Author Archives: grizzlymedia

There’s Nothing Normal About Xtranormal!

I’m always anxious to find great new Web 2.0 tools that enable my students to display their learning in new and different ways that engage them in the learning process more than traditional research papers. My latest fun tool is Xtranormal.

Xtranormal is nothing like normal. It’s a supercool way to create quick and easy animations. Sure the voices are computer-generated, but you can make your characters say anything you want superfast, supereasy! Just set up a free account at Xtranormal, select a cast, decide how many characters your movie will need–one or two–and get started writing your movie.

There are nine basic scenes, and you can change camera angles within each character’s script. All you do to start a new character’s conversation is click on the plus sign.

You can drag all sorts of cool stuff into each character’s script. Try animations, looks, expressions, points, pauses, and sound effects. There are even different camera angles to keep your animation from being so boring. No one wants to keep looking at the same scene throughout the entire movie! Whenever you drag something into the script, you can try it out on your character inside the script bubble to see what it looks like.

Once you’re finished, you just click on the action button and your animation starts rendering and all that cool movie talk. Give it a few seconds, and then your movie will be ready to preview. Not satisfied? No problem! Editing is a breeze. Then you just save again.

When you’re finally thrilled with your results, you can share your video with the world! But, please, WordPress, get into the twenty-first century so we can embed Flash videos in our blogs!

Ruth Fleet, Ed. S., NBCT

Library Media Specialist

Dean Rusk Middle School

The Latest Word on Wordle

Biomes Wordle2

I’ve been using Wordle for a long time, but you CAN teach an old dog new tricks! I always disliked the boring standard Wordle colors, and I had changed them occasionally, but I had never tried the custom palette. Now that’s where the pretty stuff has been hiding! The next time you want some variety (or just some PRETTY colors), try selecting the color option on the Wordle toolbar, and then choose “custom palette.” You can then determine the number of colors, and then click on the ugly gray boxes that will appear. Once you click on the ugly gray boxes, you can select from the preset swatches of color or even click on the other tabs to get more specific.

While you’re at it, you can select your own pretty font, and under the language option, remove common English words. This wouldn’t make sense if you pasted in words from a list you had typed, but if you had pasted words from, say, a web page, well, then you could get rid of all your unimportant words. You can also make all your words upper or lower case, and on the layout option, give your arrangement a little more appealing variety as well. I like to have some vertical and some horizontal words, but that’s just me.

The second problem I had with Wordle was that when you embed your Wordle, the picture is so teensy weensy. Problem solved! Once I perfect my Wordle, I just slide it to the center of the screen so it is completely visible, then do a screen shot and paste it into a photo editing program. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy–Paint is fine. Then I crop the photo, save it as a .jpg, and Voila! I have a larger size Wordle to use as an image file.

Ruth Fleet, Library Media Specialist

Dean Rusk Middle School

Animoto: Get an Education Code, Add Video Clips, Text, and More!


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Sure, there have been posts here about Animoto, but have you tried Animoto for Education yet? Animoto is a great Web 2.0 utility that you can use as a “hook” to introduce a unit of study to your students, or which your students can use as a product of their research. You and your students can create videos in just a few minutes, and Animoto now includes the ability to add text and video clips to the videos.

With an education account, you and your students can create longer videos at no charge. I have created a (blurry and perhaps boring) video tutorial; it shows you (almost) everything you need to know about Animoto, along with an example of a quick Animoto short video with text included. Just click on the link below to view either the instructional video, the Animoto video, or both.

All you need to do is go to to sign up for a free educator account. It will take a week or two to receive an email from The Animoto Guys (seriously, that’s who will send it!) giving you a code. Then set up your account using the code; your students will use your code as well.

You’ll receive instructions on what to do for students without email addresses and students under 13 to include them in your account. Your students can set up their own accounts according to the instructions, using your code.  You need to sign up for the educator account today because it takes a couple of weeks to receive the email with the code.

Ruth Fleet, Ed.S.,
National Board Certified Library Media Teacher
Dean Rusk Middle School

Just the Thing to Scratch Your Web2.0 Itch

Scratch Logo from Wikimedia Commons

Scratch Logo from Wikimedia Commons

Over the past two Wednesdays I took a fabulous class with technology diva Freda Williams in which I learned the basics of Scratch, a fun and fabulous new Web 2.0 tool. Scratch was created to teach the basics of programming to kids. 

Scratch was developed by the Lifelong Kindergarten group at the MIT Media Lab, in collaboration with the UCLA Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, with financial support from the National Science Foundation, Intel Foundation, and MIT Media Lab research consortia.

You can download it (for free, of course) from the Scratch website and start teaching it to yourself, or go to a great website called Learn Scratch that helps you learn how to use it.  The Scratch website also contains a gallery of ideas that you and your students can download and remix into new programs. Scratch programming language enables you to create your own games, music, art, interactive stories, and animations. Once you finish your creations, you can share them on the web, where you can receive an embed code that will enable you to post your product anywhere else you wish to share it.

Just imagine using this new tool to teach critical thinking skills to your students! Scratch can help you develop twenty-first century learning skills in your students. As they learn essential mathematical and computational skills, they will gain a deeper understanding of the process of design and become more highly engaged in the learning process.

Ruth Fleet, Library Media Specialist

Dean Rusk Middle School

Make Your Search Engine Work Smarter With ChunkIt!


So what’s the buzz about ChunkIt? ChunkIt is a browser add-on that lets you search the web along with your favorite search engine while simultaneously breaking down the search results into “chunks” of information divided into various types such as news sources, Wikipedia, YouTube, Amazon, and blog posts. Your screen is divided in half with two scroll bars: one for your search engine, and one for the ChunkIt chunks. Your search term is even highlighted on the ChunkIt side of the screen. If you find a chunk you want to send to yourself or a friend, there’s a button just sitting there waiting for you to email the chunk to whomever you please–no cutting and pasting required. ChunkIt also includes a social bookmarking feature like or Diigo so you can easily bookmark sites via ChunkIt. ChunkIt really doesn’t need much explanation, but in case you need further explication, there’s a Lee Lefever/Common Craft-type video that is moderatelyentertaining. There are also some other videos you can watch if you are not at school where they may be blocked. If you like Brain Age for the Nintendo DS, you might want to check out AddLetters, which is where I generated my quick and easy image of Dr. Ryuta Kawashima. I’m a fan myself–even if he is a little pushy.
Ruth Fleet
Creekview High School