Thursday, August 27, 2009

Preparing For a New Technology Project


I tried out a new tool today called ToonDoo that lets you create comic strips.  I have to say I really like this one and hope to see some teachers use it.  However this brings up the issue of how to prepare for a good technology project.  I can remember the first time I brought a class into the lab to do a photostory project.  I was actually naive enough to think that I could just sit them down at the computer and start working, without them doing any prep beforehand.  As you can imagine, it went very bad and yes, I learned quickly.

Whether it is a PowerPoint, Photostory, or a new Web 2.0 tool like Animoto or ToonDoo, there are a few points of preparation that will help out a lot when you enter the lab.


If you are going to create any kind of a project with visual media such as pictures or video, storyboarding is critical.  Your time in the actual lab is usually going to be very limited.  Personally I find the greatest advantage of storyboarding to be that the creative process is primarily managed within the classroom.  A storyboard allows students to create a visual representation of what each slide or picture will look like.  It gives teachers and/or students the chance to proofread any text that might be included in the project.  If students are spending their lab time trying to figure out what to write or what sort of picture they should be looking for, they will quickly run out of time.

Creating a Gallery

I find this tip especially useful when working with younger students.  Rather than sending them on a wild goose chase through the internet for images, make a collection of relevant images or clipart in a central location that the students can easily browse and access.  In the ToonDoo website it is possible to create your own characters, so you can create multiple characters that the students can then manipulate and move about within their comic strips.  Different websites and applications have different options for making a gallery, so partner with a technology specialist (like me!) if you are unsure of how to make a gallery for your specific project.

Set Milestones

Make sure students know when to be completed with EACH STAGE of the project.  For example, on day 1 you may have them select images.  On day 2 you plan to have them add text.  Establish reasonable deadlines beforehand and hold to them!  It is very easy for students to get lost in the process of changing and re-changing things, especially when they are doing something creative.  If they have a clear time table going in, they have a better chance of completing their project in time.

Have Fun!

Well, there's a few tips from me.  These probably sound like common sense and they are!  However I know how easy it can be to lose sight of details such as these when you are on a tight schedule to plan things out.  Please feel free to comment with any additional tips of your own or contact me if you want help in setting up a project of your own.  Get creative!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Embedding Video in Your Website

So you've seen some of those cool little videos people put on their webpages, and you'd like to do one yourself.  Creating videos keeps getting easier with tools like Animoto, but getting that awesome video onto your website can be a little tricky.

Getting Embed Code (What is Embed Code!?)
Embed code is HTML code that tells your webpage to place an object in the middle of the page, or embed it.  Most video websites provide easy access to this.  For example in Youtube, there is a gray box to the left of the video that contains both the URL (for making a hyperlink) and the embed code.  In an Animoto video, click on "Share This Video" to bring up the embed code.  Other video websites are similar.  Once you have this code, copy it onto your clipboard (Right-click->Copy or Ctrl+c) but keep the webpage open so you can refer back to it.

Embedding in Web-based Website Creators
Most of the web-based website creators like EducatorPages or Google Sites manage the majority of the formatting of your page for you.  You edit certain portions of the webpage separetely, so you never see all of the HTML code at once.  This makes pasting in embed code a little easier.  When you are editing the part of your webpage where you would like the video you should see a toolbar at the top that contains something similar to the following:

The blue arrow is pointing to the HTML button.  Clicking this will allow you to edit the HTML code for the portion of the webpage you are working on.  Paste in the code (Right-click->Paste or Ctrl+V) where you would like the video to be and then return to the regular design view.  Your video is now embedded and will show up when people view your completed website.

Embedding in Frontpage

The most straightforward way to embed a video into Frontpage is to switch to the "Code" view at the bottom of the screen and then paste the embed code into the page.  Wherever the cursor was located while you were in design view will be where it is located in Code view, so you can find your place in the page that way.  If you don't like messing with the screen full of code, here's another option.

Click Insert -> Web Component

This will open up the Web Component dialog box.  From here, select Advanced Controls (scroll to the bottom) and then select HTML in the box on the right.  Then click Finish.

This will bring up the HTML Markup dialog box.  Paste your embed code into the large white box and click ok.

Initially your video won't look like much in design view, you'll see a small box with a question mark.  However if you click "Preview" mode on the bottom of the screen, you will get a preview of what the video will actually look like.

I hope you find these tips useful!  A short video can do a lot to spice up a website, and once you have embedded one, the process becomes much more familiar.  Have fun!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

A New Journey

Well I am starting to get settled in my new position as the Instructional Technologist at GCMS.  I have to say that I am working for a great district in a great community, and I'm very happy to be here.

These days finding technology resources is easy.  Sorting them out to discover what is actually usefull can be a little more frustrating.  This blog will be devoted to some of the different tools I am learning and how to apply them in the classroom.  Stay tuned for more updates!