Apps, Computer Science, Creative Thinking, Education, K-5, Parenting

Put the “hAPPy” Back Into your Holidays

It’s the time of year when I (and pretty much every tech blogger on the planet) give some recommendations for apps that you may want to install on those new iPads some children received for Christmas. This list has a few limitations: the apps are mostly iOS, I can only attest to their appeal to kids in the elementary age bracket, and I’m sticking to apps that encourage creativity this year.  For app lists from prior years, you can check out my 2013 post and my 2012 one.

I’m giving you a shorter list this year, but adding some resources. That’s because my experience has shown me that students often don’t get a lot out of creativity apps without some examples and encouragement from an adult.  Don’t expect to just load these on your child’s mobile device and walk away.  With some input from parents and/or teachers, kids will learn more and become more adventurous and creative than they will with no guidance. Otherwise, they tend to quickly return to apps that require less thought.

We’ll start with some free ones today, and I’ll recommend some of the few paid apps I like tomorrow.

Learn how to make a snowflake with the Hopscotch app and video tutorial.
Learn how to make a snowflake with the Hopscotch app and video tutorial.
  • Hopscotch – This programming app has been revved up in the last six months, and it really took off with my students during the Hour of Code.  You can find a lot of other tutorials on their YouTube channel here, such as how to make a snowflake.  Once your child does one or two of the tutorials, he or she will be ready to make some games and other masterpieces.  Here is a recent post I did on using Hopscotch in the classroom.
  • Lego Movie Maker – Kids love to make stop motion videos.  I have some students who would be perfectly happy if they could spend the entire school day producing these short films.  Don’t be fooled by the “Lego” part of the name, because you do not have to use those building blocks to have a great time with the app.  However, it is nice to have some around!  For a wonderful resource on how to use this app with your child, check out this great post from Melody Lopez.  If you’re a teacher, you may want to get some ideas from Ms. Mitchell.  Another free alternative app that my students in Maker Club enjoyed was Goldieblox and the Movie Machine. (However, you cannot export the Goldieblox to the Camera Roll as you can with the Lego app.)
  • ChatterPix Kids -This app continues to be a student favorite.  Here is a post I did on it awhile back.  Basically, you can make any still picture talk by drawing a mouth on it and recording your own voice.  Here’s a link to a ChatterPix Pinterest Board of ideas, which I got from a post on Fractus Learning about the app.
  • PicCollage -This app is actually available on iTunes and Google Play.  It has so many uses at home and in the classroom.  If your child takes a lot of pictures, then this app is awesome for collecting them to make into simple scrapbook pages.  Kids can also make comic strips and posters using it.  It’s very versatile, as you will see if you Google it.  Here are a few ideas to get you started if you are a parent introducing your child to this app for the first time. Canva is another fun way to make collages, and they recently released an iPad app.

Of course, there are many other free apps that are well worth downloading.  I highly recommend that you visit iPad Apps 4 School for even more ideas.  But these are my top suggestions for making sure your child’s tablet is used for creating and not just consuming.  Check back tomorrow for some more ideas!

Apps, Creative Thinking, Critical Thinking, Education, K-12, Language Arts, Student Products, Teaching Tools, Videos

Using ChatterPix Kids to Teach Perspective

ChatterPix Okapi

I should probably confess right now that this lesson was pretty much a bust.

“Then, why are you sharing it?” you say.

Well, like most of my lessons, it was not a complete bust.  There were some “boom” aspects to it.  Plus, I think I now know most of the factors that contributed to the bust, and I want to record them for posterity for the next time I try this idea.

“Oh, I thought you were going to say that you wanted to help your readers avoid all of your mistakes!” you say.

Okay.  That, too.

I have been discussing “Multiple Perspectives” with my 11 GT first graders.  A couple of months ago, word of the ChatterPix Kids app arrived in the Twittersphere, and I thought that this might be the time to have the students try using it.  (I used it, myself, in December to make some Augmented Reality cards.)

So, here is the saga.  The starred portions are where, in retrospect, I’m pretty sure I contributed to the ultimate doom of the project.

To set the scene, I read Who is Melvin Bubble? by Nick Bruel to the class.  This was probably one of the “boomier” parts of my lesson.  In the book, different characters talk about a boy named Melvin Bubble, giving their opinion of him.  The perspectives range from Santa’s point of view that he’s “always on my nice list” to the Tooth Fairy’s opinion that “he has a big head!” I used different voices, and the kids were practically rolling on the floor.

After discussing the book, I asked the kids to divide sheets of paper into fourths.  On each fourth they drew: a self-portrait, a holiday character, a book character, and their favorite animal. I told them to make the pictures big – especially the faces.

Why is it that students never want to use up space with drawings?  They have a whole 1/4 of a paper, and they still draw faces the size of a flea.*

Why did I have them do four pictures? I should have had them do two.  Or one.*

I showed them how to use the ChatterPix app.  So many things went wrong right here.  My Reflector wasn’t working, so I had to show the iPad under the document camera.*  I did not emphasize the importance of zooming in on each pic individually.**  I did not show them how to focus the camera by tapping on the screen.***  I apparently did not emphasize the importance of drawing the mouth on the actual mouth of the picture (resulting in talking chins and cheeks).  ****

Of course, I didn’t realize any of this at the time, so I be-bopped happily around taking pictures as the kids chattered away.*

Later, when I watched and listened to the videos, I realized that I also did not make my point clear about the purpose of the activity.  They were supposed to have each character talk in the first person about them (as in the video embedded below).  Instead, the students talked in the first person about their characters.*  Argghhhh!!

Next class, I gamely tried to rectify all of the above issues.  Thankfully, the new perspective on perspective made a difference.  Horrifyingly, however, one of my examples became an oft-repeated favorite. “And, remember the Tooth Fairy in Melvin Bubble?  Not all of your characters have to say how much they like you.”*

Ergo, 50% of the videos commenced to speak about how much they disliked the student who drew them.*

Oh, and did I mention that my plan was to add every video to Aurasma Studio so the students could take their papers home and the parents could scan them to see the cute videos?*

Oh, and did I mention that I told the kids this was the plan, and told the parents (on our class blog)?******************

Lessons Learned:  do only one or two videos, don’t suggest that your students make disparaging videos about themselves, teach kids that talking mouths look kind of creepy on top of noses and even creepier on pin-sized heads, and never, NEVER reveal your future plans.

On the plus side, the ChatterPix app had them completely engaged for 2 class periods 🙂

Apps, Augmented Reality, Education, K-5, Motivation, Teaching Tools, Videos

Bonus Post – More Augmented Reality Holiday Cards

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Last year, I posted a couple of augmented reality holiday cards that you could use as thank you’s, holiday greetings, or rewards in your classroom.  I made a few more this year by using a different process.  First, I created the cards using Canva, one of my favorite online graphic design tools.  Then, I “Dropboxed” (yes, I’m inventing a new verb) them to my iPad.  I opened them in ChatterPix Kids (love, love, LOVE this free app that I learned about from 2 Guys and Some iPads!!!!), and recorded the characters saying something.  (As a reminder, I don’t like the sound of my own voice, so the voices you hear were made using the Tellagami app.)  I exported the videos from ChatterPix back to my computer, uploaded them to Aurasma Studio with the original Canva graphics as trigger images, and, well, you don’t really want to know all of that, do you?  You probably just want to know what you need to do to make them work! All you need is the pictures and a device that has the Aurasma app.

Here are the steps for using these creations:

1.)  Download this free PDF, and print it out in color – Holiday Cards 2 (You can find 2 more cards here.)

2.)  Download the free Aurasma app to your Android device, iTouch, iPhone, or iPad.

3.)  Within the Aurasma app, you will need to tap on the icon that looks like a fat “A” at the bottom of the screen.

4.)  Click on the magnifying glass icon to “Search”.  In the search window, type “Hidden Forest”.  (At some point, you will be asked to register.  Go ahead and register; it’s free.)  Subscribe to the channel for “Hidden Forest Elementary”, and then tap “Done”.

5.)  Now, tap on the icon that looks like photo corners.  You should have your camera on.  Hold your device over one of the pictures (make sure the volume is turned up), and position it slowly until you see the “Loading” signal that looks like a purple swirl. Then hold your device still so you can see the video.  (Be sure your sound is turned up!)

6.)  Enjoy the short video!

The gingerbread man will give the student an opportunity to borrow a game from the classroom.  Santa allows the student to sit at the teacher’s desk.  The snowman permits the student to borrow a book from the classroom.