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Feedly Has Just Announced the Release of Shared Collections

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I have long advocated teaching and learning across open and distributed networks. Much of this work has centered around individual blogs aggregated through RSS.

Like everyone I used Google Reader, and I shuttered at its demise. Long before the death of Reader, however,  I had transitioned to feedly.

The only reason I stuck with Google Reader were bundles.  Bundles were public blogrolls that you could share. The only thing I missed with feedly were bundles.

Feedly to the Rescue

Feedly (detailed in their post here) has just released an invite only beta test of the public collections. This invite will first be open to 60-90 users, then be open to Pro users (feed your local developer) , and by 2015 to all users.

Screenshot 10:3:14 2:52 PM

I love the developers at Feedly. They are very responsive to users and I have had the privilege to beta test many of their features with my teaching cap on. After playing with the features for about a week. I am very impressed and see many applications for the classroom.

How to Use Public Collections

The collections are based off of your normal feeds. You just get the option of making some public while keeping others private. The ease of use will make the service an asset to any classroom that relies on blogs.

Set up a Profile

  1. First you set up a profile.
  2. You choose a username (this is permanent and how people will find your collections)
  3. Choose a display name
  4. Then you click on the pencil to add images
  5. Feedly does not host any images. You must choose images from your blog, Flickr, by using the image url.
  6. Add a quick biography.

Screenshot 10:3:14 2:56 PM-2

Choose your Public Collections

  1. Click on Shared Collections
  2. Then you make a collection shared (public) by clicking on the lock button
  3. You will see all your collections but people who see your profile will only get the shared collections.

Screenshot 10:3:14 3:01 PM


Here is the public view. You can visit mine by clicking here

Screenshot 10:3:14 3:05 PM


If they are not members of feedly visitors will be prompted to join but can continue on to your shared collections without joining feedly.


Screenshot 10:3:14 3:07 PM

Follow the Shared Collections

  1. You are given many option when you visit someone’s shared collections
  2. You can add individual sites
  3. Add the entire collection to your feedly account
  4. Or you can share the feed through the usual social media channels.

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Screenshot 10:3:14 3:09 PM
Share Card from a Shared Collection

My Pedagogical Workflow

I have missed bundles in my teaching and I am ecstatic to replace them with my  shared collections on feedly.

I wanted to detail  my workflow and describe how I plan to use shared collections

Building a Class Public Collection

  1. I first make a collection of the rss feeds for each student in my classes.
  2. These are arranged by separate collections
  3. These collections will be public so my students can follow or add the feeds to their chosen rss aggregator.

Build a Comment Private Collection

  1. I then make a separate collection of each sites comment feed.
  2. Commenting is important so I want to track this among students.
  3. I do not make these collections public

Use Tags for Classroom Management

This is an idea I stole from Laura Gibbs, and it has quickly become steadfast practice.

  1. I make a series of tags (currently Commented, feedback, recommend…and one unused spelling mistake).
  2. I then tag posts as I read them.
  3. The tags help me ensure I provide feedback where needed, and spread my comments around to all students.

I can add tags anytime

Screenshot 10:3:14 3:10 PM

They then appear when I read an individual post.Screenshot 10:3:14 3:12 PMI can then search by Tags in Feedly when I need to track progress in my gradebook.

Screenshot 10:3:14 3:16 PM

Possible Future Pedagogical Uses

Use Tags for Mentor Texts

Recently I have noticed that many of my students need scaffolds in learning the unique affordances of blogging platforms. They may not also grasp common practices n article or literary analysis. I want to use tags to track posts that can serve as mentor texts. I imagine tags such as:

  • Quote-analysis posts that draw on a specific quote
  • Reflection posts that connect a text to a personal narrative
  • Metaphor-Quotes that use an image as a metaphor
  • Synthesis-Posts that bring together many sources
  • Tutorials-Posts that teach.

Overtime I will be able to collect and share these posts with my students. More importantly I will have them tagged in Feedly so I can use the texts to make videos of text structure analysis or simply to share wonderful mentor texts.

Turn SSR into RSS

The idea of students curating content that meets their needs through an RSS feed most excites me about shared collections. The Common Core State Standards, and more importantly common sense, state that we need to increase the amount of non-fiction reading.

The use of feedly, through shared collections, will allow students to design their own reading materials. More importantly it takes the silence out of reading. These are interactive and shareable texts.


I tried to embed a shared collection on my blog using an iframe but that did not work. I don’t know if that is a lack of my knowledge or a yet to be released feature. I am sure embedding will be rolled out.

I also know I have to really spend my time curating collections. I want smaller, more meaningful collections, and not the regurgitated press releases found all over the net. I also know that I need to learn more about categories and RSS in general to make the process more seamless for students (look to #ccourses for more information).

An RSS feed will always be my primary content curation tool. I find the news I want to share. I never liked Twitter or any social media for an rss reader. My news isn’t stackable. I want it anchored and waiting, not floating by in some stream.  I have tried lists and circles with authors I like but then you have to wade through comments and sometime vitriol.

RSS is a great tool, and if teachers want to utilize blogs outside of a closed system they are a  must. If you are a teacher and you are looking for a method to organize 100’s of student blogs, you need shared collections. I have already been a long time supporter of feedly. My one reservation since leaving Google Reader– no sharing of feeds, has now been resolved. It now makes the short list of RSS readers I recommend for classrom use.

Last week I had the honor of accepting the Joan Finn Junior Faculty Research Fellowship Award. The award, is designed to support faculty with nine credits of release time for a research project. I plan on using the time to develop an idea I have dreamed up over the last few years.

My Plan

Over the long term I want to create an online environment to support the teaching of sourcing skills and argumentative writing. My thinking is we decontextualize the inherent bias and perspectives found in the act of reading and writing texts. I want to teach sourcing as a mindset and not a skill set.

Building off of the work of Rick Beach and the lessons I learned studying under Don Leu I want to use role play and bias thinkalouds to contextualize sourcing skills within Internet Inquiry.

Basically students would interact in this online simulation. They would have to visit different buildings in the town. Each building would have its own purpose. Users would encounter an avatar on each side of a contemporary issue. They would also visit a librarian with a more neutral stance. Finally there would be a store where students would have the option to visit. There they could unlock features to customize their avatars by completing learning events centered on sourcing Finally there would be “field work.” Here students would have to conduct online research and collect and analyze data.

Second Life NSF Model

The long term version of my idea is to develop learning activities that can bolster adolescent students’ abilities to use online sources in their argumentative writing. Using the Fellowship I hope to create the biased think aloud videos.

It would be the first step in massive instructional design process. Hopefully I can use the materials I develop and the results I find to successfully seek out external funding.

Why Formative Design

For this work I will draw heavily on Reinking and Bradley’s(2010) work on formative and design experiments. As a Neag Fellow with the New Literacies Research Lab I worked closely with Dr. Reinking on formative design and hope to bring the learning to bear on the project. Reinking and Bradley suggest:

  • Formative and design experiments are grounded in developing understanding by seeking to accomplish practical and useful educational goals.

  • They are focused on less-controlled, authentic environments instead of the tightly controlled laboratory-like settings.

  • They use and develop theory in the context of trying to engineer successful instructional interventions.  Thus, they dwell in the realm of engineering science rather than social science.

  • They entail innovative and speculative experimentation.

  • They are interdisciplinary employing multiple theoretical and methodological perspectives and orientations.

  • They seek understandings that accommodate many complex, interacting variables in diverse contexts.

  • They seek generalizations from multiple exemplars rather than from random samples and controlled experimentation.

Basically formative and design experiments are meant for real classroom research. I cannot develop my entire vision as part of this project I hope to just focus on the biased think aloud. It is an intervention, rooted in theory  that addresses my pedagogical goal ( a more developed post explaining this connection is forthcoming).

My Pedagogical Goal

I will use pre-recorded interactive read alouds that contextualize the bias and perspectives inherent in websites about science topics. In other words students will be given a video of a website that is read and annotated by a narrator with a specific bias. The perspective included in the read alouds will help to contextualize the sourcing skills required for argumentative writing. This lack of contextualization of sourcing skills has long plagued studies designed to improve argumentative writing in science (Guzetti, Snyder, Glass, & Gamas, 1993; Abell, 2007) and the critical evaluation of websites (Goldman et al, 2012).

Distributed Design

One of the greatest take aways I carry with me from my time under Dr. Leu is that issues we face today in educational research are too complex for the broken single research model. If I was to fully envision the role playing I want to create I would need to be part of a team of theorists, programmers, ethnographers, instructional designers, statistician, and multimedia specialists. Ohh and funding. Funding would help.

Until then (and the project will begin full force next spring) I want to invite folks on board. If you are an educational researcher and you are committed to working endlessly for no monetary reward on the hopes of improving connected classrooms I welcome you. The most critical needs of the project would be someone with a background in multimedia, science education, and someone knowledgeable in item response theory. Though enthusiasm for the project and an ability to learn in the open is all this team (currently me) requires.


As a teacher I have a fundamental goal of teaching writers that will some day teach writers. I try to do this by modeling what it means to write and making my process as open as possible.  I believed this when I taught in 6th grade and I believe it now at the college level.

That belief is not the only thing that does not change.

My students (I teach all writing intensive classes) still struggle with writing leads (or as I found out on Twitter last night ledes….for the journalism folks). They will also have to teach young writers on how to start a paper.

Library of Mini-Lessons

I decided to continue my mutlimodal writing mini-lesson series. We discussed on #engchat class night how we should work together to create library of mini-lessons that students would use in a blended environment.

Writing Leads 

Here is my next mini-lesson.

I tried to accomplish a few goals.

  • First I explicitly defined what goes into a good lead/lede. I settled on restating the problem and drawing in the audience.
  • I then looked at mentor texts. I selected examples from Medium. When I was taking screenshots I wished I would have written down author information so I could propoerly cite. Discovery on Medium is not great yet.
  • I then created a sock puppet mini-lesson to discuss the lesson (tutorial post coming in next few days).

Here is what is missing.

  • More guided practice. I have not figured out how to include this well in my mini-lesson. I am thinking I would need to to screencast the re-writing of a lede and then have students complete a Google Form or Doc on the re-written lead. They would then need to share and discuss their writing.
  • More indepenent practice. This would hopefully translate into student writing.

Writing Leads for Your Audience

Audience matters. At the secondary level you should know the discourse practices of your field. For example I looked at the last five issues of The Reading Teacher and Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy almost all of the articles start with a vignette.

When I compared that result to research journals only about  half the articles started with a vignette. In more technical journals authors often just state the problem. In research journals the first sentence and the first citation seem to carry more weight.


The best writing festers. A small idea takes hold somewhere in my world and begins to gnaw at my time. Then the scheme and design of my  thinking spreads into my  other daily needs. Normal routine gets enveloped by the desire  to write. As if  good ideas replicate like a virus. Once infected I cannot move on until I get these observations and thoughts out.

Getting those thoughts out in a manner others can, and want to, understand gets tricky.

My ideas for writing end up scattered on post it notes, files, docs, napkins etc. I often say I do my best writing when hiking or when I pace back in forth in my office.  Basically for me the writing process gets messy.

Recent postmortum on my writing notes. CC 3.0
Recent postmortum on my writing notes. CC 3.0

I have written in the past that my pre-writing process involves more papers than pixel. I have to sit down with a pen to plan my writing.

How I plan changes based on my medium. CC 3.0
How I plan changes based on my medium. CC 3.0


So I have set a new goal for the next month or so that I hope translates into my normal writing process. I want to  keep ideas in draft form, a writer’s notebook in essence baked into WordPress.

This should add an extra step, or at least allow me to focus on the most important in writing, drafting. I will also hopefully spend more time on the most critical phase of the writing process revising. Finally staying in draft form for longer should allow me to spend some time editing. This we know is often the last, and most important step, before publishing.

In other words if I add this intermittent step I may just use my pre-writing to focus on the single  most important step in writing: drafting, revising, and editing.

List of current posts in drafts. CC 3.0
List of current posts in drafts. CC 3.0

I have made improving my blog a personal and professional goal. I want to document my thinking about education while making the  writing process transparent  in the open.

By drafting before I publish I hope to let ideas fester. Some topics may fizzle others may flourish. Once I have a list of drafts I can work from the writing I already started. Finally I will  publish the pieces that matter…or get finished.

It is usually the same thing.



I often find myself searching for the boundaries of texts. Where does authorship begin? Does meaning reside, as David Coleman author of the Common Core State Standards quipped, “Only within the four corners of the text?” Or as my post structuralist friends suggest, “Do the boundaries of the text bleed into the world?”

This internal debate, one that has existed in the field of literacy and literary criticism for decades, has come to forefront as I watch my own children learn to read and as I reflect back on my own childhood experiences.

This week for the MIT course on creativity we had examined the foreward to Seymour Papert (1980): Mindstorms: Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas called Gears of My Childhood. Papert recalls his loves for cras and how learning develops as a layered cake of simulations of past experience driven more by emotion than just logic or concrete memory structures.

Papert wrote:

Thus the “laws of learning” must be about how intellectual structures grow out of one another and about how, in the process, they acquire both logical and emotional form.

I am thinking Papert’s law of learning could also be called the “law of texts.” This fiat played out through my childhood and now I am seeing it evolve in how my children learn to read. Especially when the stories come from ” A long time ago in Galaxy far far away”

Passion and Play

My passion for Star Wars  parelleso Papert’s love for cars. (I did not engage in too much tinkering as a kid. The tinkering I did do used “recipes” I found on the early Internet for stuff like black boxes or my tinkering required  ingredients such as salt peter that I will not share here).

Star Wars though united me with others. I will never forget being on the road with my father in Little Rock, Arkansas triyng to find Empire Strikes Back playing in a theater. It was either sold out or we were looking for second or third runs. We never found it and I threw such a fit when I had to go catch a little picture called Time Bandits ( a serendipitous accident that I will save for later).

I also shared the passion with my brother. Long after the trilogy was released. Long after Santa didn’t bring me a Millineum Falcon. Right around when the Thrawn trilogy was released we began scouring Flea Markets and collecting the toys (destroyed when our basement flooded). We would ride our bikes a few miles into town to stop at the Downingtown Farmers Market. A strange collective of Amish farmers, Diggers, skinheads, comic book guys,  and Pickers. The market is gone, bulldozed under a Home Depot I think, but I will never the joy of finding a mint Jawa with cape and and all for nine dollars.

I now see this passion in my sons. Take a look at the first book my fiver year old ever wrote on his own. He wrote a retelling of Star Wars.


He started by writing, “This is when Anakin saved Luke.” I said, “Anakin doesn’t save Luke.” My son responded. Yes he did. Once he decided to help Luke by killing Darth Sidiuos he became Anakin again.”

He could not draw the picture of, who I always thought of Darth Vader, lifting, who I always thought of as ,the Emperor over his head. So the sentence was erased and my son wrote this is when Anakin fights Obi-Wan.  My son then said, “I know Darth Vader fights Obi-Wan but I am going to leave it like this.”

His first book he wrote  retells a tale that is old as me. It also draws so heavily on the hero archetype in Western tradition (think about it Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, Hercules, pretty much same character) that the story spawns millenia.

Literacy and Play

Where then are the boundaries of the text? Can we separate literacy skills from logic and emotion?

Funny thing, I did not push this passion. I tried to get him to watch the trilogies, but it was not until new friends in a new town sparked his passion that the journey began.

How he learned to read and write  spans massive  time period. His literacy skills also have more to do with play than with decoding. Each day after school I am regaled with tales of Star Wars adventures in kindergarten. They all have assinged characters. Luke, Anakin, Obi-Wan, Mace Windu, Qui-Jong Jinn all run around the playground together.

My recognizes some words wihout decoding through play such as opponent, alliance, separatists. We know the understanding comes more from what Papert  said  is “emotion than logic.” The kids draw from multiple simultations that replay in their heads not any set cognitive structure.

Literacy comes more from play than from phonics.

Shifting Narratives

For my son and I  our passions changed  based on the stories we were  told. Even though I did not poison m son with the prequels before seeing the trilogy he has come to know Anakin as a character, an achretype. The fall of Anakin is more central to my son’s story and for me Anakin is  still a bad memory of waiting in line and even worse memory of leaving  a midnight showing of The Phantom Menace.

Yet our tales, our stories, are connected as if the text of Star Wars surrounds us and penetrates us. It binds the galaxy together.

I have asked the students in my hybrid literature and literacy classes to re-imagine the writing mini-lesson. Students in my graduate classes may also choose to develop a digital text and tool learning activity.

Many may, and should, post a recording of a lecture that goes through the steps: explicitly define, model, guided practice and independent practice. Some students wanted to play more with technology. They wanted to create texts to use in the classroom.

So I decided to play as well. I created four short tutorials on winning at academic writing.I focused on the secondary and college level. Elementary and middle school teachers, however, can get the general idea.

Tutorial One: Defining the Game

In this video I introduce the idea that academic writing is its own genre with specific discourse practices.

Tutorial Two: Do not be Wishy Washy

In this video I discuss strategies for framing the problem and taking a position.

Tutorial Three: Play with Words

In this third video I discuss the importance of defining key words and concepts. I had this idea I used to improve my writing from high school through my doctorate. Good writers define key words great writers make up their own words.

Tutorial Four: The Idea Pocket

In the last tutorial I describe the importance of pre-writing and using evidence from your sources. Throughout the series writing success is defined as a grade not as the piece itself. This is the antithesis of what I believe as a teacher of writing.

The snark just provides a gateway into writing and discussing academic writing as a genre is beneficial to developing writers.

Next Steps

These mini-lessons and others like it can teach students some of the basics of the genre. They would never be enough. I would need to also include mentor texts and exemplars of student work. These works could then be annotated using a variety of tools such as a pencil, subtext, or poetry genius.

I could also create a bank of more minilessons using Plotagon. Technology now allows on demand direct instruction. So I hope over time to have a bank of these short video tutorials.

If you want to contribute to the effort please feel free. I am trying to highlight my efforts to support open learning. I find the writing community (looking at you NWP and #FYCchat) to be open to open learning. So if you want to help curate, critique, and create great digital texts and tools to support writing contact me. Lets learn, fail, and reflect together.


slider image credit: Writing on Windows. everRiviere. Deviantart.com https://www.deviantart.com/art/Writing-on-Windows-77253620

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One of the joys of writing in the open about digital texts and tools is being able to beta test new features. I can’t lie. I was a little giddy when I got to play with the new screencasting tool, Snagit for Chrome from Techsmith.

I have a long history with screencasting. The ability to record browsers has been essential to my work. I started with Camtasia, transitioned to ShowMe, played with Jing, then finally settled on Screencast-o-Matic. Snagit for Chrome now replaces all of these past iterations (as long as I am just recording browsers activity).

How do I do It?

Here is a quick video on how to enable the features (Once Chrome 34 is released these steps will no longer be necessary).

What are the benefits?

I decided to choose Snagit for Chrome over other screencasting options. Mainly because of the deep integration with Google services. For me life is better in the Googleverse. If you want to see an example of me using Snagit for Chrome look  at this tutorial on storyscape.io I created:

Snagit for Chrome has push button publishing to YouTube. From there I can download the video if I want to do any post production work.

To date  I have quickly used Snagit for Chrome to provide feedback in my writing classes (though I cannot share these), created tutorials, and did some general geeking around.

The limitations

For those with ARM based 2.0 RAM Chromebooks…sorry. I tried it on my sammy. Those great little machines don’t have  enough juice for Snagit for Chrome. Audio will kick out quickly.

The share to Google Drive feature does not work consistently. Half of the videos I share to Drive fail to load.

You cannot download the videos on MAC. Snagit for Chrome uses a a TechSmith codec that did not work on my VLC player for MAC.

Snagit for Chrome does not have any post production abilities. I had to use iMovie, Mozilla Popcorn,  or WeVideo to add in texts, transitions, and pop-ups. Good news, these all worked. I also have to assume, given TechSmith’s history, post-production editing will come in the future.


Everyone who lives in Chrome should love Snagit for Chrome. Just always share directly to YouTube. The videos by default are unlisted (awesome). You also can rename and change the privacy settings right in Snagit for Chrome. If you then want to edit the video simply download the mp4 from YouTube.

Snagit for Chrome will quickly become your default app for screencasting.

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I am always on the hunt for new digital text and tools to support writing in the early childhood education classrooms. Then Storyscape.io came across my twitter feed while I virtually lurked the #dml2014 conference.

As soon as I saw the beauty and simplicity I could not wait to try out the tool.

How Do I Do It?

Any student or teacher can use storyscape. You first have to request an account (the product is still in Beta). Then you click on create a story. From there you can choose from an ever expanding collection of featured artists. Each art set has a set of characters and backgrounds.

Next you draft your story (after careful pre-writing of course). You can select backgrounds and between characters. Add text to each page. The amount of editing tools are perfect for schools. All of the required tools are there but young users would never be overloaded.

The developers of Storyscape.io, an MIT MediaLab project, have designed the books for mobile reading. Many of the characters have animations. When the mobile reader gets released (looks like an Android app) readers can activate the animations by shaking the screen or through sound. Exciting times.

 How do I teach with StoryScape?

Of course you can just encourage students to write. Give them free creative reigns and let the go play. Our students need this kind of writing time. You may however want to connect the writing to learning objective taught during a mini-lesson.

Some ideas could include:

  • Character Traits-Develop two characters with flat (very predictable) traits such as good and bad.
  • Static/Dynamic characters-Do characters change because of the conflict?
  • Problem and Solution-Conflict is at the center of plot.

To pilot Storyscape I had two goals. I wanted to reinforce words with r-controlled vowels and then I wanted cowrite a story that included characters, settings, problem and a solution.

I began by first creating a model text that used short a sounds.


Next I created a story with my two favorite students.

Here is our finished story


Some ideas for future development:

Storyscape is in beta so new features will roll out quickly. I would like to be able to highlight and change text within the box rather than making gloabl changes. I would have put all the words with r-controlled vowels in bold or another color. I would also like an embed so I could share finished stories on my blog or your classroom website.


I highly recommend storyscape.io for all levels of education. I think the app holds special promise for writing in the early childhood classroom.

I am just discovering the rich features of the site. I can not wait to start and play with all the tools to optimize my stories for mobile apps.

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As an educational blogger I struggle on the hunt for great images. I made a commitment this year to try and use creative commons images or remix other images. Much of my artwork comes from flckr or from artists on deviantart.com that enable downloads. I will then edit these images using pixlr editor in Chrome.

Royalty free stock photos sites simply charged too much money for a small guy like me. I do not blog to make money. I have an add free website as I try to model the kind of teaching I would like to see in my education students.

I want them to see the power of blended learning. Teacher candidates need to know that in order to teach writing you need to struggle at being a writer. Most importantly I want my students to understand how a blog, or writing in general, creates the reflective practioner.

So I do not have the funds for big photo services. I also do not often have the time to remix photos, even those with a CC license.

Enter Getty Images

For those who do not know Getty Images is a stock photo company with over 80 million photos. They have now made 34 million of those images available to not for profit publishers. This will be huge for small time bloggers such as myself.

How does it work?

You first visit the website and search for images. I am working on a haiku for #walkmyworld and I looked for a “Golden Eagle.”

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 10.34.26 AM


You then click on the embed code and you will get html code for embedding an iframe.

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 10.36.38 AM


That it. You can add the code to your blog and add the website.

The Caveats

Below you will find the TOS from Getty. Notice that images maybe taken down, they collect analytics, and reserved the right to embed third party advertising.

You may only use embedded Getty Images Content for editorial purposes (meaning relating to events that are newsworthy or of public interest). Embedded Getty Images Content may not be used: (a) for any commercial purpose (for example, in advertising, promotions or merchandising) or to suggest endorsement or sponsorship; (b) in violation of any stated restriction; (c) in a defamatory, pornographic or otherwise unlawful manner; or (d) outside of the context of the Embedded Viewer.

Getty Images (or third parties acting on its behalf) may collect data related to use of the Embedded Viewer and embedded Getty Images Content, and reserves the right to place advertisements in the Embedded Viewer or otherwise monetize its use without any compensation to you.

The Limitations

iFrame. Need I say more? You cannot embed by url only. This limits the use of the images in say Google Presentations or Haikudeck (though Getty sells images through HaikuDeck).

I use a slider on my blog. I need to upload the images here or use an image URL. An iFrame will not work. I am sure many will run into similar limitations.

Also some services do not allow iframes as a security risk. So I am hoping Getty will eventually offer watermarked images with proper attribution or a shortened link back to their store.

You also cannot search by embeddable images only (atleast I could not figure out how). I had to “waste” a lot of time looking through great pictures.


Bloggers and schools, who do not have large budgets, could benefit greatly from Getty’s new service, but the search engine needs work. My first search came up with an image for “Golden Eagle.” My next searches “frozen bridge,” “Connecticut River winter,” “Connecticut River frozen,”  and even “river,” had page after page of images I could not use. I did not find one image I could embed. I do not have that kind of time. The search tool in Getty images should allow me to filter for embeddable images only.

Getty stated that their images were being ripped from the Internet anyways so they wanted to find ways to give proper attribution and possibly look for new revenues streams for photographers. That is a lesson I can get behind. I just need a more functional search tool before I recommend widespread use in schools.

My Try.

Here is the haiku I wrote for #walkmyworld using Getty Images:

Once perched, Eagle flew
At river’s edge no longer
Fish gone now frozen

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When we think about online research and media skills our minds quickly turn to video production. Yet students and teachers can find video making and remixing a daunting task.

We need simple tools to scaffold video production. I like, many, mourned the demise of xtranormal. I found the text to movies tool so powerful for classroom use.

So I immediately began to look for alternatives. I came across Plotogan in my Twitter feed. Not only do I get all the functionality of text to movie tools but the program provides strong functionality and runs local on my mac (or your pc).

Classroom Uses

The possibilities are endless as students can recreate favorite scenes from literature, use as a journaling tool, or simply create online content.

When I consider possible connection to the Common Core State Standards I find once again endless options.

In the Reading anchor standards for the Integration of Knowledge and Ideas

7. Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

In the Speaking and Listening anchor standards for Comprehension and Collaboration:

2. Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally.

3. Evaluate a speaker’s point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.

How Does it Work?

  1. Plotagon works as a script editor. You choose the scene and the character(s).

Screenshot 3:4:14 3:01 PM

Screenshot 3:4:14 2:59 PM

2.You can  then choose the location of your character in that scene.

Screenshot 3:4:14 3:01 PM 2


3. You then type your dialogue. You can choose an emotion for your character.

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4. You can also choose to have your characters move around the scene.Screenshot 3:4:14 3:04 PM

Screenshot 3:4:14 3:03 PM

You can then add sounds. The sounds include both effects and music. Next you publish your movie by clicking share. If you connect your YouTube account you can upload directly. If your school does not allow YouTube access you can also upload the movie to Plotagon.

Screenshot 3:4:14 3:09 PM

That is it. Now you just wait, go make some popcorn and let the movie render. Plotagon will do the rest. When it is done you will get a notice.

Screenshot 3:4:14 3:23 PM

Embedded movie on Youtube:

Same movie on Plotagon:

Some Examples

This is a debate I had on the meaning of text as part of the #walkmyworld project:

This is a mini-lesson I made as part of my video tutorial series on Internet inquiry. I had to make separate movies in Plotagon. I then did a screencast on my iPad using Explain Everything. Finally I remixed the videos using Mozilla’s Popcorn maker.

There are many other great content related examples on the Plotagon Movie Page.


Plotagon is in very early Beta so many of these issues maybe addressed.

CPU Intensive

My macbook Pro just makes the minimum system requirements and it shows. When Plotagon is open I cannot do much else. You should plan accordingly and close unnecessary programs.

Few Scenes

I am sure more scenes will be added. Especially to the store. As of now the scenes available do not always fit an academic setting. I have spoken to the developers and they will make a push for education. So I am sure we will see schools, classrooms, offices, and parks in the future.

No Downloads

Another feature I am willing to pay for, and probably one coming in the future. Until then I have been using Mozilla’s Popcorn to edit the movies. this has allowed me to splice in other videos and add text layovers.

Final Verdict

I find Plotagon to be a powerful classroom tool and recommend it to all education professionals.

Other Articles of Interest

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