Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Ever Evolving 'Teach-nologist'

As the year 2012 winds down, I, like many of my teaching colleagues worldwide, find that it is a good time to reflect on the year that was.  This process of reflection has solidified for me several benefits of writing the 'The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers' blog.  

1.  Learn, learn, learn, I love to learn! The writing process authenticates my learning because I must formulate into words my understanding of it.  How many times have I 'learned' something to only forget it shortly thereafter?  Too many, I am sure.  More importantly, I may be able to add to the concept and subsequently enhance someone else's learning too. 

2.  Sharing - Teaching in isolation is a thing of the past.  Sharing our professional knowledge and experience, not only improves our teaching practice, but also broadens our perspective.  Interacting with the global teaching community offers a multitude of opportunities to expose ourselves to different ideas, perceptions and opinions - all of which should make us further reflect on our own professional practice.  

3.  Empowering!  The positive connections I have made through 'The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers' blog in the past 7 months have not only inspired me but also empowered me.  Specifically, I am no longer willing to sit at the back of the bus and let a driver determine the direction.  At times, I find myself wanting to be the driver.  This new found self-confidence has led me to contribute a lot more to the educational community - a responsibility I am beginning to appreciate more and more.  

4.  Evolving - I started 'The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers' blog as a way to offer assistance to educators who are interested in integrating technology into their classroom activities.  My goal was to not only de-tech 'teacher-tested' technologies, but to also recommend potential classroom activities.  However, I have found that a more detailed explanation is needed as technology should be used as an effective pedagogical tool, one that challenges students to expand their learning.  In essence, to effectively use technology in the classroom, there must be a pedagogical basis for its use.  As a result starting in 2013, future 'The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers' posts will also include a 'teach-nology' or a pedagogical rationale segment.  This segment will continue to offer sample classroom activities, but it will also explain how the technology will help meet required learning outcomes.  My goal is to enhance the information offered by 'The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers' blog so as to better assist my colleagues.  I certainly hope I can meet this goal.

In 2012, 'The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers' blogs published 38 posts in total.  Below I have created a ranked summary of these posts with the top 10 highlighted at the top (from left to right).

Feel free to use this hyperlink for a larger view - The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers Top Posts for 2012.

Holiday Cheer

Stake Lake Nordic Centre - 20 minutes west of Kamloops

Hello from snowy Kamloops, BC Canada!  As you can see from the photo, it has snowed a lot as of late which allows us Kamloopsians the opportunity to enjoy some good ole Canadian winter fun during the holiday season.  For me personally, I will be hitting the cross-country ski trails but I am sure most of my students will be snowboarding, ski-dooing or playing hockey.  

As this post will be the last one for 2012, I would like to take the opportunity to thank you for your continued support of 'The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers' blog.  It has been an absolute pleasure to connect with you on a regular basis.  More importantly, I would like to wish you continued success and future prosperity for both you and your family in 2013.  Happy Holidays!

This post originally appeared on The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Create 3-D Videos with Xtranormal

Xtranormal is a text-to-speech video creation tool that creates animated video clips with three-dimensional, conversing characters.  This storytelling tool allows users to choose from the template, a wide range of actors and sets options.  Once selected, users enter into the timeline a text script with accompanying character actions and video effects to create a dynamic video in minutes.  Please view the video below for a sample of what students can create with Xtranormal, the free on-line version.  

Depending on student needs, access to technology resources and monetary availability, educators can choose from two versions of Xtranormal - desktop version and a web-based version.  The desktop version requires a software download and a monetary payment upon video export but as a result, it does include many more powerful video features.  The web-based version has both basic and paid account options but it also offers the flexibility of accessing the account from any web browser anywhere.  To help support schools, Xtranormal also provides a paid Educator Account that offers unlimited publishing, full access to the actor/set template, security features and grading options.  The following hyperlink - Xtranormal - has a more detailed comparison of the two options.   

How to Get Started:

Xtranormal has created an excellent 'How To' web page that assists users with the various features of the Online Movie Maker, the Xtranormal Desktop and the Xtranormal for Education account features.  Click on the link below to access this first-rate Xtranormal resources.  

Xtranormal 'How To' Webpage

Sample Activities:

1.  Narration of an Historical Event - As depicted by the video example above, my students used Xtranormal to chronicle an event from the Napoleonic era. 

2.  Improve Language Skills - Because Xtranormal allows users to change the attributes of a character's voice as well as the language a character speaks, a French Immersion colleague of mine has her students create short narrations for the purpose of exposing her students to new vocabulary, accents and expressions.

3.  Creative Writing - Storytelling is a fantastic way for students to express themselves creatively.  Use Xtranormal to teach students how to brainstorm, plan, write and edit a fictional story, mythical tale or space-age fantasy.   

Xtranormal has many, many educational uses that I know your students will enjoy.  Get started with Xtranormal by clicking here!

This post originally appeared on The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Create Graffiti Style Text Images

At a recent EdCamp I attended, a student-led session highlighted the idea that the best way to engage learners was for educators to interact with students at their level.  Many ideas and strategies on how to achieve this were exchanged, but the one idea that struck me was that the on-line tools we so proudly use for our classroom activities may not be as engaging as we think!  In order to fully connect with students, it is important to use web tools that fit the interests of the students before us.  In other words, a specific web tool may be engaging to one class but not another.  Clearly, teachers must take this into account and have a Web 2.0 toolkit that includes a diverse set of resources that fits the needs of a wide range of students.  

The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers - Graffiti Style
As a result of this latest revelation, I have begun revisiting some web tools that I had earlier dismissed.  One of these tools is The Graffiti Creator.  The Graffiti Creator allows users to create a graffiti-style name or logo within minutes.  There are many options to choose from including various font styles and artistic features that will add life to your creation.

How to Get Started:

Below is a Graffiti Creator screen-cast tutorial that will assist you in creating your first graffiti-style image:

Sample Activities:

1.  Class Website or Blog - jazz up your classroom on-line space with a graffiti-style message or title.

2.  Student E-portfolios - students can include a graffiti-style name bar to introduce their e-portfolio.

3.  Presentations - insert a graffiti image into any on-line or print based visual.  

NOTE: For on-line insertions, users may need to use 'PrtSc' on their computer keyboard to generate the image.  Once generated, a cropping tool will be needed to crop the excess portions of the image to isolate the graffiti text.  

A special thank you to Dave Guymon (@DaveGuymon) for first introducing me to this web tool.

There is a lot of potential with The Graffiti Creator.  Please feel free to explore the possibilities with your students today!  Click here to get started.

This post originally appeared on The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom with Prezi

Prezi is a cloud-based presentation and storytelling web tool that allows users to create unique and engaging presentations.  Within the virtual hybrid canvas - a blend of a whiteboard and PowerPoint slides - users can create visually appealing presentations using two distinct Prezi features: the Zooming User Interface and the non-linear presentation design.  To view a sample Prezi presentation, please watch the Hansel & Gretel story below:

Additional Features:

As you can see from the example above, Prezi has many fantastic presentation features to engage your audience.  Some features that were not shown are:

1.  Screen Blackout - With all the great features Prezi offers, audiences may lose focus on the content of the presentation.  To assist with this, presenters can press the 'B" key during a presentation and temporarily black out the screen to re-engage the audience.

2.  Fade-In Animations - PowerPoint has always had the capability to fade in content on command; Prezi can now too.  This feature is useful if posing a question and when ready, revealing the answer.

3.  Off-line Presentations - No need to worry about poor Wi-Fi connections any longer as Prezi allows users to share presentations without needing on-line access.

4.  Create a Prezi presentation with others - Collaborate remotely with others by adjusting the settings found at the bottom of each Prezi.  Once the settings are changed to "Edit Together", copy the URL that is generated and send it to your desired collaborators via email, instant messaging, etc.  

How to Get Started:

Below is a great video tutorial created by Prezi to help you get started with your first presentation.  

Prezi creators have been very diligent in supporting their users.  This support page - - offers various resources users can access for additional assistance.  

Sample Activities:

1.  Student Presentations - Students can create and present the events of an historical event or tell a creative story they have written.

2.  Teaching a Lesson - Several colleagues of mine use Prezi to introduce new content.  In fact, one colleague gives students a ready-made Prezi and has them present it to the class.  Prior to presentation, however, students can edit the Prezi to suit their needs.

Prezi is a great presentation tool that will engage any audience.  To get started on your first presentation, click here!

This post originally appeared on The De-tech-tive 4 Teachers.