Friday, March 23, 2012

Green Screening Made Easy

OK, so most of you know from reading my blogs or if you have met me know that I am not a Mac person.  I am the farthest thing from being one it seems with the educational company that I keep.  But I have to say that over the past few months I have been working on some small video projects especially with Green Screens and have been having a lot of problems with it on my PC.  So a few weeks ago when I was at my State technology conference I sat in on a workshop entitled Green Screen Cafe which has made me think it could be time to switch over to another platform for video editing.

The presenters were from an area school system that have adopted the Mac platform for creating and designing some really unique projects using Green and Split Screening tools in the classroom.  From what they discussed the students really liked the projects and have enjoyed doing them all year.  Two of the presenters were from an Elementary School and the third was from a High School.

They started out the presentation saying that it does not take very much to start green screening video work.  Three things are needed to get started.  A Green Screen, video camera and iMovie (Apple product, but you know that) and that is all you need to get going they said.  They did offer up some suggestions for low cost alternatives for green screen and video cameras. 

Green Screen Alternatives:
  • green bed sheet
  • green curtains
  • paint a wall green
Video Camera
  • flip cameras
  • cell phone cameras
  • document cameras
So I started thinking to myself in this room of mac users, I am totally in over my head until they started to show us how to create a quick green screen movie with iMovie.  I was amazed at how fast they did it, just minutes and we had a completed product.  They started out by telling us that there is one setting that has to done in order for things to work correctly.  In iMovie you have to change the General, Preferences list and put a Check in the box for Show Advanced Tools - Green Screen.  This allows the Green Screen options to show in the iMovie options when editing video.

So they started out by telling us that we need to pull in the background image first, that will show through the green screen.  Then overlay the video, with the green screen back drop, on top of that image.  Make any necessary edit to the clips and there you go.  An instant green screen video in under five minutes.  Now they did say that the videos that you will be using need to be in .mov format but that is easy if you are pulling from another video source.  Just use Zamzar or any other of your favorite file conversion sites to convert the video into this format.  And you can get background images and/or video using a Creative Commons search if you do not have your own images.

With all the pains I have gone through with the PC side of creating green screen videos, I might now have to go out and take a look at iMove and maybe possibly purchasing a Mac product for myself to use.

So what are some ways that you can use this in education?  How about these:
  • Planets/space
  • create virtual tours of foreign lands
  • lighthouses
  • county-wide read-a-longs
  • historical skits
  • Christmas around the world
  • meet your teacher
  • election videos
  • candidate interviews

Thursday, March 15, 2012

A New Twist on Google Maps

While at our state technology conference last week I sat in on a session discussing new ways that you can use/apply Google maps across the curriculum.  I thought it was interesting and was not sure what to expect but I wanted to see if there was something new going on that I did not already know.

I already knew that I could go into Google Maps and get directions and could both get a web link and embed a map into another website using the code.  But I had not gone through the process of creating my very own personalized map.  I thought it was very interesting and fun to be able to create my own map with the places I wanted to see in it.  I worked along with the presenter and created a map of vacation locations that I have been in the past number of years.  As I was doing this I started thinking of the many different ways that this could be applied to the classroom at all levels.  Now there is a catch in this and that is you have to have a Google Account setup ahead of time so that you can log into and create your map.  I setup a generic account and was able to follow along with the presenter and was caught up in a manner of minutes.

When you log into Google, click on the Maps button in the browser toolbar.  This takes you to the familiar maps screen where you can zoom in to a location and all the way down to the Street View, which I talked about in a previous blog.  First click on My Places then Click the Red Create Map button and enter in a Title for this map and a brief description of what the map will be showing.  In the map pane you can zoom into the area of the map you will be using and then utilize the Add Placemark and Draw Line option buttons to create the points on the map that are of interest.  

Select the Placemark button and choose a spot on the map and click, you will now have a box that allows you to enter in a title and description of the selected location.  You can add in as much information as you want including links and images if needed.  Once you have added in your points of interest you can then use the Line Tool and draw lines from a starting location to the final destination.  After you have placed all of your markers and created a pathway between all the points, just save the the map you have created.  

You can also choose the Collaborate button to grant others the ability to add to and take away the location points on your map.  When you have completed all of the edits of your map, click the done button and you have your very own self-created map.

Now that your personalized map is created you have the choice to make it either Public, for anyone to see, or Unlisted, in which you will share the map with only those you want to see it. You can then click the Link button and either copy the URL address to send out or you can Embed the map code into a website, wiki, or blog to share.  Another point to know is that when you are in the customize area there is an Interactive Tutorial that takes you through the whole process of setting up a map from start to finish.
So now that you have learned how to create a customized map in Google Maps what do you do with it now?  How can it help you in the classroom?  Here are a few suggestions on how to use them in your classrooms. (adapted from presentation)

  • Natural disasters: earthquakes, hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanoes
  • Famous scientists
  • Museums
  • Endangered species
  • Habitats/biomes
  • Plotting field trips (virtual/in person)

Social Studies:
  • Civilizations
  • Tribes
  • Military battles/movements
  • Explorers
  • Exploration maps
  • Exploring my city/hometown
  • States and Capitals
  • Civil Rights
  • Innovators
  • Underground Railroad
  • Alaskan Iditarod 

  • Famous Writers
  • Literature Trips
  • Ghost Stories
  • Haunted locations
  • Flat Stanley Novels

This is just a sampling of what you can use the Customizable Google Maps in your classroom.  You may have other thoughts of ways to use it and that is great, please share additional information in the comments area of this blog. 

images from Google Maps using Promethean Image Capture Tool

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tweeting to Disaster

I, to make a bad joke, ran across this article this morning about the upcoming 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic.  The History Press has launched a new Twitter account to chronicle the days leading up to and including the faithful night that the UN-Sinkable ship sank in the waters of the North Atlantic.

You can follow the timeline through the hashtag #TitanicVoyage (@titanicrealtime), and even from some of the people that were a part of the launch like #crew, #engineering, #captain to hear their thought and accounts of the events that led up to that now infamous night of April 15, 1912. Currently the timeline was setup on March 10, 2012 to begin the chronicling of the events.  There are just a few tweets out there now from the captain, crew, engineering and officer but as the time gets closer to the launch date we should start seeing the timeline fill up.  Currently there are almost 13k followers of the site.

This could be a great lesson starter for you Social Studies classes where the students can follow along with the feed as things are happening to see what it would have been like if Twitter was around during that time for people to be able to send out updates as they were happening.  We find it so often now with other natural disasters that we are getting updates from Tweets faster than we can get news crews into areas.  It will be very interesting to see how things unfold through tweets over the next month.  Maybe to see if there will be tweets coming from what would be passengers as well as the crew for their thoughts on what will, or rather has happened.

** Update **
I just got some new information that I needed to add to this post.  The information that is being Tweeted out is, and will be coming directly from the ships log books.