Saturday, January 26, 2008

Kerpoof! An Online Tool for Elementary and Middle Students

I have found another high quality, web-based, free educational software application. I believe that Kerpoof! ( fits that definition. Kerpoof! is a web-based application that has some capabilities similar to those of KidPix.

With Kerpoof! you can make pictures, stories, and movies. Select a background. Drag clip art onto the scene. Move, rotate, and change the size of the clip art. Even let the clip art automatically change size based on whether you’re positioning it in the front of the scene or farther back.

I read about this product at Steve Dembo’s Digital Passports web site. Steve, a former kindergarten teacher, calls Kerpoof! one of his "new fave’s for lower elementary/early childhood."
Kerpoof! works well in grades K-5, although it would probably be used the most in grades K-3.

M. C. Escher used to help me teach geometry. Well, at least his drawings and woodcuts helped me. I found a lesson plan for introducing his work and the concept of perspective with Kerpoof! For the Escher introduction, the lesson plan begins by sharing some information about Escher and his work. Then you use the multiple perspectives scene as your background and place clip art on it so that three different perspectives are represented. The lesson plan then continues with some other activities. It provides a good hands-on introduction. And it was fun!

At Amy Boehman’s web site I saw a suggestion for creating number sentences with different background scenes or creating patterns using the pictures. It also works well with IEPs.

The Kerpoof! web site provides lesson plans, ideas, and a teacher’s page. Training is available through text instructions, a PDF, and short movies. Students can save, print, or email their products. They can share their projects through the web site and they can email them to other students in a Kerpoof! community. Students can create “chat groups” and then work collaboratively with a member of their group to build a scene together. Scenes can be printed for coloring.

Chris Harris at the School Library Journal calls Kerpoof! “one of the most powerful online resources [he has] seen in quite a while.” Chris adds that Kerpoof! has aspects of Storybook Weaver as well as Kid Pix.

Kerpoof! is both kid- and teacher-friendly. It can be used in a variety of ways to help students learn the curriculum. Kerpoof! is accessed through a browser rather than installed on your computer. And it’s free!

My only complaint is that there aren’t both boy and girl clip art people for each scene. I could place a girl from the Nutcracker Suite scene in my Backpack and then pull her out to use in the Starry Night scene, but her clothing (a nightgown) just didn’t fit!

Kerpoof! is intended to be both fun and educational. Suggested uses for the classroom include studying traditional Japanese culture, the life cycle of a caterpillar, food chains, elementary mathematics, writing starters, reading comprehension, impressionist art, metaphors, and cubism art.

You can sign up for an educator’s electronic newsletter. Do be sure to read the Terms and Conditions for using Kerpoof! so you know the rules for displaying Kerpoof! products.

Kerpoof! is fun, free, and easy to use.


Saturday, January 19, 2008

Library of Congress Photos on Flickr

I read recently on David Warlick’s blog that the Library of Congress has announced a new pilot project. They have posted more than 3,000 photographs on Flickr, the web site designed for sharing photos.

The photos chosen for this project are from two popular collections, the Farm Security Administration/Office of War Information (photos chosen are from 1930s to 1940s) and the George Grantham Bain News Service (photos chosen
are from 1910s). Some photos are in color; some, in black-and-white. The Library has two goals for this project: (1) to create better access to their collections and (2) to learn more about their photos.

They would like people who view the photos to tag them, to comment, and to make notes on the images. That could increase the information known about these photos. You do not need a Flickr account to view the photos; however, you do if you plan to tag or comment on them.

Images were chosen only if no copyright restrictions are known. See the Library’s FAQ page for more information about copyrights and reusing these photos. The photos can be downloaded and printed.

Flickr has created The Commons as a model for other institutions to participate in projects such as this one with the Library of Congress.

These photos are excellent… and fascinating. It’s well worth taking the time to view them!

Read more about this project at these sites:
David Warlick’s Two Cents Worth, Library of Congress Director of Communications Matt Raymond’s blog, the Library of Congress
, and Flickr.

Women are trained to do precise and vital engine installation detail in Douglas Aircraft Company plants, Long Beach, Calif.

1942 Oct. Palmer, Alfred T.,, photographer. 1 transparency: color.
No known copyright restrictions... This photo is public

School children singing, Pie Town, New Mexico
1940 Oct. Lee, Russell,, 1903-, photographer. 1 slide: color.
Rights Info: No known restrictions on publication.
No known copyright restrictions This photo is public

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Xtimeline... A Free Online Timeline Tool

I’ve been looking for a free, online tool to create timelines. So, I’ve been experimenting with Xtimeline. I created a (very) simple timeline (History of Computers) with text, photos, and a YouTube video. You can share the URL for your timeline with others or embed it in your web site. (I embedded mine at a smaller size than the original in order to fit it in the width of my blog, so you have to play with it a bit to see the event descriptions, photos, and video. If I were embedding it on a wiki or other web site, I would use a larger size to make it easier to use.)

The site has a social aspect to it, too. You can view others’ timelines in addition to creating your own. You can also discuss, rate, and comment on timelines. You can collaborate with others to create a timeline together and you can be notified of changes on shared timelines. I haven’t tried that yet.

Xtimeline provides a tour of their application which does a good job of teaching. There also is a help section which answers the basic questions about using Xtimeline.

Xtimeline is a good, basic, easy-to-use application… and it’s free!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Wikis in the Classroom

I am pleased with the results of using wikis in my classroom this past semester for the students’ electronic portfolios. For this next semester I will use wikis for the electronic portfolios and also as a collaborative tool for the students. I have included in this blog entry some wiki resources that I am using and that I think you may find helpful. The first resource is a list of sites that help me learn more about Wikispaces; the second, ideas for classroom uses of wikis; and the third, examples of some excellent classroom wikis.

Learning More About Wikispaces
If you’re planning to try Wikispaces… or if you’re currently using it and want to know more about what it can do… check out this list of resources.

TeachersFirst Wiki Walk-Through (what wikis are, how and why to use them, uses Wikispaces as the example)

Wikispaces video tutorials (quick way to get started)

Wikispaces tutorial (instructions for getting started with Wikispaces, click on Help after logging in)

Wikispaces main help page (easy-to-understand)

Wikispaces help sub-categories (easy-to-understand)

Wikispaces blog (news about wikispaces with how-to’s)

How to Use Wikispaces PowerPoint presentation / audio podcast (good instructions for beginning to use Wikispaces)

Keep track of maintenance happenings and service problems (current status, to check or to report)

Ideas for Classroom Uses of Wikis
Are you looking for ideas of how to use wikis in your classroom? Check out the suggestions in these lists.

Here’s some of the suggested uses I found at these sites.

from TeachersFirst Wiki Walk-Through
book reviews
collaborative project with other students… another district, state, country
course hub
explanations of challenging procedures
field site observations
field trip summary
lab reports
problems the class is working to solve
research projects (instead of a PowerPoint)
student project products
student-created FAQs
study guides created by student groups
vocabulary lists
local history

from WikEd Wiki in a K-12 classroom
collaborative textbooks
literature circles
organization tool
science fair project preparations
student portfolios
teacher collaboration

from The Science of Spectroscopy
data collection
group authoring
peer review of projects
presentations (rather than PowerPoint)
tracking group projects
web sites

Examples of Excellent Classroom Wikis
Would you like to see some outstanding educational wikis? Be sure to visit the best educational wiki 2007 finalists for the 2007 Edublog Awards.

GoAPES wiki for Advanced Placement Environmental Science teachers
Horizon Project 2007 a “collaborative global project between classrooms in diverse geographical locations”
Mr. Lee’s Math 12 Advanced Class an “outcomes portfolio”
Salute to Seuss student pages about Dr. Seuss’s books
Welker’s Wikinomics a “collaborative tool for understanding concepts in Advanced Placement Economics”