Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Student Projects In MySimpleShow - Explainer Videos Have Never Been So Easy To Create

Source: MySimpleShow

Explainer videos use clean graphics and voiceover narrations to teach viewers about a particular subject. They often include clever icons and whiteboard-style backgrounds. They once were produced exclusively by high-end design studios, since complex software and marketing professionals were required to create dynamic motion graphics. Now, thanks to the extremely intuitive interface of MySimpleShow, any layperson — or student — can combine text, images, and voice to yield an extremely effective animated movie.

Explainer videos are pitch-perfectly suited for student projects, because they hit all the sweet spots of higher-ordered thinking and layered proficiencies. They require storyboarding to map out each clip. They demand a smooth script to educate the audience. They also benefit from logical reasoning in transitioning clearly from screen to screen. Finally, they rely on the core tenets of graphicacy, in picking symbols to represent crisp visual meanings and metaphors.

Source: MySimpleShow
MySimpleShow (@mysimpleshow) makes the design and publication of these videos enormously easy. For students and teachers, they offer pre-made templates to guide the text and the progression. The intelligence of the video creator automatically searches and provides pictures to correspond to the nouns in the script. And the superb narrative options allow users either to upload their own voices or to select from two automated personas. For our middle schoolers, who are often nervous about recording their own voices, the choice of a “robot” narrator was a blessing in and of itself.

Source: MySimpleShow

Although the team at MySimpleShow has apparently been producing videos for years for corporate clients, this new consumer version seems to have benefited from high-quality feedback in providing a welcoming and successful tool. Without overstating it, the account creation, built-in tutorials, interface understanding, text-to-speech rendering, icon menus, upload options, and download ease are among all the best in the #edtech world. Our kids quickly figured out how to create their own videos (even though their teacher did watch the step-by-step tutorial).

The student project featured in this post centered on inventions of the late 1800s. During their history class unit about the Gilded Age, each eighth-grader researched a new technology and animated it thanks to the range of graphics and transitions within MySimpleShow. They then easily uploaded their class creations to YouTube, to share via Twitter and in digital portfolios.

The students also immediately began to realize other fun ways to use MySimpleShow — in their other academic subjects, when they had a choice of visual projects, and in their family lives, for birthdays and social media channels. This tool is a valuable addition to the suite of video creators that help bring kids’ ideas to visual life.

For other ideas about video projects, check out:

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Teaching Social Literacy Through Communication Design

Source: TED
As middle school advisors, we constantly deal with the trials and tribulations resulting from miscommunication. One thing we try to convey to the middle school mind is that in order to fully understand a message, they need to recognize that key factors play into how information is received.

The relationship between communication and interaction goes hand in hand with perception. The more we can develop their acuity in reading verbal and written cues, the more we can decrease the problems of misreading messages. Without a doubt, our job becomes increasingly more difficult due to electronic media pushing response times to lightning speed.

Since communication is central to design and relies heavily on how media connects with people, it stands to reason that we need to help our students identify where things can get misconstrued. We see it as “social literacy.” Like other literacies, they need to learn the skills in how to respond in order to avoid any misinterpretations that might arise.

While it isn’t always easy, we found that using the video entitled "How To Recognize Misinformation" with our advisees helps. It promotes healthy discussions as well as practical techniques for students to role-play.

The animation visually communicates how people get the wrong idea by failing to recognize their own personal responses to gestures, tone, and body language. These missed social cues can lead to confusion, animosity, and uncertainty.

We often tell students to use their words to explain their feelings, but if we don’t give them the skills to understand perceptual misunderstandings, our advice falls on deaf ears.

For this reason, the four key skills for good communication provide a great place to start.

If we can reinforce these skills with continued practice with our learners, as well as model them as adults, we can come to a common understanding of what we mean together.

Design is communication. If we dissect the word, it is after all “de + SIGN” and is the backbone of logos, icons, brands, media, and more.

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Visual Tools To Help Learners Understand The Refugee Crisis

Source: TED
In the aftermath of one of the most divisive elections in our history, and in light of the possible presidential immigration ban barring people from entering the United States, we’re left with trying to explain to our learners what it all means. Their study of human rights along with a diverse classroom population adds further importance to our role as educators in a global world.

Learners need to know that refugees, asylum seekers, and migrants fall under the category of immigration, but there is a difference. They need to understand the enormity of the refugee crisis. This includes not only where they come from but also who makes up the majority of the refugee population.

The following resources proved invaluable in helping our students put the refugee crisis in perspective. It helped them realize the massive humanitarian needs refugees face around the world.

What Does It Mean To Be A Refugee?

This animation from TED Education helps students understand what the term refugee means and how it is different from asylum seeker and migrant. The video provides the perfect introduction to the topic and can easily be used with elementary students.

The UN Refugee Agency: Our Story

This is the story of how the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was established to help those whose lives were uprooted by conflict or natural disaster. The video explains the historic role of the UNHCR from 1950 to the present.


The Refugee Project

The interactive map plots the migration of refugees around the world along a timeline that begins in the year 1975. The project uses United Nations data to tell the story of the millions of registered refugees under UN protection. The circles around each country adjust in size to show the flow of refugees as they expand and contract from a particular location. The lines that branch out indicate where the refugees sought asylum.

Source: The Refugee Project

9 Maps and Charts That Explain The Global Refugee Crisis

With the number of displaced people reaching the highest levels since post World War II, these maps and charts provide students with a visual look at the statistical information regarding the spike in the number of refugees around the globe.

Source: Vox

Rescue Facts: Refugee Facts

Historically, the United States has never shut the door on refugees; yet, the political rhetoric and misinformation over the last several weeks regarding the immigration ban has confused some of our learners. This video from the The International Rescue Committee seeks to present the real facts about refugees seeking asylum in the United States and the vetting process.

UNHRC Global Trends Data 2015

The magnitude of the current global refugee crisis is highlighted in this UNHCR video. The forced displacement rose significantly in 2015, and it is the first time in history that the number of displaced persons surpassed 60 million. We believe students need to recognize this crisis beyond media blasts to ban immigration; this is about real people, and sadly many of them are the same ages as those we teach.

One of the projects our students complete each year is the study of immigration from the early nineteenth century to modern day. They learn that people leave their homelands because of political, economic, and social reasons. It’s not unusual for a student to discover or report on how their own ancestors were forced to flee their homelands. They, too, were refugees.

Friday, December 30, 2016

Humanity, History, And The Human Era

Source: In A Nutshell
It seems a fitting close to the year to think about humanity. As a nation about to embark on a new era in governmental politics, the likes of which we have not seen, it is important to take a moment and reflect on change and how it affects all of us. We’ve used the video called the History Of The World In Seven Minutes for years with our students to demonstrate not only how improvements in technology changed the course of civilizations but also how progress moved at an exponential speed as it advanced.

Source: In A Nutshell

Every December 31, we celebrate the start of a new year, and we generally think in terms of the last 2016 years. But what if we rethink when the human era began? The video animation from In a Nutshell, entitled A New History For Humanity - The Human Era, does just that by marking the history of the human era according to the Holocene calendar. It could change the way we think about history; we would not be forgetting 10,000 years of human progress. A year zero could apply to all humanity and all cultures.

So as we approach the year 12, 017 HE, let us kick off a new year by building peacemakers and peacekeepers for all of humanity.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Maps Vs. Mapping: Visualizing History & Geography

Source: ASIDE 2016

Interactive mapping techniques invite students to connect with content to visualize information beyond mere location. Mapping challenges learners to think, develop literacy skills, and understand the complexity of global issues. It enables learners to seek new ways to look at information through a lens of inquiry-based analysis.

Fresh perspectives on traditional maps can help students classify the images they encounter and can assist them in developing their own visualizations of places and events. This finely-tuned practice reinforces the notion of relational meaning. It taps the core skills of graphicacy through the synchronicity of visual literacy and visual thinking.

As a result, our students become better geographers and designers by interpreting existing maps, by drawing their own maps with a cartographer’s eye, or by creating visualizations with a keen sense of space. Students must decode the augmented reality (AR) by "reading" images and internalizing pictorial stimuli. These precise, learned techniques foster confidence both in deciphering and in creating pictorial representations, as well as developing critical thinking skills to better understand the world.

Lessons And Resources

Mapping Activities For The Classroom

Current Events & Map Engagement

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Unleash The Superhero In You - NYSCATE 2016


The theme for the 2016 annual conference of the New York State Association For Computers And Technologies In Education (NYSCATE) was "Unleash The Superhero In You." This effective branding throughout the conference hall — and the colorful capes given to every attendee — spoke volumes to the notion of teachers as heroes in seizing opportunities and embracing technology, and often struggling against the curmudgeonly villains standing in their ways.

After three days of sessions and keynotes, kiosks and meet-ups, it was more clear than ever that educators are feeling they have the necessary tools to invigorate the learning potential of their students. Every teacher we met was excited to try a new web app or a backchannel to decentralize daily instruction. As Chromebooks catch up to (or surpass) iOS devices, the Google Apps For Education (GAFE) suite of tools is clearly permeating state-wide districts. As videos and online media put information squarely in the hands of learners, both children and teachers feel more empowered than ever to chart their own courses in meeting the various standards.

For our part, we are grateful to the 60+ participants who sat on the floor and stood against the walls for our presentation on Sunday, November 20, 2016, about “Student Videos & Animations Empower Creativity.” We apologize to those who were turned away for space reasons, and we have put all of our resources and slides online to share with any interested parties. Thank you to all of the attendees for the insightful questions and terrific recommendations about lessons and tools related to student projects and videos.

In hearing from the other experts in the terrific workshops during the conference, highlights that stood out included the tips on formative assessments from Steve Garton (@sgarton121) and Jeff Mao (@jmao121) of Common Sense Education, as well as the annual App Smackdown from Rich Colosi (@richardcolosi), Ryan Orilio (@ryanorilio), Mike Amante (@mamante), and Monica Burns (@classtechtips).

Other eye-opening sessions were engaging the writing process using Google Apps, WeVideo, and Recap with Megan Hugg (@Megan Hugg) and Lindsey Peet (@LindsMariePeet); liberating students from paper using ePortfolios with Betsy Hardy; and tapping the lesser-known features of Google with Carol LaRow (@larowc). Student coding, blended writing, and shared collaboration also emerged as recurring themes within the high-quality professional development. Perhaps the keynote comment by Adam Bellow (@adambellow) summed it up best, "Technology does not drive change; it just enables it."

Source: ASIDE 2016

The lake-effect snowstorm that blanketed downtown may have kept some New Yorkers homebound, but it made for a tight-knit group in the warm confines of the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center. It also meant that Dinosaur BBQ was blissfully quiet on Sunday night, as we savored our favorite fried green tomatoes and spicy pulled pork. Pane Vino on North Water Street continued to rank as one of the best restaurants anywhere in the nation. And we also recommend Starry Nites Cafe in the arts district as a short hop away for a quick latte and chicken chili after perusing handmade jewelry at Craft Company No. 6.

Finally, we want once again to give a big shout out of thanks to the NYSCATE conference organizers for all they did in staging this seamless annual get-together. The smoothy run sessions and the high-quality breakfast / lunch / dinner included in the overall fee, as well as the warm welcomes and conversations throughout the event, confirmed once again why this is the best confab of the year. See you in 2017.


Sunday, November 20, 2016

NYSCATE 2016: Student Videos & Animations Empower Creativity

Creating videos and motion graphics nudges both students and teachers to blend a host of proficiencies. It involves visual design in colors and templates, just as it requires language skills of narration and storytelling. It supports key technological skills in manipulating online media, and it reinforces the importance of publishing in sharing child creations with peers and parents. Kids teaching kids is the purest model of learning. It is the model of the student-centered classroom, because they become the educators of their peers.

Video production allows students to stitch together a narrative and storyboard each moment in the process that combines logical reasoning, cause-and-effect, and content mastery. They also must employ their graphicacy skills to fashion compelling and appealing visual displays. These quick-cut movies and short animations combine icons and text to communicate a message. Explainer videos, for example, are perfect for the classroom. They blend voice, image, and language into compelling presentations for students to learn. Content created using app editors or motion graphics provides a way for the brain to receive information through both the eyes and ears. Learning tools that can tap into both modalities have greater effectiveness in fostering understanding. They add layers of meaning for nuanced, standards-based education.

It is important to employ interactive ways to engage and share student work that builds alternative ways for students to design content, collect feedback, and reflect on the creative process. This requires using resources that engage learners in the classroom much the way they are outside of it. The gradual spread of technology tasks is invariably shifting classroom education toward a more student-directed model. As we move more and more into the blended, flipped, and social world of learning, we need to encourage creative interactions and self-directed investigations with the knowledge that our students can be active participants in the education process.

Here is the complete set of slides that we shared during our session at NYSCATE 2016, in Rochester, New York, on Sunday, November 20, 2016, at 12:30 p.m., in the Hyatt Regency Room A:



Stop Motion




Adobe Spark


Other Options

Class YouTube Channels

Patricia Russac
Mercer Hall

Class Tumblr  Pages

Patricia Russac
Mercer Hall

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