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!

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.

Hold a Solar System in your Hand with MERGE Cube

One of my new favorite augmented reality tools to hit the market is MERGE Cube. This unassuming little foam cube is a powerhouse when it comes to affordable AR. In this post I will just touch on some MERGE Cube basics. I’ll highlight some of my favorite apps, such as 57 North in upcoming posts. Today I just want to talk about the basics.

The Cube

MergeCube
MERGE Cube

The cube itself is a small squishy foam cube that looks like it is covered in alien glyphs. It is those glyphs or markings that make the cube work. When you scan the cube with your device, and look at through your screen, those strange symbols turn into something amazing! The first app I tried was Galactic Explorer.  I held the cube in my hand, opened the app, and, oh my goodness…I was holding the sun with eight tiny planets slowly orbiting. When I tapped on one of the planets, I zoomed in and there was an information bubble that told me about the planet. At that moment, I was hooked. Then I found Tilt Ball.

MERGECubeSun
Just me, Chilling on the couch, holding the solar system.

Tilt Ball reminds me of the old marble labyrinths of my childhood. Remember the ones with the tilty table? Tilt Ball is like that but you play in virtual space. Use the device to scan MERGE Cube with the app and now the cube is covered in a maze path. Your job is to move a marble through the maze by moving the cube. It takes way more hand eye coordination than you would expect.

I went on to try out several of the other free apps: Mr. Body, Th!ngs, Defused! and Dig!. All of them were easy to use and really kind of cool. Dig! is especially cool for all those MINECRAFT fans out there. Using MERGE Cube, and Dig! you can create MINECRAFT-like worlds in the palm of your hand. Good bye free time.

Pros and Cons

As I said before, I will dig deeper into specific apps later this month. I have a few favorites. As for the MERGE Cube in general, there are a lot of positives.

  • Cheap – To get started with MERGE Cube, you need a cube. I got mine on Amazon for $6.00. Yes, that is not a decimal point error. $6.00. I see them now for about $15.00 at all major stores. Also, save your packaging. It is a phone holder. You will need that!
  • Good free content – There are quite a few great free apps for the MERGE Cube. Many that will engage your students in this new technology and have them asking questions – which is always the point, right? You can find a list of some of the apps available over on the MERGE Cube Miniverse site.  There are some great paid apps too.
  • Growing body of content – It seems like everyday I read about a new app or some other companion app. The MERGE Cube ecosystem is growing for sure. I can’t wait to see what will be out this time next year.
  • Active AR – When VR and AR first came on to the scene, the engagement was very passive. You watched. With MERGE cube, it is much more interactive.
  • Active Community – I joined the MERGE Educators group on Facebook and love seeing all the creative ways educators are using MERGE cube in their classrooms. Get involved in their community and you will be amazed what you learn. Here is an article about some middle schools students who partnered with a local museum to create virtual exhibits. So cool! The ideas are endless.

I’m not sure if I have any cons. I really like the MERGE Cube. I now have 4.

I’ll dig deeper into classroom connections in later posts when I talk about some of the apps in more details. For now, my suggestion is to spend the $6 – $15 and get your hands on one of these.

Do you have a MERGE Cube? How are you using it? Tell me in the comments!

Summer Surfing: Five Website to Explore with Your Kids this Summer

Explore five websites that will beat the summer boredom blues and get your kids (and you) exploring, building, laughing, and learning.

Summertime is here! For kids, it’s that magical time of year where they can spend their time as the like, without the demand of school and homework. However, we parents and caregivers know that it won’t be long until we start hearing those two dreaded words…I’m bored!!!

Never fear! Here are five websites that will beat the summer boredom blues and get your kids (and you) exploring, building, laughing, and learning.

Five Sites Worth the Surf

PBSKids.org

pbskids.org
http://pbskids.org/

If you have a kid, know a kid, or were a kid, then PBS programming is not new to you. Many of us grew up on Sesame Street or in Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood learning our numbers, letters, and how to make friends. Today, PBS still provides high-quality programming for kids of all ages. However, if your kids are only watching it on TV, then they are missing out on some fantastic content. PBSkids.org has games, videos, and activities based on all your kids’ favorite shows. Your kiddos can learn more about nature with the Kratts brothers and Nature Cat, play games with Cat in the Hat, Daniel the Tiger or Elmo, and solve problems and explore engineering with the SciGirls and the Design Squad team. PBSkids is packed with things for kids of all ages. Parents can also find resources and tips on the parent’s page (http://grownups.pbskids.org/).

BrainPOP

https://www.brainpop.com/
https://www.brainpop.com/

Your kids might already be familiar with Moby, everyone’s favorite robot, and all the videos, games and activities available on BrainPOP (https://www.brainpop.com/). Many schools have subscriptions and use BrainPOP resources. However, did you know you can access all the awesomeness from home? If your child’s school has a subscription you can log in at https://go.brainpop.com/home/tips and get tips and ideas for home learning. Don’t have a subscription? No worries, there are tons of games and resources at BrainPOP Free Stuff (https://www.brainpop.com/free-stuff/). Pick a subject area and start exploring.

DIY.org

https://diy.org/
https://diy.org/

Looking for online challenges that will help the kids level up IRL (in real life)? Check out the creative community on DIY.org. This safe online community is for makers and imaginative doers of all ages. Kids will find hundreds of challenges that will help them build their skills and earn digital badges such as Backyard Farmer, Animator, or Biologist. (You can even order the real embroidered badges.) Kids can build their own online portfolio by sharing videos of their projects with the DIY community and receiving peer feedback to help them grow their skills.

Code.org

https://code.org/
https://code.org/

Code.org is all the rage during the school year. Many schools use the resources throughout the year or during the Hour of Code. However, their extensive resource list is a great way to keep your kids learning through the summer months too. Code.org offers coding courses for all ages including high school students (adults, you can play too). Visit their full listing here: https://studio.code.org/courses. Their game-based approach is a fun and easy way to build coding and computational thinking skills. Kids (and adults) can create a free account and track their progress through the program. If the thought of taking a coding course this summer seems daunting, they can start their coding adventure by exploring the Hour of Code activities. They are available all year long.

Wonderopolis

https://wonderopolis.org/
https://wonderopolis.org/

Why is the sky blue? Why do Llamas spit? Where do bugs sleep? If there is one thing we know about kids is that they are full of questions. And we don’t always have the answers. Well, send that curious kiddo over to Wonderopolis (https://wonderopolis.org/). Wonderopolis is a free website where kids can find answers to the questions that make them wonder. They can browse through the large bank of Wonders of the Day and explore a huge variety of topics. With over 2,000 questions answered, they are sure to learn something amazing. If you want a little more hands-on exploration, click over to Camp Wonderopolis (https://camp.wonderopolis.org/) – a free online summer camp where families can learn together. For the educators out there, you can join the Wonderopolis community at WonderGround (http://wg.wonderopolis.org/). Here you will connect with other wonderful (pun intended) educators and find lesson plans and ideas to use in your classroom.

Best Site for Parents

Parents, are you worried about where your kids are spending their screen time this summer? The sheer number of websites, apps, games, and videos, make it impossible to watch or preview everything your child might visit or view. Don’t worry, the team at Common Sense Media (https://www.commonsensemedia.org/) has your back.

https://www.commonsensemedia.org/
https://www.commonsensemedia.org/

Common Sense Media is a parent’s (and educator’s) best friend when it comes to ratings and reviews of all kinds of media. From video games to movies to websites to YouTube channels to books, Common Sense Media’s reviews are endless. This site will provide you with unbiased reviews and the detailed information you need to help your child make good media decisions. You can learn more about appropriate age range, costs, content (including language, violence, and adult content), subject areas, and more. It is not only useful to review the current media your kids are using but to also find new media to explore.

So, as the temperature outside begins to rise and those kiddos start to get restless, looking for something to do. Take them surfing on the web. These sites will chase away the boredom, spark their curiosity, and engage them in fun (and learning) both online and IRL.

Create Interactive Stories with Sutori

Sutori is an online tool for creating interactive visual stories.

Sutori: Visual Storytelling

Are you looking for a new tool for creating interactive stories or visual presentations? Give Sutori a try.

Sutori is a web-based tool for creative timelines or storylines using your own content and online content or media. You can add quizzes and discussion forums to make your stories interactive.

Price

There are multiple tiers of pricing. The free version allows you to create simple stories using text and images. For $99 a year, you add a lot of functionality such as embedded content, interactive quizzes, and data collection.

Sample Story

Below is a sample I created in about 15 minutes. I’m using the free 30-day trial of the Unlimited version. Once you use the Unlimted version, it might be hard to lose the functionality once the trial is over.

My sample story should be embedded below. However, it might show up as just a link. (This could be an embed issue on my end.)

https://www.sutori.com/story/learning-something-new/embed

Classroom Ideas

Sutori has many classroom uses for both you and your students. If you or your students are creating timelines, Sutori is definitely a tool to check out. However, this is more than a timeline tool and has other classroom applications.

Paid Version

  • Create guided units or lessons. Curate all your content onto one storyline. Students can move through at their own pace.
  • Have students create Sutori stories instead of a typical presentation or report. Have them incorporate found or self-created media such as videos or infographics.
  • Create a collaborative storyline as part of a teacher book study. Curate additional resources that relate to the book content.

Free Version

If you are not ready for the paid version, you can still use this unique storytelling tool.

  • Use instead of traditional presentation tools.
  • Create a Year-at-a-Glance timeline for Open House or Curriculum Night.
  • Create a Year-in-Review Story to share with your parents. Include images and student quotes.
  • Have students create story summaries.
  • Have students create their own stories using their own images. Either individually or collaboratively.
  • Explore the user-created content by subject. Search for content on this page.

Find more info on their Teacher Page.

Privacy

As with all web-based tools you use with students, be sure to read through the privacy statements. You can keep your stories private or you can share them using multiple methods.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Easy to use.
  • Embed content from your other favorite tools such as EdPuzzle, Thinglink, Quizlet, Google Maps, Flipgrid and more.
  • Add interactive elements including quiz questions and discussion questions.
  • Integrate with Google Classroom or you create your own classes with student rosters.
  • Monitor student data and engagement.
  • Gallery of user-created content.
  • Extensive support resources on the Help Page.

Cons

  • Limited features on the free version (but $99/year is not bad for the amount of functionality it adds).

Sutori is a powerful storytelling tool that has a lot of classroom potential. Give the free 30-day trial a try and see what you think.

Are you already using Sutori?  How are you using it? Share in the comments.

Five Resources for CSEd Week

Five Resources for CSed Week and Hour of Code.

Happy Computer Science Education Week!

This week, December 4 – 10, classrooms all over are the globe are celebrating Computer Science Education Week and Hour of Code. Join in the fun with these five great resources.

Bonus – I’d also add books and resources by Kiki Prottsman.

Of course, don’t forget to visit code.org for TONS of Hour of Code activities. Also, follow #CSEdWeek and #hourofcode on Twitter to see what’s happening in classrooms all over the world.

Happy Coding!

 

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 29 Pixlr

Pixlr – a family of free photo editing tools to meet all of your creative needs.

Day 29: Pixlr

Everyone is a photographer nowadays. We all walk around with little cameras in our pockets. Sometimes I even use mine to call or text my family. Personally, I take hundreds of pictures a year. I love to capture the world around me and share what I see on my media channels. I have even more fun with creative post-processing and editing. Back when I did it for a living, my tool of choice was (and still is) Adobe Photoshop. You just can’t beat this powerhouse. However, for those who dabble, the price tag may be a bit too steep to justify. Even for me, I have a license for my personal use but I do not have one at work. So, where do you go when you need the editing capability of Photoshop without the price? Pixlr is my choice every time.

Pixlr is a suite of free photo editing tools that you can use as web-based or mobile apps. The web apps are great for anyone who is using a work or school computer because you do not need to download anything. Just open one of the apps and edit away.

Pixlr has three different apps designed to meet the needs of the beginner, the dabbler, and the more serious photo editor. Each one can be found as both a web app and a mobile app.

Add filters, Frames, and Effects with Pixlr-omatic.
Add filters, frames, and effects with Pixlr-omatic.

Pixlr-omatic

Pixlr-omatic is a fun way to add retro filters, frames, and effects to your images. The screen looks like an old camera. There are tons of effects and filters to choose from to create a unique image. The interface is very easy to use. Final images can be saved to your computer or device and shared on social meida. Because really, why else would you over filter your image?

Pixlr Express

Pixlr Express is the photo editing app for everyone. Easy to use for the beginner but also has lots of editing options for those who want to do more with their photos. With Pixlr Express, you can still add the filters, effects, and frames that you used with Omatic, however, you can also do some advanced image correction, editing, and manipulation. You can even add text and stickers and create photo collages. Again, the controls are easy to use so it does not take long to learn and start editing your images. For most of you, Pixlr Express will meet your photo editing needs.

Edit and correct or images with Pixlr Express.
Edit and correct or images with Pixlr Express.

Pixlr Editor

Pixlr Editor is a robust photo editing tool. If you are a Photoshop user, Pixlr Editor will not disappoint. With Pixlr Editor, you have many of the same tools you would find in Photoshop, including layers, filters, and selection tools. When I need to do some heavy duty editing at work (where I don’t have Photoshop) Pixlr is the tool I always turn to.

Edit your images like a pro with Pixlr Editor.
Edit your images like a pro with Pixlr Editor.

In the Classroom

The Pixlr family of apps are great for classroom use. Pixlr-omatic and Express are easy to use even for your youngest students. Pixlr Editor gives you the power of a robust editing tool as well as the ability to create digital works of art.

The best part of all three of the apps is that they are free, web-based (for those working on a desktop or laptop), and require no sign-in. One thing to note – since they are free apps, you will have to deal with embedded adds. They need to pay the bills, right? For the most part, the adds are not intrusive. I’ve noticed that the adds are tailored to me and are usually for products I buy or sites I visit. (Thank you creepy internet and big data!)

If you are doing any type of photography or digital media production with your students (and you should be) the Pixlr suite of apps are tools you must check out.

It looks like they also have a vector editing tool called Vectr. I have not used it yet myself but I am excited to give it a try.

Happy editing!

30 Tools in 30 Days:Day 28 Storyboard That

Create comics, digital stories, and storyboards with Storyboard That.

Day 28: Storyboard That

Using comics in the classroom is a fantastic way for students to express their creativity while demonstrating their understanding. From summarizing a book chapter to creating their own original story, comics are a valuable form of storytelling. However, creating comics might be intimidating to those students who don’t see themselves as artists. Don’t let that be a barrier. Get your students creating their own comics with Storyboard That, a web-based tool for creating comics and telling digital stories.

Screenshot of Storyboard That creation screen.
My first comic strip. In progress of course.

Creating a story with Storyboard That is simple. I created a free account using my Google credentials. With the free account, I was able to create a 1×1, 2×1 or 3×1 celled story.

Customize your elements.
Customize all the elements. From the color of the sky to the pose of the characters. Yes, I could have a pink unicorn with a purple mane and blue eyes.

There are hundreds of backgrounds, characters, shapes, and textures to choose from. Drag and drop your element into your cell and customize as you choose. The level of customization for each element is impressive. You can change colors, resize, add filters, and even change the pose of your characters. The amount of customization combined with all of the characters, background, and textures available allows for unlimited creativity in your storytelling.

When your story is complete, you can save it, edit it, or copy it. You have several options for downloading your storyboards as images or slides. You can also embed them into your website.

Pricing

You can get started for free like I did or choose from one of their many pricing options. Educational packages start with individual teacher accounts for $8.99 per month for up to 10 students and go up from there based on the number of students you want on your roster. There are many different pricing options to best meet your personal, departmental, school or district needs including a  district-wide license for $2.99 per student.

I do love the free version and for the most part, I was able to create some fun comics. However, there are a few drawbacks to the free version that might make you consider going for the paid version.

Privacy – With the free version, all your creations are public and can be found through a Google search. With the educational version, all storyboards are private and secure. The teacher can see all the storyboards using a class roster and control privacy settings so students can view each others work. This alone would make me consider paying for a license if I was going to use it with students on a regular basis.

Other cons for the free version include:

  • You can only save two comics a month with the free version.
  • Using your own images or graphics is only available with the paid versions.
  • You have limited layout options with the free version. The paid version allows for creating large comic grids up to 100 cells. The paid version also has custom templates for creating posters and other visuals.

Teacher Resources

I was very impressed with the resources and lesson plans available on the Storyboard That site. If you scroll to the bottom of the home page, you see the list of resources for teachers, business folks, and filmmakers. The list of lesson plans and teacher resources is huge!! I mean really huge! They have ideas and lesson plans for all subjects and grade levels. I also really liked the resources for filmmakers. If you are doing film production in your classroom, take a look. You and your students will learn a lot about the process of movie making.

The free version of Storyboard That is an easy way to create short comics, as long as you are OK with sharing them publically. If you currently use or want to start using comics in your classroom regularly, then I would consider a paid account.

Even if you are not going to use Storyboard That, the extensive resource library is a gold mine of ideas, lesson plans, and information. Bookmark it so you don’t forget it.

30 Tools in 30 Days: Day 27 Incredibox

Day 27: Incredibox

Is the music in you? Do you need to drop a beat and get your groove on? Me too! Head over to Incredibox and let the music flow.

Incredibox is a flash-based website and app that allows you and your students mix up an original tune with the help of some animated beatboxers. (They are kind of loveable, yet kind of creepy.) There are five different versions to choose from each with its own set of beats, effects, voices, and melodies. Creating a custom tune is simple. Just drag an accessory on to a beatboxer and he starts a loop. Layer on more sounds to create a track that is one of a kind.

Incredibox screenshot
My crew of beatboxers playing my jam.

Incredibox lets you record your track and download it as a wave file. You can also share your it through a link or social media. Listen to my original jam Sunrise. Your mixes are public so others can listen to your musical masterpiece. The ones with the most likes make it into the Top 50. You can search the library for mixes by title or email. Listen, like, and share.

Classroom Ideas

Incredibox a fun and easy way to get your students creating their own music. The controls are simple and don’t get in the way of their creative genius. Just drag and drop.

Here are some ideas for how to use it with your students.

  • Create their own mixes for a student-created dance party mix.
  • Mix up soundtracks for their favorite books and stories. Or their own stories.
  • Generate music for their multimedia productions.
  • Create a theme song for their podcast or video show.

Or – your students could create a live version of their mix like this creative group.

Head over to the Goodies page for more gems like this one.

Whether you want to get your students creating music for their multi-media projects or live out your secret DJ dream, Incredibox is a fun and easy tool to help you let the music play. Now excuse me while I jam. Hit it you loveable, creepy little beatboxers.