Friday, June 12, 2015

Quick and Easy Green-screening for School News

Have you ever wondered how they do all those neat effects in the movies or how they do the weather broadcasts on your favorite news show?  Its called green-screening, and it is a whole lot of fun and really easy to do.  Yes I said easy to do.

Recently a school in the district that I work for asked me about kicking their news show up a notch by doing something with green-screening and they did not know where to start.  

So, where do you really start?  I have worked with many schools to help them add green screening into their news shows and there is a different process to go through for each school( that is another blog post coming soon ).  So here is the good and the bad of what I have found for this school.

I have researched many different methods of green-screening and have found one that I like more than others for the school that wants to just get started and needs something that is really quick and easy to get started with that has a small learning curve.

The Good:
I like Green Screen by Do Ink, which is an iPad app, it is very easy to use and setups in seconds.  From launching the app to recording your first video takes less than a minute as long as you have your environment set.  But why listen to me ramble on here about Do Ink when you can hear about it from them.  

Since Do Ink is an iPad app, you will have to make sure that all of your resources are loaded onto iPad ahead of time.  Then it is just a quick three steps and you are off to the races with your green screen video. Once you have recorded your video you can save it to the camera roll and that's it, that's all.

  • Step 1: Click the Plus Sign to create a new project
  • Step 2: Add your background image/video and/or live video
  • Step 3: Click the Record button

Well, there is something else you will need and that is the Green background.  So what do you do?  Do you have to buy an expensive green screen in order to do this.  That answer is no.  All you need is something that is green, or blue, either will work with this app.  Now I have been working in schools for over 12 years and every time I am in one there is always a bulletin board with a paper background on it.  Yep, I said it.  You can use that same craft paper that you use for your bulletin boards.  

The Bad:
With all of the good things that Do Ink has going for it, the only thing I found that could be considered as bad is the $2.99 price tag for the app itself.  Hey and if that is the only thing, I could really just leave it out of the blog post.

All in all it is a great app that is very easy to use and for both teachers and students in the classroom.  It offers up some wonderful opportunities to extend learning both in and outside of the classroom for students, at least the ones I have worked with, because they are excited to use the the app and to create something with it.  Oh and the possibilities are limitless for what they can do with it.  Give it a try and see for yourself how Green Screen by Do Ink can make learning fun in your classroom.

Video provided by Do Ink via Vimeo/Youtube
Image provided by Evan Herreid in association w/MeadowlarkES

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Adjust your Reading Habits with Google Search Tools

Recently I was working with a group of fourth grade teachers on North Carolina Lighthouses and the comment came up from one of the teachers.  "Doing a Google search is difficult for some of our students because they are not able to understand some of what they are reading.  I wish there was an easier way for them to research material that is more aligned to how they read."  I let them know that Google has a built in feature that would allow them to filter their search results by reading level.  The looks I received from the group were more along the lines of how Mr. Spock raised and inquisitive eyebrow to Captain Kirk.  Of course the next thing I knew we were hip deep going step by step through the process of figuring out what to do.  I had not seen a group of teachers this engaged in a while and with a tool that I thought everyone knew about.  Boy was I wrong.  

If you have not used the Google Reading Level filter here is a quick three step tutorial on how to get things setup and working.

  • Enter your Search material into the Google Search box.
  • Click on the Search tools button after Google displays your search results.
  • Click on the All results drop down menu and select Reading level

The search results will then be reorganized according to the reading level and displayed by Google in a table similar to the one below.  Google identifies the reading levels as Basic, Intermediate and Advanced.

One additional option with the table above is that it is functional, so you could click on Intermediate and it will reorder your search results one step further.

I have to say that I had a great time working with this group of teachers and they were very appreciative of the information that I had shared with and showed them how to use in a classroom setting with students.  Most told me later that they used the Google Reading level filter on their next research topic with their students.  

It seems, to me, to be a tool that does not get enough credit for what it could do for students.  So give it a try, and see for yourself, the next time you are working with students on a research topic to see if things make more sense.