Making Silhouettes in Google Slides

Adjacent Possible.  Have you heard of it?  If you listen to the Educational Duct Tape Podcast, you probably have.  It’s this theory that a new set of possibilities is enabled by taking one step beyond the current state of things.  Every step opens up new possibilities, just like every conversation with a person can lead to new possibilities that you had not considered.

Well, I had an Adjacent Possible experience a few days ago while interviewing Tony Vincent for Episode 26 of the Educational Duct Tape podcast.  Tony was responding to a question about how to help students get to know each other.  He shared with me about this activity that he had done where his students took side profile pictures of themselves and then turned them into silhouettes of in Google Slides.  They then added in images and words that showed their interests.  The students presented their slides to their classmates and, later, those same slides were played on a loop on a screen in the room.  What I love about this activity is that, on the surface, it’s a great “getting to know each other” activity.  But, underneath that, it’s also a fantastic way to teacher kids some new skills with a tool that the teacher planned on using in class.

This is actually an activity that Tony teaches participants in his fantastic Classy Graphics course. If you’re interested in learning Graphic Design with Google Tools, you should check it out!

There are certainly ways to make these silhouettes that would be easier.  But that’s not the point. The point is, opening students’ eyes to the possibilities within the tools that they have access to.  As Tony shared in the episode, his students became highly capable at using Slides to create all sorts of things.  I don’t know about you, but I’m not surprised.  By doing this activity, his students saw slides as more than just a tool for presentations.  They saw it as a creation space.

Well, as you have probably already guessed, I was compelled to turn this into an #EduGIF, so here it is.  After the GIF, I’ll share step-by-step instructions for making these.  By the way, I’d be honored if you used this GIF and these instructions with your own students in class.  You can repay me by showing me some of their creations!

Continue reading Making Silhouettes in Google Slides

A Google Slides Hack to Replace ChatterPix or Blabberize

This idea–a true moment of educational duct tape (using technology to solve a classroom problem or goal)–actually came to me while recording an episode of my Educational Duct Tape Podcast!

In Episode 5, I played a question that Linda Hummer shared to the Educational Duct Tape Community FlipGrid along with Abbey Thomas’ answer.  Linda’s question was, essentially, what is an alternative to Chatterpix that works on Chromebooks?  Abbey’s answer was Blabberize. And the question was answered!  Or, so I thought…

After the episode aired, Dan Gallagher shared on that same grid some words of caution: Blabberize’s Terms of Service indicate that it’s not appropriate for all ages.  So, in Episode 6, I shared this and then, on the spot, found a hack for a solution:

I’ve posted about #StopMotionSlides a number of times (here are my tips for making them) and they make a pretty good solution for this.  Put a picture into a slide, use some careful cropping and then leverage a stop motion technique.  Not only can you make the mouth move up and down, but you can then publish the animation (#13 in these tips) and then record them with Screencastify (or your screencasting tool of choice) with a voiceover (#14 in these tips)!

Voila!  Not as easy as Chatterpix, but at least it eliminates the need of adding another tool and another set of terms of service to what you use with your students: you likely already use Google Slides & Screencastify!

Plus, unlike ChatterPix or Blabberize, you can have multiple characters, your characters can move, the scene change…  You–and your students–can get super creative!

Here’s an animated GIF of the process, followed by a step-by-step breakdown.

Google Slides ChatterPix Blabberize Hack Animation

Continue reading A Google Slides Hack to Replace ChatterPix or Blabberize

Insert Drawings into Docs Being Assigned in Classroom

When given the chance, I’m always going to pick an assignment where students are creating their own representations of their mastery of learning standards.  However, I know that it’s not realistic to expect this all the time.  So, I can see the value in annotating images rather than just typing.  Google Drawings and Google Slides are great platforms for this . . . but what if it’s part of a bigger activity that does involve typing?  Well, insert a drawing into a document, put the picture in, and tell the students to annotate it!  Check it out in the animated GIF below (typed instructions follow the GIF).

Drawings in Docs with Google Classroom Animation

  1. In the Google Docs menu, click Insert > Drawing.
  2. In the Drawing that pops up, copy and paste in an image (or drag it in from a separate tab as I did in the GIF).
  3. Add instructions within the Drawing as needed.
  4. Click Save and Close to finish preparing the drawing.
  5. Assign the document in Google Classroom as Make a Copy for Each Student.
  6. When students open the document, instruct them to double-click on the image that they see to open up the drawing and annotate it.

Pre-Format Student Answers

Grading stinks.  Anything that we can do to make it better–without sacrificing the quality of the pedagogy or feedback–is worth doing!  Here’s a little trick to make it easier to locate student answers in Google Docs (or other files) that you assign in Google Classroom . . .

Pre-Format Classroom Answers Animation

Lunapic – Create Images with Transparent Backgrounds

When presenting about #StopMotionSlides, someone inevitably asks about cutting the background out of a picture so that it has a transparent background.  Up to this point, my answer has been Microsoft Word, but I wasn’t satisfied with that since it wouldn’t work on Chromebooks or on computers without Microsoft Word.  And then I listened to Episode 13 of the Shukes and Giff Podcast.  In it, Kim Pollishuke shared about Lunapic.

Lunapic is a free, web-based photo editing platform.  Along with a lot of other features (seriously, go to it and explore!), is the ability to make the background transparent.  If it’s a solid colored background (i.e., green screen), there are tools that automate it.  For images that don’t have a solid colored background (or have backgrounds that include colors that are in the main part of the image), you can also do it manually.  Check it out in the animated GIF below!  Side note: there’s even a Chrome extension so that you can edit images you find online more conveniently.

Lunapic Transparent Background Animation

Translate in Google Sheets

Living in a new country where a different language is spoken is something that I can barely fathom. Doing it as a child just blows my mind. Our schools are often ill-equipped to support these kiddos, but they often do have one powerful tool that can help: compassionate teachers.

One of these compassionate teachers once came to me looking to create a tool to support an ELL (English Language Learner) student. His idea was to organize important English vocabulary words and their translations to the student’s native language into a spreadsheet. After he came to me with this idea, I started exploring options. What I discovered was really exciting! There’s a Google Translate formula in Google Sheets!

Enter a word in one language in a cell, and then use the formula =GoogleTranslate(text, source_language, target_language) in another cell to automagically translate it! You can even drag the fill handle at the bottom of the formula cell down to apply this formula to more than one cell.

This formula appears to work for all languages supported by Google Translate, of which there are more than 100! It even outputs the results with the correct letters and alphabet–not just our ABC English letters. You’ll just need to know the 2-letter code for the language, which you can find in this list.

Check out how to do it in the animation below!

Translate in Google Sheets Animation

SAMR ain’t *That* Simple

I’ve developed a new pet peeve recently. It’s handy-dandy graphics that tell you exactly which educational technologies match up with the different levels of the SAMR model (or Bloom’s or DoK, etc.).  Are they handy? Yes.  Are they dandy? Um, sure, I guess.  Are they 100% accurate? Nope.

What gives?  Why is Jake so down on these easy to follow graphics that conveniently tell us that ThingLink and Google Search are Substitution, while YouTube and Explain Everything are Redefinition?  Because it ain’t that simple.

If you think that just by using YouTube, you’re at Redefinition, you should just hand in your teacher’s license now.  Starbucks needs another barista.  You’ll know exactly how to make drinks anyhow because you probably love this graphic too.  Okay, okay, don’t quit teaching; just keep reading so I can help you.  (BTW – apologies to the creator of that graphic. It’s not that bad, but it’s just not my cup of . . . coffee)

Seriously, one of the graphics I’ve seen says that Twitter is Substitution.  And then, on the same graph, has Prezi as RedefinitionThe creator of that one may have consumed too many PSL’s.  What, praytell (I’ve always wanted to say praytell in a blog post), is the equivalent non-tech activity that using an engaging global social media tool (Twitter) is a substitution for!?  And Prezi, the tool that’s essentially a slideshow with a side of vertigo is Redefinition!?

Listen, can Prezi have a key role in a fantastic, engaging, empowering learning experience? Certainly.  Can it also be part of a trainwreck lesson? Of course!  And the same can be said of Twitter.

So, how do we match technologies up with the levels of the SAMR model? Well, as I said before – It ain’t that simple.  We have to look at the factors of these educational experiences that these handy-dandy graphics are ignoring:

  • The students. What is the right tool for this group of students? What will engage and empower them?
  • The standards. What are we trying to teach? Different technologies impact different learning standards in different ways.
  • The pedagogy. The method and practice of teaching. It just can’t be boiled down to a handy-dandy chart.

In closing, these charts are wrong . . . sometimes.  But they are also right . . . sometimes.  What we need to realize is that good teachers are skilled, knowledgeable and talented in their craft and that they make difficult, informed decisions about what benefits their students.  Stop trying to make graphics that make a skilled profession simple.  Even the best educational technologies require rockstar teachers.

Nupedia

Nupedia was a revolutionary idea. Ever heard of it? I didn’t think so; because I had never heard of it either. It was started by Jimmy Wales, who later started . . . Wikipedia.  I bet you’ve heard of that one. So, what led to Jimmy’s switch from Nupedia to Wikipedia?

Well, it’s something that educators can learn a lot from.  So listen up.

Jimmy started Nupedia, “the free encyclopedia”, in 2000.  But, after a year, it only had 21 articles on it.  Why, when there are now millions of articles on Wikipedia, were there so few on its predecessor after 1 year?  According to Jimmy on this episode of the How I Built This Podcast, he made the decision to do something that all educators should take note of.  He realized “I just need to go through this process myself to see what’s wrong with it or how can we [sic] improve it.”  I’ll let you listen to the podcast to find out what he discovered, but for us educators, the important lesson is this:

That was really the moment when I said, ‘Okay, look this isn’t going to work. This isn’t fun’ . . . So that was a really crucial moment, the moment when I tried to get something through the system.

The lesson for educators? Always, always, try it out before asking your students to do it.  If it feels tedious, boring, torturous or needlessly difficult to you, imagine how it will feel to a kid. Do you feel empowered when you try out your lesson or activity?  Do you feel engaged when you complete that assignment?

You don’t necessarily need to take a full walkthrough of an activity – and if you differentiate well, it might not be possible for you to do a full trial run of every activity or assignment – but you should be putting yourself in the shoes of your students with everything that you ask them to do.

In the world of design, this is referred to as User Experience (UX) Design. Simply put, this means that when you create something (an app, a website, a device, a classroom activity) you focus on the experience that your user will have.  Always, always, keep your students’ experience in mind when designing your instruction!