Current events 10: Twitter hashtags in the classroom

I’ve been trying to learn more about hashtags, and Twitter in general! I received a mini-lesson from our IT consultant which helped me understand their function much better. I found the following blog entry which, although a bit over my head, did give me some ideas for incorporating Twitter into my teaching at the high school level.

George Couros, the Division Principal of Innovative Teaching and Learning for Parkland School Division, discusses the use of Twitter hashtags in the classroom.

In a recent entry in his blog, The Principal of Change: Stories of learning and leading, Couros shares a useful list of educator hashtags and suggests ways in which educators can use hashtags in their practice.

Couros also offers a helpful step-by-step how-to explanation of how teachers can start up hashtags for their classes, as well as advantages of using hashtags with students.


Current events 9: Learning – the unplugged version

While many Edmonton schools embrace iPads and Netbooks as vital learning tools, the Waldorf Independent School of Edmonton has chosen an unplugged model for learning. Students at Waldorf learn without televisions, computers or Web 2.0 devices, istead availing themselves of different types of wireless learning learning tools and methods.

Waldorf Education Society vice-president, Netta Johnson, says of the philosophy, “I think it’s the difference between teaching a child math and teaching a child to use a calculator. If you teach a child to write, it’s a different experience than teaching a child to type”.

Read more on the Edmonton Journal’s Web site.

Jing: what the experts are saying

In her review of Jing, CNET Editor Jessica Dolcourt gives a brief overview of the screen capture application, and discusses some of its advantages and disadvantages.

Dolcourt calls Jing, “…a solid application and capture distribution system with a premium component”. (2011). She goes on to state that “Jing’s attractive application takes a sound, simple approach to capturing”. She explains the process of installing and using Jing, including the downloading of other components necessary to run the program.

Dolcourt discusses the advantages of Jing, such as sharing ease and user-friendly elements such as the yellow sun icon that indicates the starting point and the crosshairs that one moves to capture the screen image one wants to share.

She then mentions one disadvantage, which is the requirement of, which one must take time to install if it does not exist on the computer of choice. Indeed, I had to first determine whether or not I need to take this step, then download and install the framework before being able to run Jing and Screencast. The process was quite user-friendly, however, and I was able to do it right the first time!

The following video is more of a how-to than a critique, but Dolcourt does give a partial review of Jing.

Jing review video 

Dolcourt, J. (2009, June 8). Jing: CNET editors’ review. Retrieved from: 

Xtranormal: what the experts are saying

In his review in the animation section of, freelance writer, Web designer, computerized graphic designer and animator, Adrien-Luc Sanders gives a detailed depiction of YouTube’s Xtranormal animation program. He outlines the pros and cons of the tool, and clearly explains the creative process involved.

In his summary of the application, Sanders calls Xtranormal “…an easy, adorable shortcut for creating animations as a content delivery platform” (2011). He goes on to say, “I’m sure it won’t be long before someone finds an out-of-the-box way to use the medium to build their audience”. I believe this has already happened! As I posted in Xtranormal Activity II, Paul Nightingale suggests using Xtranormal to create video blogs, send invitations, design avatars, and make business presentations, among other ideas.

Sanders summarizes Xtranormal and its pros and cons in the following list:

  • Makes animation accessible to non-animators.
  • Easy point-and-click intuitive content creation that doesn’t require in-depth animation training.
  • Comes with a stock library of characters, sets, sounds, and voices.
  • Can easily publish content to YouTube.
  • Free.
  • Links to private Google account info.
  • Voices are about as distorted and glottal as you’d expect.
  • Generic stock characters.
  • Web-based animation application that creates 3D content within minutes.
  • Lets you type in dialogue that can be converted to audio speech.
  • Allows you to apply animations to stock characters.

While I agree with Sanders’ overall impression of the tool and its advantages, I did not have the same experience with the downfalls of the program. When I registered for an account, Xtranormal linked my account directly with YouTube, so I did not experience the privacy issue Sanders noted. My students, however, were able to create accounts without the need for a YouTube or Google account. All that was required was an email address. Perhaps this has been updated since Sanders wrote his Blog.

Furthermore, I consider the “distorted and glottal” voices and stock characters to which Sanders refers, part of the charm of the tool! I love that the dialogue comes out in canned voices, from unnatural-looking avatar characters. It adds to the humourous aspect of Xtranormal.


Sanders, A-L. (2011). Guide Review – Animation Software Review: YouTube’s Xtranormal. Retrieved from 

Animoto: what the experts are saying

Trey Ratcliff writes the top travel photography Blog on the Internet. He is the first photographer to have an HDR (High dynamic range) image displayed in the Smithsonian, and has been featured on many television networks.

Ratcliff has worked with both the basic and Pro versions of Animoto and reviewed it on his Blog. He listed the following benefits and downfalls of the tool:

Benefits of Animoto

  • Easy to use and fairly idiot-proof
  • Make something that looks professional even if you are a rookie, hack, miscreant, or all three
  • The video is online immediately and very easy for you to embed into your website, blog, and the like
  • Looking to deliver an “added feature” to your clients, this is something that is easy and has an amazing “wow” factor

Reasons Not to Use Animoto

  • Do you already have a Mac and iPhoto + iMovie?  If so, you can create very similar effects with these programs…  However, these are a little harder to use and don’t have some of the “themes” that Animoto offers
  • You only have a few photos or very little “source” material.  Animoto can’t help you with that
  • Cost – if you are on a super-tight budget, then the “free” parts of Animoto might not have enough power for you

Ratcliff goes on to say that importing photos from online photo sharing sites like Flickr can be problematic, as it does not work well with too many photos in a library. He also refered to some confusion regarding resolution of photos to upload when using the pro version of Animoto.

Overall, Ratcliff seems to appreciate the tool, saying, “I’ll keep making more and more videos with this…because it is fun!” (2010), although he had some suggestions to make it even more user-friendly. It appears as though some of these improvements, such as more theme selections, and direct exporting to YouTube, may already have been made since Ratcliff’s assessment in 2010.

I tend to agree with Ratcliff’s observations that Anomoto is an easy, fun way to create a simple video using one’s photos. I found the basic, free version provided all that I needed, and all that my students will likely need to display their photos and short pieces of writing.

Read more on Radcliff’s Blog, and watch a video he made with his beautiful photos, using Animoto Pro.


Ratcliff, T. (2010, Jan. 3). Animoto review [Web log comment]. Retrieved from


Domo Animoto!!

I love Animoto!

The first time I tried the tool, I appreciated the ease with which one could select, upload and add photos to create a short video, complete with background music chosen from the site. I was using the free version of Animoto, which is fine for creating 30-second long videos such as I just described.

A colleague suggested I try out the educational version, so I signed up, and within minutes I was on my way to using a much more comprehensive version of the tool.

First, I was prompted to choose a style for my video. This determines the background and scenes that will accompany the video, and sets the tone for the piece. One can select from 28 styles such as “Cosmic tidings” and “Coming up roses”, which will play between footage, and behind the photos, videos and text that the user adds. Each theme lends a different feel to the video, and one can preview them before selecting. I chose “Watercolor seashore”, as it was fitting for the subject I wanted to share.

Unlike the free version I had previously tried, I was able to browse and upload short videos as well as photos. The program is very user-friendly, and selecting and uploading photos from computer folders is fast and simple. I was able to select multiple files for upload at once, and could easily delete selections or change the order once the footage was inserted into the project. I did discover, however, that video clips are time-restrained, so the program will cut each clip off after a certain lenth of time.

After my photos and videos were added, I was prompted to choose from hundreds of available songs, categorized thematically. I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of music Animoto offered. The program provides a wide variety of styles and themes within 14 genres of music, such as “Romantic”, “Hip-hop” and “Halloween”, and the quality is very good! And on top of that, although there really is something for everyone, the site even provides the user with the option of importing his own mp3 music if I preferred.

Lastly, I could add text to the video, again moving it around to place it where I wanted it to appear. The font and colours are decided by the style chosen for the video. Headers and text are limited to 22 and 30 characters respectively. This is more than sufficient for a photo-story or video project, but might make some educational applications, such as a writing project, more challenging. That said, I don’t believe the number of text boxes is limited, so one could still add considerable text if desired.

I really appreciated that one is not tied to an order when creating videos. For example, one can select music first if preferred, even though it is technically the third step in the process. Furthermore, one is always able to go back and change any element at any point in the production. Even after the video has been rendered and published, the project is still available for editing and updating.

My video took a few minutes to produce, and I received an email with a link to the finished product. Animoto also provides for direct exportation and uploading to YouTube, which makes sharing even easier.

And, best of all, I was able to sign up 50 students and / or staff on my account, meaning that they will all be able to benefit from the added features of the educational version of Animoto.

I can’t wait to use this in class with my students. It might not be possible to exploit this as a project tool this term, but I will definitely share it with my technologie class, and am excited to use it with my creative writing students in term 2!

I leave you with this, my first real Animoto video, which touches on a subject very close to my heart!

Current events 8: OneFeat, a fun and motivational photo sharing site!

I just found out about , a social photo sharing page, which I think could be a great way to motivate kids doing a photography unit.

On OneFeat, users suggest various missions to complete by taking and sharing thematic photographs. Some examples of themes are “Snap street art that really rocks“, “Eat something local“, and “Get to the end of the world“. The missions leave a lot to interpretation, and are a fun way to think about the world around us, as well as the best way to share it through photography.

Basically, users post their photos, and others can “like” them. One earns points according to the number of people who “like” his posted photo. As one collects points, he moves through levels and unlocks prizes.

Here are the basics, as explained on the Web site:


  1. Choose the mission
    Select a mission from the thousands available or create one you want the whole world to achieve.
  2. Do the Feat
    Take the greatest photo ever to complete the mission.
  3. Share the greatness
    The more people like your feat, the more points you earn! Compete with the world, build your own destiny and get to the next level.

I think students will get a kick out of using this site!

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