BP9_RILS Comment and Link

Trudi’s Comic Craze

Want to engage your students with a fun, visually stunning program that promotes critical thinking and creativity? Then read on!

Trudi Perkins has created a fun and engaging lesson for her eighth grade English students using Bitstrips for Schools (http://www.bitstripsforschools.com/) to creatively demonstrate their understanding of specific literary elements. Watch Trudi’s Educator Studio project video and you will immediately see a classroom full of excited and engaged learners, and students putting Bitstrips for Schools into action as they create their own projects. Trudi has done an excellent job of providing clear, concise lesson directions for anyone interested in implementing her plan.

Click here to learn more about Trudi’s “Comic Craze” lesson plan and watch her Educator Studio project video.

Click hereto read my comment on Trudi’s blog, Trudi Perkins’ Conscious Comments.

BONUS LINK! Click here to watch Trudi’s iMovie about the Space Shuttle Endeavor‘s trip through Los Angeles. Awesome images!


Tamara Streams, U-Stream, We All Can Stream!

Create Your Own Live Online Broadcast. It’s Free and Easy!

Thank you, Tamara, for introducing us to USTREAM (http://www.ustream.tv/new), a free resource that allows users to create live broadcasts and stream them online. Tamara shows us how this awesome tool is used with students to communicate in a live, mobile setting, which is something that should interest all educators as we move into an era of mobile learning, flipped classrooms, and global collaborations. USTREAM includes a chat feature that allows viewers to communicate in real time with the broadcaster, creating an interactive platform with tremendous potential.

Click here to learn more about Tamara’s “BE LIVE! ANYTIME, ANYWHERE!” lesson plan and watch her Educator Studio project video.

Click here to read my comments on Tamara’s blog, OH…TECHNOLOGY. HOW I LOVE THEE!



BP8_RILS Reflection

What A Great Experience!

The implementation of the Student Blues Radio project went incredibly well! My students responded with great enthusiasm when introduced to VoiceThread, Spreaker, and the collaborative nature of the assignments.

It was rewarding to see my students working together to complete their blues unit activities, using the VoiceThread program to access videos and leave comments related to their experiences. It was clear from the video comments that my students had learned the material and could explain what they learned, in depth, through reflections, songwriting projects, and their Spreaker radio broadcasts. The excitement in my classroom during this unit was infectious!

Student Experiences

When asked to discuss their experiences regarding VoiceThread, Spreaker, and the related activities such as the blues songwriting project, my students overwhelmingly agreed that they preferred to work on their own, collaborating with their friends and having control of their learning. They enjoyed being able to work at their own pace, and having the ability to review information on the VoiceThread videos at any point throughout the unit. The quality of their work was a clear indicator that they truly enjoyed this learning environment.

What Worked Well

The VoiceThread video tutorials served as informative, effective resources that kept ALL of my students on-task and completely engaged. There was enough differentiation between the visual content, study guide activities, songwriting, and reporting to interest everyone and ensure success. Creating the videos took a little time, but was well worth the investment.

I made the right decision to control the Spreaker program while my students recorded their broadcasts. There is some inappropriate content on Spreaker that I did not want my students to access, but it was easily avoided by creating an account for the class before the activity began. This still allowed us to fully experience Spreaker’s features and put students in control of the mixing console and the media content throughout the broadcast.

I was so glad that I created a WordPress site for my students at the beginning of the school year. This provided my students and me with a single destination for class information where project information could be accessed, documents could be downloaded, and student work could be showcased. It was very easy for all of my students to open our site and access the blues unit content in class and away from school.

What Needs To Be Tweaked

Good planning is essential to successful implementation. I did a good job of preparing the videos for the VoiceThread and including visual cues for students that helped them complete their study guides. The next time I implement this project (and I absolutely expect to do this again) I will make sure I have all of the videos and study guide materials completed and uploaded before the unit begins. All related content and materials must be in place and available to students and parents on day 1. unexpected interruptions always occur, interfering with planning and assessment time. To avoid expected and unforeseen disruptions, make sure media is uploaded and working properly, study guides and project information are created and accessible for downloading and handing out in class, and a schedule is developed and maintained. There were moments throughout the project where I feared that we would not be able to access the content on VoiceThread or Spreaker because they are Flash programs that will not open on iPads. The VoiceThread app had to be downloaded from the Apple App Store to the iPads before we could use them. Fortunately, we have iMacs and PC laptops available so we really didn’t have any delays.

I realized at the time of our Spreaker recording sessions that most of my students did not know how to be radio DJs. I had to make an example broadcast on the spot to provide an example of how to talk on the microphone with expressiveness, dynamics, and articulation. The example was helpful and my students did a fine job with their first radio experiences.

The lesson to this story is always have a model ready for your students. It will help them understand exactly what you expect and how they should do it. Students are very good at putting their own personalities and styles into their work once they understand procedures and expectations. I look forward to hearing from other educators who decide to try VoiceThread and Spreaker. I hope they enjoy it as much as my students and I do.

BP7_RILS Project

Click on the image to view my project video on YouTube.

Title: Student Blues Radio: A Student-Produced Series on the Blues

Brief Overview: Students will use Voicethread to research, discuss, and collaborate with their peers while learning about blues music and history, then create a series of original online blues radio broadcasts using Spreaker.com.

Target Audience: middle school students, grades 7 and 8


  • Computers: desktops, laptops, iPads or other tablets
  • USB microphone or built-in computer microphone
  • Internet access
  • Voicethread account (Voicethread.com)
  • Spreaker teacher account (www.spreaker.com)
  • Music, loops, and sound effects from the Spreaker royalty-free library, other royalty-free recordings, or live/recorded performances of original blues student compositions
  • Video and content on blues history and blues musicians
    Recommended Sources: PBS Documentary The Blues (http://www.pbs.org/theblues/index.html), related videos on YouTube, Gaggle, School Tube, or Teacher Tube
  • Paper

Objectives: At the end of this scenario the learner will be able to:

  • Discuss the origins of the blues, identifying significant historical events from Delta blues to the Great Migration to Chicago blues
  • Analyze early Delta blues recordings, describing specific blues artists and discussing specific musical elements
  • Analyze Chicago blues recordings, describing specific blues artists and discussing specific musical elements
  • Compare Delta blues and Chicago blues, identifying specific similarities and differences
  • Compare blues music with other musical styles, identifying specific similarities and differences
  • Demonstrate an understanding of Voicethread by successfully viewing content and leaving comments
  • Demonstrate an understanding of Spreaker by successfully presenting and recording their own radio show


  • Create a Spreaker account (www.spreaker.com) and a Voicethread account (voicethread.com).
  • Create the first page of the blues project Voicethread by uploading a video or text document instructing students to discuss what they currently know about the blues. This may serve as a pre-assessment and serve as a baseline for student understanding.
  • Create the remaining pages of the blues project Voicethread (your choice of page numbers) with embedded blues video, links to related blues history websites, and teacher-generated content (video and/or text) explaining directions.
  • Create a blues project worksheet for students to complete as they view Voicethread content.
  • Establish student collaboration groups (learning communities).
  • Provide students with the Voicethread URL and have them view the content in sequential order, adding their comments where instructed. Voicethread assignment may be completed in class and at home.
  • Discuss blues worksheets and Voicethread comments in class. Assess for student understanding.
  • Introduce Spreaker to students and discuss the radio show activity.
  • Assign each student group a specific topic from the blues project and have them prepare a five-minute broadcast on the information. Students should be encouraged to be as creative as possible in developing their broadcasts. They may want to interview famous blues legends, reenact historical events, or sing exemplary blues songs.
  • Record student radio shows in class.
  • Have students leave comments on the final Voicethread page reflecting on their project experiences and evaluating radio show recordings made by their peers.

Emerging Technology: Voicethread is a free, web-based conversation and collaboration tool that allows users to leave video, audio, and text comments around a media window.


Spreaker is a free, Internet radio tool for live broadcasting and podcast recording.



Social Participation: Students will work in learning groups/communities while researching information on Voicethread.com. They will also collaborate on their radio broadcast projects and share their radio show recordings online for their peers to evaluate.

Making Connections:

Previous Knowledge: Students will already be familiar with researching musical styles, analyzing music recordings and performances, and using web-based technology to collaborate.

Relevance: Students will benefit form collaboration with their peers and by discovering historical connections to popular music. They will also benefit from learning and utilizing new technology.

Audience: Students will share their radio broadcasts online for peer critiques.

Creation: Students will create original Internet radio show broadcasts using Spreaker.com. Students will create content on Voicethread in the form of written and audio/video recorded comments.


The students will be able to:
• Discuss the origins of the blues, identifying significant historical events from Delta blues to the Great Migration to Chicago blues
• Analyze early Delta blues recordings, describing specific blues artists and discussing specific musical elements
• Analyze Chicago blues recordings, describing specific blues artists and discussing specific musical elements
• Compare Delta blues and Chicago blues, identifying specific similarities and differences
• Compare blues music with other musical styles, identifying specific similarities and differences
• Demonstrate an understanding of Voicethread by successfully viewing content and leaving comments
• Demonstrate an understanding of Spreaker by successfully presenting and recording their own radio show

Assessment will include peer evaluation of written and recorded work, teacher evaluation of VocieThread posts and Spreaker radio broadcasts, and assessment of original blues songs written and performed in class.

Reflection: Students will create written and video-recorded reflections on Voicethread.

Teacher will reflect on student success based on Voicethread comments and the quality of the radio show recordings. Improvements may be made in the sequence and/or amount of material presented on Voicethread, and in the radio show duration.


The Finished Product

Click here or on the image below to see low budget green screen effects in action. This independent gem stars my dog Dooley. Due to budget restrictions and time limitations, a finger or two managed to appear in the frame with my dog. I prefer to look at it as a great example of how quickly and easily the green screen effect can be achieved under tremendous pressure and with limited resources.

Click the image to view my video on YouTube


The iMovie videos on Lynda.com provided me with new information and inspired me creatively. I had no trouble accessing and implementing the new features I learned about on Lynda.com. In fact, I was impressed with how easily a green screen effect can be incorporated into iMovie projects with only a couple of sheets of green copy paper. I can’t wait to paint a wall or but an inexpensive green sheet to hang in my classroom. Thank you Lunda.com! Thank you, too, iMovie!


Now We’re Having Fun!

Dooley posing in front of the miniature green screen

My wife and I had some fun filming our dog Dooley in front of a miniature green screen. Our daughter donated a few sheets of green copy paper to the production, my wife help the sheets behind Dooley, and cinema magic was created. I’m playing around with the movie trailer themes, which seemed suitable for this project.

Unfortunately, I don’t have a lot of time tonight to create a video with the beat mapping feature. I’m focusing on the green screen because it just seems like fun. I expect to use the beat mapping feature, or snapping clips to the beat, as soon as possible.

My sample iMovie video featuring the green screen effect is almost ready to post. Check back soon to view the masterpiece!

Green screen project clips in iMovie editor


I Wasn’t Always an iMovie User

Before I made the move from PC to Mac several years ago, I was using Sony’s Vegas program for all of my video editing projects. Vegas was powerful and easy to use and produced unique, professional results. I had become very familiar with the inner workings of the program, editing and producing videos in record time. But after years of frustration over blue critical error messages, frozen screens, and sluggish performance, I said goodbye to Windows and bought a MacBook Pro. I have never looked back.

Sadly, Sony software titles are not available for Mac. I installed VMware Fusion on my new MacBook Pro, which allowed to install and run a full version of the Windows Vista operating system and Sony Vegas. This seemed like a brilliant solution to the one and only issue I had with my new Mac, but it just wasn’t the same Vegas. The Sony program was running on only a small amount of Mac system memory and resources that had been allocated to Windows. Clearly, the small amount of resources wasn’t enough to run Vegas efficiently. It was time to embrace iMovie.

iMovie has served me quite well, and I have made the most of its many editing features. But I knew that there was much more to learn about the program. I did consider researching another program on Lynda.com for this assignment. But learning everything I could about iMovie right now made perfect sense because I will continue using iMovie with my students and for upcoming EMDT projects.

Green Screen and Snapping to the Beat

I am so happy that I have been introduced to Lynda.com. What a terrific resource! I have already discovered new features and more effective ways of using iMovie thanks to Garrick Chow and his informative video tutorials.

My Top Five Favorite New iMovie Features

  1. Green Screen
  2. Beat Mapping
  3. Audio Editing
  4. Advanced Clip Organizing
  5. Background Audio Pinning

Green screen in iMovie

The information in the Lynda.com videos has given me so many creative ideas for using iMovie in my classroom. The green screen option will be useful in our news media group and with the many collaborative projects my students create. I can already sense the increased level of engagement!

The beat mapping feature is something I never knew existed in iMovie. Garrick Chow mentioned that anyone can tap-in the beat markers using the “m” key on the keyboard as long as they have a decent sense of rhythm. Our student music videos will reach new heights with this great feature.

Beat mapping in iMovie

Audio editing will be so much easier and faster now that I know about the audio waveform bars that appear under the video clips and in all audio clips. Pinning the background audio track makes more sense to me now and I have a much better understanding of how to incorporate it into projects.

Organizing clips by keywords as favorites never entered into my editing work before watching the tutorials. I was amazed by the level of efficiency afforded by utilizing these features. I had always ignored the stars and key icons on the iMovie toolbar, assuming they just weren’t important enough for me to explore. I knew there was more to learn in iMovie, but honestly had no idea how much I would enjoy learning about it.

My next steps are to complete the video tutorials and create a sample project of my own that includes some of the new features. I’m anxious to begin creating!

BP6 RILS VoiceThread

So Far, So Good

I have successfully created a VoiceThread for my RILS project that I cannot wait to implement! The most difficult thing about using VoiceThread for me has been keeping my project goals realistic and within reach. I had my free account created in a matter of seconds, then spent several hours creating my own video content which I uploaded to three different windows. Most users will not have to spend this much time creating a VoiceThread, but I have a specific vision in mind for this project and really want to test the limits of the program.

For my RILS project, my students will be working in their student learning communities (small groups of 4 or 5 students) to explore the content in this Blues Unit VoiceThread. The VoiceThread link will be posted on my music class website, along with additional content and resources for the unit.

Unfortunately, WordPress does not support “object” embed code, so you will have to either click here or on the image below to visit my Blues Unit VoiceThread. Feel free to create a free account and leave a comment!

Click on the image to visit my Blues Unit VoiceThread

BP5 RILS VoiceThread

VoiceThread is Fantastic!

Screen shot of VoiceThread tutorial

VoiceThread (voicethread.com) is an incredibly powerful tool for communication and collaboration. It’s free, easy to use, and allows multiple users to actively participate in ongoing conversations through video, audio, or text comments. The VoiceThread currently offers its mobile app only for Apple devices, but the app will work on iPhones, iPads, and iPods with full functionality. The browse page includes hundreds of public Voicethreads for new users to explore, including several helpful how-to videos. Within minutes, literally, users can create an account and produce their own VoiceThreads to share with the world.

Options Galore

Multiple comment choices make it possible for anyone to participate in VoiceThread conversations. Users have the option of leaving video comments via webcam, audio comments through their device’s built-in microphone or headset mic, or by simply typing them in the old fashioned way. There is even a phone comment option which results in VoiceThread calling the number you enter, then prompting you to leave an audio comment.

User comments populate the left and right side of a central media window, in which VoiceThread creators can upload text documents, images, video, and other documents. Conversation participants can zoom in and out of the content, and use the doodle tool to highlight the material while leaving their comments.

VoiceThread’s Fabulous Features:

  • It’s Free!
  • Intuitive design for ease of use
  • Facilitates compelling conversations through video, audio, and text comments
  • Rich media can be uploaded to VoiceThread project pages
  • Add hyperlinks on VoiceThread pages
  • Unlimited pages per VoiceThread
  • Sharing options include embedding, linking, and email invitation
  • Comment moderation options available for every VoiceThread

My Voice folder with tutorials

Creating a free user account is fast and easy with only a first and last name, valid email address, and password required for immediate activation. That’s it! New users will find six tutorials in their My Voice folder illustrating VoiceThread’s many features. My Voice folders are populated with user-created VoiceThreads and other VoiceThreads created by other users that are added as favorites.

All The Support You Need

As mentioned above, new VoiceThread accounts come stocked with six helpful tutorials. There are also links at the top of the VoiceThread site directing users to pages on Ideas for Using VoiceThread, Latest News and Features, and a dedicated Support page.

VoiceThread Summary

This is the type of educational resource that will wildly inspire you the moment you see it in action. Brain activity ignites as you see and hear conversations occurring across great distances and over time zones. By virtue of its intuitive, option-rich design, VoiceThread addresses all learning styles and invites everyone to participate in discussions. I can only identify two concerns with this awesome tool.  The first concern is with the absence of an Android app. I can only assume that VoiceThread developers are feverishly coding away to provide us Droid users with the gift of mobile threading, especially since we represent a huge portion of the mobile device market. Second is the fact that YouTube videos, Vimeo videos and others cannot be directly uploaded to VoiceThread. I can understand why VoiceThread would not allow this to happen, but it sure would be a nice addition to the media possibilities. Overall, the copious pros outweigh these marginal cons in a big way. I love VoiceTread! There, I said it.


I discovered a new web resource that I am very anxious to use with my students and colleagues. Thanks to Josey Freeman, I am know turned on to Do.com.


Do.com provides users with free tools for designing, sharing, and managing tasks. The website features a clean, attractive design that is easy to navigate. Creating an account is as simple as signing in with your Google account, or entering your email address and creating a password if you’re not a Google user. Do.com describes a project as “something you need to get done with other people”, emphasizing the program’s strong collaborative component. The videos on Do.com’s “Stories” page illustrate the many different applications of the program and its ease-of-use. Mobile apps are available for both Apple and Android devices, keeping project members connected at all times, wherever they are. Check off tasks as they are completed, receive instant notices when tasks are added or completed, and easily share files with project members and other contacts. I see many possible uses for Do. Visit Josey’s review on her blog, Josey Knows Media, and see what uses you can find for this great new tool!

Read my review at http://joseyknowsmedia.wordpress.com/

Do you need a shot of enthusiasm?  Do you have an interest in global collaborations? If you answered yes to either question, then you need to visit Catherine Jackson’s blog to read her review of ePals.com.


ePals is an online community developed to facilitate safe collaborations between classrooms and students around the globe. Best of all, it’s a free service! Educators can search for projects with classrooms in specific countries or from specific content areas such as history, science, or languages. Educators may also browse through existing projects posted by other educators who are looking for partners, or post project ideas of their own and request participants. ePals has partnered with National Geographic, Smithsonian, and Cobblestone & Cricket to offer rich content and resources for projects as well as regular contests for students to enter.

Image form “A Collaboration Story” video on ePals.com

I’m really not doing this website justice. You must check out Catherine Jackson’s blog Phrontistery: Where Thoughts EXPLODE and read her entertaining review of ePals. Catherine has already connected with a classroom in Poland for a project. Read all about it on her blog, then give it a try for yourself. Happy globetrotting!



Read my review at http://catherinejackson1.wordpress.com/2012/09/30/bp2-epals/

BP2 Spreaker

Creating An Online Radio Show Is Easy & Free!

Browsing through go2web20.net for emerging technology was like being in a candy store. I digested information from countless video tutorials and sampled so many different web-based tools that I became woozy from all the great educational possibilities. Finally, I arrived at a page filled with audio applications where I discovered Spreaker. The announcement at the top of Spreaker’s homepage immediately grabbed my attention and interest.

“Talk to the world. Create your live podcast with Spreaker. It’s fun, simple, and free.

Spreaker’s homepage


Fun, simple, and free. These are three very important words to read when choosing a new application for my students. I am always looking for new and exciting ways to engage my students and enhance their learning experiences, so the idea of producing live, online radio broadcasts from anywhere was highly appealing. The attractive graphics and program features listed on the homepage sealed the deal for me. I decided to explore Spreaker and find out if it could really allow me to do what it claimed it could do for me and my students.

Plenty of Features

As with many new web-based applications, Spreaker offers a free service as well as premium plans with additional features for a monthly or annual fee, ranging from $39 a year to $119 a month. After researching the various plans, it was clear that the free version offered more than enough broadcast time, storage space, and collaborative features for my needs.

Spreaker’s Free Speech Plan notable features:

  • Unlimited bandwidth and unlimited listeners
  • 20 hours of audio storage
  • 30 minutes of live broadcast duration per show (no limit to the number of shows that be broadcast per day)
  • Social network integration
  • Web mixing console
  • Broadcast and listen form mobile app – Apple or Android

Creating a user account is easy. Installing the web mixing console and supporting programs takes a little bit of know-how, but Spreaker provides users with plenty of tutorials to make the process tolerable. The two additional programs – Soundflower and LineIn – facilitate the integration of Skype into Spreaker broadcasts, allowing listeners to call into a show and co-hosts to participate in broadcasts from remote locations. Imagine the possibilities!

Spreaker web mixing console

The web mixing console, which works on both PC and Apple platforms, is designed for ease-of-use with well-organized controls and content windows that store music playlists and sound effects. Spreaker provides hundreds of songs, loops, and sound effects through their integrated Creative Commons library. I easily created my first broadcast at my local Starbucks, including live coffee shop ambience, music, sound effects, and narration captured by the internal microphone of my MacBook Pro. I spent the length of time it took me to drink my grande coffee experimenting with audio levels, recording and playback quality, and the genreal broadcast experience. The Spreaker interface worked seamlessly with Skype and my computer, and did not crash or freeze once. The playback quality of my broadcast tests was excellent and, if I had wanted to, I could have shared my recorded broadcast on Facebook, embedded it on my website, or invited friends via email to listen to the archived recording on my Spreaker website channel.

Plenty of Support!

Spreaker has included several video and graphic-heavy tutorials on the website that will be helpful to everyone from EdTech novices to experts. In fact, Spreaker has one video tutorial that claims it will have you “on air in 60 seconds.” Additionally, Spreaker has its own YouTube channel filled with tutorials that guide viewers through specific features.

Broadcast From Anywhere on Any Device!

Another fantastic Spreaker feature is the ability of creating live broadcasts anywhere on Apple or Android devices using their mobile apps. I can imagine my students broadcasting live reports from concerts, festivals, family events, sporting events, and other locations, sharpening their communication skills and engaging in meaningful, real-world experiences. Spreaker could even allow my students to conduct on-air interviews with classmates, reflecting on their experiences while in my class and discussing course content in their own words.

There is one concern regarding the content students may access on their own. Spreaker users have created shows on a wide range of topics, from “The Irish Psychic Show” to “For The Love of Poetry and The Spoken Word” and much more. There are, however, several shows labelled as ” Adult Content, 18+ Only” that include inappropriate content for middle school students. This is going to be a tricky area to navigate, but hopefully not an impossible one. I see great potential for Spreaker as a powerful resource for my music and media students. My first thought is to limit student use to Skype only, having them call in to broadcasts that I mix on my end and act as co-hosts or reporters. I’m sure with further consideration and research I will find a way to include Spreaker in my EdTech tool kit.

Spreaker Summary

I had no problem installing Spreaker and its supporting programs, and had an easy time creating live and recorded broadcasts. I found the interface to be clean and easy to navigate, and expect less experienced users to have little or no problems with the program. Video tutorials within the website and on Spreaker’sYouTube channel provided me with all of the help I needed to create my account and create my first broadcast. Spreaker’s easy-to-use interface makes simple broadcasting a breeze for anyone, with the potential for more sophisticated, professional sounding broadcasts well within reach. The free version includes plenty of features to allow mobile broadcasting, show archiving, Skype call-ins, and multiple show hosts. The biggest concern I have with Spreaker is the inappropriate content that students could very easily access. This is a concern that may make parental and administrative buy-in a difficult (if not impossible) proposition. Overall, Spreaker has the potential to be a powerful web-based media tool for students and educators that can easily and immediately enhance any learning environment.