Popcorn Maker

Popcorn Maker is a free web tool that allows you to edit, remix, and create mashups of online videos, images, and audios.

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Features and how it works

Popcorn Maker was created by Mozilla. The interface is fairly simple to use, after having watched a short tutorial on Youtube. There is also a lot of support provided on the Mozilla website. To create your video, the first step is to copy and paste the URLs of different multimedia content you want to add in your video, on the menu at the right hand side of your screen. Then, you simply need to drag the chosen multimedia content, and drop it in your project timeline. You can add layers over layers of content. For instance, on one layer, you insert a Youtube video, then you add some comments on a second layer, and you add background music on the third layer, and you add an online file or your recorded voiceover in a fourth layer. The layers each work separately. This means that you can choose to have some comments appear at a certain time in your video, and you can easily move the appearance as you wish, without having to change all the other layers at the same time.

All the content that can be added to the video projects have to be online. For instance, you can’t use one of your own pictures, unless you find a way to publish it online and then obtain a URL for this image. Same goes for voice recordings and homemade films: They all need to be put online before being able to add them in the Popcorn Maker project. For instance, private videos can be uploaded to Youtube and inserted afterwards, as long as you have the URL.

Many features are available for your video projects. You can drag and drop videos, audios, and images into your video. You can add popups in shape of speech bubbles or thought bubbles with your annotations into your videos. You can change the icons of these popups for thumbs ups, thumbs downs, hearts, earths, eyes, and many more, in order to code the type of annotation you are making.   Moreover, and unlike most of the other video editor softwares, you can insert Wikipedia articles in which you can scroll down at the same time you are watching the video. These articles will also update whenever the website updates. You can also add clickable links for the viewer to click and go elsewhere on the web, you can add real-time social media feeds, and google maps. Viewers can explore these maps in Streeview mode as they wish, during the viewing of the video.

Here is a short video that I have created with Popcorn Maker, to experience the kinds of features available.

Unlike most of the other video editor softwares, Mozilla Popcorn Maker allows you to save your project directly on the website, instead of saving it on your own computer. Therefore, you save a lot of time, because you do not need to upload your projects, and you also save great Disk space.

All of the sources used to create the videos are available to everyone, by clicking the “view source” button. For this reason, the videos created with this website remain copyrights free, and the concept of fair use is respected. According to Wikipedia, “Fair use is a doctrine that permits limited use of copyrighted material without acquiring permission from the rights holders.” This is an interesting concepts that could also be taught to the students by the teacher, before using Popcorn Maker. The teacher can take a few minutes to explain the importance of fair use, copyrights and plagiarism. The teacher can therefore explain how they are not plagiarising when they create their videos with this tool, but they always have to be careful with plagiarism and citing their sources when they do varied tasks and projects.

Videos created in Popcorn Maker can be shared online. As stated in this graphite blog article,

“Kids can publish their videos and make them available for others to remix as well.”

Indeed, students can remix each other’s work, building on each other’s ideas. In Popcorn Maker’s search gallery, you can also find projects created by people using the tool all around the world. Every videos are “remixable”. Indeed, by clicking on the “remix” button of a project, you can get starter ideas and remix these existing ideas and add your own details. As a matter of fact, every video you create with this tool does not remain private. Everything is published on the website, and is available for anyone who wishes to remix your work. Therefore, you need to be careful with personal details you put into your videos. Your personal pictures might end up being used by different strangers all around the world.


How to use it in ESL classrooms

Popcorn Maker is used by a lot of teachers in many different school subjects and in many different school degrees such as high school levels, college and university. Indeed here is a 33 minutes video about how two teachers of different levels and different subjects actually use the tool with their students. One of the teacher in Hawaii teaches at high school levels and she has her students create all sorts of videos such as a back to school video with pictures and videos about what they did during the summer. The other teacher teaches journalism and screen studies at the University of Michigan. She also uses Popcorn maker in a different way suited for university students. She has her students analyze details and nuances of a work of media (for instance “Vertigo” by Alfred Hitchcock) and describe the physical language from the clip by adding comment bubbles that pop up at the right instances.

There are so many ways and ideas on how to use Popcorn Maker in an ESL classroom context. This free tool is great for individual work, but it can also be used in teams. For instance, the teacher could ask students in teams of 2, 3 or 4 (maximum) to create a video. The students get to cooperate, share ideas, help each other with the technicalities of the website and collaborate to come up with a project which they are proud of. This is a great way to include the use of ICTs, as recommended in the MELS program. Also, the students will find the experience engaging and interactive.

Here are some ideas of types of activities to do with students:

  • The students could take a video of a music performance such as an American Idol clip and add their comments and critique of the performance. They could record their voices as if they were the actual judges of the show.
  • Students can be asked to demonstrate certain concepts they have learned, like the Water Cycle (as suggested in Graphite). Therefore, they need to find images or videos and they have to explain the concept either by adding their voice or by adding comment bubbles.
  • The students could be asked to create a news broadcast, in which they include a video of a news and they add a voice over with their own narration, they do a weather broadcast and they interview a movie star. They can easily cut and paste parts of an interview with the star of their choice. Therefore, they can record themselves asking questions, and they paste the actual star’s answers from the real interview. This can be a very fun activity for them, and it also allows them to practise their oral competency, as well as their writing skills, since they have to write scripts beforehand.
  • The students could be asked to put visuals over a song they like. The students choose a song they like and that has interesting lyrics to reflect on. By doing a personal reflection on the song’s lyrics, they have to create a video related to the content or the subject. They can find images or video parts that fit the story of the song. This is a great activity for ESL classes, because there are tons of English songs that carry meaningful messages. This type of activity is good for vocabulary skills and understanding, but also for critical thinking and serious reflections.
  • The students could also be asked to do a research on a certain subject (which is often the case in ESL classes, as it allows students to learn about varied new subjects of interest.) They could be asked to present a Popcorn Maker video of their research. For instance, if they do a research on China, they could provide a Google map link in which the viewers can explore in “Street view” mode. They could add pictures and describing comments, they could put a typical Chinese music in the background, and they could present various videos related to the topic. They could also add the Wikipedia window too.
  • Students can share their projects with each other and remix each other’s work. It allows them to build on each other’s’ ideas and do personal reflections on how they would change the video, what they will add, how they will comment, etc.
  • Finally, Popcorn Maker can be a wonderful and different way of introducing oneself. This can be an interesting way to present pictures of things representing you, to present videos of personal talents, to add comments on background infos, to add your favourite song in the back, etc. Really, this can be a very nice activity to break the ice at the beginning of the year, both for the teacher to introduce himself/herself, or for the students as well, to present themselves to the teacher and to other students which have never been in the same classroom before. This way of presenting oneself removes the stress, and it allows shy students to express themselves via their video creation about themselves. For instance, a student could show a video of himself/herself skillfully playing a musical instrument or performing a choreography or a sport. They can show valuable aspects of themselves and have other students discover unknown facts about themselves. This can help build their self-confidence. Moreover, being able to record a voiceover in English in stress-free circumstances will certainly help some students to develop higher self-esteem. By being able to show to others that they are capable of speaking in the target language they can present to the classmates an image of themselves as English speakers as they would like to be seen.

My personal opinion

Overall, I believe that Popcorn Maker is a great tool to use in a classroom context. It is fairly simple to use, and very nice projects can be created. I also like the fact that unlike most of the other video editing tools out there, Popcorn Maker allows you to insert hyperlinks that pop up into your video remix, on which viewers can click and visit in real time, while they are watching the presentation. I am sure the students will love it, in a few years, when I will be using it in my own classrooms. Notwithstanding, in my opinion, I think I would rather use this tool with higher levels of student, namely, high school students and higher. Although it would maybe be feasible with grade 6 students (elementary level), it would be too long and too complicated for some.

However, a downside of this tool was pointed out in a blog article for teachers. I find myself completely agreeing with this: Because the students have access to any videos, images or websites from the web to include in their Popcorn Maker project, the teacher must be very mindful of what kids choose to include in their videos. It is important to remind the students that the content has to be appropriate for school.

Another point which I think complicates how to create your videos, is that everything you put in your video has to be online (have a URL address). I understand that this is to respect copyrights principles, but it sometimes complicates the process. For instance, if I would like to use a picture collage that I created with a tool like “PhotoFiltre,” it would not be possible to include it in the montage, unless I published it online somewhere beforehand. This second downside is also mentioned by a teacher using Popcorn Maker in an Ed Social Media Blog article:

“Video must come from YouTube and audio must come from Soundcloud. Vimeo and other sources offer some wonderful content, and the added step of getting that content to YouTube is a deterrent to many students. Work-arounds certainly exist, but it creates a hassle that doesn’t really need to be there.”

Despite these two downsides, I will certainly use Popcorn Maker in my future career, and I might even use it for my next practicum, as a video profile to present myself to the students.

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EasyTestMaker

EasyTestMaker is a tool for creating tests, quizzes, questionnaires, exams or activities. This online tool is fairly simple to use, and can be useful for any school subject.

How it works & Features

Here is a 10 minutes video tutorial and positive critique of how to use EasyTestMaker.

There is a simple menu on the left side of the screen. First, you have to decide the Heading of your test. You simply click the green + sign to add any type of question you want. You can chose within Short Answers, Multiple Choice, True or False, Matching, and Fill in the blank. You can also choose a question from another test, instead of having to re-write it.

When you edit your questions, you have an Advanced Options menu. You can specify the point value of every answer, add images, charts, graphs, gifs, etc. You also have a spell check icon that can be used.

You can format your test as you wish, adding instructions, dividing it into sections, decide if you want questions to appear on a different page, and change the questions’ order as you wish.

When you are done creating you test, you can generate alternate versions. This is done automatically by the software, which randomizes the questions, so they appear in a different order from version to version.

The tests and answer keys can be downloaded to your computer as a Word document or a PDF, for later use. It can be directly printed, but most importantly, it can be published online.  When the tests are published online, they can be automatically graded. The software can identify the answers from the answer key, and add up the deserved points, according to how many points were attributed in the Advanced Options menu.

EasyTestMaker is available in three different pricing plans. There is a free version, the Plus version at a 44,95$ rate per year, or the premium version, which costs 74,95$ per year.

The tool is recommended on different teachers’ websites, blogs or forums.

EdTechTeacher is a website that recommends online tools, applications or various technologies to use in a teaching context. EasyTestMaker was rated 4 out of five ans was considered easy to use.

Web 2.0 Teaching Tools, a blog for teachers, chose EasyTestMaker in a top 5 Quiz generators for online educators.

“This robust tool includes a spell check function, which comes in handy for those of us creating tests late at night.”

EasyTestMaker for ESL teachers

Using EasyTestMaker with the online feature enables the teacher to give quizzes for homework. For teachers of English as a second language, this can be a beneficial strategy. Since the English as a second language teachers do not see their classes as often as French or mathematics teachers do, assigning individual tests to be done at home can maximize the time spent in class to communicate and practise oral interactions with peers or whole group discussions. Evaluating the students’ understanding of the materials is equally important as oral practise, but this way, it can be done outside of the in class periods, which is not possible with oral interactions.

It is nice that students are able to take the test from home, and still be able to have an instantaneous feedback on how well they did, or what they did wrong. They do not need to wait for the teacher collecting it the next class, waiting for it to be graded and then have the answer key, so late that they do not even remember the questions, and are less inclined to correct themselves and learn from their mistakes.

Depending on the kind of tests you administer, EasyTestMaker can allow students to reflect longer before responding. In the case of a reading comprehension test, by doing it on a computer, the student has a lot of resources available to him. For instance, he could use an online dictionary, a thesaurus or a translating device. Because he has no specific amount of time to complete it, it can reduce stress, and provide more time to construct better sentences and well-thought answers.

On the other hand, if you administer a homework test that requires no processing like a reading comprehension, students may be tempted to cheat. For example, if the test consists of simple answers on vocabulary words or irregular verbs, there is a great deal of chances the student will get the answers online. These kind of tests should therefore be done during class, at a computer lab.

In these cases of short-answer tests, the automatic correction and alternate versions generator features come in handy. The teacher can save a lot of time correcting. Plus, if the test is done during a period in the computer lab, you can create 3 different versions of the same test, so as to reduce cheating. You just have to make sure that students seated directly next to each other have different versions of the text. This way, even if they peek at their neighbour’s screen, they cannot cheat.

My personal opinion

Why I like it…

I think that EasyTestMaker is very convenient, since it is very simple to use. I have experimented on the free version and had no trouble at all creating a test and an answer key without looking at any tutorial or reading instructions. It like it when things are simple and self-explanatory.

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Also, as a person who cares about the environment, I believe that taking tests online can be a very nice solution to reduce paper copies that are only going to serve once.

Furthermore, any tool that allows me to save time always has a great place in my esteem. As a future teacher, I will need to have concrete strategies and a very organized schedule in order not to lose time. Having tests automatically corrected will be useful.

What I dislike about it…

As useful as EasyTestMaker can be, I disliked the look of the interface. As a matter of fact, the design of the interface does not look up to date. One would use the site in order to integrate technology into their teaching practise, but the design looks old and too straightforward. It would add a dynamic value if the creators updated their graphical design.

Also, I find it disappointing that most of the interesting features are only available to the paying versions. The free version does not allow you to format your text (choose your font, bold, centre), to add images or graphs, to publish online or the automatically grade the tests. Furthermore, the premium version costs 74,95$ per year, which is expensive for the amount of benefits related to it. I’m not sure if I would devote a part of my budget to use this software.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DOGO News

DOGO News is a website with online news, book reviews and suggestions as well as movie reviews for children. (DOGO means young or small in Swahili.) The website was created in 2009 by Meera Dolasia in San Francisco Bay area. As a mother, she wanted a safe but interesting and educative site for her children. The word spread about her creation, and today, the website is used by a million students and teachers around the world.

How it works and features

The DOGO News section presents current news, interesting facts, funny stories, and current events all geared for kids. All of the stories presented are non-fiction articles about what is going on all around the world. Indeed, there is a world map function. By clicking on it, it shows you the location of the news on a world map. Therefore, the students develop their awareness of what is going on around the globe, and the geographical contexts help them to contextualize the articles.

You can browse articles according to the latest news, topics (science, sports, social studies, did you know, green, general, entertainment, international, Amazing, fun, videos, etc.), by grades (K-3, 3-5, 5-8), or by searching a key word in the search box. On every article page, you can leave a comment in the comment section, you can send the article by e-mail, and you can embed the article in a blog. Each article provides a lesson plan that can be used by the teachers, and a word search is also available. Teachers can also log in and create a virtual classroom.

Everything on DOGO News is divided according to the student’s grades. However, some of the ratings are not always appropriate. As stated in a Common Sense Media review of the website, “Although materials are categorized from grade K through 8, younger kids will need an adult to read the material and capitalize on learning resources”.

A very interesting feature is that in every text, complicated words are in bold and in blue. By simply clicking on the different new words, a definition pops up.  This allows the student to have a better understanding of the text, and avoids the teacher to explain tons of new words encountered in the different texts.

There is also a “DOGO Books” section. This sections presents recent to older children / teenage books. All of the books have a short description (summary), as well as information pertaining the genre, reading level, the interest level, the word count, the public rating, the reviews, etc. You can also click on a link to see a preview, buy or “wish” the book on amazon.com or to borrow it at a local library, if available in your region. You can search books by titles, ISBN, reading level or genre. Every book presented has a review section for kids to write what they thought about the book and if they recommend it. Students can also join the National Geographic Kids Book Club where they have fun activities, and cool prizes to win. In the DOGO Books sections, there is a “Giveaways and Contests” section where you can win free books from publishers.

For ESL teachers

What is so interesting about DOGO News website, is that it can be used by teachers and students in so many different ways. Here are a few ways to use it:

  • You can send students on the website to choose any topic of their choice for a writing assignment. An interesting aspect of this website is that all the news on the site are geared to kids. Therefore, the students are sure to find an interesting topic for them to talk or write about, but also, the articles available assure the teacher that the content will be appropriate for students and school context.

Victoria Santos, a teacher doing a tutorial on YouTube, talks about how she enjoys using DOGO News in her classroom.

“I enjoy using DOGO News with my students because the current events are geared for kids. It is much more interesting than the current events that adults read about. These articles will allow students to become creative and choose fun topics for their writing.”

  • You can also sign in with a teacher account and create a class page for your groups. You simply need to invite students to join your class page. On your class page, you can share videos, recommended books, add links to your favourite websites, show a class calendar with the different assignments, etc.
  • On your class page, you can create a reading list, and a list of recommended books for your students to read. You can assign students to choose a book from your list to read, and afterwards, you ask the student to make his own book review and post it on the website. The fact that the students’ work will be posted on the internet will surely motivate them to write a good text.
  • You can assign an article to read, and use the lesson plan suggested on the website. The lesson plans suggest different areas of activities, like comprehension questions, critical thinking activities, vocabulary activities, speaking and writing activities.
  • A teacher could also choose to formulate new comprehension questions about the text, since the ones suggested may not be adapted to the students’ level, or the teacher might want to have more questions, since there are only about 3 for each text.
  • The teacher could also assign a critical thinking challenge. For instance, you assign the same text for all of the students, and you have students reflect on what they read, and what they think. They could engage in a debate, where they argue and share their point of view, or a discussion in class where they share their reflection. The students may also be invited to comment on the text’s online page.
  • Each text also provides a word search with vocabulary words related to the topic. This can be a nice filler activity, for some students who finish their task early.
  • Another idea on how to use DOGO News in the classroom is suggested by Amy Lauren Botula. This teacher weekly assigns articles to her students as collaborative research projects. Every week, they work in group on a new article.
  • Finally, Teachers First blog recommends to create a class magazine with all the articles chosen by the students.

These are all interesting ways to use the free website with your kids, and get them hooked on interesting and sometimes unusual topics.

 

My personal opinion

As a future English teacher, I believe that it is important to develop the students’ critical thinking, and to increase their sense of curiosity and awareness regarding what is going on around the world. This is why I believe that DOGO news is a very interesting website to use in classrooms. It is really simple to use for children, and as mentioned previously, there are many ways to use it in a classroom. After reading a few suggested lesson plans, I can conclude that the ideas suggested are very interesting, and also very adapted to students. The news are fun and interesting. The subjects are always adapted to children’s interests. Indeed, they are even adapted to different school levels.

The only thing to be careful with, is that because this site is created for English as a first language learners, some questions, texts difficulties and vocabulary levels may be more difficult for ESL students than what is graded on the website. So, maybe adapt the chosen text to lower levels. For instance, a group of 6 graders may not be able to read and understand a text graded 5-8, but a 3-5 text would be more appropriate to their level of English.

I find it interesting that using the same website, the 3 MELS competencies can be integrated. For instance, students develop their oral abilities (C1) by discussing or debating a subject. Their reinvestment competency (C2) is developed when they have comprehension questions to answer according to a text they read. Finally, the writing competency (C3) is developed when the teacher asks the student to write about the topic.

There are only two cons about the web site. As stated in Common Sense Media,

“The Maps tab houses a world tour of geo-located one-paragraph articles that feels really cool at first but can’t be paused — a definite source of frustration for the majority of readers who will not be able to read all the text before the tour shoves off again for another spot on the planet.”

It is true that this function could be upgraded. Also, as mentioned in Graphite, the answer keys are not provided. So, the teacher needs to read all of the articles in advance to make sure he knows what the answers are. In a case where the teacher allows the students to choose an article of their choice, this lack of answer key can become problematic.

In conclusion, I will certainly use this website during my practicums and my future career.