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:

- Mrs L.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Tech Smash: Creating and Using Gifs in Your Lessons


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.