Educational Value of Kinetic Typography


I previously wrote a post about creating kinetic typography videos.  I love finding Spanish kinetic typography lyric videos because they A) are attractive and visually pleasing to watch and B) include Spanish lyrics and words so that you can match the Spanish audio with a word.  I have used these videos as supplemental content for a few years.

But this year I wanted to “up the ante”.  I wanted my students to have to make a kinetic typography video of their own–using Spanish songs and Spanish lyrics.  It was a hefty creative task that required some time from the students.  I just finished grading the final products and now I can reflect on the educational value of this project.

Focus on Spanish Lyrics

This type of video is a lyric video, which means the students had to spend a great deal of time with the lyrics of the song.  I did not give them a copy of the Spanish lyrics.  I gave them other lyric video examples that they could copy from or I think some of them just Googled for the Spanish lyrics to the songs.  Regardless, this creation required students to spend a great deal of time working with the Spanish words.  Even if they didn’t know what the words meant necessarily, it was valuable to have them spend so much time immersed in the target language.  I heard a few comments throughout the last few weeks that “I have that word in my song” or referencing that they learned different Spanish words that we didn’t learn in class just because they are used a lot in their song.  This was the main benefit of the project for me: a way to force my students to spend more time absorbed in the Spanish language.

Hearing Spanish Words

In addition to just working with the lyrical text, students had to work with the Spanish audio of the song. They repeatedly had to listen to their song, making them more familiar with the way Spanish sounds.  A few students commented that they can’t hear the original English version of the song anymore without hearing the Spanish lyrics in their head.  And some commented that they listened to it so often the Spanish song got stuck in their head and they kept repeating it.  Even if they didn’t know the direct translation of the audio stuck in their head, having Spanish of any kind floating around the brain is a great learning experience.

Matching Audio to Words

The lyrical text should be matched to the audio.  When students made their videos, they had to make sure the Spanish words appeared in sync with the Spanish audio.  This requires students to do a few different mental tasks at once (always of great educational value).  Students had to listen to the Spanish audio, look at the Spanish lyrical text in their presentation and physically get them to appear together.  This process of audio and visual matching is a great learning activity for them.  It isn’t enough just to have the Spanish lyrics or just to listen to the Spanish audio.  Having to take both pieces and work them together in sync really established a unique learning experience.

Content Creation

Aside from Spanish, a project like this is rewarding just because it allows the students to be content creators: authors of their own learning.  I gave them project parameters, specific benchmarks they were to be graded on but they were allowed to choose their own path of completion.  Some students chose to work together in small groups while others worked alone.  Some created their presentation using Powerpoint and others used Prezi or just IMovie. The finished projects I saw reflected the individual students: I did not receive two identical projects. Each project reflects the individual or individuals responsible for it.  My students that were a little more tech saavy used that to their advantage to create something really innovative.  Students that were less techy produced simpler projects that still met all project guidelines.  Allowing students to be content creators gives them the freedom to publish their own path to learning.

As a teacher, I’m satisfied with that the projected learning outcomes associated with this project were met. I’m proud of the creations my students ended up with and hope they are too.

Creating Kinetic Typography Videos


I wanted my students to create something new and interesting this year using lyrics to popular songs in Spanish.  I found a selection of songs in Spanish that include the Spanish lyrics.  But unlike most lyric videos on YouTube, these videos presented the lyrics in a stimulating and very visual way.  These types of videos are known as kinetic typography videos because the text moves and is interesting.

Here are some examples of Kinetic Typography:

I would create activities using the lyrics to these songs and noticed that the more I listened to the songs, the more engrained in my brain the Spanish lyrics became. I thought “Wouldn’t it be great if I could have my students do something that required them to pay attention to these lyrics?”.  So I decided to have them create kinetic typography videos.

I looked into the process and it can be quite advanced when you want the final product to be like the videos posted above. Most of the software used to create great kinetic typography 1) costs money and 2) requires training time that I couldn’t afford to do in the classroom.  But could a decent kinetic typography be created on a public school budget (aka: free)?

I figured out a way to do this by creating a lyrics presentation using a presentation tool as simple as PowerPoint.  You can animate or make the lyrics “appear” and move.  If you go through the presentation and play it while playing your song, you can sync up the movements so they match the lyrics.  By using a screenrecording program on your computer (like Quicktime), you can record your presentation.  You have just filmed a kinetic typography video!

I’ve listed the directions and process of building a kinetic typography video below.  Check back next week to see my reflections on this project as my students turn in their final products.


Below are the steps and directions that I gave to my students:

There are stages and steps necessary in creating a Kinetic Typography Video.

  1. Download the audio (Find a song to use)
  2. Take the lyrics to the song and create a visual presentation
  3. Film of your presentation (Screencast)
  4. Create a video using your presentation film and the song audio

Continue reading “Creating Kinetic Typography Videos”

Death to PowerPoint (or PowerPointed to Death)


PowerPoint has been one of the greatest educational presentation tools since the lightbulb overhead machine.  I want to start by saying that:  PowerPoint is great.  It’s a slick, beautiful way to deliver instruction to classrooms.  It beats a laundry list of notes or outlines any day.  And it’s a great assessment tool as well.  Having students use PowerPoints to demonstrate their understanding of a concept can be much more concise that reading a standard paragraph report.  Plus there are themes, designs, transitions and bells and whistles to keep even the apathetic viewer interested.

PowerPoint is great.

But it can be overdone.

Just as with any classroom instructional practice, students and teachers can fall into a rut and fall victim to overexposure and overuse.  I’ve heard one of the downfalls of 1:1 classroom environments is that students end up attending PowerPoint University–constantly exposed to PowerPoint instruction and PowerPoint assessments.

So for a recent classroom project, I banned PowerPoint.  The students have to create a visual informational presentation of some kind, but they are not allowed to use PowerPoint.  I created the project standards for them and it is up to them to figure out how they are going to execute it and with which tool.

To help the process, I started investigating some alternatives to PowerPoint and gave them the following page of bookmarks.  These tools range from fancy animated presentation tools to simple Google Presentations (to which the students said is the same thing as a PowerPoint.  To which I said, but it isn’t A POWERPOINT).

Alternatives to PowerPoint

I’m interested to see what they come up with.  And even better, I’m interested to not see a PowerPoint.

SnapChatting Assignments


SnapChatI’m surrounded by students with smartphones.  Not every student, but it seems like the majority.  It’s a handheld, personal device that they have with them at almost all times.  I’m constantly looking for ways to combine our classroom objectives with the personal lives of my students.  I believe that when learning is made personally meaningful to the life of the learner, it’s truly transformative.

The was the main philosophy behind bringing SnapChat into my classroom assignment portfolio.  SnapChat is an application where users take photos using their handheld devices.  They can add text, annotate or draw on the picture and send that picture to another user.  The uniqueness about SnapChat is that the picture can only be viewed by the recipient for 10 seconds and then it ceases to exist.  Short shelf life, easy concept.

When introducing a new section of Spanish vocabulary, I often have my students do some type of immersion project: something that requires them to spend some time getting to know their vocabulary better.  I always include options in these types of projects.  Some students prefer to do more artsy things with their vocabulary words, some prefer typing or online gaming drills, others prefer writing projects, etc.  Giving options is important in letting the student create a unique learning experience for themselves.

One project option that I usually put out there is a photo labeling type of assignment.  Find words from our vocabulary list in the real world, take a picture (or find a picture on the internet), label that picture and assemble all your pictures in a slideshow for me.  My students usually made these on VoiceThread or by putting the pictures together in an IMovie.  I see the picture + they have the word labeled correctly = project completed.  They have met the objective to recognize and identify the vocabulary.

Giving the option to SnapChat this project seemed like a perfect fit.  The application (which the majority of the students were already using and familiar with) is the perfect way to capture a photo and label it.  In a matter of seconds, students can SnapChat their photos with Spanish vocabulary captions and “turn them in” by sending them to me.  Easy. Instant. Real life.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

I was extremely pleased with the results.  As with any project, I went back to reflect on weak spots or any potential problems for the future.

  • SnapChat is essentially social media and I think you have to be careful mixing with students in the social media world.  That’s why for this SnapChat assignment I created a neutral Spanish SnapChat account (espanoldhs) to make it “official”.  I feel like this established that you are sharing your photos with “Spanish Class”, not “Emily Huff”.  By not connecting the SnapChat to myself personally, I feel like it keeps a wall between me and the students.
  • Once it was established and understood by the students that this was an “official” school related SnapChat account, we discussed posting ethics.  Particularly that if anything inappropriate was shared, it would result in school consequences. (Equivalent of standing in front of the class and doing something inappropriate)
  • One potentially negative effect of SnapChatting the assignments is the short life span of the photos.  Ten seconds is enough time for me to view and assess the objectives (did the student label and identify a Spanish vocabulary word?).  The work can’t be saved and shared but I think I’m ok with that.  The purpose of these assignments is just to make sure my students have some time with our vocabulary.  I don’t really need for the project to exist after the objective has been met.  And I’ve seen enough students throw projects away immediately to know that isn’t a main concern for them either.
  • I don’t require this from students.  It is one way to complete one of the options they have for an assignment.  I don’t give special consideration for students that choose this option vs. any other option.  I grade the objectives only, not the method of delivery.

Project Based Learning Experiment


Over the summer, I got an idea from someone in my Edmodo community in regards to project based learning and foreign language.  My friend Wikipedia had this to say about this new educational buzz theory called Project Based Learning: “the use of in-depth and rigorous classroom projects to facilitate learning and assess student competence. Students use technology and inquiry to respond to a complex issue, problem or challenge. PBL focuses on student-centered inquiry and group learning with the teacher acting as a facilitator”.

So with months of preparation, I created Misterios en Madrid.  This mystery project will serve as my concluding assessment project for Spanish 1 at the end of 2nd semester.  To test it out, I had my Spanish 2 class start the year with it.  I had the students working in groups of 3 or 4.  They would assess each other throughout the steps.

Misterios en Madrid had 4 parts, or pasos.  The first group to complete each paso received 100% and subsequent groups received a slightly lower grade than the group ahead of them.  This increased the urgency and brought a competitive component to the activity.  At the beginning of each paso, I presented the material and gave a final task that needed to be completed.  The paths each group took from the beginning to the correct completion of the final task varied.  The goal was for each group to complete that final task.

In order to complete the final task of each paso, students had to use a variety of materials.  Throughout all of the pasos, I used the following materials: written clues in Spanish, VoiceThreads in Spanish, Voki’s in Spanish, maps, pictures and other realia (authentic materials in the target language, such as party invitations, hotel information brochure and hotel receipts.)

Reflections:

  • I enjoyed the “hands-off” role I played during worktime on the Mystery.  The students had a lot of work to do during each paso.  I facilitated but did not lead.  The students really led themselves through the activity.  I was there, in the background, to catch them if they fell or to answer specific questions.
  • Students really had to think critically about the steps they needed/wanted to take in order to complete the tasks at hand, without me feeding them the steps and procedures.  I feel that in other contexts, teachers provide students with so many guidelines that they just move through the motions towards completion like widgets on a conveyor belt.
  • I had 17 different groups working on Misterios en Madrid and had 17 different projects or experiences.  Every group worked a different way and created their own path.  At first I worried that groups would try to hard to emulate each other (or the group they perceived as the most successful) but after the first paso was over, I felt that the students started just to do what worked for them and their group.
  • There were no “super groups”.  I was happy to see so much parity in Misterios en Madrid.  In one class, the groups that finished 1st and last during Paso Uno completely flip-flopped for Paso Dos.  I think that added to the feeling that anyone can and could be successful.  When I immediately split the groups, students expected certain groups to dominate and stifle everyone else, because in a traditional setting, these students do rise to the top.  But the variety of skills need to complete a Paso combined with the open direction concept left the door open for anyone to succeed.
  • I created a few extra credit opportunities for students to work on in addition to Misterios en Madrid to offset any bad days, miscues or unsatisfactory outcomes of the grading of each Paso.  One of the extra credit opportunities I gave was for students to Tweet with the hashtag #MisteriosenMadrid.  It created a social media conversation about our Spanish class activities.  I figured, I know some of my students are already Twittering, why not encourage them to Tweet about what we are doing?  It was a fun by-product of our activities and although it didn’t add anything academic to our class, it did add to our positive classroom culture and positive student interactions.
  • I’ve had successful students before but I never saw so many proud students at the completion of each task.  I would literally see sighs and smiles and looks of accomplishment and pride that I don’t normally see when someone does a super job on a worksheet.  (See more about pride below)
  • I asked some of my students to blog about their experience in our Spanish 2 Blog.  Feel free to read their comments.  One student, Brianna, writes an especially great blog about her group’s experience, recalling the steps, successes and frustrations they encountered.  Really, she says it better than I could.
Student Feedback:
I asked my students to sum up with Misterios en Madrid experience in one word.  Then I typed all of the words into a Wordle.  Common words used are displayed larger than words that only occured once or twice.
Student feedback regarding Misterios en Madrid
  • Other than the work “pointless”, I’m pretty pleased with the feedback.  The project based direction of the class was different, thus for some students, very challenging and frustrating and stressful.  It’s easier when the teacher can just tell you exactly what you need to do in order to get done with your work.
  • Although some of the feedback is quite negative (dumb, horrible, lame), I felt that each person at one point or another during the experience had a good moment; an ah-ha moment of pride.  While one girl told me that she had nightmares about this project and couldn’t stop thinking about it at night, I had another Tweet to all her friends about how “totally accomplished I feel having just finished 1st in #MisteriosenMadrid”.
  • But it was work.  Three weeks of non-stop work where there weren’t many places to hide or slink away and just hope the teacher doesn’t call on you.  You and your group were responsible for a task, and if that task doesn’t get done . . . completely on your shoulders.  That type of work is rarely welcomed by a fifteen year old, so I understand the feelings of “dislike”.
For a better understanding of what the students experienced, please read Brianna’s blog post on our Spanish 2 blog.  Like I said, she explains the student side of it better than I ever could 🙂

Twittering Students


My Spanish 2 classes have recently concluded a unit about the latin dances. We studied several different dances, talked about their characteristics and attempted to identify the dances. As a concluding project, I created a few different project options for my students to choose from. Since Dancing with the Stars is both a popular show that deals with this subject matter and since Twitter is becoming increasingly popular with my students, I created a project which combined the two.

Students could Live Tweet about Dancing with the Stars, commenting about the dances. It isn’t a project that involves a lot of higher order thinking or application of class concepts and skills, but it’s a project that connects our class material with “the real world”. I feel like that is rewarding enough. When teachers often complain about getting students to pay attention to class material for 50 minutes in class, it’s exciting to see them focused on the class material at home.

This is just another example of how technology can build a bridge connecting the classroom with the real world of students.

http://twitter.com/#!/KaitlynGebel/status/55094310789591040

http://twitter.com/#!/CassieVohsman/status/55311217014747136

http://twitter.com/#!/KaylaWilsonn/status/55089909559595008

http://twitter.com/#!/alex_place4/status/55060330329542656

http://twitter.com/#!/Gjdmann/status/55058627446312960

Vocabulary Podcasts


Learning vocabulary takes a certain amount of time and repeated practice.  I can repeat words with the kids over and over again in class and I can also highly suggest they go over the words themselves.  Still I haven’t ever felt the students enjoy the repeating or fully embraced that concept.

I decided to have my students make vocabulary podcasts: recording of them pronouncing the words in Spanish, defining the word in English and then spelling the words letter by letter.  I had two goals.  1) Have them review the pronunciations and definitions of the words while creating the podcast, and 2) have the students create an audio file of the vocabulary words that could be downloaded and accessed on a portable electronic listening device (i.e., Ipod).

This was the first podcasting experience for nearly all of my students.  We experienced some equipment problems and time issues, but overall the assignment was a success.  The students all submitted their groups podcasts to a class created account on Podomatic.  From here, students are able to download any of the podcasts as a file that can be added to an Ipod or mp3 player.  They can also click a button and subscribe to these podcasts through Itunes.

Podcast Spanish 1 5.3

Today I showed the students how to access the podcasts and suggested that they use these assignments to prepare for next week’s quiz.

Please visit our Spanish Podcasts through Podomatic at: http://huffspan.podomatic.com/

XtraNormal Assignment Introduction


Saturday night, November 27, I developed a project for my Spanish 2 students to do using a program called Xtranormal.  The very next day while watching football, I saw a Geico commercial that features this movie making website.  I immediately felt as if they stole my idea.

I’m excited to get started with Xtranormal and anxious to see how my students respond to it.  I think it will be very interesting and useful.  I’m so grateful that the characters in Xtranormal come with Spanish languages programs and accents.

This is a quick introductory video I made for our Spanish 2 project using Xtranormal.  I thought:  what better way to explain the project than making an Xtranormal to explain everything I needed.  I’ll be posting in about a week with updates on how the project is going.