MAT Blog

PowToon is Offering Educators $5 Million in Free Accounts

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 29, 2014 12:13:00 PM

disital_storytellingPowToon is probably my favorite digital storytelling application. Everything is as simple as drag and drop and once you’ve completed your animation, you can use PowToon’s easy export system to place your animation on YouTube or download it to your computer.

Although I’ve mentioned PowToon before, this morning I received an email from them letting me know that they are giving away $5 million in free accounts to educators. Each account gives one teacher and 60 students complete access to all of PowToons features which, if you were paying for it, would cost you nearly $100. Not bad.

Click here to sign up. You’ll also need to enter this promotional code when you get there: ToonUp5M




Pedagogy with a Personality

Tags: digital storytelling, apps for educators, Best Apps for Educators, writing skills, K-6 writing strategies

5 of Our Favorite Digital Storytelling Apps for Teachers

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Aug 29, 2014 10:01:00 AM

Storytelling is an indispensable human activity, one that we use not only to convey our identity and experience, but also to convince others of our arguments. Because storytelling is so important, we believe it’s important that we encourage students to tell their stories—and in a way that challenges and inspires them. One way to get students excited about storytelling is by using a medium that they not only love, but are completely comfortable with: technology.

As with  traditional storytelling, students must write, but what makes digital storytelling engaging—and often less intimidating—for students is that it gives them the ability to add computer-based images, text, recorded audio narration, video clips and/or music. If you’re looking for a few applications to get your storytellers started, we’ve got 5 of them!

5 of Our Favorite Digital Storytelling Apps for Teachers

tellagamiTellagami is a free app that allows users to create short animated movies called "Gamis.” Here’s how it works: After you choose your character, you can alter his or her mood, swap out backgrounds, doodle, record your voice, or add text. When you’re satisfied with your work, all you have to do is save and publish it to your favorite social media site, blog or website.


zooburstZoo Burst (free) gives students the ability to create their own 3D pop-up books. Arrange your characters and props and customize your 3D world by using uploaded artwork or items found in the Zoo Burst database, which contains over 10,000 free images and materials.

We should also mention that readers who have a standard webcam installed on their computer can also experience any ZooBurst book in augmented reality. This feature gives readers the ability to interact with the book and turn pages simply by waving their hands!

superhero_comic_book_makerSuperhero Comic Book Maker ($1.99) is an award-winning app that helps students create personalized, animated comic books with monsters and superheroes. Choose from 27 unique background scenes and over 170 animated stickers with sound effects. Students can also illustrate their work and narrate it.

puppet_palsPuppet Pals 2 (free) builds on many of the features available in the first version of the application, giving users more flexibility and a wider variety of choices. Choose from a collection over 30 unique “puppets,” which include historical figures like Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln, or design your own character from scratch. As with real puppets, users can flex their digital puppets’ joints and alter their poses. If you have access to a microphone, you can also make your puppet speak when you tap on it.

toontasticToontastic Jr. Shrek Movie Maker (free) is always a class favorite, especially with younger students. This app allows students to “remix” and the classic Shrek movie by picking a beginning, middle, and ending for the movie, and recording their voice. Whether you choose to storm the Dragon’s castle, rescue Princess Fiona, or battle Lord Farquaad, the decision is entirely up to you.


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Tags: digital storytelling, apps for educators, Writing, writing fluency, apps for teachers, K-6 writing strategies

5 More of the Best Comic Generator Apps

Posted by Marygrove MAT on Jun 18, 2014 9:37:00 AM

comic_book_generatorIt’s been a while since I looked to see if any new comic book generator apps have popped up in the last few months, so this morning I did a little research. Here are five new comic book generators I’d never seen before.

Make Beliefs Comix (free) gives users a choice of over 60 objects and backgrounds, not to mention 37 human and animal characters including a werewolf, vampire, and a myriad of animals. The fact that you can write your dialogue in English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Latin or Portuguese will also appeal to foreign language teachers.

Marvel (free) gives users the option of creating a 1 to 3 page panel strip or, if they’re ambitious, a 1 to 22 page comic book where they control the sound effects, characters, thought bubbles and dialogue. Once they’re done, they can save to the desktop or print.

Strip Generator (Free) is a sleek little web application that helps users create black and white comic strips. No sign-up is required to use the site—we also enjoy entering the design contests hosted on the site.

Lego City (free) is a free web application that allows you to create, you guessed it, LEGO-style comic strips. Choose your layout, select your characters, and drag and drop your comic heroes into place. When you're satisfied with your work, you can either save it online or download it to your hard drive.

Strip Designer ($2.99) is a comic book generator you can use on your mobile device. Unlike most generators, Strip Designer allows you to
insert your own photos from your camera, photo album, or Facebook account. You can apply filters, paint on the photos, or even draw your own sketches from scratch.

Photo credit: Marxchivist / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Surfing for Substance II Download

Tags: apps for educators, Best Apps for Educators, writing skills, K-6 writing strategies, comic generator apps

The RAFT strategy is a lifesaver for differentiating writing!

Posted by Colleen Cadieux on Aug 31, 2012 5:30:00 AM

Marygrove MAT outlines the RAFT strategy for differentiating writingThe RAFT strategy in education (Santa, 1988) is an effective tool for activating prior knowledge and differentiating writing in a variety of content areas.  This strategy requires the writer to assume a specific role, address an intended audience, follow a certain format, and adhere to a chosen topic. Since students have an enormous amount of choice, the RAFT strategy for any classroom subject is an ideal vehicle for students to demonstrate their deep understanding of complex ideas and concepts. 

The RAFT strategy begins with an easy to remember acronym that explains the components of the writing.

Role Who are you as the writer?
Audience Who are you writing for?
Format What format will the writing take?
Topic + strong verb What is your topic for the piece? What is the purpose?

The strong verb listed with the topic is an option that some teachers choose to employ. You can have students choose a verb such as formulate, design, persuade, convince, critique, apply, or convince to provide further definition for the writer.

Although the four components work together in harmony to help the writer develop the piece, they each have individual qualities central to the quality of the writing.

This component challenges the students to adopt a point of view different from their own. This analytical thinking can be a challenge to move outside of themselves and their formed opinions. Some of the most powerful RAFT writing comes when a student writes from a completely opposite view of his own. You can also assign students to take the role of a historical figure, a person currently in the public eye, or someone in a specific occupation.

Whether we like it or not most student writing is written for a single audience, the teacher. The RAFT differentiation strategy gives students the opportunity to craft a piece for a specific, intended audience. You can be as creative as you want about the audience. They could write for a group of students, decision makers such as a city council, or a certain group in history. 

The format of the piece allows the student to stretch their writing into different genres and forms. Students could craft a number of formats including an essay, a persuasive letter, an advertisement, an advice column, a journal entry, or a news release.

The content is simply what the student will be writing about. When planning the RAFT activities you may find it helpful to start from this point. Once you determine what the topic is, which is often most closely related to the subject area, you can plan the other components.

It is important to remember that the RAFT strategy in education is a great tool for engaging knowledge and thinking about many different subject areas. Since the components can be designed to fit every content area, the possibilities for the strategy's use are limitless.

The most important thing to remember with this differentiation strategy is that you can adapt it to best fit the needs of your classroom and your students. There's no right or wrong, just the guidelines for a solid strategy that allows your students to have a different perspective on their own writing.

There are a variety of online resources available if you would like more information about the RAFT strategy in education, including:
Writing Fix - sample RAFTs, RAFT generator, rubrics, and useful forms
Read, Write, Think - professional development model, sample RAFTs, strategy in practice
RAFT Writing - PowerPoint presentations, technology integration ideas, templates, and sample RAFTs.

Download a FREE copy of our Best Practices in Reading Comprehension for more strategic tips on developing successful students!

Download our K-6 Reading Comprehension B

Tags: differentiation, RAFT strategy, K-6 writing strategies

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