Retro Image Editing with 8Bit Photo Lab

Do you sometimes long for the pixilated blocky graphics from your youth? Yea, me too. Well, Android users rejoice. You can create your own 8-bit works of art with 8Bit Photo Lab from Ilixa.

Features

8Bit Photo Lab is a free app that allows you to adjust the color, resolution, and dithering of your photo to give it the look of the pixilated screens from the 80s. There are several pre-set filters to get you started including filters that mimic the look of the green screened Commodore, the sepia tones of a Gameboy, or even the multicolor output of the Apple II. I felt like I was back in grade school playing Tass Times in Tonetown on the old Apple IIe. Browse the slideshow to see my examples some effects.

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In addition to the pre-set filters, there are a wide variety of controls so you can continue to manipulate the color, resolution, and dithering. You can even introduce the banding of a CRT screen and some image glitching. It is fun to try out the different controls to see how it changes your image.

8Bit Photo Lab editing screen.
8Bit Photo Lab editing screen.

The editing interface is very easy to use. When you are done, you can save your images to your device or share them out on social media.

 

The free app is probably good enough for you photo dabblers out there. For the rest of you, you might want to upgrade to the pro version for a mere $2.49. This gives you a bunch more presets, pallets, and effects, as well as more control over the settings. The pro version also gives you a higher output resolution.

Other Apps by Ilxia

If the name Ilxia sounds familiar, it is because I already reviewed their app Mirror Lab. You can read my review here. They have another fun photo editing app called Mosaic Art Lab.

Mosaic Art Lab is, again, a free app with pro upgrades available for $4.49. The interface is similar and as easy to use as 8Bit Photo Lab and Mirror Lab. One of the features I like in Mosaic Art Lab is the Random button. The Random button will select a random image on your device and apply a random filter. Using it you tend to get some amazing happy accidents.

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In the Classroom

In the post about Mirror Lab, I listed several ways you could use the app in the classroom.  For example…

  • Explore the different filters and have your students all create a different image based off of one starter image.
  • Build student visual literacy skills and have students create images based on different emotions. Have them write about why each image represents each emotion. Make sure they use their visual vocabulary.

Those ideas hold true for both of these apps as well. You could also…

  • Create some of your own images and have the students use them as starter images for stories, poems, or musical compositions.
  • 8 Bit Lab would be a great tool for having students create images that go along with their favorite sci-fi stories.
  • App-smash and try using a combination of the three apps to layer on special effects. Granted, this is also a great time to discuss the trap of over-editing an image.

For me, anything that gets your students taking and editing photos while building their creativity is fantastic!

Ilxia has developed a wonderful suite of editing apps that are fun and easy to use. Whether you use them in the classroom or use them to create your own art, they are all worth exploring.  Download them all today and start creating! Share your art in the comments. I’d love to see what you and your students create.

Create Animated Infographics with Animaker

I love a good infographic. There is something special about the creative combination of art elements, design principles, data, and information that just makes my eyes and brain happy. Give me a well-designed animated infographic and my eyes and brain are overjoyed!

As much as I love looking at them, I love creating them even more! I’m always on the lookout for new tools to help me create beautiful things with data. Today, I found Animaker. Today is a happy day.

Creation Made Easy

View of the editing screen.
View of the editing screen.

Animaker is a web-based platform designed to give businesses, students, and teachers the power to create amazing animated infographics, posters, presentations, and videos. The interface is fairly simple to use.

I spent about an hour creating my first six scene video complete with moving text, animated logos, and data. I didn’t start with any tutorials. I just jumped right in with a template as my guide. The editing interface is similar to many of the other tools out there. There is a timeline for each scene where you can manage the effects and timing of your assets. The premade templates are very helpful because you can use them as a guide as you create your own scene. However, even if you start with a blank scene, it is easy to layout your design and create something new. It didn’t take long to figure out how to use the design tool to create my video. I love a tool with a small learning curve.

When you are done creating, you can save your project. With the free plan, the video can be exported to Facebook or YouTube. Upgrade your account for more creation tools and sharing options. Here the pricing schedule for individuals and businesses.

Educator Plan

Educator Dashboard
Educator Dashboard

For the educators out there, there is Animaker Class. Get started with a free account and you can give the tool a try with up to 25 students. From your educator dashboard, you can manage your projects, create a class roster, manage class assignments, and send students messages. You have limited space and features with the free account. Upgrading to the premium opens up a lot of tools and functionality. The cost is $10/month per teacher and $.02/month per student. Read more about the differences between the two plans on their pricing page.

This was a fun tool to explore. I can see tons of ways teachers and student can use this in the classroom. Have your students collect some data and then use this tool to communicate their findings. Discuss the use of goods design principles and data visualization strategies. Let them loos in the tool and see what they create.

Here is my first video. Not too bad for my first try. Have fun creating amazing infographics!

Unleash Students’ Inner Writer with Storybird

I don’t know about you but for me, writing is hard. Nothing is more stressful than staring at that blank page waiting for the words in my head to organize themselves enough for me to write them down. I bet you have a few students who feel the same way. Storybird is a beautiful website that you can use to inspire your students to write and not fear the blank page. It is actually more than a writing website. It is a writing community where your students (and you) can read and write visual stories and poems.

The Art of Creative Writing

Storybird Artful storytelling (2)Writing with Storybird starts with amazing artwork. Writers select artwork from the huge Storybird art library and use that piece of art as the inspiration for their story or poem. The artwork becomes the inspiration for your story or poem. Artwork is a great way to inspire your writers to create stories.

Using the art as their guide, students can write a picture book, a longform book or chapter, or create a poem using an interface that reminds me of magnetic poetry.

Writing, Challenges, and Courses

Storybird has more than just amazing art to help unlock your student’s writing potential. Students can participate in a variety of community challenges that help give them some direction to their creative writing. For example, in the What in the World? challenge, students select an image from artist Julius Tan’s collection of wild and wacky scenes. Then they write about this new world. What do they see, hear, or smell? Then end challenge is to create a three-page picture book about this new place. There are over 20 challenges for writers of all levels. Select one that helps to build your students’ use of dialog or an advanced challenge to push their skills. Browse the challenges on the Challenge page. Storybird Guides

If you are looking for more targeted skill building you and your students can take one of the many writing courses available. Courses are multi-lesson, self-paced experiences created by writing experts. For example, you can learn all about writing fantasy from best selling author, Shannon Messenger.  If you are not up for a full course, you can also explore the How-to-Guides.

If you are looking for more inspiration, browse the community library and read books and poems created by other community members.

Writing Gamified

One of the coolest features of Storybird is the gamified elements. It will only get your students writing, it will keep them writing through badges and crowns (the in-system rewards). As your students write every day or complete challenges, they earn crowns. With crowns, they can unlock access to the courses and How-to-Guides. If you are writing too you can also earn badges and crowns.

Teacher Resources

Storybird includes resources for teachers including classroom management tools. With the educator tools, you can set up multiple classes, build a class roster, assign challenges, grade assignments, and give student feedback. Students join your class using a passcode. Their completed work is submitted into the class library where you can review it, grade it, and give feedback. storybird-review.png

Looking for a new idea for a fundraiser? Storyboard has you covered for that too. Your students can create their own books and then parents can log in and order hard or soft cover copies of the book, or stationary or artwork featuring their poems. Your class raises money from each sale. If you ask me it beats the heck out of cookie dough or wrapping paper, am I right? Read more here.

Pricing

Initial sign up is free. The way I understand it, you can access all of the features listed above with the free account. Some features, such as courses or guides might just take time to access as you build up crowns to unlock the features. However, for faster access, you can become a community member. A month by month membership will cost you $8.99 a month. Or, sign up for a year at a time and the monthly rate drops to $4.99. You can read all about membership benefits on their benefits page.

Whether you are a teacher who is looking for a way to get your students writing or a young aspiring author looking for that extra kick of motivation, check out Storybird. To bring you a little inspiration, I will leave you with my own poem. Happy writing!

Poetry by Kbrynteson on Storybird (1)
My amazing poetry.

 

Green Screen Magic with Do Ink

If you are not making fun green screen adventures with your students yet – what are you waiting for? Go find a green blanket, grab your iPad, download Green Screen by Do Ink and jump on this bandwagon before you miss out!

If you are not familiar with green screen effect, or chroma key effect, here is the basic idea. Chroma key is a special effect technique where multiple images are layered on top of each other. Using a chroma key filter, you can make a color range of the top image transparent so an underlying image can show through. Any color can become transparent, however, a high key green is commonly used, hence the term green screen.

Why would you do this? Well, what if you want a picture of your friend on top of the Bean in Millenium Park in Chicago? You could go to Chicago, climb on top of the Bean and try to get a picture before security arrives (I would not suggest this option). Or, the easier and more legal way, take a picture of the person on a green screen and overlay it onto a picture of the Bean using editing software. Viola! Your friend is on the Bean and no one got arrested. Yay.

Anyway, chroma key photography and video production have been taking the classroom by storm lately because of a great iPad app called Green Screen by Do Ink. It is one of the easiest tools out there for making green screen projects.

Full disclosure – I do not have an iPad that supports the Green Screen app. Yes, it is sad. I hope to remedy that soon. However, I do live vicariously through the projects of others by following Do Ink (@doinktweets), #doink and  #greenscreen on Twitter. The projects students and teachers are creating are amazing!! 51K1TKetnVL._SX389_BO1,204,203,200_

I also had an opportunity to play with Do Ink back in October thanks to the incredible Todd Burleson. Not only is he the type of creative librarian you wish you had as a kid, he is also the author of The Green Screen Maker Space Project Book. He was at STEMfest this year to host a green screen workshop. I was lucky enough to attend and had a chance to give Do Ink a try. It was tons of fun!

Green Screen Features

The Green Screen by Do Ink works on any Apple device that supports iOS 10 or later. You can download it from the Apple store for $2.99 a device. A steal considering all of the amazing features packed into this app.

Features — Do Ink
Screenshot from doink.com

Using this app you can combine up to three layers of images/video using the editor screen. As you can see from this screenshot, the editor is simple to use and easy to navigate. You have a preview window, a timeline and some tools to help you create your video.

As far as timelines go, this one is pretty simple to understand compared to other video editing software.

The chroma tool is where the magic happens. It allows you to select the color you want to make transparent, as in that lovely green color seen above. The app also has a Mask tool so you can draw custom transparency masks not based on color.

img_20181027_142607124.jpg
Green Screen Workshop at STEMfest with Todd.

Green Screen lets you use images and video that are already on your device or that you record live. You can even add animations you created using Do Ink’s other app, Animation and Drawing.

When you are done with your project you can save it on your device or export it to the cloud.

If you need some guidance while creating your project, visit the Do Ink Documentation Page for some in-depth information on how to use the app. Also, visit their Tips Page for some creative ideas on how to make the most of your own green screen studio.

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Anything can be a green screen!

The best part about green screen production with Do Ink, is that you do not need a lot of expensive equipment to get started. Don’t have a green screen? Use a bed sheet or a shower curtain taped to your wall. Or, create your own mini green screen by painting the inside of a clean pizza box green. Anything can be a green screen! Add an iPad with the app and you have a green screen studio.

There are more classroom uses for this app than I can list in this post. If you want to get your creative juices flowing, then click on over to Twitter and check out what teachers are sharing with Do Ink (@doinktweets), #doink and  #greenscreen. There are tons of inspiring examples of what students can do and create with this app. If you need more ideas, then head over to Amazon or your local independent bookstore and pick up Todd’s book, Green Screen Maker Space Projects.

How are you using Green Screen in your classroom? What amazing things are your students creating? Share!

 

 

Beautiful Web Pages Made Easy With Adobe Spark Page

This is not the first time I have written about Adobe Spark. For last year’s 30 tools in 30 days, I reviewed both Spark Post and Spark Video. You can read my review of Post and Video by following the links. However, I did not review the final tool in this suite – Spark Page.

Visual Portfolios and Digital Stories

Adobe Spark Page gives you the same simple tools you find in Post and Video. In a short time, you can create visually stunning web pages. Like Post and Video, Spark Page’s main focus is on the images. There are several tools to help you create a page that highlights your images.

Here are a couple of examples of pages made using Adobe Page.

The first I created for the STEM Read Podcast to display pictures we took while recording an episode with author/illustrator Tom Lichtenheld and Dr. Rhonda Robinson. (Here is a link to the episode if you would like to give it a listen.) The second is a sample of my photography and the third is my daughter’s art portfolio.

You can see from the examples that the pages you create are more than just static web pages. There are some nice scrolling and image display features. Want to see more, check out their inspiration gallery.

Key Features

Make Images  Videos and Web Stories for Free in Minutes   Adobe Spark.png
Adobe Spark Page – Easy Editing

Adobe page has a ton of features that make this an easy tool for building a visual web page.

  • Formatted blocks – You build your web page in blocks. You can select the type of block you want and then add your images, text, video, or buttons.
  • Embed videos – You can add videos easily to your site. Create videos with Spark video and then add them to your page. with a simple click.
  • Upload images from anywhere – Not only can you upload images from your computer, Spark Pages also connects to Lightbox, Dropbox, Google Photos, and Google Drive. If you don’t have your own images, you can search through Adobe’s bank of stock images.
  • Apply Themes – Change the look and feel of your page by applying different themes. If you have a paid account, you can set up a custom theme using your brand management settings.
  • Free – Just like the other Spark tools, Page is free. However, you can upgrade to the premium account if you want to manage the look and feel of your brand and remove any Adobe branding. Read more about the pricing on their Pricing Page.
  • Adobe Hosting – Adobe hosts all of the pages you create using page. You do not need an external host.
  • Sharing – When you publish your page, you get a shareable link. You can also share your page through Facebook, Twitter, Google Classroom, or email.
  • Link updating – If you update or modify your page, you can update the link to push out the changes. No new URL needed.

In the Classroom

All of the Adobe Apps are wonderful tools for the classroom. With Spark Page, your students can create amazing visual stories that look like they have years of training. Here are just a few ideas for how to use this with your students.

  • Art portfolios – As you can see from the example above, Page is a fantastic tool for creating visual portfolios. I like the combination of text and images that allows your artists to write captions and artist’s statements about their work.
  • Informational web page – Instead of having them write a research report, have them put together an information page about a topic they researched.
  • Visual resume – Have students create a visual about me page. Focus on different audiences. What would a professional page look like versus a personal page? This is also a good time to talk about what you should and should not share online.
  • Science journal – Create a science journal that documents an inquiry project through text and image.
  • Reflective journal – In my visual literacy class, I do a Photo A Week challenge. Having my students create a reflection journal using their images would be a great way to capture their learning.
  • Digital Stories – Whether your students are creating works of fiction or non-fiction narratives, have them tell their story through building a page.
  • Class magazine – Turn your students into journalists and have them create a class magazine. Assing different content sections to different teams and let them work together to publish a magazine. Create multiple pages and pull them together into a Google site or other website tool.

There are so many other ways you could use Spark Page in your classroom. You could even create your own visual resume to highlight some of your own professional wins.

If you do not have a free account yet, go sign up for one today and start playing with the amazing set of tools!

Add Some 3D to Your Coloring with QuiverVision

As I write this, the entire midwest is hunkering down for our first big blizzard of the season. While the winds blow outside, I’ve decided that it is the perfect time to pour myself a glass of wine…er… I mean a cup of hot chocolate and do some coloring. Not just any coloring mind you, some augmented reality coloring with QuiverVision.

Coloring only BetterColoring my Quiver Coloring sheets.

QuiverVision is an app that brings your coloring pages to life. The app is free to download on iTunes, Google Play, and Kindle. The app works with special coloring pages that you can download from the QuiverVision Coloring Packs website.

There are several color pages available on the website. Some are simply coloring pages while others have interactive content and quizzes. Find one you like and simply print, then color, and then let the app do the magic. There is a mix of free and paid content. For the paid content, you are able to print off any of the pages but you cannot access the augmented content unless you make an in-app purchase. One of the packs I tried to use was only 99 cents to unlock.

At first, I was not too impressed with the educational content of the pages. I think I was just using the wrong pages. I tried a few others and was pleasantly surprised. I liked the interactivity of the different pages. The cell coloring sheet gave you information on each part of the cell. It also included a quiz. I’d be interested to see what the paid content is like.

Watch the video to see some of the interactive features in action. With this coloring page, you create your own flag. While using the app, I can change the wind speed and watch my flag wave. The video was captured in the app. I turned off my sound but you can also capture audio. Could be an interesting way to have students give an oral report on their flag. Have them talk about what the colors and symbols mean. (However, before they create their flag, have them watch this video with Roman Mars from 99% Invisible on why city flags are great examples of bad design. Don’t let them fall prey to bad design choices.)

Companion Apps

There are three other apps from QuiverVision: Quiver Education, Quiver Fashion, and Quiver Masks.

Quiver Education seems similar to QuiverVision but with more educational content. Quiver Education costs $5.99 so I am assuming you do not need to pay for the additional educational content.

Quiver Fashion is perfect for your budding fashion designer. With Quiver Fashion, you can print out the coloring pages, design your own clothing, create collections, and have virtual fashion shows.

Quiver Masks is my favorite. Masks uses facial tracking to overlay your custom mask onto your own face. There are 19 coloring pages to choose from. Some are hats while others are full face masks. You can use the app without the coloring pages by using the preloaded masks. However, it is more fun to color your own mask. Check out my cool cat hat. That should keep me warm during the blizzard, right?

In addition to putting cute masks on your face, you can record video with your mask on. This could be a fun way to add some interest to your students next speach. Have them do it wearing a virtual hat or mask.

You can even do a face swap with the Masks app. Don’t try this with your own face. It’s just creepy.

If you want to get started with augmented reality but you are not sure where to start, give the apps from QuiverVision a try.

Now, where is my wine? I’m going to color while I watch the snow fall.

 

Track Your Daily Mood through Color with Year in Pixels

I’m in a grumpy mood today.  Maybe it’s the lack of sunshine on this cloudy November day. Maybe it’s the fact that my vacation is almost over and I have to come back to reality. Maybe it’s because all of the apps I want to review are iPhone apps and my iPhone died a couple months back. Whatever the cause, I’m feeling a kind of blah. I’m feeling a bit grey.

That got me thinking about the connection between mood and color. One of my favorite books to read to my kids when they were little was My Many Colored Days by Dr. Suess. A wonderful story about the many colors of our moods. Somedays I’m happy pink, or busy buzzy yellow, or sad and lonely purple. Today. today is a grey day.

Today, because of my colorless mood, I found an app to help you and your students track the color of your days – Year in Pixels.

The Year in Pixels Movement

For all you Bullet Journalers out there, Year in Pixels is not new. It is something that many of you probably already do in your envy-inducing, organized Bullet Journals. (I’ve tried it. I want to get better at it. I bow to all of you who do it.)

The concept of Year in Pixels is simple. Create a grid that represents every day of the year. Each square is a pixel. Create a color key for your moods. Color the square, or pixel, for each day the color that represents your mood. When the year is over you have a visual representation of your mood that year. To learn more about the concept, you can read this tutorial on the Bullet Journal site. You can also read more about this technique on this post by the Little Coffe Fox.

As someone who is fascinated by color, and data, and art, I really like the idea of seeing how my mood changed over time as represented by color.

The App

Enter your daily mood.
Enter your daily mood.

If a hard copy IRL Year in Pixels seems a bit more than you are ready to commit to, try the Year in Pixels Android app by Teo Vogel or the iOS app by Bullet Journal. I (obviously) took a look at the Android version.

The app is straightforward. You have a grid of pixels. One pixel represents one day. Every day you open the app, select your color, add some emotions, and if you are feeling really chatty, write a journal entry. This information is saved and displayed on your grid.

I like the inclusion of the emotions and a place where you can write. It adds some details to your mood color. You can customize the emotion vocabulary just in case you are feeling uniquely you on that day. You can even customize your color choices. You can set up your own emotion color library.

There is not much more to this app beyond color and journal entry. However, seeing your moods track by color can be a power self-reflection tool.

In the Classroom

Day one
Day one of tracking.

Whether you are using the app or the marker and paper technique, Year in Pixels is an excellent is an excellent social emotional strategy for your students. Not only are you helping them reflect on their daily mood and the cause of that mood, you are also building visual literacy skills as you connect color to emotion.

Have your students track their mood for a week then have them review their gid and discuss or write about their mood that week. They can also discuss what caused their mood that week. Have them track another week and compare. What trends do they see? This technique could lead to some powerful discussions about happiness and emotion.

All this talk of color and mood is starting to brighten mine just a little bit. I think I need to go color. I hope the rest of your day is pink!

 

 

Works of Art with your Phone using Mirror Lab

Today I decided to take a little time to explore my artistic side and see what I can create using Mirror Lab. Mirror Lab by Ilixa is an app for Android and iOS that gives you the ability to turn your pictures into kaleidoscope, fractal, geometric, and glitchy works of art. You can get started with the free version and upgrade to pro if you need the extra functionality. I did all of my manipulations using the free version.

Overview

Edit screen on Mirror Lab
Edit screen on Mirror Lab

Using the app, you can take photos from your phone and apply a wide variety of special effect filters. These are not your typical Instagram filters, these filters add special effects such as mirror images and multiple mirrors to create unique works of art. To begin, open a photo and choose your filter. Each filter has different settings. You can also move the image around to create different effects.

The beauty and simplicity of this app is addicting. I spent a few hours playing around with the different effects on several images that were on my phone.

According to the app information page, there are over 50 different filters and effects you can apply. If that is not enough for you, for $4.99 you can go pro and add a bunch more.

After you are done creating your image, you can save your image. In the free version, you save the image as a JPEG. Upgrading to pro gives you the ability to save as a PNG. The Pro version also bumps up your working resolution from 3 Megapixels to 12.

Image Examples

Here are a few side-by-side comparisons of a starting image and different filters.

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In the Classroom

The obvious use in the classroom is to create amazing images. Here are a few ways to use Mirror Lab in the classroom.

  • Explore the different filters and have your students all create a different image based off of one starter image.
  • Build student visual literacy skills and have students create images based on different emotions. Have them write about why each image represents each emotion. Make sure they use their visual vocabulary.
  • Have students take pictures of their world. A picture of something familiar and have them use the filters to make the familiar into something different.
  • Take pictures of ordinary objects. Use the filters to change the images. Have students build their inquiry skills and see if they can figure out what was in the original picture. Have them support their thoughts with evidence.

These are just a few ways you could use this app with students.

Whether you want to use the app for your own creative pleasure or you are going to use it with your students, Mirror Lab is an excellent create app. It is easy to use and fun to see your images transform into something amazing.

Have you created works of art with Mirror Lab? Share your images in the comments.

 

Get Real-Time Feedback from Your Students with GoSoapBox

I don’t know about you but there are times I struggled to keep my learners engaged. Shocking, right? You can tell when they checkout. That glazed, deer in the headlights look crosses over their faces. At that moment I know I’ve lost them. Maybe it’s not all of them at once. It might just be one or two who are more focused on their phones than the brilliant information coming out of my mouth. It happens to all of us at least every once in a while.

To combat this, I am always on the lookout for new strategies to help keep my learners engaged. More hands-on activities. More discussion. But what if that doesn’t work. What if they don’t participate because they are confused or have questions they don’t want to ask? GoSoapBox, gives you tools to connect with those students and get real-time feedback from all your learners.

Real-Time Feedback

GoSoapBox Event Dashboard
GoSoapBox Event Dashboard

GoSoapBox is an online response system designed to gather real-time formative assessments from your learners. GoSoapBox can be used in large or small college classrooms, K-12 classes, and even conferences. You can read more about conference services on their info page.

Using GoSoapBox, you can set up feedback opportunities for your students such as polls, quizzes, live Q&A, and discussions. One of my favorite features is the confusion barometer. It helps you see, with a quick glance, if your students are confused or not. The tools are simple to set up and easy to use.

It is free to sign up for an account. The free account works for smaller classrooms up to 30 students logged in at one time. For larger classrooms, you can increase capacity with the upgrades. For example, a medium class of up to 75 students will cost $99 per 6 months.

Turn features on and off
Turn features on and off

Once you create your free account and log in, you can create your first event. The event dashboard gives you all the tools you need to create interactive features for your class. Turn features on and off using the Moderation Panel. From the Moderation Panel, you also can add additional moderators, archive your event, and even download your class data.

Your learners join your event with a code. No login required. Once they are in the event, they can ask questions, participate in your polls and discussions, and use the confusion barometer to let you know if they are getting the material.

Learner view
Learner view

Full disclosure – I have not yet used GoSoapBox with my students. However, I plan on using it during my next face to face class. I’m hoping it will help me connect with my quiet ones who do not talk in class.

GoSoapBox is easy to use and quick to set up. I’m hopeful that by using it in my class, I can get some of my quiet students to ask questions and respond to the discussion. It is not as flashy or fun looking as some other tools out there but I think that is its strength. The interface is clean and intuitive for both teachers and students.

If you are looking for an easy to use student response system, give this tool a try!

Learn to Code as You Create Original Music with EarSketch

There are many different creative ways to introduce students to the joys of coding. Today we explore a web-based tool that connects coding to music production – EarSketch.

EarSketch - Compose music through programming.
EarSketch – Compose music through programming.

EarSketch was created by a team from Georga Tech and combines music composition with learning how to code in JavaScript or Python.  I did a little bit of research on this project and it looks like it has been winning the hearts of educators and awards from educational organizations for a while now. In fact, back in June, it was named one of the best websites for teaching and learning in 2018 by the American Association of School Librarians. You can read more about that on Georgia Tech’s website. Way to go EarSketch Team!

EarSketch is intended for high school students but according to the website, it works for older and younger students as well. Along with the web-based platform, there is also a curriculum that has everything you need to teach EarSketch in your computer class. For more information on their curriculum, go to the FAQs page and read more.

It has been years since I have done any real coding, I’ve never programmed in Python, and I was never one who could compose music. The site said “no experience necessary.” So, I thought, why not give this a try and see what I can do. I started with the Hour of Code Module and jumped right in.

Making MusicEarSketch

The interface looks a little intimidating when you first open it up. However, if you start with the Hour of Code module, there are instructions on the right-hand side of the screen that walk you through everything you need to know step by step. The instructions were easy to follow and in no time, I was shaking off my rusty coding knowledge and making music. Once you go through the first tutorial, the layout of the interface begins to make a lot more sense. It is actually fairly easy to navigate.

In the first tutorial, starts you off with sample code that you edit. Which is super helpful. For me, it is much easier to look at the exisiting code and walk through what it does instead of trying to code from scratch. In this first tutorial, I learned how to change the parameters of my functions and how to add music clips. I also learned how to create my own custom beats using variables. Even though it looks complicated, it was really simple once you knew what you were looking at.

The interface screen makes a lot of sense. The top center shows you your timeline and different tracks. You can see how your clips work together based on the parameters you set in your code. On the bottom, you see the code. On the left-hand side of the screen, you have all your libraries. Here you can find music clips, scripts, functions, and more. I also like how it uses the right language for both music composition and for coding.

By the end of the Hour of Code module, I had and nice little program and composed my first Grammy-winning hit. Ok, maybe it wasn’t that good but it was a song and I was impressed with myself.

In the Classroom

EarSkecth is a powerful tool for your classroom. It is true STEAM – the integration of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. I can see how this site will engage both your students who want to learn how to code and those who just want to make music. I think of students like my daughter who is a musician majoring in computer science. In high school, she was always looking for that one great tool to help her learn to code. I think this one would have caught her attention and helped her build both her coding skills and her composition skills. In fact, I’m sending her this link so she can play around with it on her holiday break.

I can see where this site would be great for the computer science class but also for a media class or technology class. It is also a great addition to your makerspace.

Don’t be intimidated by music composition or coding. Click over to EarSketch and start learning both today. Go ahead, make little music.