Toontastic and Telestory are FREE

I have been so busy designing new and creative ways for my students to tell stories digitally. We’ve been using Animoto, StoryboardThat, and Thinglink to share our reading experiences.  I absolutely love these programs.

But once upon a time, when I had my whole team reading the SAME novel, I had the students use a fabulous storytelling app on the iPads.  It was called Toontastic.

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We read the intriguing story of Claudia and Jamie searching for the mystery of the Angel statue in From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburg.

Well, I am happy to announce that Toontastic is joining Google and is now FREE!   This is a huge deal as this was a pricey app!  I love Toontastic as it offers so many great choices to showcase stories.  You start by planning your story via the plot diagram or story arc.  Choose your scene, characters, and mood music to communicate your ideas.  There are dozens and dozens to choose from.  Animate your characters and record your voice.  Put it all together to show what you know!  Is there any better way to show that the students understand the parts of a story? Love, love, love!  See our example below.

Now, I have not used Launchpads Toys sister app, Telestory, but judging from the App Store reviews, it is just as fabulous and FREE too.  According to the description, you can create and broadcast your own TV show!  The steps seem to be simple.

“Pick a theme, then mix and match over 30 animated scenes to film your own story.  Craft a script using our playful TV tropes (or write your own).   Dress up in 50 different digital costumes with face tracking.  Perform and record your own show with animated settings and special effects.  Broadcast your show by exporting it to the camera roll and sharing your creation with family and friends around the world!” 

This app is compatible with the iPod and iPhone too!  Moms and Dads might like to have this one too!

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Our Digital Journey: Animoto

We’ve been hard at work this year integrating technology and telling  great stories. Animoto has been a favorite program!  You can create beautiful videos and presentations very simply!  Sophia’s video will tug at your heart as she introduces the book Blindsided by Priscilla Cummings.

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Click on the image or here to play it.

Lauren was inspired by The Hunger Games:  Mockingjay.  She was able to upload a song purchased on her own device to convey the mood of this popular title.

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Click on the image or here to play it.

Animoto is very easy to use.  Students can import videos, images, music, and text to share their learning.  Teachers can get all of the Pro features for FREE by applying for an Animoto For the Classroom account.  That means unlimited, 20 minute, unbranded videos that can be shared via Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and email.  Click on the logo below to get started.

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Digital Storytelling with StoryboardThat

This is our first year truly living with the Pennsylvania Common Core Standards in ELA.  Add that to a new reading textbook, and you’ve got some hard-working, frustrated kiddos.  I knew I needed to give my students another avenue to show what they know!  We read an awesome nonfiction passage in our textbook about how scientists measure animal intelligence and the difficulties associated with it.  Then I popped my students on the Chromebooks to use an awesome digital tool:

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The kids were crazy about this program.  It is so customizable!  There are tons of terrific backgrounds, people, animals, and objects to manipulate.  I had the students create paper template retellings first, and it was so easy to transfer them to StoryboardThat!  Check out Erigan’s storyboard – complete with audio too!

 

 

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You will absolutely love StoryboardThat for its easy of use and simple ability to utilize it in ANY classroom.  Try a FREE teacher trial for two weeks.  After that, it is very affordable.  You can create folders for each class or assignment, leave comments, and browse lesson plans.  I highly recommend this program!

All About Me Using Pic Collage

The Tech Club is working on All About Me using the FREE app Pic Collage.  I love Pic Collage for its ease of use.  You can take pictures, use pictures from your camera roll, add effects, crop them, and add borders.  You can customize your creation with a bunch of really fun backgrounds and layouts.  Best of all, you can search the web for pictures of your favorite sports teams and celebrities.  Note:  Sign up for an teacher/educational account and you can limit students’ ability to search the web which is important if you are teaching younger students.  I can’t wait to share our final products next week!

But, first…

Let me take a selfie!

Up close and personal!

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Sweet Background!

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Our Digital Journey: Selecting the Tools


Screen Shot 2014-10-05 at 5.57.33 PMThis is the third post in a series documenting the digital literacy initiative at Cecil Intermediate School.  If you like this post, you may want to read “What Do You Value” and “Building a Team”.

Writing a lesson plan can be difficult.  I always know what I’d like the outcome to look like, but I struggle with the details.  Sometimes, I just have to get started before I can be super specific about how I will meet my objective.  The same is true with our new Digital Journey.  As I highlighted in my first post, the world is looking for problem solvers, team players, collaborators, and communicators.  But as many of you know, there are thousands of web tools and apps that encourage these skills.  How do you narrow it down?

I considered the following categories before making my final selection:

1.  Ease of Use:  Our students are sweet, hard-working, and bright fifth and sixth graders.  Many of them have their own devices at home, but they have not had a great deal of experience using complex programs.  I wanted them to feel comfortable and successful right away.

2.  Compatibility:  If we are going to encourage students to learn and create at home as well as school, I felt that the programs needed to be available on many different platforms.  I gave special consideration to tools that could be accessed from computers, Chromebooks, tablets, and even phones.

3.  Google Connected:  The technology department created Google Accounts for each of our students as we have three Chromebook carts available for use.  I wanted students to have the experience of registering through Google, so they could see how easy it is.  The fewer the steps they need to take to get into a program, the better off we will all be!

4.  Application:  The tools selected allow students the ability to express themselves through pictures, video, and audio.  The tools can be utilized in ANY of our courses, including the Arts and Humanities.

5.  Ability to Share:  After students have created their spectacular projects, we need to be able to share them with the world.  Tools that encourage sharing via email, Twitter, YouTube, and Schoology were given special preference.  But no worries, most educational web tools are built with this in mind!

Want to see our first digital tool list?  Stay tuned!

Digital Tools for the Intermediate ELA Classroom

One of my dear friends recently sent me a text message. Her son, entering grade six, failed to meet the benchmark on his state reading test, and is completely uninterested in reading. However, he is completely interested in technology, and “can you help?”

What a tough place to be in, as a parent. Your child has come out of the current public school system without a) a love of reading and b) the ability to achieve a proficient status on a state standardized test. Now, I could go into the many, many flaws in our assessment system, but let’s remove that from the equation. What are we doing to kill the love of reading in our classrooms?

The Book Whisperer, Donalyn Miller, has the same concerns. What she suggests is offering the students the choice in what to read. Good reading skills are not built with test prep periods and practice tests. They are built with reading, pure and simple. And the most important thing to note is that not all students enjoy the same type of reading material.

But how can you provide many different types of materials at a cost that you can afford in your middle school classroom? Or, if you are a parent, how can you provide reading material that will excite your child?

OverDrive-AppFor fiction, I highly recommend the Overdrive app. To see my full post, click here. In a nutshell, Overdrive allows you to borrow digital e-books (and audiobooks!) from your local or county library. All you need is a library card. There are no late fees. No hidden charges. There may still be waiting lists for popular books, but you will be notified and can grab your book when it is convenient for YOU.

storiaI have not tried Storia, but it is an e-book app from Scholastic. Since I am such a huge fan of Scholastic, I may install it on my devices and play with it. I think I can use my bonus points to purchase some titles. Can our students share their thoughts about their books too?

6056bd7b0a1d42163f5dec0c014f2febThere are loads of other sources for nonfiction reading. My favorite this year was Newsela. Each day, Newsela publishes five new current event stories. Every student wins as the lexile level of each story can be adjusted! Some of my students were reading on a fourth grade level, while others could handle high school wording. Newsela leveled the playing field. Many of the articles include quizzes, and a premium version ($$$) will allow you to track progress of individual students, individual classes, and individual common core anchors. The premium version will also allow you to create open-ended questions. The program worked very well for me, but the premium price is a bit steep. A customized quote is recommended.

1269245I’ve started to receive emails about the updated TweenTribune site. It is now being run by Smithsonian Education. I’m definitely leaning towards this tool as it also has an iPad app! What do you think? Do you use either of these?

20130423-1817062In addition, I’m thinking of resubscribing to News-O-Matic. I’ll be watching my free app websites http://www.smartappsforkids.com and http://www.funeducationalapps.com.   I’ve noticed that a yearly News-O-Matic subscription often goes on sale. With five days of original news/week, it might be worth it. See my original post here.

WonderLogo-MathI also absolutely love Wonderopolis. It is less conventional than the other options above, but it is a terrific source for nonfiction that is engaging and exciting! See my full post about Camp Wonderopolis here.

BiblionasiumAnother new tool that I plan on using this year is Biblionasium. It has taken me a while, but I am finally convinced that reading and writing need to be social experiences for my students. They will learn just as much, if not more, from their peers, both near and far. Bilbionasium is a safe, free, social networking site for children ages 6-13 to share their reading experiences. They can read and write reviews, post comments, search for titles, recommend books titles, etc.  I think it will be a terrific way to give my students a voice that is simple, safe, and fun!

 

Do you have any other tools that I should consider?  Please let me know by commenting below.