Thursday, April 12, 2012

Make Sure the Pieces Work Together.

I had a wonderful idea last week. Well I thought it was a wonderful idea. For a final unit assessment task the students and I were going to make a video. I could see it clearly, children excitedly story boarding, planning and shooting a video about living and non-living things. Me, showing them how to put it all together using Movie Maker. It was going to be great.

I asked the school secretary if we had a digital video camera and was pleasantly surprise when I was handed a newish looking box. It was a JVC Everion - the thing even claimed to feature one touch YouTube downloads. I was pretty excited, everything seems to be in the box. Well almost everything. Whoever had used the camera last had forgotten to return the SD cards but no worry that was easy enough to fix.

I went through my pre-tech project checklist before launching the video making assignment:

  • Did I have all the cords, cables, dodads and programs needed to create a video?
  • Did I know how to record a video with the new video camera?
  • Did I know how to use the editing software well enough to show students?
  • Was the program installed on the computer I wanted to use? 
  • Did I have enough batteries,coffee and patience to launch a tech project?
The answers were check, check,check, check, and sure why not.

We went through the fun of preparing, planning and recording our scenes. The recording process was chaotic to say the least but the students seemed to enjoy it. Satisfied with the footage we had taken we were ready to move on to the next step... downloading our video. This is where the whole think fell apart.

It seems that I had checked to see if I knew how to RECORD a video but I had forgotten to check to see if I knew how to get the videos OFF the camera. This was the first hurdle. 2 hours and many internet searches later I had managed to download them.

Ready for phase 3: The movie making!

I opened Movie Maker and was frustrated to discover that the video I had shot with my students was not comparable with the program I wanted to use to edit it.. ARK! I had not thought this one through at all. I have a classroom full of students expecting to help me make a movie in at school tomorrow. Now I had to figure out how to use a new program or how to make my files work in Movie Maker.

In the end the solution ended up being a newer computer with a more up to date operating system. I used my home computer which had Windows 7 on it and the updated movie maker and it looks like I will be  able to create a movie with the clips the students and I filmed. Not the lesson I had envisioned but it will work.

So what did I learn at school today? 

Knowing how each piece of technology works alone is not enough. I need to know how (if) the pieces will work together also!

Before launching into a class project with your students test out all parts of the process on your own and make sure you know how the parts work together. You may be able to use all the individual products but if they don't work together it is going to turn your fun project into a technical nightmare. I learned my lesson.

What about you? Any technology compatibility nightmares? What products do you use to record and edit video with students?

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Using Wordle to Make Word Choice Posters

I made a fun discovery today.  Wordle is a fun way to make work choice posters for or with your students. It can be used to create a visual list of synonyms for students to use in their writing.

Here is one I made this morning for the word  "grand" in French.

Wordle allows you to create word clouds for many URL's and it also allows you to enter your own word lists. Wordle lets you to customize the size, font and color of the words.

Steps for Making your Wordle Word Choice Posters: 

1) Choose a word that students are over using in your classroom.
2) For French words visit: and enter it there to get a list of synonyms. Copy the words by highlighting them, and then typing Control+C.
    In English you can visit: to get a list of synonyms.  Copy the words by highlighting them, and then typing Control+C.
3) Go to and select "Advanced" tab.

4) Paste the words into the first box by clicking in the box then typing Control+P.
5) Put one word per line. Remove any words you don't want to include in your poster.

6) Place : plus a number beside each word. The bigger numbers will give you larger words. Smaller numbers will give you smaller words. Consider making the words that you would like used more often larger.

7) Press go.
8) Use the random button at the bottom or the Layout , Font and Color tabs at the top to customize your Wordle.

9) When you are happy with your Wordle you can save it to the public directory or print it. You can also use the "Snipping Tool" in Windows 7 to save it as an image to use later

I am also toying with the idea of having students create their own analogue "Wordles" as a word work activity. So that is what I learned at school today. What do you think? How do you use Wordle?