The BuddyPoke avatars

I sometimes need to use avatars when I create tutorials for my students. The one I prefer is the lady from the Tellagami app because she looks quite professional and even though you can’t customize her entirely for free any longer, you can still work on her quite well.
But a couple of days ago I remembered BuddyPoke, an app which I had never used and so almost forgotten.

BuddyPoke allows you to create really cute avatars and customize them, you can then use them with pictures or in videos. You can even make videos with two avatars.

I used it to create the guide to the visit of the epic citadel which I illustrated in my previous post and after that I kept on exploring it and found out that I can use it to make activities far more engaging than they actually are.
Here are some examples

Students can make up dialogues using two avatars

or they can create a presentation about any topic

–or they can make a collage of pictures and then incorporate a video using PicPlayPost – I think I have already said how much I like appsmashing 🙂

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A visit to the Epic Citadel

It is incredible how many things you can learn day by day through social networks. Twitter and Facebook above all are kind of mines of information and are essential for a teacher’s professional development.

And it is incredible how many lessons, videos, tutorials you can create while comfortably sitting on your sofa and using a tablet.

Just yesterday I learnt about Epic Citadel. According to Wikipedia it is “ a tech demo developed by Epic Games for iOS to show off the Unreal Engine 3 running on iOS devices”, which was also released for Android.

epic citadel

pic from itunes.apple.com

I have no idea what Unreal Engine 3 is but I read on Twitter that Epic Citadel can be used also in education. I had no idea either of how to do it but felt curious and so I downloaded the free app and started the tour of the citadel. It is really amazing! It is just a setting with no story, nor people in it but how wonderful to use it for asking students to fill it with stories!

Sometimes students complain about not having ideas when they are asked to write and always need some prompts. So I thought of creating the prompts using Epic Citadel. I needed also kind of guide for them and I remembered Buddy Poke, an app which I had installed some time ago but never used so far with which you can create avatars. The avatar would become the guide I needed!

collage made with Halftone2

collage made with Halftone2

I made this short video for my students in few minutes and I am going to use to ask them to write a story and create characters, setting, atmosphere and so on.

The video is thought for my younger students but I think that, with some changes, it could be adapted also for the older ones.

A teacher at a gig

A couple of days ago I went to a gig. It was James Blunt’s Live Concert in Piazzola sul Brenta, a small but nice village not far from Padua, in North-East Italy.

I am not a big fan of James Blunt but the ticket was a gift which I accepted gratefully and the location was surprisingly charming. The gig took place in the big garden in front of Villa Contarini, a magnificent mansion which stands in a picturesque place.

                                    

villa

I appreciated the concert very much: the night was warm, the people were full of joy and enthusiasm and James Blunt was nice and involving.  

 

 

stage

Anyway, since I can’t help being a teacher, while listening to Bonfire Heart I started thinking of creating a lesson around it. And here is what came out.

Bonfire Heart

 

 

 

First try with Appsmashing

I don’t like textbooks very much, I must admit it.

And the moments I like them the least is when they present some passages about topics which seem to come out from nowhere and with words or references to topics that students cannot possibly know. So I have to invent some activities that  have to motivate students to read and have therefore to be engaging, but that have also to give them the knowledge they need to fully understand the text.

A couple of days ago I stumbled upon a Twitter hashtag which  led me to learn about appsmashing – #appsmash –  and since I was trying to find out a way to introduce a passage about Scotland, I used it at once.

Appsmashing is the combination of more apps in order to obtain a single product.

I thought it was the right solution for my problems and so I started using it on my iPad.

As I said, the passage we will read is about some aspects of Scotland. It mentions haggis, porridge and tartan without explaining what they exactly are and I am sure my students don’t know any of them.

scotland

 

So I thought of preparing a video for the students to use in a flipped classroom activity.

First I prepared a word cloud, using the first app of the process: Word Clouds

word cloudThen I used Google and Google Earth for images and next I started thinking about how to organize the video. I didn’t want just a video. I wanted a special one 🙂

I therefore used Tellagami in order to create a speaking avatar on a green background. The avatar had the task to explain the difficult terms. Next I used iMovie in order to create a video with all the images I had previously downloaded. Finally I used DoInk Green Screen to edit the video and put the avatar in the right background.

apps

 

 

And here is the result!  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-_94mjKfJM

 

I know, I know, it is not perfect but I think it will be helpful anyway. And what’s more I think of the incredible potentialities of appsmashing above all when I ask the students to create their own presentations or videos! Can’t wait to see them!

 

Verdun, World War 1 and SpeedTwinning…

From 11 to 13 April I attended the Multilateral Seminar eTwinning about History and Remembrance of the First World War.

Image

 

It took place in Verdun, a location which is also a symbol and which reminded me of the area where I come from: same connections to the Great War with the trenches, the tunnels and above all the victims. The small museum we visited in the Butte of Vauquoise is quite similar to the small museum which we can visit in San Martino del Carso and both are held by volunteers.

The Museum at San Martino del Carso and the Museum at the Butte de Vauquoise

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The aim of the seminar was to allow eTwinners to meet partners and set up a new project about the war. The method the organizers chose to make all this happen was quite peculiar: SpeedTwinning. Basically you had five minutes to contact a potential partner, illustrate your idea of a project, listen to their suggestions and then it was time to change partner and so on. I met 6 partners and came up with 6 ideas for a project. Since three of them were quite similar to what I had in mind, I decided that those three eTwinners would be my partners in a new project.

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We have planned some activities so to be ready to start next September. The title is Let’s Twin our War Memories and it has already been approved by our Agencies.

The seminar was mainly meant for new eTwinners. As a matter of fact some of the colleagues I met there had just registered on the platform so most of the meetings were about how to register, tips about how to create a successful project, how to use the TwinSpace and so on.

An interesting presentation was illustrated by Elizabeth Sauser-Monnig, from the French NSS while a French teacher, Solène Faupin very nicely explained what to do and what not to do during a project, if you want it to be successful.

 

Image,,,

 

While I was looking at all the participants coping with all the tools of the TwinSpace and making a bit of confusion about the site and the TwinSpace, I was thinking of how eTwinning has developed in these almost ten years. I think I am lucky because I joined the platform at the very beginning, when eTwinning was “only” a site where you could contact colleagues from other European countries and there was just a forum and four chat rooms! Since I have been present throughout its whole development, it has never been difficult for me to feel confident in the site and to understand its changes. But for newbies it must not be that easy to wander among teachers’ rooms, groups, learning events and whatever eTwinning offers, all at one time.

I must say anyway that as usual when eTwinning is concerned, the enthusiasm of the participants makes it easy to overcome all difficulties.

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In the end, after visiting Verdun, tasting delicious French food, taking part in lectures about the three different moments in the writing of the war history – the political, the social and the cultural – and the way the memories of the war are dealt with in France and Germany, meeting new colleagues and starting a new project I can say that, despite some difficulties with the initial organization of the journey, I came back home once more enriched and revitalized by this new eTwinning experience.

 

 

About the Future Classroom

I am attending the Future Classroom Scenario Course at http://www.europeanschoolnetacademy.eu/
and have found it really involving and challenging so far. There are a lot of questions which are real food for thought and can help to think deeply about our role as teachers in a world that is so constantly and rapidly changing.

I have finished Module 1 in which the focus was on how the future classroom looks like. The first question however is about the way we teach. Why should we change it? Why should we use technology?
Of course it is not just fashion or interest in new tools. Actually it is because our students need to develop those skills which are essential in the world they will have to live in. Deirdre Butler says it clearly: if our students won’t be able to teach themselves and to adapt to new situations, they won’t have so many possibilities. This aspect came to my mind this morning when I did an activity with my 16-year-olds starting from this video
The main aim was practising the second conditional and I actually chose it because I was sure it would arise their curiosity. As I expected, when they heard the questions, they started laughing because they found them so absurd. So I asked them why they thought such questions were asked during a job interview. They said the video was just for fun but admitted they wouldn’t be able to answer. So I started talking about creativity and problem solving and 21st century skills and tried to make them understand that even when you are asked a strange question, you must find a proper answer, above all during a job interview. I don’t know if they got the point, but anyway they offered to answer the questions and did it quite seriously 🙂

I think it is essential to change the way we teach and learn in schools even though technology can sometimes mean distraction for some students. That’s when our job starts getting important, and difficult I daresay.

As for the future classroom, well I attended a two-day workshop in Brussel last year and I was absolutely fascinated by the way every piece of furniture and of technology is arranged to make the students feel at ease and involved in the activities. During a webinar Arjana Blazic told us how she was able to create a future classroom at her school in Zagreb. I think that, in order to get this, we need first creative and innovative teachers who can come up with the idea and who are eager to experiment and try new ways; we need also a bit of luck because of course such an arrangement is quite expensive and so we should be lucky enough to find partners who believe in the experience and are ready to help, we need magic, which in my case should be the support of our headmaster who is not supportive at all, on the contrary he tries to stop and discourage any change at school.

In the meantime I can see what I can do to change my super traditional classrooms with some beautiful posters I have got.

a classroom

An activity to celebrate Halloween

I attended the Mini Conference for eTwinning Ambassadors a couple of weeks ago and as usual came back home with my suitcase full not of souvenirs from beautiful Catania – definetely no time for shopping just a bit of sightseeing – but full of new ideas.

I have used a part of what I learned there to create an activity to celebrate Halloween with my students.

My aim was to make them improve their reading skills but also to make them have fun while doing it.

That’s when a workshop I attended in Catania and a Learning Event I took part in a month ago came to help.

What if I create a treasure hunt for my students, what if I ask them to look for a precise word, what if they have to use that word to reach a destination, what if at their destination they find something fun to create?

And I did it.

I decided to create a webquest about Halloween using http://www.history.com/topics/halloween as a reference site.

The students had to read carefully in order to find out some words whose definitions I had prepared for them.

After finding the right words, they had to choose some letters from the words i.e. Name of ancient festival from which Halloween originated (take the 3rd letter)

Putting all the letters together, they had the word monster, which I thought could be appropriate enough.

Then I created a padlet and, thanks to bit.ly could also create a proper link to it bit.ly/HLmonster. What the students had to do was find out the word, add it to part of the url bit.ly/HL … and then go.

Once they reached the padlet, they found their final task: create a video about Halloween using Animoto.

 

padlet halloween

They enjoyed the activity which they didn’t find too difficult, even though they spent some time to find out the fruit which is used in a popular Halloween game!

I really must thank Bart Verswijvel  for his inspirational work and his stimulating ideas.