was able to insert my own image to personalize the project, include a text overview of the project, as well as the URL to the full Pew Internet Research report.

Here is the completed infographic project. You can view it online at the Visme site at http://my.visme.co/projects/5eb122

Give Visme a try, whether for an infographic, a presentation, or a custom project and share the URLs of your projects with me!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

"Whacking" the Web with Keep Everything

Way back in 1996, a small company, Forefront, contacted me and traded their new software, WebWhacker 1.0, for a small click-thorough to their site on my Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators page. It was the neatest piece of software. It allowed the me to download a Web page or series of Web pages to the computer desktop and the text and images were able to be accessed locally! 

To put things in perspective, this software was for Windows 3.1 and Mac OS 7.x with a beta version for Win 95. Those were the days when many of us were still writing HTML by hand to post our pages. It was nice to be able to download someone else's site to my computer to showcase it a workshop, since there was often not an network connection in workshop rooms. I would bring the "WebWhacked" sites on a diskette since, of course, we were all working on desktops.

Nowadays, the ability to save Web page text and images to the the desktop is built right into the Web browsers. In Firefox, simply pick FILE-SAVE PAGE. In Chrome, pick SAVE PAGE AS - WEBPAGE, COMPLETE. In Safari,it is FILE - SAVE AS - WEB ARCHIVE. Don't forget to copy the original page's URL for your citation!

However, the Web now has more types of information available than just Web pages that we want to archive or read locally when there is no Internet available. As students collect assets for a project, they are interested in Web pages, tweets, and videos. If students can download their assets to read and view when they do not have access to the Net, they can work on their projects anywhere. In addition, if educators require students to hand in their downloaded assets with their papers or projects, it can also be a deterrent to student plagiarism.

Keep Everything
There is a new software app for Mac computers and iPads created by groosoft that is called Keep Everything. It allows the user to locally archive Web pages, Tweets, videos, and more to the local computer or iPad. Users can simply drag the URL or Tweet to the Keep Eveything window and the archived pages are saved both locally and to a Dropbox folder and can be synced between all the user's Apple devices. Through Keep Everything, you can also get back to the original source page through a link icon. Another useful feature of Keep Everything is the choice available when downloading an article. The user can have the entire page archived or just simpler-looking page that includes the text of the article.


The app is available for both the Mac and the iPad. Here is a introduction to how it works.

I also made a short video on the Mac of how I saved a tweet with Keep Everything.

There are free versions of both apps to try out the product. There are in-app purchases to upgrade to the premium version. ($4.99 for iOS and $9.99 fo for the Mac.) The free version limits the user to under 100 saved items.

iOS app store:

Mac app store:

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Personalize content for an audience

This article originally appeared in the Discovery Education blog "Kathy Schrock's Katch of the Month" in May 2014 and is re-posted here with permission.

Technology allows educators to easily personalize content for a specific audience, whether it be colleagues, students, parents, or the community. By simply changing the context of a piece of work, it can be meaningful to a different audience. Consider a how-to tutorial for students. Most likely, you are teaching them face-to-face, and the how-to is available to students for reference during and after the fact. However, if you are disseminating that same information to parents, you will have to include a video or written explanation of the “teacher talk” you used while working with the students.
Much of the literature about personalizing content for a specific audience comes from the marketing world. For example, here is a sample audience analysis for a new product that is created before the marketing campaign begins. In an article about communication and mobile devices on Rob De Lorenzo’s blog, The Mobile Learner,  he sums it up nicely when he writes:
“Know Your Audience: This is an indispensable job skill today. Communicating ideas that are relevant to the target audience is not a new concept – businesses and the marketing industry have done this for generations. The difference today is that being able to access anyone and everyone on the globe through communication technologies now means that we must all now frame our communication to an audience. In order to communicate to our target audience, we must know something about them and that is where mobile devices come in. One can use online tools such as Google Forms to poll one’s audience or use Twitter to engage in conversation with them. The better one knows an audience, the better one can frame communication for them.”
The Common Core State Standards include, in the ELA Anchor Standards in Writing, a standard stating a student needs learn how to produce “clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience.” In an Edutopia blog post by Rebecca Alber, she provides some ideas, by grade level, for writing projects to target specific audiences. For instance, one for seventh and eighth graders includes having them brainstorm things they would like to do to improve their school and then writing persuasive letters to the administration with their ideas.
Another type of persuasive project that can help students learn to create media for a specific audience is the public service announcement. When planning for a PSA, students should first outline these elements for their production:
  • An overview of the target audience
  • A single main point
  • The specific action to be taken by the viewer
  • How to grab the viewer’s attention
  • What visual and audio elements to use
  • And how to keep the PSA short (under one minute in length)
Here is a public service announcement that is an oldie but a goodie. It is meant to educate the audience to the risks of listening to loud music via headphones: Hearing Loss and Headphones. Another organization well-known for its persuasive works is the AD Council. Their content dates back to the War Bonds campaign of the early 1940’s. Here is a current PSA trying to convince viewers to consider teaching as a career: Teach- Think You Know. If you decide you want to try using public service announcements as a student assessment, an educator has compiled is a list of some PSA ideas for public service announcements you can use as a starting point and I have an page in support of an older presentation that might be useful, too.
I have been creating a little different type of personalized content lately. For two of my recent speaking engagements, the AAIM (AR) Conference and the TIE (SD) Conference, I created short videos as part of a digital storytelling presentation that might be used to introduce a state history unit.
Using the Audience Analysis idea from above, here is an outline of my thoughts:
1. Analysis: the target audience is PreK-12 educators with an interest in technology
2. Understanding: the audience is knowledgeable about the history of their state
3. Demographics: the audience is college-educated, education majors
4. Interest: the audience wants to learn more about technology in support of teaching and learning
5. Environment: the video will be shown as part of a digital storytelling presentation
6. Needs: the audience needs to learn the process of creating a multimedia product to introduce a unit
7. Customization: information to be covered in the presentation are the use of Creative Commons and the use of movie-editing software to create a video from still images
8. Expectations: the audience will learn how to find, utilize, and cite images they can use, how to put them into video-editing software, and add a soundtrack to be used to introduce a unit
My main goal was to showcase how, with the use of Creative Commons-licensed images and a song that I had permission to use, I could create a short video about a state. Creative Commons licensing allows creators of content to give explicit instructions on how their content may be used without you having to ask permission to use. The creator of content, in this instance, photographs, can apply up to four components to their permission to use their item.
  • Attribution
  • Commercial/non-commercial use
  • Modification
  • Share alike
These slides will provide you with some additional information on each of these components.
CC - Attribution CC- Commercial use

CC- Derivative worksCC- Share alike


Creative Commons-licensed images are what I am usually searching for. Both the advanced search page of Google Images and Flickr have ways to limit your search results to CC-licensed images and also those that meet your need for use (commercial vs. non-commercial, editing, etc.)


Here are links to the two personalized state videos I created.