Playing with Video: Introducing What I Now Teach

As part of switching to a new position (more below), I recently started pursuing some Adobe credentials. This is the assignment that I produced for the first week in a course on Video Production.

Challenge: Create a short video about the subject you teach.

What Do I Teach? (0:40 secs on Vimeo)Narrating the Work

Recently I moved out of the classroom, sort of, becoming a technology integration coordinator at my school. This left me with a slight challenge to consider what I actually teach. Plus, a lot of people immediately answer that kind of question with a content area subject, but I remind myself all the time that it is actually people more then content.

Now I spend most of my time teaching teachers how to use the various technology tools at their disposal better, but I spent over ten years in an English classroom, focusing a lot of efforts on teaching student writers how to read like writers and write like readers. I also continue to teach an online screenwriting course with students from all over the world.

My instinct was to record people, since stories are about people, but kept questioning how clear that would be in such a short time. For whatever reason, I struggled to think of ways of capturing myself engaged with another teacher for this assignment.

Consequently, I got thinking of trying to represent writing visually and gravitated back a bit toward a subject. I also just started playing around.

I have always liked the sound of a typewriter far more than a computer keyboard, and I have similarly been drawn to film titles sequences that begin with typing of some kind. Also, given that I was leaning toward representing screenwriting in some way, the old-timey typewriter seemed a interesting fit.

Essentially, I went a bit more literal with this than I would normally. However, I started just playing and was having fun manipulating the sound of the typewriter’s clack to appear with each character and timing the carriage returns. I also pushed to 40 seconds, but that was because I thought it clever to add the unexpected screenwriterly CUT TO BLACK as the end.

In truth the whole thing might be too long, but, again, I was playing around more than anything. Also, I liked the suspense of sorts created by revealing one character at a time, which kind of withholds the words and meaning  a bit.

Reflecting on the Week

I thought this was a good opening week with a lot of the most fundamental items covered. The story structure material was interesting as an opening. I was familiar with it, but still think it was a good place to start.

Also, I am really new with Premiere, so this will be a a good experience for me, and I appreciated the short tutorials. I am going to need a lot of practice, however.

Digital Play: Reading Worlds of Wonder

Since switching to a new position of technology integration coordinator, I recently started pursuing some Adobe credentials. This is the assignment that I produced for the first week in a course on Digital Creativity.

Challenge: Create composite image (i.e., a photo collage) using at least four separate images to show creativity infused in various areas of life. Use an image of yourself or someone else as a starting point and manipulate the image to illustrate the thoughts and ideas streaming out of the subject’s mind.

Image: Digital collage of the mind of a little girl reading

Challenge 1: Digital Collage – Reading Worlds of Wonder

Narrating the Work

This was an interesting beginning challenge. I have some very rudimentary Photoshop skills but never feel particularly confident. More than anything I wanted to use a number of images but make them seem unified in some thematic way. I also wanted to play with filters and layers and just try some things out.

Reading a book opens up a whole visual world. Initially, I thought of thought clouds as a backdrop and went for literal clouds, as a result. I wanted to keep an ariel flight element, so opted for the balloons. Plus, books render a kind of movie of the mind, hence the roll of film in background. The book was about two friends that dance, which prompted the dancers. S0 it was an odd assembly of images that I just tried to make work together through color and some visual effects.

With the exception of the image in the foreground, which I took, all images are credited in the lower right corner.

From HPS Digital: Making Your Browser More Reader Friendly

Originally posted @ HPS Digital

Photo: Student reading on their Chromebook

Student reading closely on their Chromebook.

With last week’s introduction the browser extension The Great Suspender received such a positive response it has inspired a short series I am calling Exploring Useful Browser Extensions. This is the second installment of that new series.

Now that both the middle school and high school have moved to a 1:1 computing environment and even greater amount of reading is being done on screens. Articles shared from Internet sites, stories shared in Google Drive, or readings shared in a learning management system (LMS) all have something in common. The items will likely be viewed and read in a web browser.

If the reading is from a commercially published website like The New York Times, for example, the article will be served in the browser complete with advertisements, not to mention formatted in a particular style to accommodate those advertisements and other content the site wants to entice you to click.

In fact, with all the potential distractions and available links to other places, there is a case to be made that using a web browser is not the best way to actually read anything closely or deeply.

Image: Clearly, a Google Chrome extension in the Chrome Web Store

Available for free in the Chrome Web Store, Clearly, a Google Chrome extension, presents web content in a distraction-free format.

Fortunately, the browser extension Clearly, from Evernote, is a simple tool that renders pages in a web browser in a clean, easy-to-read format. Better still, Clearly is available for for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera.

Not only does Clearly remove distractions from the reading experience, the text and images are rendered in a single, central column with around 12-15 words per line, making for optimum readability.

There are theme options that allow you to fine tune the visual look and feel of the layout when using Clearly. Adjusting the color scheme, or text size is as easy as a couple of clicks. You can choose from a few remade themes or completely customize a theme to your liking.

Additionally, there is a text highlighting feature, allowing for the most basic of text annotation.

Another great feature is that you can print pages from Clearly in a simplified, distraction-free format. The print format is different from the chosen onscreen theme, making better use of paper size. Also, since it is a print version of an online document, all of the hyperlinks not available in analog form are cleverly footnoted with a links section at the bottom of the page.

Logo: EvernoteWhile you do not need an Evernote account to use Clearly, having one opens even more useful features.

With a click, the page being viewed in Clearly can be clipped to an any of your Evernote notebooks, as well as tagged with keywords for easier searching later.

Any highlighting changes are also automatically updated in your Evernote account’s clipped note.

If you use tags regularly in your Evernote account, there is an option to automatically display related notes from your Evernote account in the lower right corner of the clipped note.

Of course, all notes in Evernote can be accessed on nearly any device and are easily shared via a publicly shared link, email, and select social media accounts.

Clearly has great potential in an educational context.

Whether teachers use Clearly to reformat pages or highlight or clip them as notes in Evernote, with a couple of preparatory clicks they can immeasurably improve their students’ reading experience. Using print format retains some of the benefits of a digital document by including all the relevant links, while providing the text with plenty of room for annotations by hand.

Even more, teachers can show older students the tool and how to use it for themselves across all kinds of web browsing experiences, modeling how to avoid distraction and read closely while online. Plus, older students may already be using Evernote because of its versatility and availability across nearly all networked devices.