My Heritage

We may fear artificial intelligence with all of its potential harmful uses, but as with all technology it brings benefits as well. One of those is being employed by a website called My Heritage. A site for tracing and keeping records of your ancestry, it has recently added a new tool called, “Deep Nostalgia.” You can apply it to your photographs in order to animate them, and it can be quite enchanting. Of course the intent is to help you to imagine relatives from the past as they might have been when alive. But I played around with it to see how historical figures could be brought to life.

Since it is Women’s History Month, I looked for a website that listed past women who have made an impact on the world. I came across Bessie Coleman, the first Native American (she was part Cherokee) to get a pilot’s license. I was drawn to Bessie’s smiling image because it reminded me of some of the teenagers I taught in the past, and I immediately wanted to know her. I downloaded the following photo from Wikipedia.

I then went to My Heritage, where I had already created a free account, and uploaded the photo to my album. When you open a photo in your collection, you see an option to animate it in the top right corner. It takes a few moments to “apply its magic,” and then your video appears. There are several different ways to animate the image, so you can play around with trying different movements that seem to fit the personality of the portrait. When finished, it is saved to your album, and you can share it multiple ways, including downloading it.

Don’t you wish you could meet this young lady?

Of course, my curiosity is never quenched, so my next attempt was to find an image of someone from history before photography existed. I found a drawing of Boudica, legendary warrior queen, uploaded it to the site, and waited with skepticism. However, this also produced amazing results. I haven’t tried rudimentary drawings, like stick figures, but I have a feeling there are probably limits to this artificial intelligence tool.

My Heritage also has an app, so you can use pretty much any device to animate the images. The videos are short, but just long enough to make you feel like you are glimpsing through a window into the past. If I was a history teacher, I would definitely use My Heritage to help my students connect to people who may seem irrelevant and unreal (if they are even mentioned) in the pages of a textbook.

More About Wakelet

I’ve been using Wakelet since late last year (2020) primarily as a curation tool, and wrote about all of the features that I like in this September post. As I know that I need to read about things a few times before I try them, I thought I would revisit this tool in today’s blog post so I could remind you of its amazing-ness, let you know about some features you may not have tried yet, and inform you about what’s new.

Wakelet is far more than a bookmarking tool, though it certainly does that well. As you can see in my description from September, this free app and website is extremely versatile, allowing users to curate images, social media posts, websites, text, PDF’s, and more from pretty much any internet-connected device. What I didn’t really emphasize in my previous post, though, was the education-friendliness of Wakelet. Take, for instance, its Immersive Reader tool, which is embedded so that any text can be read aloud. Another example is its integration with Flipgrid so that users can add video on the fly to a Wakelet. Collaboration between peers, between students and teachers, and crowd-sourcing for research or sharing resources are all possible with Wakelet. Portfolios like this one can be made by students.

If you want more ideas for ways to use Wakelet, the Tweet embedded below, by @TxTechChick has a nice visual:

The above list, as well as simple instructions for using Wakelet, can be found in the recently released e-book. In other Wakelet news, you can now “react” to collections and items in Wakelet. For up-to-the-moment information, follow the company @Wakelet, and visit their blog.

Here is a link to my Wakelet of items about Wakelet. You can visit this page to see all of my public Wakelet collections. I hope that you will see the value in this tool and give it a try!

Cat in the Hat Builds That

Cat in the Hat Builds That is a mobile app that is based on the PBS series, “The Cat in the Hat Knows A Lot About That.”  With a target audience of younger children (Pre-K and up), this free app (available on Android, iPhone, iPad, and Kindle Fire devices)  is an entertaining introduction to STEM principles, such as the engineering design process, problem-solving, inquiry, and creativity.  By solving different puzzles and demonstrating skills such as perseverance, players can unlock more features in the game – opening up more opportunities to explore and create.  They can decorate the tree house that serves as the home base in the app as they collect new objects during their adventures.

For those parents and educators concerned about too much screen time, Cat in the Hat Builds That also gives suggestions for STEM activities that can be done at home with parental supervision.  In addition, there is a section for “Grownups” within the app that summarizes the games included, and the STEM concepts being taught within each one.

Although children could certainly play this game independently, I would recommend some parental involvement in order to maximize the learning.  Recognizing and verbalizing the vocabulary and concepts will help students to develop habits of thinking that they can apply outside of the game for a long time to come.

screen shot from “Cat in the Hat Builds That” app

TX Youth Code Jam

The TX Youth Code Jam is a virtual hackathon, and open to submissions from any student in the United States in grades K-12.  Entries are due on April 24, 2020.  Coding is not required for the projects, but any students who are registered can learn more about coding and other topics in the scheduled online workshops. (My wonderful friend, Michelle Amey, is presenting a workshop for parents to encourage creative thinking, and her son is doing an Advanced Scratch Workshop.)  It is free to enter the Code Jam, and creativity is highly encouraged.  The requirement for each submission is that it must be something the student (or team of students) created to solve a problem.  You can view the challenges here.

The Code Jam is offering lots of cool prizes, but the hope is that children will have fun designing, problem solving, and learning as they participate.  As our current quarantine situation has made us painfully aware, people who are solely consumers in our society find themselves to be far too dependent on others to provide sustenance and entertainment.  If your child needs some inspiration, go to the Resources page of TX Youth Code Jam, and scroll down to the section, “Kids like you innovating during the pandemic.”  It’s great to see what young people can do!

Image by Jess Foami from Pixabay

 

Quarantine Can’t Keep Us Down!

I’ve noticed that a popular activity during our COVID-19 pandemic right now is scavenger hunts.  My favorite scavenger hunt app is Goosechase, which I wrote about in January of this year.  Although I don’t currently have students, I immediately thought of this app when pondering how I would engage my students during online learning.  I considered making a GooseChase for other teachers and families to use, but a few others have beat me to the punch – and done much better jobs than I would have done.

First of all, Goosechase itself has begun a “Community Cup 2020” that is open to all to participate.  It runs from now until April 3rd, with new missions being added each day.  (Apparently the first day included a mission for people to do their best Batman impression, and the video compilation of select submissions is super cute.)  The page describing the contest also includes a how-to video in case you are new to Goosechase.  Since this is an app that asks for photos and videos of people doing (usually) silly things, please be conscious of privacy issues, especially for minors.  

Boys and Girls Clubs of Metro Atlanta have also created their own special pandemic-inspired Goosechase.  They tweeted that they have one called, “Quarantine Can’t Keep Us Down,” which ends tomorrow, March 26th.  You can download the app and do a search for that game title to participate.  It has so many missions that I couldn’t count them, and it would definitely be a fun activity for the whole family.  According to @BGCMA_Clubs on Twitter, this is just the first of an educational series of scavenger hunts, so follow them on Twitter if you are interested in participating in future hunts.

For teachers who are interested in making your own Goosechases, the company is offering free-of-charge upgrades to the Educator Plus tier of the GooseChase EDU platform for the duration of the shutdown for all teachers.

https://pixabay.com/photos/wash-hands-corona-disinfection-4941746/

Makey Makey Book Tasting

So I’m not saying that I decided to follow Barb Seaton (@barb_seaton) because she has a bulldog in her profile picture – but it is definitely evidence that we are kindred spirits.

Since I know there are many librarians who follow this blog, I wanted to share Barb’s recent tweet about a Makey Makey Book Tasting project that she did.

The link to Barb’s Instructables post gives great directions on how you can use Scratch, pressure switches, and a Makey Makey to create an interactive display of book choices for students.

There are many potential students-centered uses for this idea, such as using student-created book blurbs or designing containers for the pressure switches and wires.  Scratch has made it extremely easy in the last couple of years to program for use with Makey Makey, and Barb has a link to a video to help you out in her Instructables post.

Here are some of my other posts on Makey Makey in case you are not familiar with this tool.  And here is a list of my posts on using Scratch and Scratch Jr.  Also, if you don’t follow her already, @gravescolleen is the Queen of Makey Makey projects.  She wrote 20 Makey Makey Projects for the Evil Genius, and works for Makey Makey creating content.