Aw Snap — Introducing Digital Annotation with #BookSnaps

BookSnap Mentor Example

I ran across a reference to an idea called BookSnaps that seemed intriguing so I followed the thread to Tara Martin’s blog, where she shared out information about how to use digital tools, particularly Snapchat, for annotation and layering of media.

Watch Tara’s short talk/presentation about the idea:

I was intrigued because I am interested in finding more ways to engage my sixth graders with annotation and digital tools, for many of the reasons that Tara gives: the ways annotation focuses attention, how it helps us remember, how to it makes visible the learning of a text.

While Tara shares about Snapchat as the platform, I was more interested about using something within our students’ Google accounts, to make it easier to teach and easier to save. We are in our Independent Reading unit right now, so this is a perfect way to share the first pages of books they have chosen, I am thinking.

My sample — for Philip Pullman’s The Book of Dust, see above — was done in Google Drawing and it all went quite well, using call-out text boxes for the writing and some images searches for the “stickers.” There’s not a lot of space, so finding focus will be key, as will setting parameters for how many overlays can be on a page. I can see my kids getting carried away with images.

Tara does have a video about using Google Drawing that helped me think this through:

(Note: Google has now changed the way one can take image snapshots within its system, so the direct method that Tara mentions in her video may no longer work. I used PhotoBooth for my sample, but Tara kindly mentioned a free extension by Alice Keeler for Chrome that takes pictures and puts them into a Google Drive folder, which can then be moved into Google Drawing. I tested it out and it seemed to work quite well.)

I envision this BookSnap idea as one of the first steps of our work with digital annotation, and the connection to Snap Chat (even though we won’t be using it) with layered text and layered image, and sharing, should grab my students’ attention. And sharing out books, and reading about what others are reading, is always a powerful sharing experience, made more fun with layers of annotation.

I’ll let you know how it goes …

If you are thinking that the use of Snapchat App is of interest, this video by another teacher (not Tara) gives a good walk-through of each step along the way:

Peace (layer it and annotate it),

Make Panoramic Virtual Reality in Cardboard

Cardboard VR

Thanks to Richard Byrne, over at Free Tech for Teachers, I began exploring Google Cardboard again, but this time, I used the Google Cardboard Camera app to make my own virtual reality. The free app allows you to create a 360 degree panorama, and you can even add audio narration, and then share it out with people. (I did it with my Droid phone but I believe you can do the same with any iOS device.)

I did a trial run in my backyard and then used it when I did a hike up to a fire tower known as Goat’s Peak, which gives you a nice view of the Pioneer Valley of Western Massachusetts from top Mount Tom.

If you have Google Cardboard (or some VR goggles .. I bought my set from Amazon for about 10 bucks) and the Google Cardboard viewer app, the links should open up for you in that app. You can see what I saw and hear me explaining it a bit.

See my backyard

See Pioneer Valley from Goat’s Peak

Here is Richard’s very helpful video tutorial on making and sharing Google Cardboard VR.

It would be pretty cool to have students use the Google Cardboard Camera app to make their own virtual reality shows of special places.

Peace (it’s reality),

A SmallPoem for Small Poems

I’m tinkering around with a visual typography app that Terry and Wendy shared out called TypiVideo. I like the effects of the moving text but I am having trouble with finding the ways that I can set animation and text (I know the controls are there, and I saw a tutorial that indicated where and how I can do more, but I can’t seem to have get to them to work on mine. Might need to reload the app.)

Anyway, the poem above is for another poetry venture elsewhere.

Peace (animated),

If I Were the App Designer for the Museum …

Design App for Armory

At our summer camp project at the Springfield Armory, as our middle school students were working on a variety of projects, so were us teachers. I had already shared out my Rosie the Riveter 2.0 project. One of the Armory rangers had mentioned that another ranger is in the midst of planning out an app for the museum. I decided I would try to imagine what might be in a Virtual Reality  app for the Springfield Armory, which is a National Historic Site for its role in our country’s history.

The ranger asked me to leave the drawing behind, in case it offers up ideas for thinking about the museum in the future as they begin to mull over ways to make the museum more interactive. So, who knows? My ideas might someday become reality. Or not. My favorite, and the kids’ favorite too, is the virtual roller coaster set within the gears of the innovative machinery of the Armory.

It was fun to think in terms of Virtual Reality.

Peace (make it real),

Slice of Life (Day Five): On the Possibilities of Collaboration

(This is for the Slice of Life challenge, hosted by Two Writing Teachers. We write all through March, every day, about the small moments in the larger perspective … or is that the larger perspective in the smaller moments? You write, too.)

One of my hesitations in jumping into Slice of Life is my participation in something known as Networked Narratives, a ‘course’ being run at Kean University by Mia Zamora and Alan Levine (remotely) which has an open online invitational component, which I am part of. So, this Slice of Life sort of converges with Networked Narratives. That’s a good thing.

My good friend, Wendy, from Australia, has been tinkering with the app Acapella as a way to foster more narrative collaborations with the NetNarr folks, mostly those of us out here in the wide open spaces. The students in the actual course seem a bit more restrained and follow the course’s activity guidelines pretty closely. Out here, we just do what we wanna do. We’re not getting graded, of course.

Anyhoo … Wendy and I have been trying to navigate the potential of the Acapella app, which has strange quirks around collaboration yet has some potential that we find intriguing enough to stay with it. We’ve messaging back and forth, working through the kinks and frustrations.

This is one of our impromptu collaborations.

Next up is an invite to a few more friends (Sandy and Terry) and plan out something a little more creative and focused.

Peace (in collaboration),

PS — this is one acapella mix I made myself long ago, when I first tried out the app.

App Review: StickNodes

A few weeks ago, for the #CLMOOC DigiWriMo Pop Up Make Cycle, the focus was on animation. There are all sorts of apps that allow you to animate now, and StickNodes is one of my favorites (I paid the $1.99 for the Pro version). It’s an update on an old freeware that I used to use with students called Pivot Animator. When we shifted to Macs, I had to move away from Pivot (it is a PC-only freeware) and tried Stykz for a bit.

StickNodes Pro is pretty easy to use, and has a lot of powerful features for animating stick figures. It’s also pretty darn fun to use. You can create and then export your animation as video or gif files, which can be hosted elsewhere.

Here is one of my early experiments: Stickman Walking. (I had uploaded it into Vine, which you can no longer do)


No surprise that there are tutorial videos on YouTube for using the app. Here is the first in a series done by this person.

Give it a try. Or try some other app, and let us know. We’re animating this week!

Peace (in the frame),

The Appeal of (and the Trap of the Likes)


My 11 year old son has really enjoyed making videos with the app this summer. If you don’t know what it that is, is a lip-syncing app, which provides short bursts of song that the user creates an equally short video for. Most people lip-sync the song and share within the community. Tons of kids are using it.

I was going through the videos my son had been making (nearly 100 now), and I was laughing at his sense of humor. His friend was over this weekend, and they made a very interesting one, that was shot entirely in reverse, as his friend catches some inflatable baseballs and items while grooving to a song. A sort of trick-camera thing. I thought it neat, but it might just be a simple tweak of the app. I’m not sure.

(Note: I asked later the boys about it. It was done in the app. So much for hacking the app for creative video editing.)

I also get a little antsy, though, in how my son, entering his middle school years, gets caught up in the number of viewers and likes and all of the suitcase luggage of social media (thumbs up, plus, etc.) on his work (not just here in this app but also in other platforms) that doesn’t really designate anything much in reality. He sees it as “someone is watching what I am making” but I suspect it is an ego thing, too. He wants to be popular, and he sees technology as one of the ways to be “cool.”

We’re already overhearing conversations about “how many views do you have?” and “how many videos have you made?” as if it were all a cold numbers game.

We’re trying to temper that impulse for “likes without context” with discussions at home, as best we can. He’s always enjoyed making movies, and has regularly written and produced videos himself with friends. (In fact, he is finishing up the editing a video that he and this same friend shot over the weekend.)

This app is designed for short videos, and I hope that it doesn’t suck dry the creative fountain for his desire to make longer video productions. I hope, instead, it gives him more ideas that he can use elsewhere.

And sure, he’s having fun with it. That’s important, too.

Peace (in navigating the world),

App Review: Gum

I am intrigued by ways in which social media and technology bridge the gaps between real space and virtual space. So, augmented reality apps are interesting (if still a bit complicated to use). Virtual reality ideas pique my interest. So when I saw someone share out about the app, Gum, I thought I would give it a shot.

Gum is an app that uses the bar codes on products (such as food) as a means to leave comments and texts related to those products. So, for example, if I open up the Gum app and connect it to the bar code of my older son’s favorite food — Ramen Noodles, chicken-flavor — I can leave some thoughts about the noodles. Anyone who uses the Gum app and scans in the bar code of Ramen Noodles (chicken) will now see the comment I left there about alternative uses for Ramen noodles.

And they can leave their own comment, too.

(Try scanning the bar code here of my Ramen Noodle package)

I left a question on the other kid-fave food in our house — Annie’s Mac and Cheese (purple box). Maybe someone will answer it in the future, using the Gum app. I’ll get a message if someone does. (I hope someone does).

(Try scanning the bar code of my Annie’s Mac and Cheese box)

I had thought, initially, that I could maybe upload an image with my text (and even crafted a comic for the noodles), but I guess it is just text connections across social media space with real objects. I’m still interested, and wonder how a network like CLMOOC might tap and hack into this kind of app for some connected project. How might we riff together with a connection to physical space with Gum?

Peace (yum … gum),


Getting Fused: Blending Images and Making Art

I’m enjoying a new app that my friend, Simon, shared with the CLMOOC community. It’s called Fused and it allows you to blend together images (and maybe blending videos on images? I need to explore that but I think Simon did it).

We have a postcard project going in CLMOOC, too, and this week, I received two different postcards on two different days (a total four postcards in three days!). I tried the blending technique with Fused to pull together the pair of postcards on each day, and the result is pretty lovely.

This is from postcards that arrived from Karen and Stephanie

Fused Clmooc postcards

This is from postcards that arrived Scott and Kim

Fused Clmooc postcards

Peace (in the post),

Science Journal App: Tracking the Ups and Downs of Music

Setting up the Music Space

I’ve had Science Journal app on my phone (Android) for some time now, and every so often, I pull it out to play with it. But last night, as my new/old band began to play for the first time in over a year with a PA system and guitar amps (long story short: we lost our singer and bass player and practice space, went acoustic, found new practice space, looking for singer and bass player), I wondered what the sound levels were.

Right before we started our first song of the night in our new practice space — Love Potion Number 9 — I put the Science Journal app into motion, capturing and recording the decibel levels in the room. Yeah, it was loud. Our drummer has been waiting a long time to pound on his skins (as opposed to the electronic drums he has been using). He pounded away.

But it was neat to see the spikes of the song in Science Journal later on. I could see where the solos were, and where the song dipped into the break part, and more. I could see where the decibels clipped maybe a bit too high.

It made me wonder about that 85 db range that we hit. So I tracked down this chart. No wonder our lead guitar player wears special “in ear” plugs. We hit 737 sounds!

Science Journal is part of Google’s Making & Science initiative, which is pretty cool to check out.  You can read more about Science Journal (it even connects to Arduino? Cool) with this article.

Peace (it sounds like),