Friday, December 18, 2009

A Creative & Festive Hallway Display!

The talented 7th grade students of Mrs. Lewis' Reading classes really out did themselves with their creative book covers this year! Here are the pics of their fine work!
Be sure to stop by the Library Media Center before break and pick up a couple of books! You never know with this snow coming when you'll be wanting to curl up with a good book over the holiday break!

Mrs. Lewis gives the poster one last final adjustment before stepping back and admiring the work of her amazing students! With 3-D special effects and creative construction these kids really took book covers to a new dimension of AWEsome!

Miss Jones is so proud to have such an amazing display outside the Library Media Center!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It’s Xtranormal to Blabberize & GoAnimate!

Marketing is not a dirty word. Sometimes we do great things in our school, classroom, or media center but we forget that people just might not know about it. The community loves to hear what schools are doing and it’s great that we can reach out with a cool message to the community and to our kids in an appealing way. Animation does that!

Promoting your school or library media center has never been easier. Using quick, free, and easy animation studios technology educators and teacher librarians can create engaging videos to market their classrooms, media center, databases, research resources, special programs, and their love of learning to students, teachers, and the community. Combining easy animation with a wiki, website, or a blog your message will captivate your audience and reach beyond the brick and mortar walls of your school.

Focusing on three easy to use products this post will give you a quick introduction and hopefully inspire you to try your hand at easy animation. The slant of this posting is to create animations for kids but not with kids. Some of the content on these sites are user created and therefore a bit questionable, inappropriate, (like Beavis & Butthead fart & scatalogical type jokes) and just a bit immature.

Back in the day (1996) I used Theatrix Interactive’s Hollywood High to create animations and it was a whole lot of awesome! The company went bust a few years ago and it’s now out of print but it was fun and easy to use. Fast forward about 10 or so years and I stumble across Go! and WOW! It was like a souped-up, super-charged online and FREE version! I was in animation heaven!

Using just drag, drop, click, and type technology the learning curve for this product is sweet and comforting. The best part is that you can bring in your own graphics and pics in to use as backdrops, heads, and hand props!

The design dashboard is super friendly and you can easily see all parts to your video. If you've ever worked with iMovie this is going to look very familiar! I quickly created a short 28 second video promoting my library media center for my blog, wiki and website…after that, I was hooked! MHMS Media Center Adventures! by gwyneth

Do you have your own avatar? You can also make a comic version or avatar of yourself to use in your animations with Character Creator and the first one is FREE. If you've ever made a Nintendo Mii character it's a lot like that. Hint: you can’t edit your character later so make your choices carefully! (which explains why i have tacky gold shoes and a bad lipstick color!) Here's a helpful blog posting, the official blog, and some video tutorials to help! I got so jazzed about this site I made an Animation Studios & Sites Introduction wikipage for this and the other products mentioned in this posting...using LOTS of screenshots!

Another very cool thing about Go!Animate is the easy ability to embed and share the vids on your social networks and websites AND when you go back to edit the videos later (this is great for me because I'm constantly tweaking & changing things later or if I find a typo!) is that your embedded video is your latest cut… no need to re-embed it! That. Is. Sweet.

For elementary techie teachers & media specialists there's a more kid friendly version of GoAnimate called Domo Animate where there are preset backgrounds and the characters are super cute.

A few things I’ve learned about GoAnimate:

• Upload the largest resolution background pics for best performance. Go!Animate works with Flickr to import photos for use as backdrops but it seems to only take the large size and not the original. What can I say? I'm a resolution snob.

• Extend the scene length for better reading...the default is 2 seconds, you can override it to 4 seconds...but I find that with two speech bubbles per scene having it be 5-7 seconds is more comfortable.

• Add special effects sparingly: They’re cool but they sort of overwhelm a scene.

Some of the options at Go!Animate cost points: "You can use your GoPoints to acquire special premium characters and props on the platform." You can get points by sharing your videos or referring friends.

Join Go!Animate then Cut & Paste the following “Pssst! Gwyneth told me about the FREE 10 character credit offer on ISTE Connects! Thank you! – Your member name” email that to and in a few days you’ll be credited! Sweet!

Blabberize is a really cool site where you can upload a picture, select a mouth on that picture, and record some sound to make that picture talk. It’s an easy and fast way to podcast!

Xtranormal is a free animated movie generator featuring drag and drop animations, automatic lip synching and international voices. It allows you to make movies in minutes by simply typing in your scripts. They’re tagline is, “If you can type, you can make movies.” This online movie making tool allows users to create animations complete with backdrops, simulated voices, and camera angels to perform scripts you write and edit online. To quote the website Lifehacker, it’s “a seriously addictive sandbox for crafting miniature dramas, comedies, or whatever you can tell your little actors to do.”

It takes a few minutes to render between previews but when you’re ready to save it the finished product looks sleek and slick. You can even publish it directly to YouTube with the click of one button.

A few things I learned about Xtranormal:

• Spelling words phonetically or in an odd way sometimes sounds better: such as anim ate vs. animate and wick kee vs. wiki
• To shorten unnatural pauses between words, hyphenate (teacher-librarian)
• Capitalizing after any punctuation mark increases the pause between words
• Capitalizing the first letter after a hyphen slightly increases the pause between words (teacher-Librarian)
• Capitalizing intra-sentence letters allows you to emphasize certain syllables (comPlexity is sometimes overRated! )
• Capitalize ANY words you wish emphasized (use Restraint, capitalizing Every word would be the same or Worse than leaving them as they Were!) Beam Me Up Databases! by gwyneth

Like it? Create your own at It's free and fun!

Ideas for use in the school or media centerse animations to promote:
• Virtual tour of the school - then dub voice over in several languages! Example
• Back to school night
• Science fair
• History Day
• Summer Reading List/Program
• Public library card drives
• TV studio or TV production
• Public service announcements
• Banned books week
• Research databases
• Recycling or green projects
• Book Fair

Classroom ideas:
• Science! Create a zoo where animals talk about their habitats
• Social Studies: Represent important historical figure and have that person summarize his/her accomplishments or point of view
• Art: An introduction to a famous artist using original paintings with cartoon docent.
• English & Reading: Book talk from a characters point of view
• Math: Have a famous mathematician explain a solution to a math problem
• World Languages: Use it to create a dual language presentation for a foreign language or ESOL class
• English & Reading: Vocabulary building
• English & Reading: Poetry or creative writing presentations

Now that you’ve gotten a little amuse-bouche of animation why not give it a whirl? Come up with a purpose, write a script, sketch a storyboard, and dive right in! I’ve even designated a Go!Animate video School News for Teens! TV Show Opening that's FREE to SNAG! I've given permission to copy so that you can copy and play with it! Also, all the Xtranormal vids you can just click REMIX and like an open source video make changes, save, and rename it as your own! Live long an Animate!

For more information, feel free to check out my Animation Studios & Sites wiki page and follow me on Twitter! @gwynethjones

Be a Blabbermouth!

Blabberize is a really cool site where you can "upload a picture, select a mouth on that picture, and record some sound to make that picture talk." It’s an easy and fast way to podcast! And though it's super easy there ARE a few tricks....Here's how it works:

Find a picture...i recommend an animal, cartoon, historic painting, etc. using real people or kids for some reason looks creepy to me...except for those Twihard peeps (OK, those mary sues were creepy to start with!)

Browse to upload the picture. You have to have the pic on your machine, you can't supply a url to a jpeg.

Crop the pic to be used by moving the sliding dots so that the portion of the pic you want to work with is selected.

Add a mouth to your starts as a big blob...but move the dots to reduce or enlarge to fit the mouth at the seam. Making it bigger than it needs to be makes it's funny when the whole chin goes up and down.

Once you have your mouth re-sized to fit click the right arrow to go on to the next step.

Record the sound for your video by using either your built in microphone, uploading sound you've already recorded or record using your phone.

Click Allow to allow access for the Adobe flash player settings. I've only ever used my microphone and it works great! I've also used a USB microphone for better (louder) sound quality.

Click the red record button to start (you'll see the green volume line going up and down) Each scene only has 30 seconds of record time, so I suggest writing out a script and practicing first. I also use a boom box or a laptop with iTunes to play background music..cause this isn't high tech here...this is easy, quick and dirty. Play what you just recorded and click OK when you're satisfied that.

Now you can either make another scene, or go back and edit and re-record what you just did. Choose carefully because after the final save, you can't edit and change it later, you gotta start from the beginning.

Describe your Blabber! Give it a catchy name, write a short description, and add related tags so that people searching can find it. You have a choice for making this a private blabber or mature then click save. Again, because this site is very user intensive there are inappropriate and immature products to be supervision or using this to promote your program is recommended.

Click Share it and you'll get your embed code!

Grab that code by copying it all and pasting it wherever you want your vid to show up! It's that easy! Enjoy Blabberize for the fun that it is...but don't expect it to be more than it is - there are premium features that they say are on the way....stay tuned for those!