Monthly Archives: August 2011

Screen Shot 2011-08-21 at 9.15.37 PM

Squirrels In My Pants

I did a presentation the other day on how one might use the Promethean software to do some interesting things with video. I don’t think the software is essential to do any of this but it did make it pretty easy and we already have it on all our computers and all our student computers. In any case, I used the video above to demo a few easy things for kids to do using screenshots from virtually any video.

Yes, it did make my kids’ day to use a Fineas and Ferb song about squirrels in someone’s pants. I’m not sure what the teachers thought of it but sometimes you have to amuse yourself.

Simplest- Visual Answers

Take video screenshots to answer questions. Easy but a different level of involvement with the video. Depending on the questions this could be low level stuff or something more sophisticated.

You could do simple things like ID the protagonist. Or you could ask harder questions like- Capture the most dramatic frame in the video.

Summarize or Cartoonize

Using simple screenshots you can add word balloons to summarize the video or just use the frame captures as fodder for comics in general. You can make it more complex by adding restrictions (see below) – things like you have to summarize the video in only four frames and 6 lines of poetry. Stuff like that. It can make things more interesting and done with the right examples it could even be at least amusing.

Scary Mary Plot Reversal

The still picture version of a Scary Mary type plot reversal. Simple stuff, I know.

Time Intervals

This is a rough and dirty way to do something similar to what Dan Meyer did with the basketball shot image (at least for the still portion). Essentially, you just hit the frame capture tool at semi-regular intervals and then lay the images over the top and mess with the transparency some. Not super, but really easy and all done in one program that we have and people use.

My example used Angry Birds. I don’t think it was the best choice. I think the basketball shot Dan uses is more interesting to most students- especially if you are the one taking the shot.


Once again, I’m just trying to find ways for teachers/students to mimic stuff Dan Meyer is doing but with as little tech knowledge as possible. I saw his use of an embedded timer in his falling rocks series. That is one nice aspect of the way the Promethean software works. I can add all sorts of useful objects from a built in library- the timer being one, grid overlays are another (it’ll default underneath objects, you can set it to the topmost level under object properties).

The main goal with all this is just to show that it doesn’t have to be hard. We can use simple software and simple ideas to do some pretty interesting things with students. All of our students have this software yet usage still tends to focus on duplicating things you might as well do in PPT.

Easy Post Thumbnails



The thumbnail above was generated through the WordPress Snap plugin using the code above. It’s a quick easy way to add visual elements to your site. It seems to take a while to create for sites not already in their database but it opens up some really nice options.

I’ve often wanted to automatically put thumbnails into posts linking to URLs but all the previous ways I found to do it relied on companies I didn’t like or had other shortfalls that ruled them out. There are a number of projects where we’d like to have this happen. We’ve been using Press This but in some cases I wanted to make the image addition automatic to simplify things for the author.

I sat here for a few minutes and figured I could probably make this happen if I knew how to code stuff. I don’t know how to code but I figured I’d try anyway.

Below is my first stab was at messing with the bookmarklet that allows the Press This to work. First stop, WordPress Codex – documentation there was somewhat sparse. I couldn’t find the word “via” which shows up when you use Press This so I now knew there had to be something else involved in how this works.

I wandered around a bit and eventually found the press-this.php file in wp-admin.

This is what I wanted.

I did a quick search in the file for “via” (when you “press” something it’ll say “blah blah blah” via Blah) as that was likely to be in the general area of what I wanted and it was in English so I’d be able to find it. Sure enough, I found the following chunk of code.


I know only enough to puzzle the idea of the lines out. You can see in the printf line that it’s grabbing the URL and formatting it. That’s essentially what I wanted to do but with slightly different wrappers. I wanted the same variable- the URL. So I messed around with things for a while and eventually wrote the one tiny line below.


I leave it in context below for those as clueless as I am.

It works. That’s always nice. In the near future I’ll add the image size parameters and maybe try a few other things.

Anyone who wants to let me know how to improve things or warn me that I’ve done something terrible, your comments are more than welcome.


It’s All About the PD Baby

lime green gangsta Ben Franklin
Jac de Haan sets me straight regarding how confused I’ve been about the motivation of large corporations to sponsor teaching academies. . .

Regardless of what you believe the motivation behind sponsoring such events may be, these companies are recognizing that many teachers put countless unpaid hours into professional development and investing hundreds of millions of dollars in education.

Oh. Corporations are doing this to recognize unpaid teacher PD. That’s so very kind of them. It all makes sense now.

I take back everything I said about educators being confused about how this whole thing works.