What's Your PhotoStory?

As an Apple fan boy I'm supposed to dislike everything made by Microsoft, and, by and large, I do. There is one notable exception, however, and I really like it!  It's called PhotoStory and it has been around a long time.  Photostory allows users to quickly and easily create a "video" slideshow by blending images, voice annotation and music.  Once you have created your PhotoStory, you can (and should) share it with the world using your favorite video sharing website (like YouTube or Vimeo).  For teachers, the possibilities of this tool are endless.  Here are a few examples of how we have used PhotoStory at my school.  Hopefully this will get your creative juices flowing enough for you to try on out.:

WWII vocabulary - This idea was borrowed from this video I came across. The students were really into the creation of it and I believe the words will stick with them for a while. Naturally, now that it is online they can watch them anytime they want too.

Andrea en espanol- This PhotoStory was done in Spanish class and is a bit more complex from the one above since the images were created using PowerPoint and then pulled into PhotoStory.  I really like this project because it provides students with the opportunity to listen to themselves speak Spanish, gives them ownership of the language and can serve as an important element in their portfolio.  You can imagine if they did a project like this three times a year how they should be able to hear the growth in their language acquisition.

Technology-Fueled Professional Development- Ok, the first two were student projects, but teachers can use PhotoStory to create their own projects too.  This example is a commercial for a professional development day.  This one also used PowerPoint first to create each image but everything else was done in PhotoStory.  Teachers could easily create tutorials, summaries, homework assignments (think: video word problems), or even "teaser" trailers for upcoming events and projects.  

So, there you have it... three different ways to use the same tool.  There are countless other ways, so try PhotoStory out today!  If you don't have PhotoStory on your computer, you can download it from here (PC only).
If you add in a few other tools you can really enhance and extend any PhotoStory... I suggest experimenting with PowerPoint, Digital Cameras and Drawing programs (Like CoreFX) and seeing how these tools can maximize what PhotoStory can do for you and your teaching.


PhotoStory is free to users of Microsoft Windows.  Mac users, of course, have access to the excellent iMovie, which comes free with all Macs.  Using iMovie, users can create similar projects with the added benefit of being able to add video clips as well (PhotoStory can only handle images and pictures).

More examples of projects using PhotoStory:


Schools Today Are About Conformity

Ok, like many people in education I'm a Ken Robinson fan-boy... I just watched this interview that he did at Penn State University.  It is only 27 minutes long and I think it is a MUST watch for just about everyone.  I particularly like the parts near the end where he talks about how we "do education" is not only bad for students but is really hard on teachers too.

I wish SKR would have been on some of the recent education reform panels that have been happening around the US lately (you know, the ones where they say we just need to get rid of bad teachers and open more charter schools).

Look Past The Numbers

I turned on the TV yesterday and by happenstance this commercial came on.  Now, I've been thinking about how we measure growth a lot lately and this commercial seemed to speak to me about what's important.

Especially this quote:

You have to look past the numbers, understand the variables, you have to consider everything...

Now I'm pretty sure that the company doing the advertising was not thinking about education reform, but they made a video that speaks to the educator in me. Watch the video.  What do you think?



Visualize a Speech

I've shared out videos from Sir Ken Robinson (SKR) before.  This man has the ability to articulate issues surrounding education like few people do.  The video below takes one of his speeches and adds an interesting element to it... they animate it.  Do you think that adding this layer is helpful or distracting?  For me, I think it helps me focus and understand much better than if I was reading a transcript of this speech or even over a video of the speech itself (which you can watch here... it's much longer than the animated one).  I'm not saying that I want everything presented to me in this way, it's just that for this type of speech it works.

On a related note, what do you think about what SKR has to say about how we "do" education? Is he right? Misguided? Over simplifying? Do you hear teachers in schools having conversations about some of the concepts he discusses?  Regardless, he makes you think, and that can't be a bad thing. More links to additional SKR resources and speeches under the video.  

More SKR (naturally, you can Google more)
From CNN
Ted Talks 2006 & 2010 

Also, you can watch more from the RSA Animate series over on YouTube, the Dan Pink one is good.

Friday Visualization #1

Last year I sent out an email every Friday to the teachers at my school sharing some data infographic or other visual.  Well, since school is getting ready to start anew... a new year, a whole new visualization series. 

This one if very different from any I shared last year.  This one is a video by David McCandless where he discusses the importance of data visualization and provides a foundation for importance of using visuals.

A couple of my thoughts re: visualization.

1.)    Data visualization is, by its very nature, differentiated

2.)    How are we preparing students to consume data and data visuals to make conclusions, inferences and hypothesis (beyond pie graphs and line graphs)?

3.)    How are we preparing students to create their own visuals (hopefully based on data they collect)?

4.)    Can we create data around student reading (pages read, genres read, weight in books, etc.) and create visuals? (of course we can.. and so can our students)

 The video is 18:17 long and will really make you think, so you should watch it.

After I sent this one out a former colleague (are there ever former colleagues?) sent me an email with this comment:

I also like the concept of how deceiving the data can be when you don't know where the numbers come from. His example of the military budget could be done so many more ways to even further balance the perspective and make us think (and write) about which tells the best story for which purpose.

Good thought!

Dan Pink & The Candle Problem

I just finished watching the Dan Pink TED talk and I was really blown away with the educational implications of what he was saying (especially with how we grade/assess students).  Do yourself a favor and take 19 minutes and watch it... my guess is you will be happy that you did.  When you watch it, do this substitution in your head: when he says "business" you say "schools", or "education".  A few questions/observations I made when watched this.  I would really enjoy hearing your thoughts:

  1. Are we currently (and be honest) preparing our students to solve the first or second candle problem?

  2. Meetings are optional

  3. Traditional grading methods might work for the second candle problem but not for the first...

  4. Amen, intrinsic motivation is self-sustaining.  How do we foster intrinsic motivation in students?

  5. Meetings are optional* (I have to say, I like this one A LOT!)

  6. "If you want engagement, self-direction works better"  Do school leaders foster self-direction in teachers?  Do teachers promote self-direction in students?

  7. If you want to increase student performance don't do more of the wrong things... look for a whole new approach.

  8. How do we create an environment that is more right-brained, creative and conceptual?  My guess is that whatever we do here our system of assessment will need to change.

* Learning is social though, so I don't think he means don't gather and talk... at least I hope not.  I don't like meetings but appreciate meaningful discourse.

Animoto - Create energetic slideshows

I know I've shared Animoto before but I'm always amazed at how easy it is to use and how stellar the results look... seriously, people probably think you actually spent a lot of time creating one.  I just made a new one that showcases some students in action.  Take a look.  Remember, teachers can get free "all-access" accounts by registering at animoto.com/education

Thought provoking commercials - IBM

IBM really has some great, though provoking commercials that I hope are more than just marketing spin.  They always make me think... which, let's face it, is not always an easy thing to get me to do (just ask my wife).  When I watched the ones below, I asked myself, how well am I preparing students to tackle the complex and ill-defined problems articulated in the commercials?  How well am I giving them opportunities to think and express their own ideas and opinions?  How well am I doing to create an environment that allows them to ask and answer their own questions?  Is it possible IBM gets what is needed in education reform better than education policy and decision makers?  I don't know, just watch the commercials* and let me know what you think.

Update (1/17).  I found some additional IBM materials that are additionally thought provoking.  The "Smarter City" project is pretty neat.

* There are more great ones... just having trouble finding them :-)

It's Elemental!

Matter-Iron-Kiran from Science5 on Vimeo.

This week, students in Miss Blandford's & Mrs. McCann's science classes began to finish up their element "videos" and they have really turned out great.  Of course, the student projects are fantastic but I'm really proud of the teachers.  About a month ago - during a "lunch bytes" session (lunchtime technology professional development) - I introduced the idea of using PhotoStory to do a project.   I spent a minimal amount of time showing them how easy the application was to use, showed them the basics of the workflow (writing a script, storyboarding, gathering images, etc.), installed PhotoStory on their computers and they did the rest.  I bounced in from time to time to answer a question or two but otherwise they did it all.

Even better, they are already thinking about how else they could use this application (creating procedural/directions videos, unit summaries, book reports, etc.).  I mean, now that the students (and teachers) know how to do it, why not leverage that knowledge.

A couple of observations and things I liked about this project:

  • the use of free applications means the kids can work on new projects at home

  • the students created educational artifacts that can be viewed by other students

  • students worked through a logical process to create a product

  • it was easy to do

  • the teachers are thinking about new ways to use the tech skills they learned

  • it blended pedagogy and technology

  • the tech guy (me) was a minor participant

  • I now have examples and ideas to share with other teachers

  • it was fun :-)

I believe in you...

This is a bit old (from the beginning of the school year) but hey, I'm a bit slow :-)

I've been to a lot of large-scale meetings and conferences with keynote speakers but I've never seen one given by a 5th grade student.  Watch this.  It will make you happy you are a teacher.

It is a great reminder that what we do is about the children.  We don't teach math, science, and english to students... we teach students math, science and english.  We ultimately need to draw our inspiration from students.  I know that teaching can be stressful and overwhelming at times so tomorrow get inspired by one of your students.  I'll tell you what Dalton, I believe in you.

How online video engages audiences

Some new research (conducted by Forrester research) provides some insight about the power of online video.  To me, as an educator, a couple of tidbits jumped out at me:

Forrester defined Engaged Viewers as those who watch more than an hour of online video per week.

  • A third of them - 36% - are between 13 and 24 years old

  • They spend 2.5 hours with online video a week (on average), watching 6.1 different types of video content

  • They pay close attention to what they are watching (vs. when watching TV)

  • more likely to pay full attention to the videos they watch

  • Engaged Viewers want even more content

We know many students enjoy videos.  We should be creating educational videos, related to the concepts we are trying to teach, that compete with the skateboarding, faceplanting, exploding videos that they are currently watching.  As teachers we should create video to help students understand complicated concepts.  Even better, we should be facilitating the creating of such videos by our students.  They can watch them online and download them to ipods.  They can shoot short 15-20 second clips on their cell phones and send them to each other.  Imagine, having student create short, purposeful 15 second phone clips to summerize a concept or conduct a reflection.  I don't know how it all could work or what the pitfalls might be, but I'm willing to try.

"We need to change the system". amen.

At one point this presenter says "we need to remember we teach kids not subjects".  I like that.  While he does not present any totally new, he says it all very well and quickly (sometimes thinkers tend to ramble).  I like the message in here about the role of technology in education.  If we are not utilizing the most powerful communication tool in history... we are doing a disservice.

Watch the video.  You will like it and it is only 5 minutes long.  You can also see the slides from the presentation here.

Google Earth update

Google has released version 4.3 of their popular Earth program. Students love this application and will play around with it for hours. Teachers can use this application as a digital globe or even as an interactive "poster" when introducing a new topic or fostering class discussion. Mr. Dippold was using it the other day during his discussion of the situation in Darfur (students were comparing Darfur to the Holocaust) and students were able to see first hand the terrain and lack of water resources in that region. Well, 4.3 is more powerful and realistic than ever. Take a look... seriously, this video (from Google) will amaze you. Good on you Google!

Animoto... for free

Now that I've ponied up the $30 for an "all access pass" on Animoto they decide to give it away for free to educators. Let me explain, Animoto has always been free, but the free version has some limitations on it. For $30 you can upgrade to the "all access pass" that removes the limitations. Educators can get this version for free. Oh, well, I still think it is worth the $30! If you have not seen Animoto, it is a really slick way to create a multimedia slide show to promote student work or a variety of imagery. The example below showcases a bunch of wonderful dioramas created by 7th grade students at my school.

Google docs upgrade

I'm not a huge user of Google Docs, I prefer Word & Pages for the bulk of my word processing needs. However, I do enjoy using it for brainstorming/rough drafts/thought catching. After all, what it lacks in polishing it makes up for in portability. Today, Google is getting ready to allow users to have offline access to their Google documents. This is great. I'm all for Google pushing the envelope and putting pressure on the establishment. This type of competition is really great. Check out the Google blog and the video for more information.

Playing with DigitalStorytelling

So, I've been wanting to introduce digital storytelling to my staff and students for a long time but I wanted to make sure they all had easy access to the tools they would need to create one. I used Powerpoint to make this one. I did convert it to an FLV to upload it but it would work just fine as a PPT show for stand alone sharing. It took some time to put together but I think I can shorten the process.

I'm pretty excited about the possibilities