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.

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.

img_20181027_141830228.jpg
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!

 

 

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!

 

 

360 Images Made Easy with Google Cardboard Camera

I have lamented before about how I do not have a 360o camera. In fact, I complained about it extensively in my Google VR Tour Creator post. It makes it difficult to hop on the 360o image bandwagon and create VR experiences. However, I did find that the Google Cardboard Camera app that helps to satisfy my 360o cravings.

App Overview

The Google Cardboard Camera is a very simple app that allows you to create 360o images with or without sound. These images are saved to your device, or in Google Photos so you can use them in other applications such as Google VR Tour Creator. This app is available for both Android and Apple products.

For a free app using your phone’s camera and not a real 360o camera, these are not bad. When you take a picture, a center line guides you as you rotate to capture your surroundings. If you go too fast, the app will tell you too slow down. When complete, you have a super panoramic image.

Using my phone’s camera, the center of the image looks pretty good, not a lot of distortion or vertical banding. However, it doesn’t capture a really wide angle top to bottom. So, it is not true 360o, more like 270o. You can see my full image below.

360 view of Chicago on Columbus
360 view of Chicago on Columbus

When viewed through a Google Cardboard or other VR viewer, it looks pretty cool.

My VR View
My VR View

In the Classroom

Your students will really enjoy this app. It is a great tool for them to get started with creating their own virtual field trips. Using their devices they can quickly and easily take pictures and then use them in other applications.

If you are looking for a high quality 360o camera alternative, this is obviously not it. If you are looking for a free tool to get you started in creating 360o images and VR, then this is most certainly something to try.

Create Interactive AR Story and Game Experiences with Metaverse Studio

If you are a fan of augmented reality games and stories but never thought you would be able to create one of your very own, then you will enjoy Metaverse Studio.

Metaverse Overview

Metaverse Studio is a free online development tool for creating interactive mobile experiences. You can create interactive stories, games, scavenger hunts and more. The premise seems complicated but, thanks to an intuitive storyboard and an amazing library of tutorials, creating a customized experience is easier than you think.

What is an Experience?

Screenshot of some Metaverse Experiences
Screenshot of some Metaverse Experiences

Before you start creating your own experiences it might be useful to download the mobile app and play some of the experiences created by others. An experience can be an interactive VR tour, where 360 images are combined with user response screens to create an interactive VR field trip. Or, an experience could be an augmented reality quiz, digital breakout, or interactive story. Each experience is a mini mobile game created by members of the community.

There are a bunch of experiences in the library. It reminds me of all of the other user created libraries out there like Kahoot!, Quizizz, etc. Some are good. Some are bad. Some are ridiculous. All are interesting was to use VR/AR/MR technology.

What excites me about this tool is the possibilities of what you and your students can create using the storyboard.

Metaverse Storyboard

The Metaverse storyboard is where all the creative magic happens. The storyboard is a web-based tool for creating experiences. When you peek behind the curtain of a Metaverse experience, it looks like a concept map or a flow chart. Look at the image below. It might help.

Metaverse Storyboard
The storyboard of my first experience. Buttons connect to different the scenes that make up my experience.

The storyboard is where you lay out the framework of your experience, format your scenes, add media and interactive features. My first experience, which you can gaze on above, was a simple choose your own adventure story where you help the unicorn find their cat. You can see the first scene where the unicorn asks for your help. Choose the “No.” button and the game ends with a picture of a sad cat. Say “Yes.” and your spirit panda helps its new unicorn friend find his cat in a strange Back to the Future 360 world. The experience ends with a happy cat. Each of the scenes with gray backgrounds are actually augmented reality scenes.

Key Features

My simple little experience is nothing compared to the sophisticated experiences you can create with Metaverse. In addition to standard scenes, you can add interactive modules and input blocks. It is fairly easy to go from simple two scene experiences to AR scavenger hunts. I’m going to be honest, I need a lot more training on the more complicated blocks and modules before I can use them effectively. Luckily, there is a comprehensive tutorial channel on YouTube. You can watch videos on how to add polls, selfie features, and use some of the code blocks to add inventory management, probability events, leaderboards, and more.  As I said, for a tool that looks simple on the surface, you can create some complicated experiences.

What I like most about this tool is that you can get started right away and create simple experiences, however, you will not outgrow this tool quickly. There are lots of things you can do as your skill increases. As the website says – you can create amazing things! Go give it a try!

 

30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 30 Lightbot

Get ready for CSED week and Hour of Code with LightBot.

Day 30: Lightbot

First off, Day 30! Whoo Hoo!

Ok, now that that is out of the way, let’s talk coding. Computer Science Education Week and Hour of Code are just around the corner (December 4 – 10). Next week, people all over the world will play games, create games, program robots, and engage in a whole host of activities as they explore the world of computer science, computational thinking, and coding. There are many, many different websites and apps out there that will help you and your students join in the Hour of Code fun. One such app is LightBot.

Use the symbols to move the robot and light the tiles.
Use the symbols to move the robot and light the tiles.

LightBot is a puzzle game where you help a cute little robot light all the blue tiles on the screen. The game teaches you how to program as you use icons to create sequences that will move your robot around the puzzle board. Seems simple enough, right? The gameplay is easy but the puzzles do take some careful thinking. I’ll admit, it took me a couple tries to get past level three. Yes, I use to write code. No, don’t judge me.

As you solve the puzzles, you are learning programming logic and terms such as sequences, procedures, and loops. Your little robot friend is there to help you along the way with just-in-time support and guidance. Program your solution by touching the symbols and creating your sequence. Press play to run your solution.

Little robot introduces new vocabulary as you move through the game levels.
Little robot introduces new vocabulary as you move through the game levels.

 Cost

It is available for Windows and Macs as well as pretty much every mobile platform. The app costs $2.99 or $4.99 depending on your platform. LightBox is geared for ages 9 and up. There is also a LightBot Jr app for the younger coders. For those of you not ready to commit to that type of cash, check out the FREE LightBox: Code Hour version.

Teacher Resources

Not quite sure how LightBot puzzles connect to learning how to code? They have a quick guide that explains how their games introduce students to programming logic. They also have additional resources covering topics like how to use LightBox for Hour of Code and some lesson plans. It’s not a huge number of resources but there is good information about teaching programming in the classroom.

LightBot and the free LightBot Code Hour are cute and fun little games that cover some complex programming concepts. You and your students will enjoy this game. It is a great addition to your Hour of Code toolbox.

30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 19 Blendoku

Day 19: Blendoku

Sometimes extensive traveling makes you look for things to help you pass the time. That was the case for me this weekend as I sat on a train, exhausted from a long week, needing something to occupy my mind so I didn’t fall asleep and snore. I stumbled upon a fun addictive game that is new to me but has been around for a while, Blendoku by Lonely Few.

Blendoku deals with patterns and sequencing much like a Sudoku game but instead of numbers, you are working with basic color theory and how different colors blend. I love the art and color theory aspect of this game.

In Blendoku you are given a grid where one or more squares are filled with color. You need to use your color pallet to fill out the rest of your grid. The new colors must be in the right order to show how the colors would blend. Seems simple enough and the easy levels are fairly easy to complete. However, I will admit that a couple of them had me stumped for a while. The hard levels are really hard. Not only are there more squares to fill but there are more colors and slight changes in the tone and hue. The addictive nature of the game helped me pass the time on the train. Haven’t beat the game yet but if I ever do, Blendoku 2 is already on my phone waiting.  (For a more intense challenge, try Lonely Few’s timed color challenge called Chroma Rush. Next on my download list.)

Blendoku is a free app that works on both iOS and Android. You can play it on your phone, however, the hardest levels are recommended for tablets because the grid gets really small.

Easy
Easy Level
Hard
Hard Level

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Watch the Blendoku 2 trailer from Lonely Few to get an idea of the gameplay.

So, what does a simple little game like Blendoku have to do with educational technology and why would I choose to highlight it on this blog. Simple – puzzle games are a great way to build students’ problem-solving skills. Puzzle-based learning is a popular way to increase students mathematical and computational thinking skills as well as creative and critical thinking needed for a wide variety of careers including Math, engineering, and computer science. (Check out this website to learn more about Puzzle-based Learning.)

If you are more excited about colors than numbers but still want to challenge your mind with an addictive pattern and sequencing puzzle like Sudoku, then Blendoku and Blendoku 2 are worth the download. A couple great free games for students to play and build those problem-solving skills.

Now please excuse me as I try to level up.

30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 8 Radial

Day 8: Radial App for Android

Yesterday I found myself sitting at the airport feeling a bit bored. Getting through security took no time at all (which was surprising). So, there I sat. Two hours early for my flight, looking for something to do. I read a little. (The Detective’s Assistant, a great middle-grade novel by Kate Hannigan.) But I found I just needed something mindless to pass the time. Then I remembered an app I downloaded on my phone a month or so ago and decided to play. I opened Radial and began to draw. It was mesmerizing.

Radial is a simple, free app that lets you create integrate mandalas and symmetrical radial drawings (hence the name). It’s intuitive controls have you creating beautiful designs in no time at all.

Screenshot
Opening Screen. 

When you open the app, you are greeted with a friendly screen that tells you to draw. Without any further instruction or too much thinking, you can create an amazingly detailed design.

Radial_20171107_132528
One of my first creations. 

It really is quite addictive. I spent a good hour at the airport drawing new designs over and over again.

If you touch the color wheel icon at the top, you can change your brush and canvas settings. There are about eight different colors to choose from which is limiting but not too bad. Sometimes when I have too many choices, I spend too much time thinking about what color to choose and less time creating. So the fewer choices worked for me. You can also control the thickness of your brush, line smoothness, the number of times your line is replicated, and how your line is replicated.

Screenshot_20171108-071923
Brush controls.

Once you have completed your design, you can save it on your device, or share it out through your social media channels.

Here are a few more examples of my art. Each one of these took very little time to make. I had fun changing the settings and challenging myself to try new line styles.

Radial_20171107_132407-COLLAGE

So, I know what you are thinking. “That’s great and all. I’m glad you found a new art calling. But what does this have to do with classroom technology?” OK, maybe only a few of you are asking that. My Math and Art friends don’t have to ask. I bet their minds are already spinning with ideas. This simple app could be a great addition to the STEAM classroom (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Mathematics). Mandalas are a beautiful way to demonstrate the connection between art and math.

Here are just a couple lesson ideas about using symmetrical designs such as Mandalas, to teach mathematical concepts.

What seems like a simple, free app that helps you pass the time waiting for your plane, is actually a tool for unlocking the beauty of Mathematics through the intersection of the Arts. Download this one today and make something amazing!

30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 7 Ruby Rei

Day 7: Ruby Rei

ruby_hugo.png
Ruby – Character image from Ruby Rei Press Kit

Learning a new language is hard. At least for me. So I’m always interested in new strategies for learning and teaching language. Ruby Rei is a new mobile app by Wibbu designed to build student’s language skills through a beautiful adventure game.

I downloaded Ruby Rei on my Android device and played the first two levels. The goal is to guide Ruby Rei as she tries to find her robot friend Moli who has crashed on a strange planet. As you explore the world on your quest, you encounter different challenges. The game dialog is in the language you are trying to learn. For me, I selected Spanish. As Ruby and other characters spoke, a dialog box appeared with the text. I heard and saw the dialog in Spanish. By clicking on each phrase, I could translate the text into English. In addition to the dialog boxes, there were times where I had to record or type phrases. I really like the multi-modal language interaction.

Conversation_2
Screenshot of Ruby speaking to Gulla.

To move Ruby through the strange planet, I tapped the screen and she moved. The gameplay was fairly simple and easy to follow. There are not a lot of instructions to get you started, however, there are just-in-time hints to help you along.

The first two levels were good and I would be interested in continuing. The first two levels are free. You can download the full game (18 levels) for $2.99, which is not bad.

The website has some information on how to use Ruby Rei in the classroom and in a district. According to the game website, there are additional standards-aligned teacher resources. Districts can purchase a site license that allows the district to distribute the game through their learning management system (LMS). Read more about a district license here.  It was not clear how much a site license would cost a district.

I did not see any way to explore the teacher resources so I cannot speak to the quality of the materials. I did like how Wibbu provided a white paper on the research that supports game-based learning. It is clear that the developers were not just focused on creating a good game but also on sound pedagogy. It was a nice blend of research-based learning strategies, good gameplay, and high-quality graphics. You don’t always find all three in an educational game.

Overall, Ruby Rei is an interesting approach to game-based language learning and worth a look.