Wednesday, February 14, 2018

GEG Student Film Festival @ Google Chicago


At the end of January, the 2nd Annual GEG (Google Education Group) Student Film Festival awards were held in Chicago, IL at Google Headquarters. It was a great experience! This event honors the film and storytelling efforts of student groups ranging from elementary through high school levels. Each year there is a theme. This year’s theme was In Another’s Shoes.

Winning entries ranged from literal interpretations - What would happen if you put on another person’s shoes and became them? - to illustrating empathy through multiple perspectives, and even documentary-style interviews of individuals who optimistically persevere through circumstances others would find difficult. Topics covered included friendship, bullying, female athletes, and physical and mental disabilities. One elementary group even featured some digital animation!

In addition to screening the winning films, students, teachers, and families were treated to some demonstrations and speakers from a variety of filmmaking areas: improv, sound effects, digital effects, podcasting (via Nate Butkus’ The Show about Science), and even a couple of YouTube entrepreneurs:Mitchell Brown and Scotty Vrablik, creators of Clean Minecraft Videos.


I was given the opportunity to represent WeVideo and talk about some of my favorite features, so of course I chose GREEN SCREEN! In this presentation, I gave a few ideas for how to take the tool and create different effects with it (like supersizing something that would otherwise be very small, or using green screen as a tool to uncover and reveal parts of the screen). I want students to feel free to experiment with the technology and try out ideas, no matter how weird or zany it may seem at first. Well, then again, I’m a big fan of all things weird and zany, so…

via David Chan on Twitter

I had never been to the Google Headquarters in Chicago before, so this was super exciting! I live in the suburbs, so I took the green line and walked the few blocks over to the building. There’s no mistaking you’re in the right place! Once we checked in, we were brought upstairs where the conference room and stage were. Although it was a small stage, there were no less than four screens for the audience to watch on, allowing everyone a fantastic view, as well as a podium and timer for the presenters to stay on track! It sort of gave you the feeling like being on an awards show where if you stayed up there too long, you could get played off the stage! Ha! Each student group had the opportunity to give an acceptance speech after the screening of their short films. It was wonderful to hear the stories behind the work.


Outside the conference room, I loved all the various seating options and little “nooks” where you could hang out and work, or even just enjoy the view… or perhaps take a little power nap? The Google chefs made us all lunch, which was super delicious and had options for all of our varied diets. As a vegetarian, I very much appreciated that!


In the end, I had a wonderful day, and really enjoyed seeing all of the amazing work done by students of all ages and backgrounds. I love that there are services like WeVideo out there to help students tell their stories and make the otherwise impossible, possible!


Note: This blog post was first published on the WeVideo blog at: https://blog.wevideo.com/news/insiders-view-the-geg-film-festival-seen-from-the-big-stage/

- Mrs L.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Tech Smash: Creating and Using Gifs in Your Lessons

via: http://images.clipartpanda.com/hulk-clip-art-hulkjump.png

So, I use a lot of video in my classroom. One of the technology units I teach is video production using WeVideo and filmmaking/storytelling techniques, but I also do a lot of informational screencasts to demonstrate assignment directions or how-tos when it comes to technology. (You can check out my YouTube channel here for more.)

Embedding a YouTube video or Google Drive video in Slides is great, but it’s a feature in Google Docs - not yet, at least. Because I rely on video so much, it’s kind of frustrating to link stuff and have a new window/tab open. Many middle school kids don’t like to exert the energy to click on a link and dig for information (ha ha - true story!). They want it RIGHT THERE in front of them. One way to do this is through inserting gifs - short animated looping images. Once you create a gif, they're easy to insert into your doc - same as inserting any other image!

I started out making gifs via free web services like Recordit, which allows you to select a portion of your screen and screencast it. You can then output your screencast as a gif. It’s a great way for beginners to do simple demos, like where to find functions in a menu and perform simple steps in an assignment that require the visual only.

But what if you want to add titles or captions to your gif? What if you have a video file (or portion of a video file) that you want to turn into a gif to insert in your assignment? Here are some options:


Screencast + captions/titles + Ezgif

You can take a screencast (this can be done directly in WeVideo, or via any other fave screencasting app) and upload it to WeVideo, or another favorite video editing tool to add your titles, captions, or annotations as needed. Export your video file. Now, upload it to Ezgif to turn that video into a gif!


Video file + Ezgif (video to gif function; then “frames”)

When you upload your video file to Ezgif, you have the option of splitting the video into individual FRAMES. This is amazing, because you can edit your gif to clip the beginning/end as needed to include just the essential parts. You can also adjust the frame rate to speed up/slow down as needed.

Gif maker in Ezgif!

Whaaat?! An easy gif and animation creator! Upload photos or graphics as individual frames and turn it into a gif. I can’t wait to try this out with my students.

I love that I can “smash” together different apps and software to create quick visualizations to help illustrate concepts for students! Bonus: the looping aspect of a gif ensures that students don’t miss the action; it gets repeated and re-enforced in case they miss the step the first time around.


I used WeVideo’s green screen effects to create short demo videos, and then turned the videos into gifs for my presentation at the GEG Chicago Student Film Festival last week:




P.S. Speaking of tech SMASHing, are you following the Ed Tech Hulk on Twitter? He cracks me up!

- Mrs L.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Art +Technology: A Picture Person Project


In another life I was an art teacher. For 13 years, in fact! I've never lost my love for art, so when my son started kindergarten and the PTA was looking for a parent to act as the "Art Mom" (called "Picture Person" in my son's district), I jumped at the chance.

The program in my son's district is through the Picturing America program, which, I gotta tell ya, made me a little disappointed at first. I wanted full freedom to choose my own artists and activities! But it really makes sense - by using this program, we ensure that grade levels and volunteers don't overlap or repeat.

For one of my visits, I chose the painting George Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Leutze. I adapted one of my favorite former 6th grade art projects to fit the kindergarten level. I took photos of the students wearing a cape, tri-corner hat, and holding a play sword, and superimposed them into the painting!


If you do some Googley-searching you can find links back to my old art blog, including this entry that talks a little about our Kehinde Wiley project. (Ugh thanks to Photobucket - that's sarcastic, by the way - most of my old blog images are now broken links.) Kehinde Wiley poses his models in classical poses after Baroque-style portraiture. We used this as inspiration when posing for our George Washington photos.

While the photos were being taken, students worked at their tables. They used colored pencil to add patterned backgrounds to a black and white photocopy of the original painting, to mimic the highly ornate backgrounds in a Wiley painting:

image via
At home, I worked to layer the original painting with the student photos we had just taken. I did a presentation at a PTA workshop for the other volunteers that details the whole process below:


This "picture person" project was really fun because it allowed me to combine my love of art and technology into one fun project. I sent color printouts of the final images home, along with a quick note explaining what we did in class. I got a lot of positive feedback from the parents and the students seemed to really enjoy dressing up and being a part of the artwork!

- Mrs L.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Hour of Code 2017 is coming!


Next week (December 4-10) is Computer Science Education Week, otherwise known to many students as that time of the year that we complete the Hour of Code!

I sometimes struggle with ways to motivate and engage students at the middle school level (in general!), so this year I'm trying a special badge/achievement award that I really hope catches on!

To celebrate, all students have the chance to earn a very special locker laurel badge next week by completing the Hour of Code on their own:


​To earn a locker laurel badge, students will need to show evidence of completion of an Hour of Code in a variety of ways:
  • via a certificate from Code.org or other coding website 
  • a screenshot/screengrab providing proof of completion 
  • a note from a parent verifying completion of an activity

To sweeten the deal, I have a small stack of special CODE stickers to give to the first 15 students to complete an Hour of Code:


I purchased a whole slew of these online from the store at Code.org. I may have also grabbed myself some goodies, too, like buttons and a t-shirt! My personal favorite is the "Code Like a Girl" t-shirt. :)


I'd love to have other fun prizes to pass out for the future... what does your school do? Do you have any inexpensive/free-ish ideas that would interest middle schoolers? Let me know!

Here's wishing you a very happy Computer Science Education Week!

- Mrs L.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Free Printable Ozobot Costume Template!


Happy (almost) Halloween! It's my favorite holiday, and I was trying to "dress up" my Ozobots for Halloween. I used some of the extra covers from our classroom kit to make this cute Frankenstein costume, and I used the OzoGroove app to make him dance to the Monster Mash. Here's a short clip:


Then, a couple more bots got the costume treatment:


I had so much fun with this that I wanted students to be able to make costumes for their Ozobots, too! I don't have enough extra Ozobot "shells" to give one to each student, so paper seemed like a logical and simple solution. I searched the internet, only to discover that there really isn't much in the way of paper templates for decorating Ozobots... so I went ahead and made one myself! 


Ok, so my sample decorations aren't exactly super-detailed, but you get the idea. I'd rather students use their own creativity and show ME how they can be used to make their bots awesome! 

Want your own printable template? Click on the image below for the full size pdf file version:


If you do make any Ozobot costumes from this template, I'd love to see them, so please tag me in any posts! Thanks!

- Mrs L.

Friday, October 20, 2017

The Invention and Design Cycle


It's parent-teacher conference season, so I get tiny pockets of free time here and there between meetings. I decided to finally try my hand at some sketching on the iPad in the style of sketchnoting/visual note-taking. I used the Autodesk Sketchbook app, which is free!

I'm very pleased with how it turned out! I'm excited to try something similar on my Chromebook next. (I own a personal Chromebook that has a touch screen, so I'm hoping to be able to use it in a similar manner as the iPad...)

Drawing this really got me thinking about the similarities between making art and making/inventing using technology. We all follow a similar thought process of concept - ideas / brainstorming / creating and execution / reflection and revision. Makers, artists, designers, inventors... we're all the same! I think this really helps to illustrate (pun intended, ugh) why I love to live and teach in both worlds: art and computers, and how they're related!

Have a great weekend!
- Mrs L.

p.s. Do you like my new logo? I made it using Google Draw with my 6th graders! 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Even MORE Green Screen Fun Time Ideas!


I’ve been wanting to try out this fun green screen method for a while now. I even got my buddies from my local Starbucks drive-thru to hook me up with a bunch of green straws (those extra-long venti iced coffee straws are perfect for this)!

Disclaimer: this is not my original idea. I got it from one of my favorite PLCs - Twitter!

A lot of iOS teachers love using the DoInk app, which is great if you’re an iPad school… but I’m a Chromebook 1:1 school, so I use WeVideo. Honestly, even if I was an iOS school, I’d still like to use WeVideo because it’s not device-dependent. Anywhere you can access your Google account, you can access and edit your WeVideo projects and video files! It’s so convenient, and they’re constantly adding features and upgrades to the service. I’m hooked.

So anyways, today I set up a mini green screen set: a piece of green construction paper as a “screen,” and a green straw taped to the back of an action figure - like a puppet stand, if you will. Once you add the green screen magic to it, you end up with a video that has an awesome low-tech effect that reminds me of Vitruvius floating around as a ghost in the LEGO movie:


(That visible string from LEGO ghost Vitruvius gets me every time! )

So, I tried out this method (items on green straws) using a Playmobil action figure, a red speech bubble cut-out shape, and a plastic Super Mario figure. I think I surprised myself by how well it worked overall! Can you see the shadow on some? Yeah. Is it perfect? No. Does it do the job? Heck yes! I’m a fan. 

Here’s what my playing around produced:


Fun fact: the skater that jumps off the curb in the last clip is me! I’m trying to teach myself to skate at the skate park. I’m still a very baby beginner, but at least I’m out there trying. :) 

Using the green screen method on a small scale like this is a fun alternative for teachers without space or resources for large green walls or curtains. And you can typically grab the straws for free! 

- Mrs. L.
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