Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Movie Maker Live, No Voiceover?

Oh Microsoft, you made such significant leaps forward with the new MovieMaker Live, but one glaring problem exists. In the classroom, I’m not always going to be importing full-on video clips. Often, my students just need a great way to add photos to a movie and record their voiceover as a narrative of the visual story.  Or, perhaps I have the video, but I want to easily speak over a clip that has poor audio. You took away the easy voiceover tool in earlier versions of MovieMaker.  So let’s share a work around.

Adding A Voiceover To Movie Maker Live Projects
It’s actually pretty easy, as far as work arounds go. Record your narration in your local audio recorder, export the audio and import it into Movie Maker as a music file.  From that point, you can clip and adjust the length of still photos to match the new audio, or clip and place the audio track so that it matches the video segment that goes with it.

Audacity is my preferred audio recording tool on the pc. It’s a simple and free install. The only trick is that you need to install separately the LAME encoders so that it will export your audio as an mp3.  But even that is pretty easy.

Once installed, open Audacity and hit the little red button to record. Stop when done and go to File – Export as MP3 to get your audio Movie Make-ready.  Movie Maker will import that MP3 after you click the big ‘Add Music’ button at the top of the window.  Drag the new skinny green audio track to wherever you want the audio to be in your movie.

Movie Maker doesn’t allow multiple audio tracks. There is any audio you have with the video track and the Add Music track.  If you want to have your voice over  with a music background and the occasional frog croaking in the background, you can do all of that audio in Audacity and export it as one single audio track for Movie Maker. Audacity can have many tracks in the project, but exporting will flatten it into one.
Another thing to remember is that when adding audio to Movie Maker, you can edit the audio just like a video clip. Select the audio and then you can split the audio clip in an effort to put space between spoken sentences or such.

So, how do you use movies in your classroom?  One middle school teacher is having the students pull or capture still images that compliment their written stories and record it all as a movie.  Another teacher had students create short movies where students demonstrated what they learned during anti-bully lessons.  An easy scaffolding lesson would be to give small groups the same 3 minute video clip of a class Science demonstration. Have each group compete for the best video using text and voiceovers to show understanding. How would YOU use video in your classroom?

photo: microphone

Monday, May 2, 2011

Using QR Codes to Promote Student Publications Online!

QR, or Quick Response, codes are those square bar codes that we are seeing more in print and online media. They are read by most smart phones and can be created easily. This project utilizes them to help students promote their online publications.

Research and Write
Find places in your community that deserve some more recognition or that are easily researchable.  Using the standards for researching and report writing for your grade-level, have the students find some interesting facts and write a short historical report about their place. 

The students can support their report with student-made or free-to-use graphics found online.  Provide resource links for additional information, such as local online historical databases or town history sites.

Publish their work on a project wiki. Things to avoid:
  • 1.     Be careful to avoid advanced site tools that use Flash since the target audience for our finish project will be mobile users.
  • 2.     Don’t use small text sizes.
  • 3.     Be concise in your report writing and use clear paragraphs.
  • 4.     Don’t overwhelm the page with images and movies.
  •  If you use an image that is already online, give the owner credit at the bottom of your page.
“More Information Here” Announcement Page
Once you have the project published, the student gets to make a small QR code sheet that will be laminated and left at the historical site (with permission of course).  Design the sheet to be less than a half-sheet of paper so that it doesn’t take up lots of window space, but so that visitors see it easily.

To create the QR code, go to and type the URL of the page on your site that contains the students’ work.  (Avoid typing just the domain [] but the complete URL for their page [].)  Click the ‘shorten url’ button and you will get a short url.  NOW, click ‘details’ and you will get the QR code for this page.

You need to copy two things, the QR bar code and the link at the bottom of the page.  First, right-click on the bar code and save the image to your computer.  Alternatively, some wikis and blogs let you add images using the image’s URL. Your bar code’s URL is right below the image.

By also saving the link at the bottom, Link To This Page, you can revisit this page for this specific QR code and find out how many people have used the code to access the report page online.

When printing your QR code on the “More Information Here” page, try not to resize the image. If the image is distorted, it could keep the bar code from working well.

If you have a Google account, login before creating the QR codes.  Codes that you create while logged into your account will be tracked from the web page.  You can quickly get access to all QR codes that you have created from the home web page.

Other Ideas For QR Codes?
Share URLs In Class: One problem with QR codes in the classroom is not having enough devices that can read the QR codes. One nice stop-gap fix is to use laptops that have cameras on them.  With administrator install rights, a teacher can go to QuickMark for PC , sign up for a free login and download the software. After having the software on the laptop, the teacher displays a large version of the QR code on the Innovation Station. Student point their laptop towards the screen and the web address is recognized.

Scavenger Hunt: Setup QR codes around the room that have different answers. Students solve problems, find their answer on the wall, and the QR code could give them a right/wrong or Next Clue answer. The teacher just makes these answers as individual wiki pages and generates codes for each page needed.

The QR code industry is growing quickly. Eventually, when all kids in the class have a camera/reader, getting information out to them could be even easier.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Paperslide Videos! Easy Student-Made Video Content

Kids like videos. They like watching videos. They like making videos. Videos engage students. Teachers like engaged students. Therefore, teachers should like using videos during instruction.

That's a great concept. In the not-so-distant past, using video in the classroom meant either pushing the play button for a 2 hour sit and stare time or planning out the 2 week computer lab lesson where the teacher had to learn advanced skills and live stressed during the whole project.

This morning, Austin teachers participated in Discovery Education's Virtual Conference and heard Dr. Lodge McCammon of the Friday Institute share the simple Paperslide Video concept in an online webinar. The paperslide video is merely the idea that students create graphic representations on paper that slide across the table below a video camera. No faces on screen, no names given, and the whole process can take less than 25 minutes.

Do you know what 'integers' are?  Watch this student-made video and see if you learn anything.

On Dr. Lodge's website, he discusses  the Why and How to differentiate your instruction in the classroom using these quick one-take videos.  He had over 30 free to use songs on Discovery Streaming in many different curriculum disciplines.  All students have to do is apply the lesson content to their one-page graphics and let their Multiple Intelligences engage them in their learning process.

- Video on "How To Make A Paperslide Video"
- Video and printables describing the successful "No Lecture Classroom"

Teachers using classroom technology, like the standard document camera on the Innovation Station, can easily capture student work in a video and in less than a single class period, they can have students create and publish their work online to be shared with peers and parents! Use the document camera creatively to capture students showing understanding of concepts. It WILL pay off in the classroom.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Reducing File Sizes of PDF Files

So, you have a .pdf file that needs to be shared with people at a different location. Sometimes, those graphically-intensive file can be substantially large files.  Sure, we could put the file on a server, share as a Google Docs upload, or upload to a wiki so others can download it.  Emailing, however, just isn’t a good alternative for large pdf files or any large file for that matter.

One possibly helpful tool is a web-based pdf file compressor. has a very easy to use website that lets anyone upload a file and receive it right back with the file size reduced.

Trying this out several times with 5M pdf files gave different results. One particular 1-page document was reduced 92% shaving almost 4M off the file size.  Another attempt only shaved 14% off of a 32 page pdf at the maximum compression setting.

The nice thing about this site is that it lets you try different compression settings before actually downloading the file.

There are various other downloadable apps that one can install and use to compress pdf file sizes.  ( Using a web-based alternative works well regardless of the computer platform or browser you are using.  Just try to use a fast network if your original pdf is a very large file.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Making a Slideshow Using The Innovation Station

Today's topic is demonstrating the capture of images using the Innovation Station's document camera. These pictures can be used in many ways, such as making a slideshow of book pages that can be viewed for multiple class sessions during the week.

What to do with the captured images?  How would YOU use the pictures? Our next post will share some of your ideas as well as give some concrete steps for incorporating captured images into your instructional time with students.  Stay tuned!! 

This video was made using an iPod Touch to capture the video, a Canon Elph to capture buttons on the doc cam during the two-camera shoot, and iMovie '11 to put both camera feeds together. The black bars on the side exist because of the very narrow video captured by the iPod Touch. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Easy Geometry Practice Using Spreadsheets

There are many ways to use manipulatives to teach geometry concepts in the classroom. The Innovation Station makes sharing these so much easier. Projecting a close-up image of a student made shape helps all students in the classroom analyze the shape to see if it meets the project criteria.

Capturing the images using the document camera will allow the teacher to use student-made geometric examples for classroom projects or visual examples that teachers could use during lesson assessments.

Texas technology assessments include assessing students on their ability to use spreadsheets. Some of those skills include formatting text, changing row and column sizes, and drawing borders. In an amazing coincidence, we can use those same tools to create 2D geometric shapes that can be printed and cut out to build 3D shapes. Spreadsheets can help students visualize the measurement of perimeter, area, and volume while also practicing technology skills at the same time.

Download this Excel document is a two-page sample that teachers can use to develop their technology-friendly geometry lesson. Lesson scaffolding ideas are included for elementary through high school students. Edit the file and make it your own!

Spreadsheets can be a valuable tool for teaching geometry concepts and the Innovation Station can help share their small examples much more easily.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Does My Projector Need A Dentist?

Your projector doesn't need a dentist, but some do need regular cleaning. Those classrooms with Epson projectors will need to remember to get the filter cleaned.  (The 3M projectors are DLP which means they do not have filters.)

What does the filter do? It keeps some dust particles out of the inside as the machine draws in air to cool the mechanics.  Unfortunately, as the filter gets more clogged, less cooling air comes in and the machine will more quickly overheat or burn out the bulb prematurely.

Remember, dead bulbs are the consumable cost of the campus. Help them live longer by keeping the filters clean!  The official Epson directions for cleaning a filter can be found here.

Otherwise, one can carefully locate the filter, remove it, clean it, and replace it with minimal techno-skill. 

This filter is very clogged.  When you see it, think "running a marathon breathing through a straw!"  It really needs to be cleaned.

This filter was cleaned. One can carefully tap the large excess dust chunks off or use a small vacuum to pull out the dirt, but pouring water slowly though it will wash the dust out of the filter. Air dry if possible or carefully pad the filter with soft absorbent cloth to get the water out.

Keeping your filter clean means checking it every 2-3 months. Don't let it get bad enough to kill the projector.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Quick Classroom-made Videos!

So you are getting used to using a document camera during your instruction.  Are you taking advantage of the video capture capabilities? The AISD Innovation Station's document camera will capture video onto the SD memory card that came with it. Many other brands of document cameras will also capture video.  Try capturing project directions on video and putting it out there for the students to review on the school shared network or your online classroom website.

But can the students also use the video capture?  Sure they can!  We have middle school Language Arts teachers capturing student book report presentations on video. We have student math demonstrations in high school being captured as a group reteach resource. I've been in discussions with elementary teachers about using captured video clips in a student's digital portfolio that travels with him from grade to grade.

Dr. Lodge McCammon, demonstrates how 'paper slide videos' are easily made in the classroom. These are videos with a mounted camera, like the doc cam, and students create their visuals on separate pieces of paper. Sometimes the content is student-created graphics that illustrate an educational song (many cool tunes available on that cover high school-level economics through elementary science) or videos like the example here which is a simple voice-over with graphics.

Don't be afraid to try something new or different.  Remember, our digital natives are often looking for reasons to come to school in the first place. With an already-made audio, your doc cam or digital video camera, and warm student body, a teacher can spend half a class period making a video that could stick in their heads the rest of the week. (Believe me. I still have the sublimate song stuck from 3 weeks ago!)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Installing Software on AISD PC Computers

In the past, teachers often met a brick wall when they had some software they wanted to install or just wanted to some district-licensed software on all of their computers. This year, some fantastic changes have been made that empower our teachers to install software without any special passwords or permissions, outside of their own.

Sonia Conrad is doing great things with network installs here in Austin ISD. The process has been outlined in a short video by Marc Thrall. You can view the video at .

The basic process to install software on your district PC computers is to:
  1. Open the Control Panels
  2. Open Programs and Features
  3. Click on 'Install Programs from the Network
  4. Click on the program you wish to install and follow onscreen prompts.
On of the great things about this process is that even students can do this with their login on a district computer.  If you go to the lab to do a Comic Life lesson and find that a computer doesn't have it, have the student follow the directions above to install the software right then.

Thanks to Sonia and her group for providing such a wonderful tool that benefits all teachers!

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January Math!

Happy New Year!!  Installations of Innovation Stations continued through the winter break and more are coming online each week.  Teachers who get an Innovation Station should be able to use it as soon as the installers hand them a key. However simple it may be to use, please contact your Educational Technology Facilitator (414-6553) to schedule a short training for your campus. There are a few 'Big Ideas' that we would like to pass along to teachers receiving the stations.

One of the great things about the station is the ability to use the technology in an interactive way with the class. Let's look at the 3rd Nine Weeks Math curriculum for a couple of integration ideas today.

In the 5th Grade Week 20 lessons, students are looking at area and perimeter. It used to be fun for students to go up to the overhead and draw on a transparency sheet to show perimeter or arrange small plastic squares to show area. The resulting work would be wiped away so the next student could show their answer.  Using the "Exploring Area" Math template in Kidspiration3, the students are given 4 pages to show area by dragging squares. It's clear and easy. Use the wireless keyboard and mouse to let table groups show an answer as a group from their desks.

In 7th Grade, teachers can cover Geometry using Inspiration. I always valued making a large idea web with students to show prior knowledge and then continuing to edit it as we studied the content. By the end, they are very familiar with the idea web, they designed it, and it's a great study guide for a end of unit exam.

Teachers in Rockingham County, Virginia have a collection of Inspiration templates that students can use. Their geometry example (download it) encourages students to define quadrilaterals and triangles by definition and including examples from the internet.  Teachers could scaffold this lesson to where students just have to add the definitions to the template or just add the picture illustrations. The end product would contain much relevant information.

In High School Geometry, Wolfram's Mathematica demonstration on similar triangles is a useful tool for students. Wolfram is really teacher-centric and offers many free online webinars for teachers to help learn effective instructional strategies to use with Wolfram resources.

If any of these ideas made you think of another way you would like to integrate tech into your instruction, always feel free to contact your Educational Technology Facilitator for more support. We'd love to hear from teachers. Let us know how you are using your Innovation Station in your classroom.