Back in December, I shared ways of curating content to use in the classroom.  This time around, the focus will be on the creation of content.   So what’s the difference between curating and creating?  simply put, a curator collects content that has already been created and a creator makes things from scratch.

With so much content available on the web, app stores, online book sites, and repository resource sites, it makes sense to curate content and sift through all the resources. But there are times that it makes sense to create something unique whether it be images, video, or infographics.  I’ll share several different tools and resources that you can use to create.

Creating content has its advantages.  As opposed to curating, which requires you to obtain permission from author/creator to use content; as a creator,  you have the rights to use the content.  You call the shots!  Creating resources for your own classroom is empowering.  If you’re worried about making mistakes, that’s okay. Delete and start over.  Creating can be messy but it is rewarding.  With that said, here are some tools/resources you can use to create your own content.


Finding images and graphics can get time consuming and expensive.  Especially if you use paid services such as Adobe Stock, iStockphoto, and Shutterstock.  While those repositories are great, you may be limited with licensing and usage rights of certain images.  Creating your own images makes perfect sense.  You don’t have to be a professional photographer or graphic artist to create your own photographic content.  The following apps and/or websites can help you create just the right content for your classroom needs.

Canva (iOS)

Canva is a web-based and iOS app tool that enables you to design with the click of the mouse or the tap of the screen.  This tool provides an array of layouts you can use if you are having trouble being inspired, making it a great way to start.  Start a new design by choosing a format.  Let’s create a presentation cover sheet for a parent meeting.  For this example, I’ll be using the iPad app version.

As you can see, Canva does offer an easy way to create content using your own images.  The next time you’re in need of an image or graphic, try Canva.

Adobe Spark Post (iOS)

Call me the Adobe Spark app homer!  That’s okay because honestly, it’s such a great app.  I have over 15 years experience using Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator to create graphics and manipulate photos.  When Adobe Spark came into the picture, it has made my life a lot easier.  Such a simple app packs a wallop!  Whether you use the app on an iOS device or the web app on any laptop/pc, it will become one of those tools in your teaching belt that will probably be used a lot.

Similar to Canva, Spark Post gives you options to choose from.  They call it Categories and Featured.  Choose to use one of those and then you can Remix it.  Basically what this means is you customize it to fit your needs.  You can also choose to start from scratch, but if you are reticent about design, I recommend using the remix options.  Here’s a quick step-by-step.  In this example, I’ll create a field trip announcement.

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Creating videos can be a daunting task, but it’s easier now with current technology, specifically mobile devices.  The following are a sampling of what’s currently available for free.  Who doesn’t like free?  Please note, some require you to create accounts in order to use the apps.

Adobe Spark Video (iOS & Android)

First I need to make a confession.  I am a huge Adobe Spark apps fanatic!  Spark Video all is well designed and simple to navigate.  You really cannot go wrong creating videos.  What separates Spark Video from other apps is the story guides.  These story guides walk you through the process from start to finish.  Watch this video for a walkthrough.

Here is the final product: 

Whether you already have the videos on your device or catching footage on the spot, use Spark Video to put all the clips together.

Adobe Premiere Clip (iOS & Android)

Premiere Clip is probably the most robust of the video apps on my list.  Their tagline is “Small-screen video editing. Big-screen results.” It can be intimidating, but Adobe has built it with novice users in mind.  Check out my short tutorial.

As you can see from the tutorial, it is really not as hard as you may have thought.  Give Adobe Clip a try, I think you’ll like it!  In case you are wondering, here is the video I created during the tutorial.

Quik (iOS & Android)

This is a new one that I just happened to download because of my GoPro.  I have to say this app is almost too easy to use.  It is Quik! Don’t let the name fool you.  With a simple but elegant interface, you can create videos with cinematic qualities in less time than it would take to microwave a frozen dinner!

Check out this short tutorial on how to create a video using Quik.

Finished product.

As you can see, the Quik app is simple to use and packs a punch!  Creating the video took me about 5 minutes to create.  Grant it, I already had the content for the video, but with practice, you should be able to create them in a short time too.

VeeScope (iOS)

Last September, I wrote a blog series on infusing creativity in the classroom.  Using green screen technology is a great way to create your own video content.  Try using it with your students to create news broadcast, storytelling, and other video projects.


Curating content can be easier to do because someone else has taken the time to create material.  By contrast, creating content may take more time but I find that you have control of every aspect of the images, graphics, and videos you will create.  You also have oversight of how to relate the content to your instruction, lessons, and ultimately to your students.  In addition, creating content grants you rights to the graphics and media you create.



Sitting in my hotel room after spending the first day learning about technology tools.  I’m attending TCEA conference in Austin, Texas and look forward to learning more the rest of the week.  There are so many concurrent sessions that I will not be able to attend all of them.  Fortunately, I have been able to receive links through the connections I have made via my PLN on social media sites, specifically Twitter.   These connections help me gain access to much more learning that I otherwise would not have had.  

Synergy is defined as the interaction of elements that when combined produce a total effect that is greater than the sum of the individual elements, contributions.  If this definition holds true, then our connecting with each other can produce much more if we each go at it alone.  So how can we create synergistic relationships?  Here are several ways to connect and learn from one another.


There are days when finding inspiration is challenging.  You have ideas or topics percolating in your head but would like to know if it can spark change or prompt some discussion among colleagues.  More often than not, there are others that are on your same wavelength.  I’ve found there are many educators, technologists, and bloggers that have similar passions as I do to lean on and bounce off ideas.  I turn to my fellow contemporaries in the field of instructional/educational technology for inspiration.

Here are some bloggers that I’ve connected with that inspire me to make a difference in education.  There are much more out there, find those that help inspire you.

Blog/Site Twitter Blogger(s)
Focus 2 Achieve @focus2achieve Oskar Cymerman started Focus 2 Achieve to provide iclassroom tools that empower teachers and help students achieve more success.
MyBad @JonHarper70bd Jon Harper is currently the assistant principal at Sandy Hill Elementary School in Cambridge, Maryland. He host a podcast series called MyBad on BamRadioNetwork.
ImaginED @imaginEDnow This blog is designed to support and enable imagination-focused teaching in all contexts, from formal to alternative learning contexts, and from primary school through post-secondary education.  It is about education that inspires.
EdCamp Global @EdChangeGlobal The 24 Hour online global event is coming February 28th-March 1st 2017. The sessions and challenges will run for 24 hours to accommodate any schedule across the globe.
Shake Up Learning @ShakeUpLearning Kasey Bell is a digital learning consultant, speaker, and blogger with a passion for technology and learning.
EdTech After Dark @EdTechAfterDark Created and moderated by Alex Stubenport, Zac Leonard, and Dan Koch, this blog and site is rich in EdTech talk and ideas. There’s a weekly chat every Monday night @ 10PM EST.
Alice Keeler @alicekeeler Alice Keeler is someone you should follow if you are involved with Google Apps.   She’s usually the first person I look for when I have a question about Google.
Calliope Global @ProfeEdTech


Jennifer Williams and Fran Siracusa are two more educators that strive to inspire others to drive change in education.   


I found a great source of inspiration from my PLN (Professional or Personalized Learning Network).  A PLN uses social media (Twitter, Periscope, etc.) and technology (smart phones, computers, etc.) to collect, collaborate, communicate and create with colleagues.  Connect with inspiring people at any place and at any time.  In the past six months, my PLN has grown close to 1,500 on Twitter.  I chose Twitter as my conduit for connecting with others worldwide.  Through Twitter chats I am able to learn from others as well as share my ideas on how to improve education.  At times, my fellow educators will share a post that either supports or builds upon what’s simmering in my mind.   My PLN is definitely one of my go to places for inspiration.  If you haven’t connected, setup your own PLN or not sure how , here’s a quick how to:

  • Start a Twitter account and connect with other educators..
  • Build a circle of connected educators on Google+.
  • Follow education blogs (read and comment).
  • Follow education chats that are specific to your content area.
  • Join and participate in education groups on other social sites.
  • Accept invitations to collaborate.

After connecting, spend some time a day interacting and collaborating.  How much time depends on each individual’s preference.  Try spending 20 minutes a day connecting with others to start.  If you participate in chats, those usually last an hour.  Participating in three chats a week means three hours a week.  Start slow and build from there.  Good luck building your PLN!


So what’s my premise here?  By making connections with others we improve our chances of learning much more than we would have alone.   The next time you’re at a conference or workshop, take the time to meet others.  You’ll increase the pool of knowledge synergistically.



It’s been a while since my last blog.  A little too long! With a little creative license, I’ll quote the Terminator, “I’m back!”  Rest assured I’m not here to take over the world or to save humanity from impending destruction from Skynet!  Ok, a little too dramatic.  Sometimes you just need a little imagination to jump start. LOL!  I think I’ll stick to helping save the world one design, image, and/or lesson at a time.

Several weeks back I participated in a Twitter chat hosted by my good friends  @Edtechafterdark.  The topic was curation.  There were some very intriguing questions that prompted me at the time to share my thoughts on curating resources.  I had done some work on curating content for iTunes U courses in a previous district.  I believe the same process can be applied to curating content for Google Classroom, Nearpod, Schoology, or any online coursework.


What is Curation?  Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary defines it as to curate something.  To collect, select and present information or items such as pictures, video, music, etc. for people to use or enjoy, using your professional or expert knowledge.  Ever visit a museum?  Chances are you might have been approached by a curator.  Historically, a curator was known as the keeper or custodian of all artifacts and art pieces kept in museums.  So think of yourself as being a curator of digital content!  A digital curator!



Finding content is just that…sifting through lots of dirt until you discover what you need.  If you are new to this or have not done much resource digging, hopefully, the following can be a good starting point.  I’ll share resources to help curate content (videos, images, and audio) for your classroom.

Before delving into anything, a little thing about fair use and copyright.  I won’t take long here because that would require a whole other blog, thesis, dissertation, you get the idea.  I think many of us feel “that if I found it on the web, it’s fair game”.  So what is fair game?  Can I use that video in my presentation? Can I use that music clip with my students?  According to the Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia, educators who create educational multimedia projects containing original and copyrighted materials may use those projects for face-to-face instruction, real-time online instruction, student self-study, and others options.  The guidelines do require that you credit all resources used in any multimedia project.

Don’t let this discourage you from locating resources to use in the classroom.  Just be cognizant of what you are using and why.  Education World’s Copyright Series, The Educator’s Guide to Copyright and Fair Use is a great resource for understanding the nuisances of copyright and fair use in the classroom.  

Now that that’s done let’s curate some resources.


Unless you have the equipment, know-how, and money to create videos, your best bet is to find a video already made.  That’s not a bad thing!  If someone else has done it and shared it freely or you have paid for it, then why go to the trouble to make it.  Here’s a list of places you can use to locate videos.

YouTube Ok, nod your head or raise your hand if you have used YouTube at least once.  I’m going to guess that 90% of you reading have used YouTube to learn how to repair a bike, build a table, fix a printer, or in my case bake a cake.  YouTube is a great resource for instructional content, with a caveat that there is a ton of commercial content too.  
Safari Montage Safari Montage provides K-12 school districts with video services ranging from video streaming to online repository of digital content.  Safari Montage provides users to educational videos from publishers like PBS, The History Channel, Schlessinger Media, Scholastic and much  more.  Unlike YouTube, Safari Montage is a paid service district subscribe to which gives all teachers full access to digital content.  

An added feature that’s very useful for education is the ability to search using state standards.  Here in my local state, we have Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) so I can search Safari Montage for specific standards.  So you can search for items based on a keyword or by a standard.

Discovery Education  Dicovery Education is similar to Safari Montage in that it’s a subscription based service.  Much of Dicovery Education’s content (video) is developed and created by Discovery Education.  Searching for content in DE is easy to do.

DE also features the ability to search using state standards.  Again, use whichever method works for you and makes your job easier.

I’m sure there are other video resources out there, but I took the most common ones I’ve used in the last four districts that I have worked at.  


While many of us can create images with various apps and hardware, sometimes we don’t have the time to sit down and start from scratch.  Searching for and curating  images is a great option.  If you are inclined to pay for images, there are image foundries such as Adobe Stock, iStockphoto, and Shutterstock where you can pay per image or subscribe.  Fortunately, there are many places to find royalty-free images at no cost.  Here are a few for you perusal.

Creative Commons Search What is Creative Commons? It’s a non-profit organization devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share.  Search Creative Commons is a search portal of various search service providers such as Flickr, Pixabay, and Europeana.  However, always verify rights usage before using any image.  
Google Images With Google search engine having 72% of the market share of search, you’re sure to find and image.  However, be aware that Google will display all results (copyrighted and uncopyrighted).  To narrow your results for free use images after entering a keyword, click on the word Tools.  A submenu will appear under the search box.  Click on Usage Rights and scroll through the various options.  You will see five option; select Labeled for Reuse.  The resulted images are free to use in the classroom.  Just be sure to give credit to the creator if that information is available.
Pic 4 Learning Pics 4 Learning is probably the easiest straight forward image repository of the bunch.  The homepage has images already curated by categories such as animals, countries, food, and education.  Type in a keyword and browse results.  Images are copyright-friendly for teacher and students to use in projects for the classroom.


For many of us, using audio such as music, sounds, or voice in our lessons is a way of enhancing the content.  If you want to use songs from your favorite bands in your classroom projects, become very familiar with the intricacies of Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia.  If you can’t find yourself to read it in its entirety, don’t worry there are other options available. Options that are free to use.  Here are a few.

Jamendo Sounds like a Star Wars character to me…but it’s not.  Jamendo is an online platform for independent musicians to share their music with other musicians and to the world.  Fortunately, as educators, we are not out here selling our lessons but rather creating instruction for our students.  Jamendo songs are free for non-commercial use.  Search a song by genre and download it.  Be sure to give credit to the artist as mentioned before.  If you decide to sell lessons that include the song then you will have to pay a licensing fee.
Lit 2 Go Lit2Go is a pretty neat site! In a nutshell, many famous literature pieces, poems, etc. have audio recordings available to download.  For example, here are 12 Days of Christmas.  So if you are looking for a clip of Shakespeare or Abraham Lincoln’s The Gettysburg Address, Lit2Go is your go to place.  
SoundBible Do you have students creating videos?  Are you in need of some sound effects for lessons?  SoundBible is a great place to find them.  A big plus is that they are free to use.  Here’s a quote on the website, “Because Free is way cooler than Fee. That one letter “r” makes a world of difference.”  Who doesn’t like free?  Simply enter a keyword and your results are there.  Download them and incorporate them into a lesson or video.  Need burp sounds, text message sounds, or an April rainstorm?  You’ve come to the right place.

There are many more websites where you find content to curate.  I found these as some of the easier ones to use.  If you know of any other places to locate resources, please add them to this list: Curating Content Resource List.


Now that you have resources, what’s next?  Organize, Organize, Organize! Cannot stress the importance of organization.  One of the key pieces of curating is keeping track of everything you find.   Easier said than done.  I think what keeps most of us from locating an item we found at a specific time, is remembering where it’s been stored or filed away.  For me, I use what is most convenient at the time. For example, I’ll use Google Shortener to save links I’ve used.  It does the job! But when I look back through the history of shortened URLs, it becomes a time-summing task trying to figure out the title and content of each one.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a huge proponent of using URL shorteners.  Use them all the time to share links with colleagues.  But in order to curate content for the classroom or project, there needs to be a way of cataloging all the resources in one easy place to find.  

Curated List

So what does a curated list look like?  Here’s one I use to organize any content (videos, images, audio, web links, etc.) found on the web.  Check out the screenshot below.  It’s a method to my madness or madness to my method. 😉


Every resource I locate, I’ll keep the title, URL link, name of owner/creator, and a description of it so that I can easily credit and find it in one place.  Seems like a lot of work, but you do it once and you have it whenever you need.  Click here for a copy of the Curating Content List.


There are so many resources available online to use in for your classroom.  Curating them can be a daunting task.  Once you do have them you want to be sure and save them somewhere to use at a later date.  Whether you use your own system or try mine out for curating, it’s important to organize them.  Trust me…it will make your life easier.  Until next time, happy curating!


“Copyrights and Copying Wrongs.” Education World: Copyrights and Copying Wrongs. N.p., n.d. Web. 05 Dec. 2016.

Fair Use Guidelines for Educational Multimedia. Washington, DC: U.S. G.P.O., 1996. Web. 5 Dec. 2016.

Traditional, . (0). The Twelve Days of Christmas. Counting and Math Rhymes (Lit2Go Edition). Retrieved December 07, 2016, from



In my last blog, Creativity in the Classroom Series – Part 2, the focus was on using creative storytelling as a way to build creativity in the classroom.  The feedback was awesome!  Many shared their enthusiasm for storytelling in the classroom.  There is a beauty and art to storytelling that I find fascinating!  It definitely has a place in the classroom!

In this last blog of the series, I’ll explore on building creativity in the classroom using graphic arts.  Specifically using digital art tools and apps to enhance learning.


Before we delve into graphic arts or digital arts.  I think it’s important to have a bit of understanding what it is.  Grant it, what I’m about to share cannot replace years of schooling and hours working on certifications or degrees.  This review is just a sampling of copious literature and research behind graphic design.

Graphic design is everywhere! It’s a form of communication or language.  We all come across it every day whether we are looking for it or not.  The next time you drive up to Starbucks, take a moment and look at the menu.  Everything looks appealing and inviting, especially that pumpkin spice latte during the fall season. Here are several experts in the field describing the power of messaging with graphic design.


Let me be frank and say that I still use paper to draw, sketch, diagram, and illustrate.  Can I get a witness?  However, I am not opposed to using digital tools to create digital/graphic art.  It just depends on what’s near me at the time, which happens to be my mobile device.  Many mobile devices now have accessories you can buy (if inclined) to mimic what you do on paper.

Here are my top choices for apps and tools to aid in your search for creating digital art on the go.


Adobe Draw (iOS & Android)

Using Adobe Draw is fairly easy to use.  Here is a link to a how-to page for your reference.  Adobe Draw gives you the option to import a picture either through your photo album or by taking a photo.   Add a layer and begin creating.

screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-10-34-39-pm screen-shot-2016-10-24-at-10-34-53-pm

After you’re done creating artwork, share the image via social media, Google Drive, or text.

Classroom Tip: Students can use Adobe Draw to create self-portraits using a selfie taken with the mobile device.

Bamboo Paper (iOS & Android)

Bamboo Paper markets this app as turning your mobile device into a paper notebook.  When you launch the app you get a home screen where you can create a folder to house your creative artwork as well as use it as a note-taking tool.  If you’ve ventured into Sketchnoting, give this app a try.

Bamboo Paper comes with six tools for sketching & inking.  In addition, you can choose the type of paper.  This makes your artwork much more realistic as if it were drawn on actual paper.  Pretty amazing!


The only feature I wish it had is the ability to add layers, but even without that, it is a great app!

Classroom Tip: Students can use Bamboo Paper to diagram science experiments, sketch ideas, or illustrate scenery for a story.

Paper by FiftyThree (iOS only)

Their website says when you need to put it on paper fast, Paper is ready.  It is that, fast!  The elegance of less is more!  Whether you like to sketchnote or like to draw/illustrate, Paper is for you.  As soon as you launch the app you have the option to take notes, capture an image, or begin drawing.  Paper’s interface is straightforward and simple to use.  After choosing one of three options at the prompt (text, capture, or draw), there’s not much to it.  I suggest doodling to get used to the tools.


Classroom Tip: Students can use Paper by FiftyThree to sketch animals.  Use it to draw/annotate over pictures taken on mobile device.



Adonit has been creating styluses for mobile devices for about six years.  Most styluses you have come accustomed to seeing are the fat-tip free ones given away at workshops or conferences.  Adonit produces fine-tip styluses, which makes for better accuracy.  The models do vary from Bluetooth and non-Bluetooth styluses.  I have used the Adonit Pro for some time and can attest to its accuracy.  I’ve tested a Bluetooth model and it too has good accuracy.  Depending on the drawing app used, you can take advantage of the pressure sensitivity features found on the styluses. 


Apple Pencil

I’m going to be completely honest.  At first, I wasn’t too excited about the Apple Pencil until a colleague of mine let me try it out.  This was my first drawing.



Let’s just say I was blown away!  Granted you need an iPad Pro so if you do have one and are inclined to digital artwork, I highly recommend one.  This would be my number one choice if you have a compatible device.


There’s something to be said about creating graphic art on paper.  But, with so many new digital tools at your disposal it makes sense to use them to your advantage. Creating digital art has become mobile and dynamic.  No longer confined to a desk (which is not a bad thing for many) but you can sketch and draw anywhere and anytime.  Creating digital art is now much easier and convenient.

My suggestion is to give each one a try to find the one that best suits yours and your students needs. Hope you enjoyed this series.


Adobe Draw

Bamboo Paper

Paper by FiftyThree

Adonit Stylus

Apple Pencil


For many years, school districts across the country have focused much energy, time, and money on getting the top scores in standardized testing.  Anecdotally, in my experience and in talking with other teachers, this emphasis on state tests has stifled creativity and innovation.  When it’s all said and done, we have graduated and promoted students that are great test-takers.  While at the same time having granted diplomas to individuals who cannot problem-solve; are not creative thinkers, and lack an innovate drive.  However, I believe a shift is happening in education.  With advocates such as STEAMEdu, iSchool Initiative, EdCampGlobal, and AdobeEdEx, stakeholders in school districts are understanding the importance creativity has in the classroom.  


Creativity is not thought of as a skill.  I think it is safe to say the many see creativity relegated to the arts, theater, and music.  However, creativity is more than placing color on a canvas.  Sir Ken Robinson defines creativity the process of having original ideas that have value.  

The process of getting the ideas and sometimes having them evolve to something new.  That process of working through the ideas and finding solutions are what employers around the globe are looking for in their candidates.  In a study by The Economist Intelligence Unit found that creativity ranked in the top 5 most critical skills needed for employees.  By the year 2020, creativity will be a top 3 skill in demand among professionals according to World Economic Forum.   


Workers will need to be more creative to tackle technology changes that are for sure to come.  That is why it is imperative to include creativity in the academic curriculum.


Emphasizing creativity in the classroom is something I am passionate about.  In the blog series, Creativity in the Classroom, the goal is to share methods and/or ideas to use and promote creativity in classroom instruction.  Last week, I shared ideas for creating videos in the  classroom using green screen effect.  In this part, we will explore the different ways of creative storytelling.

We all have our favorite stories.  Bedtime stories, folklore, fables, science fiction, you name it.   Take a moment and think about your favorite stories.

  • What draws you to them?
  • What are the most compelling videos or stories you’ve read or seen?
  • What attributes made these videos/stories compelling?


I venture to say that for most of you, your favorite stories made an emotional connection with you.  The stories either tugged at your heart, made you upset, or made you laugh.  These reactions are the results of using compelling attributes in stories.  Want to learn to tell great stories?  Here are 5 tips to for creative storytelling.  

  1. Character obstacles – make sure there’s an obstacle or challenge in the way of your character.
  2. Story – subjective expectations meet objective reality
  3. Normal, Explosion, new normal – set the scene, change, new scene
  4. Story delay – drag out the story; what will happen to our hero
  5. Exaggerate – make the story dramatic

The list is not intended as a step-by-step process but to think of them as different approaches or styles to writing the stories.  Whichever one you choose it is sure to draw your reader/viewer in.

When thinking of drawing the viewer into the story, Andrew Stanton comes to mind.  If you never heard of him, he’s the producer, screenwriter, and director of Academy Award for Animated Feature Finding Nemo and WALL-E.  Not too shabby.  The video is 18 minutes long but well worth the time.  He tells of the telling the story from the end to the beginning.  Here is his TED Talk on the clues to a great story (contains graphic language).

He does a great job explaining storytelling while telling a story.  Genius!


Now that I have shared with you several tips or approaches to creative storytelling.  What kinds of tools are available to use to create stories?  Here I will share several apps I found useful in creating stories.  I am an iOS user, but when available I will point out when apps are cross-platform.

Adobe Spark Video (iOS only)

Get started creating compelling stories using Adobe’s Spark Video.  The great benefit of using Spark Video are the built-in features.  As mentioned in the previous section, creative storytelling draws the reader and viewer into your story.  You want to make them want to read.  Make your audience want to see the end.  Fortunately, Spark Video begins with a series a templates to choose from to help get your story made.  Here is my interpretation of an old fairy tale I made using Spark Video:

Adobe Clip (iOS & Android)

Adobe Clip is a free app that lets you create and edit right on your device.  Unlike iMovie, in my opinion Adobe Clip is quicker and easier to use.  Customize your story by using your own images and videos already on your device.  You also have the option of letting Adobe Clip so the work for you.  Here’s a brief explanation of how it works.   Begin by choosing your videos and photos from your photos library and then choose music/soundtrack.  You can the adjust pacing and rearrange clip order. Finally, before exporting and sharing, you can use a freeform editor.  Using freeform editor is not necessary unless you want to further customize.  Although there are no templates as in Adobe Spark Video, you pretty much have control over the type of story you want to tell.  Check out this link for further details on using Adobe Clip Automatic feature.

Here a sample video I created w/ Adobe Clip.

Adobe Spark Page (iOS only)

If video creation is not your forte, try out Adobe Spark Page.  Spark Page provides stunning layouts that allows you combine photos, videos, and text into vivid motion displays.  Not graphically inclined, not to worry.  Create stories using magazine-style themes.   What I like about Spark Page is that you can focus on developing your story instead of the design side.

Here are a few stories that were created using Spark Page.  Notice the varying styles of storytelling.  Some are more image heavy while others combine the use of text and photos.  Use these as inspiration to create your own!

Here to Here: An ode to California

Life is a journey in Bohemia

Michael Ray Nott: Street Photography


Hopefully, I’ve made a case for the need to bring creativity back into the classroom.  Creative storytelling provides an avenue for learners to share life experiences, ideas, and narratives.  With tools like Adobe Spark Page, Adobe Spark Video, and Adobe Clip making, putting those stories together will be less time consuming and more rewarding.


How to Tell a Great Story

Top 10 Tips for Storytelling

“Download Whitepaper – EIU Perspectives – The Economist.” 2016. 29 Sep. 2016

“The 10 skills you need to thrive in the Fourth Industrial …” 2016. 28 Sep. 2016 


Several weeks back I concluded my first blog series, Design Tips for Presentations.  I received some great feedback from all of you out there.  Much appreciated!  For the past several months I’ve been participating in a great #chat hosted by the great team @EdTechAfterDark.  I credit their #edtechafterdark chat with resurrecting my blog.   I have a passion for sharing ideas on how to better improve instruction through the use of technology in the classroom.  Like it or not, the 21st century is here and it is imperative to prepare students with skills such as #creativity, #criticalthinking, #problemsolving, and #collaboration.   This week, I begin a new series focusing on creativity.  Welcome to Creativity in the Classroom!  Each week we will explore ways to help promote creativity.


Confession time.  I am a huge movie fan; sci-fi, fantasy, action, thrillers, etc.!  Do I have any Star Wars aficionados here?  For many years, special effects were limited to practical effects (prosthetic makeup, animatronics, puppetry, or creature suits). 

atatpractical-865x505 falcon

Many of these fantastic worlds were created with practical effects.  Over time, special effects have improved so much that filmmakers can now create vast universes and settings in studio rooms.  One effect used in many movies is commonly referred to as green screen effect.  Fortunately, green screen effects are not limited to Hollywood blockbusters.  There are many educational applications for using green screen effect.


Before diving into some educational uses, a little background info on the effect.  Chroma keying, which we call green screen effect, is a special effects / post-production technique for compositing (layering) two images or video streams together based on color hues.

screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-11-29-26-pm screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-11-29-36-pm
screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-11-33-42-pm screen-shot-2016-09-19-at-11-33-33-pm

The technique has been used heavily in many fields to remove a background from the subject of a photo or video, particularly the motion picture, newscasting, and video game industries. A color range in the top layer is made transparent, revealing another image behind. The chroma keying technique is commonly used in video production and post-production. This technique is also referred to as color keying, color-separation overlay(CSO), or by various terms for specific color-related variants such as green screen, and blue screen – chroma keying can be done with backgrounds of any color that are uniform and distinct, but green and blue backgrounds are more commonly used because they differ most distinctly in hue from most human skin colors. No part of the subject being filmed or photographed may duplicate a color used in the background.

Don’t worry, you won’t need high-salaried actors or a $150,000,000 budget.  Using an iPad, solid color (preferably green or blue) and Veescope Live; you can create videos like the one below:

There are many apps out there.  But having tried out several, Veescope Live seems to be the best one I have found.  With that said, the potential for creative projects is ENDLESS!  Have your students create video blogs or breaking news for the classroom.  Take a snapshot of student artwork and have your students discuss it as they stand superimposed over their piece.  Again, your imagination knows no bounds.  Check out these creative classroom ideas for green screen:

  • Documentaries
  • Fiction Stories
  • Historical court cases
  • Character trait “interviews”
  • Video blogging
  • Text-based evidence responses
  • Scientific Method/Experiments
  • Math thinking explanations
  • Math student-created story problems
  • Biology/Dissection
  • Art Critique
  • Music videos

What You’ll Need

Here are some things you will need to gather to prepare to film.

  • iPad (fully charged)
  • Green/blue butcher paper
  • VeeScope Live (free)
  • Props (more on that later)
  • Talent (your students)
  • Script or teleprompter (cue cards)
  • Lighting (well-lit room)
  • Storyboard

Once you have gathered whatever you need, consider the following tips for effective use of green screen.  While we are not creating Academy Award films in the classroom (you never know), it is always good to practice proper techniques.  Do you have to adhere to these tips? By all means no. Use them as guidelines.

Camera Angles

So you have an actor and a green screen and an iPad. For some reason, one’s natural instinct is to set up the shot with the actor facing directly towards the camera and the green screen directly behind. This gives a very flat extremely fake look. Every part of the filmmaking process matters, both on green screen and off green screen. In a shoot that is on location, an artist would storyboard or block out the camera positions and get the best angles to tell the story. That is also true with green screen shoots. Take the time to storyboard your scenes and shots, as if a green screen was not even there. Choose the best angle during your storyboard. Try to stay away from the talent directly facing the camera unless that is the best way to tell the story. If it’s not, let’s leave that for the TV weatherperson.


Another way to point out that a segment was shot on green screen is inconsistent lighting. The point of shooting on a green screen is to create a sense that you are in another place or environment.  One way we do that is through lighting. True, the green screen should be lit flat and properly exposed, but the talent is a part of the environment you’re creating, and that environment has its own light source.

Props and Sets

There is no rule that states the entire CG environment must be artificial. Only green screen what you have to green screen. Use as many practical elements as you can. Give you actor things to play with and interact with. The more real objects you have in front of you, the less you have to fake and make look real later.

Plan, Plan, Plan

When shooting green screen, you want to be prepared. Know how to key properly. Know your camera angles. Storyboard them so that everyone on the team knows what you’re going for. Let the cinematographer know where the light source is coming from in each shot. Plan these scenarios. If everything is planned, you can shoot all the angles with the light source at position A consecutively. Then you can shoot all of position B and so on. But if you don’t plan, you may find yourself going back and forth for no reason.

Plan what the background is going to be before you even shoot. If possible, render these backgrounds out, or even a rough draft will help. Show this to the actors so they know where they are. Plan where their lines are going to be. Plan everything. And keep thorough notes on each shot. You can never be too prepared when shooting on a green screen.

Shooting green screen is supposed to be an advantage. When done correctly, you can create really powerful images. Just know it is used to help advance the story, just like any other tool in filmmaking. With these 5 steps, choosing the right camera angles, appropriate lighting, using props and sets, using motivated blocking, and careful planning; you can dramatically advance the story you are telling with the use of a green screen. Go for it!


If your venture into student-created movie projects takes off, you may want to look at investing in some equipment to help improve the quality of student work.  Understanding that there may be budget constraints, look at finding possible funding from organizations like Kickstarter, GoFundMe, and Donors Choose.

Here is a list of equipment you may find useful while trying your hand at using green screen effect.


Makey Makey Yoda

For this week’s blog I thought I would dig back into my archive of stuff and share this how-to write up.  About a year ago I was introduced into Makey Makey.  If you’re not familiar with it, here’s a video.

Playing with Makey Makey can cause you to venture into many rabbit holes.  But in a good way!  There are so many things you can do with Makey Makey.  You can make a banana piano, a control joystick, and a dance floor.  I had seen a tutorial on site on how to make an operation game.  

Using Scratch programming language, I set out to make my own version of the operation game, but with a galactic twist. I give you the Makey Makey Yoda Operation game!  Let me share with you the steps I took to make it.


On a scale of 1 to 5,  I would give this project a 3.  Building the board and pieces is time-consuming.  Took me about two to three weeks (off and on) cutting, gluing, taping, etc.  Be ready for that!  I’ve included photos to help explain the steps.  Note, I did use an X-Acto blade, some adult supervision may be required if you have minors creating this project.  Working with Scratch can take some time to fine tune the script.  But there are plenty of tutorials for help.

SALE (1)

Making this operation game takes a lot of parts.  Fortunately, many things are free because they can be laying around your office or home.  The recycle bin is a great place to look!  I did end up buying some supplies; probably spent $5 total.

  • Laptop/computer (download Scratch software or use online Scratch)
  • Chopsticks
  • Electrical wire/telephone wire
  • Cardboard box (cereal box, laptop box, iPad box)
  • Cardboard (spare)
  • Markers or acrylic paint
  • Wire stripper
  • Sharpee pen
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • X-Acto knife
  • Aluminum foil
  • Glue stick
  • Clear Scotch tape
  • Hardening clay, PlayDoh, oe Sugru (pricey)
  • Hot glue gun

SALE (3)

As mentioned above, I used Scratch to work with my custom Yoda Operation board and the MaKey MaKey.  I built my Scratch project to detect a key press via the MaKeyMaKey.  The script will trigger audio and visual cues when you fail to remove organs safely from the “body cavities.”  Variables can be setup in Scratch to track the Yoda’s “Jedi powers” and remove a point for every time the player touches the sides while trying to remove pieces of Yoda, (midichlorians).  Yes, I am a Star Wars nerd!

Here is the link to my file so you can use it. Yoda Scratch Project File

SALE (5)

The Box:
One of the first pieces you will need to build is the operation box.  A cereal box will work.  But I found that a sturdier box, like a laptop box or an iPad box holds up better over time.


The Artwork:
You can be creative and design your own artwork.  This can be part an art project for classrooms.  For time sakes, I found an image of Yoda that I wanted to use and printed it.

When you print or draw your artwork, you will need to glue it on the box. Use a pencil to gently outline where you are going to cut holes in the character. It is difficult to cut holes in your nicely painted box but you need the holes to play the game! Use the X-Acto knife to carefully cut out the holes.  (Adult supervision recommended for young ones).


Measure the interior of the cardboard box in the previous step. Carefully use the scissors or X-Acto knife to cut a piece of cardboard just slightly smaller than the width and depth of the box. This will serve as the motherboard to which you connect the MaKey MaKey. Place the motherboard inside the box and hold it so it is flush with the top of the box. Trace the holes onto the cardboard piece (motherboard).


Motherboard Circuits:
Cutout 3/8″ strips of aluminum foil. These strips will be the leads to which you attach the alligator clips. Use tape to secure the leads from the edge of the motherboard to the traced holes. Be sure none of aluminum foil strips touch one another if you plan to map to multiple keys on the MaKey MaKey.  Leave the areas in the circle uncovered.


Next, cut out circles of aluminum foil that are roughly the size of the holes from the box that you traced. Use glue stick to tape aluminum foil circles to the motherboard; make sure the circle is in contact with the foil.

Now, measure strips of cardboard to the number of holes in your box.  The strips of cardboard need to be equal in width so the motherboard sits flat against the inside top of the box. Bend the cardboard into the shape of the hole you traced on the motherboard.


Cut strips of aluminum foil to cover the cardboard pieces. Use a glue stick to glue aluminum foil to these cardboard strips. Use tape or a hot glue gun and hot glue to attach the “body cavities” to your motherboard.


Insert the motherboard with the body cavities into the box. You will need to cut slots for the alligator clips.  Mark off enough space and use an X-Acto knife to cut the openings.





Chopsticks Tweezers:
Using a pair of chopsticks, you will create a set of tweezers used to retrieve that game pieces from the body cavities.  Roll up the packaging paper in which the chopsticks are packaged and place the roll between the chopsticks to create a pivot. Use a rubber band to secure the chopsticks with the paper between them.

Next, using a pair of wire strippers, strip the plastic sheathing from both ends of your wire. Wind the wire around the chopsticks, starting at the base of chopstick all the way up near the pivot area. Twist the exposed ends at the top (this is where the Earth/ground alligator clip will be placed).


Use pieces of aluminum foil for each end to secure the wire and to create a larger conductive surface at the end of your chopstick.


Game Time:
Now lit’s time to play the game! First, attach the black alligator clips to the twisted wires at end of tweezers. Attach the alligator clips to the aluminum foil leads on the motherboard. Attach all the other ends of the alligator clips to corresponding keys on the MaKey MaKey board. Make sure your Scratch project uses the same key to trigger the audio and visual feedback.

Plug the MaKey MaKey into your computer’s USB port.

Open your MaKey MaKey Scratch Operation project and press Start.  Can you remove the Yoda’s Jedi powers without closing the circuit and subtracting points?! Do or do not, there is no try! Have fun!


Yoda © Lucasfilm Ltd.

Gould, Grant. Yoda. 2008. DeviantArt. DeviantArt. Web. 22 June 2015.

Scratch – Imagine, Program, Share – MIT.” 2007. 6 Sep. 2016