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

GIF Creation with Screencastify

Screencastify isn’t the best screencasting tool, but it might be the easiest one for in the classroom.  And the numbers prove that: 22 million videos were recorded in Screencastify during the 2017-18 school year.  There are good reasons for those numbers, too: it’s free, it’s easy to use and it syncs up with Google Drive.

If you happen to have access to Screencastify Premium, you have the ability to create GIFs, too!  Just click save to disk and export as animated GIF after recording a screencast.  That’s it!  Since you’re using Premium, you can even do some editing prior to exporting the video.  Check out the process in the animated GIF below (note: I made the GIF in Camtasia, not Screencastify):

Screencastify GIF Creation 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!

Enhanced Sharing Settings on New Google Sites

As soon as it came out, I thought the New Google Sites made a pretty awesome Digital Portfolio tool.  However, there was one important feature missing – sharing settings that allow you to choose to not make student work public.  Well, it’s there now!

First up, a quick overview of this in Animated GIF form, followed by detailed information about the options.

Sharing Settings in New Google Sites

You have a few publishing options with New Google Sites, assuming you’re on a gSuite for Education domain.  Here they are:

Continue reading Enhanced Sharing Settings on New Google Sites

Top 5 Posts of 2017

Happy New Year! Before we look forward to all of the awesome learning that 2018 holds for us, I’m going to get all nostalgic for a quick sec…. here are my 5 most viewed posts from 2017:

  1. Adding Captions to Images in Google Docs
  2. Recreating Pop Hits as Content-Related Lyrics Videos 
  3. Change Your Default Font in Google Docs 
  4. Screencastify to FlipGrid 
  5. Adding Audio in Google Slides (hack)

The Ultimate App Smash Lesson

 

Recently, I was fortunate to be a guest on the awesome Google Teacher Tribe Podcast.  Not only are Matt & Kasey rockstars, but their show is my favorite education podcast.  It was an honor and a blast.

It’s a tradition on the show for the guest to create a lesson plan that listeners can use.  I chose to take a few ideas that I’ve posted about here and combine them into the Ultimate App Smash Lesson.  The lesson combines #StopMotionSlides, Screencastify & FlipGrid.  It can be used with any just about any content and is appropriate in most grades, starting in around 3rd grade.

You can find the lesson at bit.ly/ultimateappsmash.  I hope you enjoy it . . . and I’d love to see some of what your kiddos create when you use it!

Tips for Creating Stop-Motion Slides

I’ve posted about #StopMotionSlides before and there are others out there (I think that Eric Curts’ and Matt Miller’s are both pretty definitive), but as usual – I like to encapsulate all good Googley stuff in GIF format. So here we go . . . some GIF-style tips for making really rad #StopMotionSlides projects.

Continue reading Tips for Creating Stop-Motion Slides

Comparing GIF Creation Options

**Originally posted in December 2017, edited in August 2018 and then editing again in October 2019 to reflect new options that have become available or that I have discovered.  Also in October 2019, I added the new table format below.**

In February of 2017, I found my niche in the online #edtech world – and a new passion – creating #eduGIFs.  In the time since then, I’ve been asked dozens, if not hundreds, of times how I create them.  Here I’ll dive into 1) a little background on what I do & why I use the tool I use, 2) other options to consider and 3) my advice on what to use (feel free to skip to there). Continue reading Comparing GIF Creation Options