Exploring Micro Fiction and Visual Stories

Here we are, another NaNoWriMo and I still have not penned the next great American Novel. Every year I think, “This is my year! I will write that book that has been bouncing around in my brain! I’ve got this!” Then December comes around and I realized that I did not have it and the story has again gone untold. Sigh.

Yes, I know that I can write any month of the year. It does not have to be a November thing. But, there is a hashtag. So… #NaNoWriMo

This year however, I have discovered a type of fiction that seem much more my speed. Micro Fiction!

Several years ago I started writing little mini one or two sentence stories. But I didn’t think of them as stories. Just short little musings. I was inspired by one of my favorite artists, Brian Andreas of Story People. I discovered his quirky art twenty five years ago on a business trip to Decorah, IA. (If you have never been to Decorah, go. Go now. I’ll wait.) There was something about his whimsical, child-like drawings and the simple statements that really spoke to me. I loved his messages and was inspired to start writing some of my own. They were silly and sappy but I would post them to social media anyway. It was fun. I mentioned this fun hobby (Is it a hobby? I don’t know.) to a writer friend of mine and she said, “Oh, you write micro fiction!” Micro fiction. What is that? My interest was piqued.

Science tells us that most of our memories, even the ones we hold most dear, are false. They are nothing more than stories constructed by our brains using bits and pieces of fact mixed with ideas from our imagination. But when I remember you I smile so I have decided that I like the way my brain thinks.

K.A. Brynteson

I started doing some research. It is a thing and apparently very popular. From the two sentence horror stories to six word summaries to (let’s be honest here) the social media posts we write with a 144 character limit. We all write micro fiction from time to time.

As I’ve had fun writing more, I’ve been look for ways to connect this type of writing into the classroom. I know that there are many students out there who love to write but find longer works a bit overwhelming. Shorter stories, 100 – 500 words or less, can be an accessible alternative. Accessible, but not easy. The constraint of few words helps you be creative in your word choice. You have to flex your writing muscles. Each word is necessary. They kind of remind me of some of the activities I do in my visual literacy class with images such as my Tell a Story with 5 pictures or my Photo a Week photography prompt. They both focus on constructing a story with either your visual vocabulary or a few well selected images.

Because of this connection, I have started taking the mini stories and turning them into a visual posts, adding a layer of visual literacy into the activity. For the examples I’ve shared in the post, I used Adobe Spark. If you read my blog at all, you know that this is one of my most favorite tools. I use Adobe Spark tools all the time for digital storytelling. I found it was a fast way to take the text and create a visual representation. I experiment with fonts and colors and shapes until I have a composition that I feel compliments the message of the passage. This would be a very simple activity to do in the classroom. Have students write their own micro stories and then us their design skills to turn them into posts or even posters for the classroom.

Here are a few more examples.

Ok, I admit that I am starting to creep into Jack Handy’s deep thought territory, it is still a fun challenge to see if I can take an idea and turn it into a mini story. No, they are not all good. I know that. They are not up to the level of Story People by any means but it is fun. I have also found that I go back and edit them often. Especially when I turn them into a visual post. I play around with the word choice to see if I can say the same thing with fewer words or in different ways. It feels more like playing with words than actually writing a story.

I’m sure that there are students out there that might feel the same way. Micro fiction could be a way to turn even your most reluctant writer into an author, a couple words at a time. Give it a try and see what they create.

If you want to learn more about using Micro-Fiction in the classroom, here are some lessons and blogs to check out.

Happy mini-writing!

ISTE 2019 Recap

Summary of my favorite finds and ideas from ISTE 2019.

It is hard to believe that it has been almost a month since the amazing ed-tech-a-palooza celebration known as the International Society of Technology in Education Conference or ISTE. There was so much to see and do this year that it has taken me a while to try to boil it all down into a recap. I have so many notes, flyers, and resources that it will probably take me until ISTE 2020 to really process everything. Good news, I have lots to explore for my next 30 tech tools in 30 days series coming this November. But, for you, my loyal readers, I will try to narrow down all that information into my finds and ideas from ISTE 2019.

Old Favorites. New Tricks.

I typically spend a good chunk of my ISTE time in the expo hall checking out my favorite tools and looking for new ones to explore. It is great to reconnect with some of my favorite go-to tools and see what new things they have in the works. I love being able to talk to both the developers in making these tools possible and the educators who are leading the way in the classroom. These are some of my most valuable conversations. Here is what some of my old favorites are up to.

Michael Cohen at the Adobe Booth
Michael Cohen at the Adobe Booth

  • Adobe Spark – Adobe’s booth is my first stop every year. This year was no exception. Not only got to meet the amazing Michael Cohen (aka The Tech Rabbi) and hear how he uses Adobe Illustrator to teach creativity and Math, I also got to talk to one of the developers of my favorite, favorite, favorite, tools – Adobe Spark. Animations are now available as part of Spark Post apps. (Coming soon to the web). Students can also now collaborate on a Spark project.  If you are not yet using Adobe Spark, then these should give you a reason to give it a try. Also, check out Camp Adobe for some amazing learning opportunities. You can read more about my feelings on Adobe Spark on some of my past posts – Spark Post, Spark Video, Spark Pages.
  • 3D Bear – One of the darlings of ISTE 2018 was 3D Bear an augmented reality app. Well, they have had a great year and showcased a lot of ideas at their booth. If you have not played around with 3D Bear, go check out the free trial and start creating. They have lesson plans and challenges that will help get your students creating in AR. Tons of fun. And I’m not just saying that because they have a dancing unicorn that you can play with.

    NASA Learning Labs
    NASA Learning Labs
  • NASA –  NASA was everywhere at ISTE this year. In their playground, they featured new lessons and activities from the STEM Innovation Lab. My favorite was the Eclipse Soundscape. An app that allows you to experience the solar eclipse through visuals, audio, and other sensory displays.  On the expo floor, they had more resources such as their materials that let students learn about all the amazing things going on on the International Space Station. You can find a ton of resources on the STEM on the Station website.
  • Bird Brain Technologies – Finch 2.0 is coming! I repeat Finch 2.0 is coming!! Learn more on their website and see what makes the Finch 2.0 a cool new addition to the Bird Brain family.
  • CommonSense.org – Everyone’s favorite ed tech review and digital literacy site brings you a curated list of their 50 favorite EdTech tools of all time. This one is well worth the browsing time.
  • Flipgrid – Flipgrid fever infecting the ISTE crowd. Shortly after the conference, Flipgrid announced a new Augmented Reality feature. The new FlipgridAR app update lets you add Flipgrid to everything!

New Finds

In addtion to exploring my old favorites, I collected a list of new finds that I want to explore further. They are everything from new STEM activities to new technology. My list is long but here are the first ones I’m going to dig into.

  • Stitching the Loop – Free curriculum for students to explore computer science through e-textiles.
  • Wildcards – A new programmable expandable circuit board and an inexpensive and easy to use tool to help students explore electronics, computer science, and engineering. Designed by a team of electrical engineering dads.
  • 826 Digital – Free mini-lessons, lessons and other resources to ignite a love of writing in your students.
  • Pinna.fm –  Streaming audio service for students. On-demand access to podcasts, audiobooks, and music for PK – 6th grade.
  • Creator Bot Mini Bot – I would love to get my hands on this little bot. It is an Arduino powered robot kit that has everything you need to create a robot.
  • Get Media L.I.T. –  A new graphic novel series by Weird Enough Productions that helps students explore media literacy, social-emotional learning, and 21st-century skills.
  • Synth – This one is a new-to-me tool. You can create 256-second podcasts and share them with the world.
  • Science Journal by Google – Turn your device into a scientific tool through this app. It takes advantage of the sensors built into our devices phone and allows your students to collect data.

New Ideas

So, what are the hot topic ideas on the horizon of ed tech? There were several topics and ideas that stood out this year. From the playgrounds to the Mainstage, people were talking about creativity, computational thinking, and innovation. I left the conference with some new learning goals of my own. My top three: artificial intelligence, Augmented Reality, and Virtual Reality. Google has experiments and activities for you to get started with AI. And I’m ready to start building with CoSpaces and Merge Cube. 64832451_10220359185996876_5431999139598565376_o

Whew! That is just the tip of the ed tech iceberg when it comes to new ideas from ISTE. Even with all of these new tools, my MOST favorite part of the conference was connecting with all of the amazing educators from around the globe. I get to see some of my education heroes and meet many new ones. I’m looking forward to all of the new collaborations and conversations that will fill the time until we all meet again in Anaheim at ISTE 2020.

Big thank you to all the folks who worked hard to make ISTE possible. And thank you Philadelphia! I had never been to Philly before. I got my first “real” Philly Cheesesteak and saw pieces of our history. It was a winning trip all around!

62237596_10220387689909456_7250408144340254720_n

Were you at ISTE in Philly this year? What were your big takeaways? I’d love to hear from you!

Create Live Quizzes with GimKit

We all know that our students LOVE to play quiz games. These games can be a fun and engaging way to review content or check for understanding. Many of us have been creating quizzes and using them in our classes for some time. There are a whole host of tools out there we can use to create out games. Recently a new tool piqued my interest. Not because of any particular feature but because of the fact that it was developed by a high school student.

GimKit is a web-based quiz tool created and maintained by, Josh Feinsilber, a high school student from Seattle. Josh created GimKit when he was a junior. I mentor high school entrepreneur teams so I was thrilled to see a tool created by an innovative student. Way to go, Josh!!

Overview

Using GimKit, teachers create custom quizzes that their students play as live games or as homework assignments. As students play the game, they earn in-game money they can use to purchase upgrades, power-ups, and other rewards. They need to be careful though, incorrect answers will cost them cash.

It is free to sign up for the basic plan, which gives you most of the features but a limited number of quizzes you can create. To add the ability to create more quizzes and manage more classes, you can upgrade to the Pro or Go package. The Pro package will cost you $4.99 a month while Go is $7.99 per month. To see a full breakdown of the pricing, visit the pricing page.

student view
Student view during the game.

The game-play is similar to Kahoot! – students use a code to join the game and then answer questions on their own device. On the teacher screen, you can see which students are in the lead.

There are some fun features that set this apart from the typical quiz game application.

Features

  • As a teacher, you can create your own quizzes, a class roster, and assign quizzes as homework.

    GimKit draw
    Waiting for the Game to start.
  • Use the KitCollab and have students work together to create their own quizzes.
  • As students wait to for the game to start, they can draw on their screen. This a fun little hidden feature.
  • The in-game reward system is pretty robust and I can see how it can motivate students to play and earn cash. There is a huge library of power-ups and rewards that students can purchase with the money they earn from playing the games.

Power-ups
Power-ups

  • For teachers, there is an easy to navigate dashboard where you can manage quizzes, classes, and assignments.
  • Quiz creation is super simple. You can add images to your questions. I like that the system automatically randomizes the questions and answers. Because this is so simple, you can create quizzes quickly.
  • Teachers also have the ability to import quizzes from Quizlet.

If your students like to play quiz games, then you should give GimKit a try. It is a power-packed tool that your students will love to play.

Also, be sure to tell them that GimKit was created by a student just like them. Challenge them to think about what they could create if given the chance.

Way to go, Josh for creating a great tool! You have a great future ahead of you! Well done!

Connect with Ease using Talky

From Google Hangouts to Skype to Zoom and everything in between, there are many different ways to connect with others online. Most of them are feature packed and great tools. Sometimes, however, you just want a simple tool that will let you connect with someone online without having to exchange usernames or other information. Talky by &yet is a simple communication tool. It requires no downloads, no logins, and no hassle.

I was first introduced to Talky by my colleague, Carl, who helps us out as the sound engineer for the STEM Read podcast.  We were looking for an easy way to have one-time conversations with our guests. We needed something that didn’t require usernames, long-term contact connections or software downloads. Carl had us switch to this app and it has been working like a charm ever since.

Overview

Talky is a free site that uses your on-device microphone and camera to allow you to chat via the internet. You can also get the app for your mobile device. According to the website, Talky uses a new technology called WebRTC. I’m not sure exactly what that means. Visit their Privacy page to read more about this technology and what it is actually doing. There is a lot of information on how it all works and how it keeps your information private through encryption. You can also read through their privacy information. Set all the tech info aside and what you have is a simple way to connect with people through your computer or phone (Android users can use the web-based version while iphone users can use the iOS app).

To use the app, go to talky.io, create a room, share the link with someone you want to talk to, and talk away! Easy peasy!

Let’s break down the features.

Key Features

Talky is more than just an online chat tool. It is a collaboration tool that has many of the features you need to collaborate virtually.

  • Easy invite – To invite someone to your room for a chat, just send the link.
  • Audio and video – Chat using audio and video or just audio.
  • Password protected room – If you want more privacy for your conversation, you can set a room key.
  • Screen Sharing – There is the ability to screen share. However, it is only for Chrome and Firefox users. I run Chrome and I had to install the Talky Screen Share Chrome extension. Once I did this is worked really well.

    Talky (2)
    My daughter and I chatting via Talky. Using the screen share feature to share my screen.
  • Multiple People – Talky accommodates group calls. I could not find the maximum number. Go gather some friends and see how many can join the party line before you crash it.
  • Walkie-talky mode – In walkie-talky mode, you have to press the space bar to talk.
  • Integrated text chat – Like many of these apps, Talky also has a text chat feature. That comes in handy when dealing with connection issues.

As I mentioned earlier, we use Talky to connect with our STEM Read Podcast guests. For the most part, it works beautifully. So much easier than exchanging usernames and adding each other to our friend or contact list. However, we have had some sound and connection issues. Not a huge deal if you are just using Talky to chat with folks. A bigger deal when you are recording the conversation for a podcast. Because you are talking browser to browser and the data is encrypted, there can be issues. The Talky help page on the website has some information to help you troubleshoot your connection.

Overall, Talky is exactly what it is supposed to be. A simple tool for connecting with others. I love the simplicity.

For your classroom, this is a great tool for connecting students to experts or other classrooms. I like it because the set-up is so simple. I’ve used several different tools to connect with others and Talky is by far the easiest to use. So, create a room and give it a try.

3D Design with Morphi

I will admit that I am not a designer and have very little experience creating 3D Designs. I tinker but that is about it. There are a lot of 3D design tools out there with tinkerers like me in mind. They are easy-ish to use yet powerful enough to create some amazing things. Morphi is one of those tools.

Morphi Overview

Morphi is a multiplatform application for creating 3 D designs. It is available for Windows, Mac, and iPad.  The tool is relatively easy to use and has some interesting features. The app costs $9.99 per device for up to 20 devices. Over 20 and the cost goes down to $4.99. I played around with the windows version using the 15-day free trial.

Features

I spent about an hour checking out the tool. I did not watch any tutorials, I just jumped right in. The controls are fairly intuitive. Here are some of the features I liked.

  • You have the ability to create shapes, text or free draw. I really like the free draw because you can turn on symmetry points and create some fun designs. Morphi4
  • Convert your 2D drawings into 3D designs in the click of a button. The image to the right is a 3D version of a scribble I created using a 5 mirror symmetry setting. I first drew the image and then converted it to 3D. Now I have the ability to change the height and size and combine it with other elements.
  • Create, group and combine shapes. In the image below, I was able to combine some simple shapes into a little house. No, it is not a complicated one but I also only spent a couple minutes moving my shapes and getting them to align. There are some useful align tools to help you get the shapes into the right place in 3D space. Not as easy as it looksMorphi
  • Your creation can be exported as an STL so it can be 3D printed. I did not try this but it seems straightforward.

There are some other features mentioned on the website that I did not get a chance to try out such as texturing tools and augmented reality editing. I hope to play with those more through the course of my 15-day trial.

In the Classroom

If you are using 3D modeling in your classroom, Morphi might be a tool to consider. It is a great way to get all your students thinking in 3-dimensional space. The drag and drop features and easy to use controls make creating fairly simple. Not really simple because creating in 3D is not super easy. It can actually be really hard. The Morphi interface makes it easy to navigate in 3D space and create shapes. I also really like the 2D to 3D features. That is a great way to get your students started. Morhpi has more information about classroom uses on their educator page. There are also some great ideas for what to have your students create and some tutorials videos to help you get started.

I am looking forward to spending some more time in this app during my 15-day trial. For $9.99 a device, it seems like a pretty powerful tool to get you creating 3D masterpieces.

Are you or your students using Morphi? Share some of your designs? I’ll leave with one more of my amazing creations. Don’t judge – I only played with it for an hour. I think it is beautiful!  Enjoy!

Morphi2

 

 

Create 3D Scans on your Phone with Qlone

Qlone is an app that allows you to create 3D scans of real objects with your phone or mobile device. Once you’ve scanned an object you can modify your 3D model using in-app tools and then save or export it to other applications. It is fast and simple to use. Check out their overview video to help you get started.

 

Pros and Cons

I was excited to find this app and get started making some 3D scans. Overall it is a cool tool. However, like everything in life, there are pros and there are cons.

Pros

In-app editing tools
In-app editing tools. Yes, Poor Rainbow Dash did not scan well.

  • Free app for iOS and Android.
  • Scanning mat is free and you can print it in various sizes to accommodate your items.
  • Scanning dome guides you through a complete scan. Thanks to the dome, you know that you have scanned every inch of your item.
  • In-app editing tools allow you to modify and refine your 3D model.
  • Save and edit your model in your phone.
  • Models can be exported as multiple file formats including OBJ, STL, PLY, and X3D.
  • Models can be shared or used in other applications.

Cons

Export your models.
Export your models.

  • On older tech, the scans are a little rough. See poor Rainbow Dash above and my pointy-headed penguin.
  • It takes a little bit of practice to calibrate and use the scanning dome. Again, my difficulty could have something to do with the age of my tech. However, once you get the hang of it, it is pretty easy.
  • In-app credit is required to export certain file formats. Exports can cost between $.99 and $9.99, according to the Google Play Store. This isn’t a huge con. An app has to have a sustainable business model so you can’t fault them for charging for some features. There is a lot of value in the free features so paying to export some file formats is not a bad thing.

Classroom Ideas

For me, the pros outweigh the cons, especially when you start thinking about all the ways you can use it in the classroom.

  • Creating 3D Models – Get students thinking in 3D virtual space. They can practice scanning and modifying their models.
  • Explainer Video – Create a 3D scan and export as an mp4. Use a video editing tool to add voice-over or to edit it into other footage.
  • Online Art Gallery – Have students scan their 3D IRL artwork. Save the file as a GIF and create a web page that includes their art GIF and an artist statement.
  • Upload to other applications – Create 3D models that can be used in other AR apps such as MERGE Cube Object Viewer.
  • Prototyping – Build object prototypes out of clay or other materials. Then scan it and export the model for 3D printing.

This is a short list. I’m sure there are lots of different ways you could use a 3D scanning tool in your classroom.

Read this article about middle school class that partnered with a local museum to create a virtual exhibit using Qlone and MERGE Cube tools.

Have you used Qlone in your classroom? What have your students done with their scans?

CoSpaces Edu: Virtual Reality Builder

I want to build amazing worlds. I’m a little intimidated by virtual world builders and 3D modeling tools. Fortunately for me, and other aspiring world builders, there are new tools out there that are easy to use and can help us create our spaces. CoSpaces Edu is one of those tools.

CoSpaces Edu Overview

I want to start this post by saying that this tool is amazing. There are so many features that I cannot cover all of them. I’m going to try and provide a basic overview that answers the question – What the heck is CoSpaces Edu? Hopefully, that sparks your interest and you can take it from there. There is just so much to cover on this application. I spent about an hour playing around so I know I did not uncover everything it can do. I also only explored the free version, not the pro version. My overview will be limited but hopefully helpful.

What the Heck is CoSpaces Edu?CoSpaces EDU

CoSpaces Edu is a virtual reality world builder for the classroom. According to their website, CoSpaces Edu is a place where teachers and students can create virtual reality experiences and animate them using code. To learn more, read through their brochure.

CoSpaces is browser based but you can also download an app for your mobile device so you can view your creations.

To give it a try, set up a free basic account. This account will allow you to create two virtual spaces. If you want to create more spaces and unlock a whole host of advanced features, upgrade to the Pro plan. The Pro plan starts at $3.50 per seat with a minimum of 30 seats. If I were teaching on a regular basis, I would consider this. It seems like a reasonable price for all of the features you unlock. There is even a new MERGE Cube Pro add-on coming soon. Read more about this add-on over on the CoSpaces blog. That could be the tipping point for me. Learn about the pricing plans on the Plans page.

Key Features

CoSpaces is a pretty powerful, yet easy to use VR creation tool. As I said earlier, there are too many features to list in this one blog post, so I’ll list some of my favorites. Tutorial Welcome

  • Support and tutorials – Getting started with creating VR experiences can be intimidating. When you first sign-in to CoSpaces, you are launched into a great tutorial. I walked through it in about 10 minutes and was ready to make my first space. The Welcome space takes you step-by-step through creating your own space and working in a 3D environment. Don’t skip this. It is very helpful.
  • Easy to use Toolbox – I created my first space in a matter of minutes. I set the environment. Then added a bunny and made the bunny eat. I needed a tree so I added it and changed the scale. I then added a flying butterfly and a pink backpack. Because, well, why not. The drag and drop interface made it easy to add. The grid and 3D guides also make it easy to get your assets right where you need them.

CoSpace Bunny
The toolbox as I created my first bunny.

  • Class Management – CoSpaces is made for educators. From your dashboard, you set up classes and manage assignments. Students join your class using a join code. I really like that CoSpaces is COPA and FERPA certified. Good to know.
  • Resources and Support – If you have read any of my other posts, you know that I am a stickler for high-quality resources and support. For me, a tech tool is not useful if it does not include good support resources. CoSpaces passes the HoPinkTech support test. There are some great onboarding resources including a handbook and tutorials. There is a nice bank of lesson plans for STEM/Coding, Social Science, ELA, and Arts and Media. Not a huge list but some great ideas to get you started. They also have some IRL goodies for your classroom such as posters and student certificates. On the support side, there is a Tech Check to make sure you are using the right tech, FAQs, a list of teacher Ambassadors, and a user forum that looks pretty active.
  • Gallery – All registered users have access to the Gallery. Here you can browse through VR spaces created by other users. It is cool to see what folks have created. A good place to get some inspiration.

Bottom Line

As I stated earlier, there is too much to this tool to fit into a short blog post. I’ve only scratched the surface. The bottom line is that CoSpaces Edu is a great way to get started in VR creation. The free basic account gives you enough features to explore so you can decide if you want to start using it in your class. It makes VR creation accessible and not so scary. Believe me, VR creation is scary for me. I am excited about the new integration with MERGE Cube. That is a feature to watch. I’m looking forward to seeing what teachers and students create.

I’ll close with a short virtual tour of my Bunny Tree space. Let the little butterfly and sweet bunny take you to a relaxing space while you wonder what’s in the backpack and why it was left under the tree. Enjoy!

Make your classroom eLibrary Epic! – Epic! Books for Kids

This post goes out to all you bibliophiles out there who can’t seem to get enough books for your classroom. Epic! is a digital library with, according to the website, “over 25,000 books, videos, quizzes, and more!”

Build Your eLibraryEpic

Anyone can create an account and start reading some of today’s most popular picture books and early reader chapter books.

For parents, the first 30-days is free. After that, it is $7.99 a month – which includes no ads and no in-app purchases.

For educators and librarians, registration is free. This comes with a whole host of great resources.

Epic! for Educators and Librarians

I was so impressed by all the resources available for educators and librarians on Epic! Here’s a quick rundown of my favorites.

  • Class management tools – Educators can invite their students to their elibrary using a class code, copy/paste in a class roster or import a roster from Google Classroom. From your class roster, you can assign books and quizzes and share information with your student’s families. Your class roster also lets you monitor student progress on assignments and quizzes.
  • Curated Library – You can build your own custom collections by exploring the entire library. You can share your collections with the educator community or browse through collections from other community members. I have already started building my Unicorn collection. Not only do they have some of the newest titles, I  even found one of my own childhood favorites – Morgan and Me. The Serendipity Book by Stephen Cosgrove. Yay!
  • Vast Collection of Media – Epic! is not only books. You can also find videos, audiobooks, and read-aloud books.
  • Integrated assessments – You can create quizzes right in the books to check for student comprehension. Go to your dashboard to see how your students did on their quizzes.

    Epic! Resources for educators.
    Epic! Resources for educators.
  • Resources – I am most impressed by the resources available for educators. Everything you need to get started is included right there on the website, including a Quick-Start Guide, full guidebook,  a parent letter, a Back-to-School presentation, lesson plans, classroom decorations, and (my personal favorite) the Readerpillar! Look at how cute it is. Your students will love reading and adding to the Readerpillar.

If you have a classroom and struggle to keep your class library up to date with new books or you want to create collections based on the ever-changing interests of your students, then Epic! is the eLibrary for you. Head over to Epic! to create an account and start building your Readerpillar today!

Epic! might just be what you need to help cure your book addition. Ok, not really, we know that that can’t be cured. Just go read.

Travel the World with Google VR Tour Creator

Virtual field trips are my new obsession. I love them. They curb my wanderlust just a little. I’ve been wanting to try my hand at creating my own but my lack of a 360 camera makes it difficult. And, no matter how much I beg, no one will buy me one. (Not sure what I’m talking about? Here is what you need to know about 360 cameras.) I should have known that Google would have a tool to help me solve my lack of 360 camera dilemma and fill my need for creating VR tours.

Google VR Tour Creator

Google VR Tour Creator is an easy to use tool for creating VR tours using either the 360 views from Google Street View or your own 360 images.

Development interface of Google VR Tour Creator.
Development interface of Google VR Tour Creator.

Google VR Tour Creator has everything you would expect from a Google tool. Easy log-in with your Google account, intuitive interface, and easy to use features. In a matter of minutes, you can create interactive 360 tours of anywhere Google street view has been or, if you have your own 360 footage, you can upload your own images.

Key Features

There are so many cool features of this tool. I’m shocked that I have not played with it earlier. Here are just a few.

Search Google Maps for street views.
Search Google Maps for street views.

  • It’s free.
  • Use Google Street View to find 360 images for your tour. You can easily search Google maps and move your little street view person around to find the perfect shot.
  • Add interactive features to your tour. Using the development screen you can…
    • add a scene description,
    • ambient music,
    • scene narration,
    • identify points of interest,
    • add image overlays (you can only add images, no video or 3D models),
    • and points of interest narration.
  • If you are not sure how to get started, you can choose from the wide variety of templates to help you. Each template is a sample virtual tour with editable elements.
  • Once complete, your tour is published to Poly. You can choose the visibility level. List it publicly or leave it unlisted.
  • Device agnostic. You can view your tour on the computer or use VR apps.
  • Easy to use. My little sample tour below took less than 20 minutes to create.

In the Classroom

Google VR Tour Creator is a great way to get your students started in creating VR experiences. Imagine, instead of reading a report on a location, you can view a 360 tour that includes music, narrative, informative pop-ups, and photos. Not only are your students researching and writing about a place they are also building important media skills. The best part is that there is no special equipment is needed, just a computer and a Google log-in. Even your youngest students should be able to navigate through this application and create their own virtual tour. If you have a 360 camera, they can even take their own footage and incorporate it into their creation.

If you are like me and you do not have the joy of a 360 camera in your life, never fear. Google once again has your back. Download the free Google Cardboard Camera app. I have not yet tried it but, I will give it a shot this weekend. It might be a no-cost alternative to a 360 camera.

There are so many ways you can use VR Tour creator in your classroom. I’m excited to start creating my own virtual tours and playing around with all it can do. What are you creating with VR Tool Creator? Have your students used it? Share your ideas!

Interactive Lessons with Nearpod

I create a lot of presentations and facilitate a lot of learning sessions. I’m always looking for new ways to spice up my sessions and engage my students. Nearpod is a web application that might be the answer to my engagement challenge.

Nearpod Overview

I’ve been hearing about Nearpod for quite some time now but have not had an opportunity to explore it. I feel like a am a little late to the Nearpod party. Better late than never, right?

Nearpod is basically a library of interactive presentations that you can use with students. You, the teacher, can launch a presentation and present as usual. Your students can join your presentation on their device by using your presentation join code. Once they join, they can follow along on their device. As you advance, their version advances too.

In addition to the regular slides, you can include interactive slides for your students. This includes open-ended questions, quizzes, slide they can draw on, interactive simulations, VR tours, and more. As you move through your slides, your students can respond to questions so you can do an on the fly check for understanding. This is what excites me about Nearpod. Below you see an example of one of the interactive slide. I’ve added the Draw It feature so my learners can respond to my question by adding hand-drawn notes.

A Draw It slide from my Nearpod presentation.
A Draw It slide from my Nearpod presentation.

Features

Nearpod has many great features.

Lesson Library
Lesson Library

  • Content Library – You do not have to create all of your content from scratch. There is an extensive library of content. You can explore the bank of free and for purchase lessons, preview content, and save the ones you want to your personal library. Lessons have been created by Nearpod partners such as PhET and iCivics as well as Nearpod educators.
  • Customize and Create – You can customize lessons from the library or create your own. I uploaded one of my presentations and it was super easy to add interactive slides.
  • VR Integration – You can add VR field trips right into your presentation. Students can explore 360 images and then respond to questions.
  • Student Reports – As your students interact with your content, all their responses are displayed on your dashboard. You can view reports to see how your students are understanding the content.
  • PD and Support –  For me, one of the most important features is available support for teachers. Nearpod does not disappoint. There is a great, self-paced tutorial. I walked through it and found it easy to follow and clear. In addition, on their resource page, you can join live webinars, watch on-demand webinars or watch one of the many video tutorials. I love that the videos tutorials are only 60 seconds. You can also join the Nearpod community on Facebook or get tons of ideas on the Nearpod blog.
  • Sign-up – You can use your existing credentials from Google or MS O365 to create an account. Or you can sign-up with your email.
  • Pricing – Nearpod has several tiers of pricing.  You can find them outlined on their pricing page. It is free to sign-up and get started. There are also several free lessons you can use, with many more that you can purchase. Lessons seem to run from $2.99 and up. With a free account, you can create your own lessons and add some of the interactive features. Others, such as the Draw It tool, are only available with a paid account. However, you can sign up for a free trial to give it a test run.
  • Notes – It looks like there is a new feature that allows your students to take notes on their own device as you give your presentation.

As you can see there are many great features to Nearpod. I know that I have missed many.

I’m excited to give it a try as part of my professional development workshops and with the students we work with. Are you using Nearpod? How do your students like?