Thursday, January 9, 2020

FREE Graffiti Font Tool

A school asked if I could help them duplicate the cover of a book for a project they are doing with teachers.

The basics were pretty easy but I needed to find free graffiti font. I initially tried the dafont website, which is my go to for most fonts, but nothing really matched.

I did a Google and YouTube search and came across this free, super cool, online graffiti tool. Honestly I just started playing around to try and figure stuff out but what I couldn't figure out was how to download it. So I went back to YouTube and found this VERY HELPFUL video...which would have saved me a lot of time in the design process (so definitely watch it first).

I used the site to remove the background of my picture and the background of my words, after I went through the saving steps. TIP: make sure to set the background of your words to white first. Normally I use Google Chrome to access the site but I couldn't get it to take any of my jpeg images this morning. I tried the site using Microsoft Edge and had no problems. So if you run into any issues you may need to try a different web browser.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

New Year's Goal - Positivity

I've been playing with grateful and gratitude apps the last month. It is one of my goals in 2020 is to focus more on being positive and I wasn't sure exactly how I wanted to go about it.

This past year has been a little rough in terms of watching the news, budget cuts at work, gaining weight, getting older and I've been focused a little too much on the negative.

At first I thought I might want to just share my grateful thoughts on Facebook but I didn't want to annoy anyone with my posts (you know the ones that start in November and lead up to Thanksgiving Day and we get it...YOU. ARE. THANKFUL not to mention FB posts are super hard to sort).

Anyway I thought of a employing a "happiness jar" but I didn't want my husband to ask me "What is that?" and me having to explain. This is more of a "me" thing than a "him" thing I am not sure he has every been "unhappy" so he wouldn't understand (I am assuming that is a guy thing and leave it at that...or at least a "my guy" thing).

Photo Credit -

I then started thinking about adding notes to my phone's Notes App but I am terrible at keeping those up. I still shop with paper lists (and I have tried to go to digital just annoys me I have to log in after every aisle).

That got me thinking about apps and so I started trying some out. I wanted a free or cheap app that was easy to use and that I could look back on whenever I started feeling a little down. 

A lot of them are initially free but then require "in app purchases". I narrowed it down to two apps - Gratitude Happiness Journal and the Grateful a Gratitude Journal App

The Gratitude Happiness Journal app had a lot on its "free" side but to upgrade there is a monthly charge and I am strongly against assuming a monthly charge. I could have lived with the "free" side but if I ultimately wanted to add more pictures, more posts, or export my journal than I would have to upgrade. If you are not interested in those features then the free version is pretty robust. 

The Grateful app was limited on its "free" side (15 journal entries) but to upgrade there was a one time $5 charge (which is easier to take then a monthly charge). It was super simple to use, included the abilities to add more pictures, more posts, and to export. It is also "no frills" (I don't need a daily affirmation the other app offered). I wasn't too excited about how the data backs up. I looked at the back up in my Dropbox and exported as a PDF and the company could certainly improve both but I could live with it. So I ultimately went with that app.

I've been posting once a day (usually with a picture) since December 10th just to get myself into the habit so that I am "official" ready to be more positive in 2020. 

So if you are like me...trying to focus more on the positive in the New Year you might consider testing out some of the available apps before 01/01.

Tuesday, December 24, 2019

Sketchnoting - 12 Days Challenge

Last year (2018) I randomly ran across a 12 Days of Twitter Challenge about the same time I was getting into Sketchnoting. One of the teachers/tech coaches I follow Wanda Terral, an early sketchnote adopter, challenged folks to sketchnote their responses to the challenge. I was trying to sketchnote digitally and so I took on the challenge. Sadly I did not complete it. Sketchnoting digitally took up a lot more time then just paper and pencil.  I was using Kami as my online sketchpad...even though it isn't its intended had all the tools I needed for use on my tablet. 

Fast forward to December this year (2019) and the challenge came up on my Twitter feed again. The challenges seem to be run by different folks on Twitter but more or less have the same components. 

This year I decided to use paper and pencil and sketch out simple vs. elaborate responses. I did it while watching TV at night with my husband and moved days ahead with my responses. I posted them to Twitter on the correct day but I was ahead as far as sketchnoting. 

I'm happy to report I was able to complete all twelve days of the challenge (see first picture). Sketchnoting wasn't required to do the challenge it was more of a way to keep my skills (such as they are) up. 

My biggest complaint is that the hashtag seems to differ so I was never sure if I was hashtagging #12DaysofTwitter or I simply used both in my posts. 

I liked that I logged into Twitter each day and got some great ideas. Twitter is full of them...I just rarely have the time to scroll and post so the challenge forced me into it. 

This got me thinking about all the students I have taught sketchnoting to. I thought it might be fun to come up with an "early finishers" activity for students to sketchnote twelve things. It doesn't necessarily have to be Christmas-y either. Some of the things that made it on my list:

- Sketchnote your favorite book and why it is
- What is your favorite thing to eat during the holidays and why
- What do you hope to do over the break
- Tell us about yourself in a sketchnote

I would probably have a prize for students who completed all twelve at the end of the challenge and would make a fun December display in the hall. 

So stay tuned to this space next year to see if I am able to get the idea off the ground. 🤔

Monday, December 23, 2019

Radio Programs in the Classroom - Using Audacity

The other day I worked with a 5th grade class teaching them how to use Audacity (free, open source, audio software). They had to recite the shortened poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas" and add in eight sound effects (that I curated for them). The project was leading up to a larger one after the break where students will be making WW2 era radio broadcasts in their Social Studies class. 

Finished student poem project - Tyler's Recording

Audacity is available in our district software center for students to download. It looks intimidating to use but there are really only a few things that students needed to learn how to do (I made the cheat sheets above so they could have some reference materials to refer back to). My goals for the students were to teach them how to:

- Record an audio track
- Delete an audio track
- Split and move audio tracks
- Trim audio tracks
- Import audio tracks
- Fade In and Out
- Reduce the volume
- Know the difference between inserting and layering a sound effect
- Save their working project
- Save their final project (as a WAV file)
- Upload to a Google Classroom assignment

I am by no means an Audacity expert so I watched several YouTube videos prior to the lesson. In the past I have used Audacity to split and merge music tracks and that was pretty much the extent of my experience with the software. 

The introduction lesson was done in two 5th grade gifted and talented classes the week of Christmas break in her 2 hour ELA blocks. The teacher is very tech savvy and was interested in having her students learn the tool for future recordings. She said, after the project, that she was going to add the introductory lesson to her December lesson plans each year going forward (so that made me happy!).  

For our whole group lesson we all did the same simple recording adding in four sound effects (which I got from the Discovery Education sound effects library and curated into a file, sharing the file with students). Our district has a subscription to Discovery Education and I would say their sound effects are often overlooked in their audio library. They have a lot but it is by no means the most comprehensive effects library (for instance I couldn't find a sound effect for paper ripping) but all the students have access to it and they are easily downloadable to student tablets, which I needed. We block a lot of audio sites in our district (I'll list a couple of sound effects sites to try at the end of this post).

The simple recording was a short announcement of a grant with their teachers as the surprise winners. The sound effects were as follows:

- Intro music
- Envelope ripping (got from the YouTube audio library)
- Crowd gasp
- Crowd cheer

Once we completed the recording (took about 1 hour) the students had the second hour to work independently on their poem recording. 

In Google Classroom I put a link to their sound effects in Discovery Education (you can add outside resources to your file library in DE and still share) and I had pre-printed the poem with what sound effects went where (see picture below). 

Student had to download the sound effects first (it helped to delete the sound effects from the first group project so they weren't confused). Then they had to record their poem (it helped to have them pause the recording between stanzas to keep the pacing...those who didn't made a lot of mistakes and spoke too quickly). Once they were done recording they saved everything and started to insert and/or overlap the sound effects, ALWAYS saving between changes. We learned, after the first group, that overlapping the sound effects on to the readings worked better then inserting them between stanzas...which led to learning how to adjust the volume of the sound effects so they didn't drown out the main voice. 

The students were happily engaged for two solid hours and learned a lot of skills that will help them with future recordings (poems, podcasts, mock radio broadcasts). 

If you are interested in doing this with children I would definitely check out the following sound effect libraries on a student device to see what may or may not be blocked (if you want students to find their own sound effects). Look for sites that don't require students to make an account. If you are finding the effects for students you can curate sound effects in a Google Drive folder if you don't have access to Discovery Education.

Free Play Music (chose the educational license need to make an account so more for teachers)
Free Sound Effects (they have a pro version so if you see pricing move back to the "free" area)

If you have any other sites you recommend, please let me know in the comments or tag me on Twitter @atechcoachlife.

Saturday, December 14, 2019

12 Days Before Christmas Break (BONUS ACTIVITY) - Holiday Emoji Book Trailers w/ Flipgrid

Sorry for the overload of holiday ideas. We have one more week of school here in South Carolina (which involved a hurricane makeup day) and teachers are looking for creative ways to keep students engaged.

This idea of making emoji book trailers came from working with staff at Whale Branch Elementary School. Their Literacy Coach wanted to have every teacher in the school record a book trailer. The idea was to share one a week (Friday) on the morning news but she needed help planning and recording staff. 

We met up to record our sample trailers and to discus the project and potential pitfalls. Initially I think we were both thinking of recording the teachers using the green screen but for a school wide project that would have been a lot of work. I was also thinking of the teachers who would refuse because they ABSOLUTELY POSITIVELY don't want to be recorded.  That is when Flipgrid popped back on my radar. It fell off my radar last year when Microsoft took it over (mainly because there were so many changes that I simply didn't keep up with it). 

My thought was that Flipgrid will allow teachers to record independently (so no need to drag out my recording equipment and schedule appointments) and I knew that you could download the finished videos so getting them on the news show would be easy. 

Ms. Bates and I settled into make our recordings when I noticed that Flipgrid added an emoji feature (remember I hadn't kept up with changes for an entire year). As soon as I saw the emojis it made me think of those camera shy teachers and I changed our sample trailer scripts into ones that we could use emojis with. We had so much fun creating them that I thought students would too. Here are links to my "Best Christmas Pageant Ever" trailer and Mrs. Bates "The Relatives Came" book trailer.

I tried it out with a group of fourth graders and they enjoyed the activity but they never got a chance to make their own. As a group we created one for "Bear Stays Up for Christmas" (click the title to see one of the completed videos). We ended up with a synopsis of the book versus a trailer. They all recorded the same video (my plan is to go back and see how they would do on their own). 

If you do this activity I would suggest two ELA blocks (those are typically longer blocks of time). On the first day I would show them a sample (ask them what they notice), go over the available emojis to discuss meaning, read a book, work out a script and pick emojis whole group. Have them record it (which will give them practice with the tools and recording). I gave students the Flipgrid link and copied the script into Google Classroom so they would have what they needed for the activity. Flipgrid has a great notes feature where they could paste the script so they could read from it (sort of like an on screen teleprompter that doesn't scroll). 

On the second day the students would pick a holiday picture book (or any book really) read it and create an emoji script. Once the script was approved by the teacher they could record. 

One thing I should have stressed to students is the need to hold still while recording with the emoji over their face. One child complained that their emoji kept moving when in fact he was the one doing all the moving. 🤣

If you try it with students I would love to see their videos. Feel free to link anything in the comments or tag me on Twitter @atechcoachlife

12 Days Before Christmas Break (BONUS ACTIVITY) - Design a Snowflake

This AWESOME idea came from Abby Schiferl on Twitter. She had her students design snowflakes using Google Drawings, which in itself is fun but she brought in her Silhouette machine and used it to cut out their designs (which I though was pretty cool). She works in a computer lab but this could easily translate into the classroom.

I reached out to her on Twitter and asked how they designed the snowflakes in Drawings and she sent me a link to a YouTube video they used as the inspiration for this project.

I tried designing it this morning (see picture above). It was fairly easy, although I had to restart it several times because I messed up the final closing of the shape. I would tell students that they will mess up...but to me that is part of the process.

Purposely I used my mouse track pad instead of an actual mouse to rate the difficulty level for students (who don't have external mouses) and it wasn't too bad. Definitely doable.

I loved the Silhouette aspect of being able to take home a tangible product they designed. I personally don't have a Silhouette or Cricut machine but I a meeting up with a teacher friend later today to have her cut out my design above. She has a personal machine but she bought one after using the schools Cricut machine (which would make a great grant proposal).

Making the snowflake didn't take that much time so you might want to have students make a few snowflakes and then pair it with this Google Slides animation idea (check out the comment about changing the size of the falling snow).

This would be a great activity to reinforce symmetry and angles.

Thursday, December 12, 2019

12 Days Before Christmas Break (#12) - Personalized Pop Up Cards with Flipgrid

I saw this post on Twitter on how to use Flipgrid to personalize gifts and it got me thinking about how I can use the idea this holiday season.

Flipgrid is a FREE video response system for students (which has a lot of cool features). If you aren't using it definitely check it out (it works with tablets as well as iPads). I would also highly recommend following them on Twitter for ideas and short tutorials.

Have students record a personalized message to a family member on Flipgrid. To add a twist have them use the emoji features to cover their face until the end (my video 👇). This requires that students pre-plan their message on paper (which I liked better than doing a straight recording...but if you are short on time a straight recording would work).

Students can use the "notes" feature to type their message so it doesn't look like they are reading from a piece of paper.

In the teacher admin area of Flipgrid you can print out QR codes to the video and have students glue them into their cards.

I love Robert Sabuda's pop up templates and chose the tree for this activity. There are several other holiday ones but the tree was in his "easy" popup category and I liked that it produced a larger card and lent itself to decorating.

I would plan for two class periods to complete this project. One to plan and record the message and one to make and decorate the card.

If you use this idea I would love to see some finished cards. You can either comment below or tag me on Twitter @atechcoachlife.