Tech Tuesday

Finds and Thoughts about Tech Integration

Stop-Action Movies Follow-Up


Last post, I wrote about stop-action movies. This is a quick follow-up to share two movies that were completed with our May Challenge Crew.

The Snow Man

Chicken Little

These movies are very simple attempts at a “how-to” narrative and a retelling of a story. For both movies, we used IPEVO Point 2 View USB Document Cameras. With “The Snow Man”, we used a Logitech USB Headset for clear, sound quality. We were amazed at how easy and fun the movies were to make with the SAM Animation software. We are hoping to integrate this technology into fifth grade social studies, specifically European explorers, next year. Wish us luck! 🙂

something new MAY be in order: Stop-Action Movies


It’s almost the end of the school year. Things are crazy, but at the same time, they can be a bit stale. Especially, after testing has come and gone, students often see that milestone as a sign to check out. Looking to continue to engage your students right down to the end? Give stop-action movies a try!

For the next few weeks, a handful of teachers and myself are exploring what SAM Animation has to offer. This software developed at Tufts University is very user-friendly. It comes as a demo or pay for a full download. The demo works well enough to capture images with your built-in or external cameras , and then add narration or audio. The movies can be exported as QuickTime or other file formats for various mobile devices and destinations. (Tip: in the demo version, to find these other options, use the File- Export Menu.)

Stop-action movies lend themselves beautifully to science topics due to the time lapse capabilities that allow a very slow process (such as plant growth) to be observed at a faster rate. However, science is not the only subject that can harness the power. Check out the many examples here. (And stay tuned for a future post that displays the teacher created examples that we are going to develop as a part of our May challenge.)

What I REALLY like:

SAM Animation was developed with the understanding that the technology should not get in the way of the content. The content should be front and center. (Read about how animation is good for the classroom in their white paper.)  It’s a true integration tool that is easy to use, and the concept of stop-action movies really makes students think. Students have to plan how they will break concepts and actions down in meaningful chunks to in turn build a coherent message that demonstrates understanding. Plus, it’s tactile, hands-on and fun!

Want to get started? Check out SAM Animation’s video tutorials here. Also, iCreate to Educate, a partner company, has great resources for teachers.

Your thoughts and experiences with animation and stop-action movies are welcome!

Classrooms with a View


Many moons ago when I was a second grade teacher, I was involved in a grant that brought three computer projectors to my elementary school. Our focus was the traditional five paragraph essay and how projecting student work and our own mini-lessons was faster, more efficient and eye-catching to students. The tools, resources and technology have evolved so much in a decade; however, one thing has remained the same: having a clear view to learning opens up your world.

In my current district, stimulus funds allowed us to mount a dozen projectors this school year. Unfortunately, we have more than a dozen classrooms and specialist rooms. Therefore, we had to have a selection process. Over the years, I have seen many pieces of equipment collect dust because it was doled out to a targeted grade level or even building. Either support was not available to foster its integration into the teacher’s classroom curriculum, or there simply was no investment. (I recall many computers appearing in my second grade classroom, and no one ever showed me how to use them. That was a turning point for me. I wanted to learn and went down a new path with a Masters program. This is not the case for everyone.) Therefore, the principal and I decided to have teachers apply for projectors. We were looking for individuals who were going to figure out how to give their students that view on a daily basis.

Today, I met with the projector collaborative group. Installation took longer than the district anticipated, but many have had two months to “play”. Today we supported one another by sharing tips and tricks on screen resolution, brightness and signal loss as well as what unique ways the equipment is seamlessly helping students learn curriculum. I took this opportunity to introduce the teachers to Wallwisher as a way for us to share these fabulous integration ideas (and then in turn use this new tool with their students, hopefully). Please check them out here.

I’m hopeful that our enthusiasm will spread amongst teams and that a new application process will be funded and, most importantly, embraced.

On a side note: At the MassCUE 2010 Conference, Suzy Brooks shared this Wallwisher PDF from Passy World with her participants. Suzy’s presentation was a real inspiration on how to be “Technically Invisible”. This is what we aspire to with our new mounted projectors. Thanks, Suzy!



Normally, I like to highlight tech tools that are FREE. There are so many great services popping up on a daily basis during some weeks that we do not seem to have a shortage for integration into our studies. Honestly, it often is overwhelming… which one should we try now? The key is finding something that truly meets your need. With that in mind, this school year, we did something that we rarely do. We paid for a subscription to a tool: BrainPOP.

BrainPOP is a service that creates short, animated movies on, what seems like, every topic in science, social studies, English, math, technology, arts & music and health. An interactive quiz, suggested experiments/activities and a comic strip for each topic also is a part of the package.

What I like about BrainPOP: It has been created with kids in mind. The content is appropriate for upper elementary with just the right amount of silly humor to keep them engaged. Also, educators are a part of the creation process at BrainPOP, so a teacher can be reassured that the information is accurate. There is an academic standards search tool, too, making it easy to find what you need on a topic. Finally, knowing that the students are on a safe, academic website that they could navigate independently is a perk as well.

What is the appropriate setting for BrainPOP? That depends on the teacher, the students and your circumstances.

  1. A teacher could introduce new units or concepts by showing the BrainPOP movies to a whole class using a classroom projector.
  2. Students could use laptops to review concepts by watching the movies and taking quizzes.
  3. Likewise, in a computer lab, students could access topics simultaneously and review at their own pace.
  4. A one computer classroom could utilize BrainPOP as a center for students to rotate through to explore a topic.
  5. Add a headphone splitter to desktops or laptops, and students could work as partners.

My school has opted for a school subscription, so we can access it anywhere in the building during the school day. This flexibility will allow teachers to be spontaneous and capitalize on those teachable moments, such as when a current event happens. Maybe, there’s a BrainPOP video topic that will help students understand?

One last thing that I’m impressed with are the teacher resources. BrainPOP Educators is a free membership with great ideas, tutorials and professional development opportunities. Even if you don’t have a subscription to BrainPOP, you can join. Of course, then you have to plan around finding free movies to try out all of the cool stuff.

I’m curious about how others are using BrainPOP, or if anyone has any suggestions or advice for us.

Thanks for reading!

VoiceThread Follow Up


Last week, I attended the MassCUE Conference where I had the honor of being a presenter on both days. One of my presentations was a sharing of our MassCUE Initiative 2010 Grant. As nerve wracking as it is to prepare and give a presentation, I always find them to be such a wonderful way to reflect on what I’ve learned when it comes to the integration of technology. When you write up a grant, you’re never really sure how your bright ideas are going to work out. I even wrote about VoiceThread in an earlier post, outlining some tips and an explanation of the project that we were undertaking.  I’d like to take this opportunity to share the results of our VoiceThread project via SlideShare (embedded below). You will see that we set up a classroom blog that served as the backbone for the project, giving the students easy access and so many opportunities to communicate their learning. As always, your thoughts are welcome!

Note: The example links on slide 21 do not seem to be working in SlideShare.
I have linked them below.
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