Keeping Teens Challenged and Engaged with Video Presentations

Many teens dread giving a speech in front of their peers. They have difficulty capturing – and keeping – the attention of their audience. They struggle to structure and communicate their ideas successfully.

Integrating a variety of technology into your courses – whether it’s history, science, language arts, or a foreign language – will provide teens with a range of  multimedia and design tools. In doing so, teens are more engaged and thereby develop a range of skills related to production and video presentations. Best of all, they learn to communicate more clearly and more compellingly with their audience.

mysimpleshow video presentations

I was compensated for my time writing this review. All opinions expressed are true and completely our own. Please see my disclosure policy for more information.

Tips For Keeping Teens Engaged

Teens get bored easily – especially when instruction is delivered the same way or when asked to give yet another speech to demonstrate what they have learned. Keep teens engaged by designing lessons that include novelty, variety, and fun.

When teens use short and friendly video, they can awake interest for almost any topic. Creating explainer videos with mysimpleshow, for example, is easy and exciting, and it also trains users regarding the application of creative technology resources.

Focus student attention by incorporating demonstrations, role playing, hands-on activities, storytelling, and multimedia presentations to enhance instruction. Requesting students create explainer videos with mysimpleshow is a great means to structure content, provide guidance, and give an overview.

Did you know?

The great Roman orator, Cicero, recommended the use of images as part of memory training. He also used visuals, in the form of props, in his speeches. For this reason, he is considered one of Rome’s greatest orators and prose stylists.

Many teens love to socialize and do projects with their peers. Cooperative learning opportunities are highly effective in keeping students engaged and participating in lessons. With mysimpleshow, students can work in teams (either in small groups or with a partner) on video scripts and visualizations to aid in their collaboration skills.

Our Favorite Resource for Video Presentations

While there are many interactive presentation and slide show apps, mysimpleshow is our favorite resource for video presentations. It is the perfect medium your students need to make their project fun, engaging, and interesting.

mysimpleshow is an online tool that enables anyone to create concise and engaging explainer videos in just a few minutes. It is also a great option for teachers to create lessons and presentations with multimedia and interactive elements such as video, audio, and embedded assessments.

Writing the video script native to the mysimpleshow platform, enhances writing skills, as students need to use transition phrases and must only include the most relevant information to align with the storyline template’s character limits.

mysimpleshow video presentations

The screenshot visible above is excerpted from a video I put together for our Scout troop detailing the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse. On the left side, you can see two highlighted words – these are the words that are illustrated with graphics from the available gallery or images the user can upload.

I love that the user has the freedom to select the words to animate. As the slideshow plays, the selected image will appear as the narrator reads the highlighted word. The user will thereby need to make small adjustments to their script to assure the graphics appear in a timely manner – a great problem solving opportunity.

My daughter used mysimpleshow to create a fabulous explainer video for Ranger requirement #2g, “Make a presentation for your crew on communications equipment used in the outdoors with emphasis on how this equipment would help in a wilderness survival situation.”

 

She loved the flexibility of the program and looks forward to making another video to teach her Venturing Crew about Leave No Trace principles.

In the Path of Totality: The 2017 Eclipse

We had been planning to be in the path of totality for over a year, purchasing tickets to OMSI’s eclipse party at the state fairgrounds in Salem, Oregon in July of 2016. As the date approached, the media was inundated with warnings about traffic congestion, fuel shortages, and other issues related to the eclipse.

path of totality - solar eclipse Preparing for Totality

As we prepared for the event and stressed about logistics – wondering if we should change plans and camp in the Cascades [we would need to pick Geneva up on Friday evening after National Youth Leadership Training – (NYLT)], crash at my brother’s in Eugene, or return home and then drive up to Salem the morning of – we spent time learning more about eclipses.

We had previously seen an annular eclipse and the kids were curious how they differed. Best of all, their interest tied into the requirements necessary to earn the coveted BSA Eclipse patch:

  • Boy Scouts: Draw a diagram of the positions of the moon, earth, and sun to show how the solar eclipse occurs.
  • Venturers: Research Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington’s 1919 experiment and discuss how it confirmed Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

We had recently discovered mysimpleshow and it seemed like the perfect tool for this project. We thereby collaborated (learning how to use the program together) on an explainer video for the 2017 Total Solar Eclipse.

As

As this was our first multimedia presentation with mysimpleshow, we struggled with a few things (I can’t figure out why a few of the images appear in blue hues) but otherwise we LOVE it! We will definitely be using it again – I’ll be posting a complete review in September so check back. :)

Experiencing Totality

After learning more about the location of Geneva’s NYLT camp, we opted to return home Friday evening – we didn’t get home until nearly 1 a.m. She needed the time to decompress after camp however, so it was a wise decision.

We decided to drive up Sunday afternoon and thereby made arrangements to pitch our tent in a friend’s backyard (Thank you, Hannah!). Traffic was not bad on the way up and we arrived rested and excited for the next day.

path of totality - solar eclipse We grabbed a quick breakfast and made our way over the fairgrounds where the vibe was picking up as our morning coffees began to work their magic. We met up with friends who drove down from Portland and the festivities began.

We meandered the vendor booths and enjoyed the speakers in the amphitheater. The best part of the morning was simply catching up with our friends and taking in each moment – Geneva sketching and Jeffrey cubing.

I loved watching the crowd as the moon eclipsed the sun. Taiko drummers beat out a rhythm as totality approached and were silent during the 1 minute 53 seconds of duration. The crowd was awed and everyone mesmerized by the beauty of the natural event.

path of totality - solar eclipse

It was so fun to experience it with a large crowd – to stop even ever so briefly and not worry about politics or personal strife. Though many people began to depart after totality, we opted to stay.

We enjoyed a leisurely lunch at a nearby Chinese restaurant as we contemplated which route to take to return home. As I5 south was already congested with traffic (our GPS map showed it red for the entire length of the state), we chose to drive slightly westward and then proceed south on highway 99 through Monmouth and Corvallis. This turned out to be a wise choice. Though traffic was heavier than usual, we encountered congestion for only a short stretch between Corvallis and Monroe.

It has been several days now since the eclipse and we are still in awe. It was really incredible and we are so thankful we had the opportunity to experience a total solar eclipse in totality. The next eclipse visible in the United States will be 2024. We may consider making plans for this one as well.

 

 

The Evolution of STEM to STEAM: A Book Review & Activity Resources

When I was teaching full time, there was a big push to increase student participation in science, technology, engineering, and math courses and ultimately encourage youth to pursue these careers. In fact, I was hired as an elementary science specialist and was responsible for the science instruction of over 330 students in 4th – 6th grades. In this role, I discovered my true passion … science education.

The Evolution of STEM to STEAM @EvaVarga.netThe Push for STEM

STEM arose from the desire of policy makers to encourage the natural curiosity of youth and their sense of wonder about these fields. These experts say our young people need strong STEM skills to compete in the world market. We must work together to cultivate the next generation of critical thinkers and innovators.

The US Department of Education reports that the number of STEM / STEAM jobs in the United States will grow by 14% from 2010 to 2020, growth that the is “much faster “ than the national average of 5-8% across all job sectors. Computer programming and IT jobs top the list of the the hardest to fill jobs and yet they are not the most popular college majors.

With this push for STEM programs and my broad work experiences, I have written extensively about STEM concepts. For several years, I coordinated a STEM Club for homeschool kids in our local area and shared many our activities here with you.

STEAM is the Future

The inclusion of the arts component into STEM makes it more fun to learn, and more approachable to kids. Arts and creativity are crucial to these fields and are the tool that allows technology to be usable in real life.

STEAM represents a paradigm shift from traditional education philosophy, based on standardized test scores, to a modern ideal which focuses on valuing the learning process as much as the results. The arts are poised to transform our economy in the 21st century just as science and technology did in the last century.

Fostering a strong STEAM education is our best opportunity to boost the spirit of innovation. It’s what we need to help ensure we continue on a prosperous and secure journey. STEAM literacy is also critical because it has a profound and growing impact on our day-to-day lives. Nature, space exploration, the arts, and any STEAM-related interest reveals to us the beauty and power of the world we inhabit.

steam-kidsSTEAM Kids

I am excited to share with you all a fabulous new book by a group of homeschool moms and science advocates, STEAM Kids: 50+ Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math Hands-on Projects for Kids. They authors have pulled their collective experience and wisdom to provide you with a wealth of fun activities young children will LOVE!

They have just launched and I am delighted to have been given a sneak peak at STEAM Kids in exchange for an honest review. I encourage you to take a peak – I know you’ll love it, too. Over 140 pages of fun hands-on STEAM related activities for young children.

If you’re looking for great hands on activities that encourage children to develop their creative abilities while building upon their skills, STEAM Kids is the answer. Teachers and parents alike will find plenty of ideas to captivate young kids and immerse them in an engaging learning environment.

Like what you see? The STEAM Kids ebook is available for just $14.99!  If you have older kids, consider purchasing copies to give as gifts. One activity a week fully outlined using materials easily found around the house for less than 30¢ a week. You can’t go wrong!

steam-halloweenThat’s not all! During launch week (9/14-9/21), you will also received their STEAM Kids: Halloween activity book free. Thereafter, it will be available for $4.99 so don’t delay. Inside you’ll find 59 pages filled with spooky and sweet Halloween activities perfect for the classroom or at home. Things like pumpkin brush bots, spider web science, Halloween building challenges and more.

As an little expression of gratitude, they’ve also created a FREE Printable highlighting 52 weeks of STEAM activities.

How to Build an Online Student Portfolio

A student portfolio has long been used in education to represent a student’s best work. Today, accordion folders are being replaced by digital or online portfolios – interactive, cloud-based catalogs of the student’s best work.

Today, the development of a digital portfolio is at the heart of many college and career readiness programs in high schools across the country. A student portfolio crafts a narrative of learning, growth, and achievement over time. An online student portfolio is a creative means of organizing, summarizing, and sharing artifacts, information, and ideas.

How to Build an Online Student Portfolio @EvaVarga.netAs the focus in the classroom continues to move toward performance-based assessment, building a student portfolio is not only a valuable reflection of who they are but it also serves as an important assessment tool for parents and educators. Additionally, portfolios provide a dynamic presentation for college entrance exams and future job interviews.

Online Student Portfolio Options

Following are six tools that homeschool and public classrooms are using to promote deeper learning by encouraging students to build a collection of personal bests. Choose the tool that suits you – keep in mind what type of work you desire to showcase as well as the age of the student. You’ll also want to consider your level of comfort with material that is publicly accessible.

Blogs & Websites

There are many free blogging and website platforms that provide templates and tools that make creating a website easy and fun. You may already be familiar with Blogger, Weebly, Wix, or WordPress.  Discussing the pros and cons between each of these is fodder for an entirely different post and one that doesn’t really fit my blogging niche. I’ll thereby leave that to the experts. Keep in mind, however, that these options do not give teachers (or parents) any way by which to moderate its use by students.

Evernote

Evernote does just about everything, it is like the Swiss Army knife of organization. As opposed to a blog or website, Evernote allows students to write, take photos, record audio, upload content with the ability to tag items, create notebooks for organization, and share content socially. It is very versatile as it offers a variety of apps that all work great together and can sync across multiple computers and mobile devices. Similar to a blog or website, however, Evernote doesn’t give teachers a way in which to moderate its use by students. Then again, unlike the alternatives, Evernote isn’t publicly viewable, either.

How to Build an Online Student Portfolio @EvaVarga.netGoogle

With Google Sites, students can create media-rich websites to display their work. By starting with a template and a site structure in place, students are able to integrate their work with other Google apps to create a comprehensive story of what they have learned. This obviously means that such apps as SlidesBlogger and YouTube integrate seamlessly.

As long as your students and you have Google Apps for Education accounts, you, as the teacher, have administrative control over who sees student sites and how they are used. Students can create work in Google Docs, save it in Drive, and create a showcase portfolio using Google Sites.  { Admin note: See comments to learn more }

Linkedin

Students 13 and over can use LinkedIn to create a professional presence online, showcasing their work, building out a network of people working in career areas of interest, and finding internships. LinkedIn is becoming a powerful tool to help students navigate their path from high school to college to career.

Pathbrite

With Pathbrite, building a portfolio has never been easier. Drag-and-drop your best images, videos, cloud documents, presentations, LinkedIn recommendations, badges, eTranscripts, web links, and even audio recordings into your portfolios. The platform also has options for educators to optimize student learning and assessment tools.

Seesaw

Empowering students as young as five to independently create and organize their work in a digital journal, Seesaw helps kids develop their academic voice, and collaborate with classmates.

Other Tips for Creating an Online Student Portfolio

Unlike the physical copies of student work that you may have tucked aways in a cardboard box, anything placed on a website such as Google Sites or Weebly will not necessarily be available in five or ten years. Website companies come and go over the years so there is no guarantee that students will have access to their portfolio content in the future.

When creating online portfolios, emphasize with students the long-term uncertainty regarding availability of their digital portfolios and the associated content. I recommend that all students keep their valuable content (graphics, video, audio, text, etc.) stored locally as files on their own computers (and backed up) just in case.

When picking an online portfolio, look for portfolios where the students remain the owners of the data compiled. It’s important that students have access to the content of the portfolio beyond the course or college education.

Lastly, parents, teachers, and students should start at a minimum level and build toward higher levels of implementation as they gain skills and comfort with the process. To learn more about creating digital student portfolios, visit ePortfolio Levels.

 

Getting Started with the Sport of Orienteering

One of our favorite outdoor activities involves just a few materials and is both challenging and fun. With a just a compass and a map, a variety of activities and obstacles courses can be designed to accommodate everyone. It is the perfect summer activity and can be easily integrated into your science or history curriculum.

Orienteering is what is called a lifetime sport; there’s something for everyone to enjoy, regardless of age or experience. Most events provide courses for all levels, from beginner to advanced.

This post contains affiliate links.

Getting Started with the Sport of Orienteering @EvaVarga.net

The history of Orienteering begins in the late 19th century in Sweden where it grew from military training in land navigation into a competitive sport for military officers. Eventually civilians caught on to the sport and the first public orienteering competition was held in Norway in 1897.

Orienteering courses can be set in any environment where an appropriate map has been made and a number of variations have been developed over the years. Some of the more intriguing variations include Night Courses, Trivia, and Relay Orienteering.

Orienteering with Kids can be a lot of fun. It is also a great confidence booster as they develop their navigational skills and can find their way through unknown territory.

To introduce kids to this wonderful sport, I have developed a simple introductory compass course activity to introduce the basics of using a compass for upper elementary and middle school students. It has been very popular with our local homeschool community and I am delighted to share it with you.

Introduction to Orienteering @EvaVarga.netIn my eBook, Introduction to Orienteering, I have included detailed instructions on the use of a compass and outlined a simple Compass Course activity to introduce kids to the sport of Orienteering. In addition, I have compiled numerous enrichment activities that incorporate the use of a compass and topographical maps.

With the Introduction to Orienteering unit study, students will develop the navigational skills and experience to feel confidant in participating in larger, community-wide Orienteering events. You can find more information about these opportunities by visiting the Orienteering USA website.

The Compass Course activity is also a part of my Earth Logic: Our Dynamic Earth curriculum, a 10 week hands-on earth science curriculum unit study on the geology of our Earth.

While the compass has not changed dramatically since it was first invented by the Chinese during the Han dynasty, many other navigational tools have been invented. We loved reading about the tools early explorers used to navigate in North Star Geography and have enjoyed using some of these tools ourselves. I have shared a few of our activities in my post, Sailing Ships & Navigation.

Exploring Fan Fiction with Wattpad

I recently shared a short fan fiction piece my daughter wrote and not surprisingly, her grandmothers were not familiar with the genre. The writing of fan fiction has become increasingly popular in recent years, and the vast majority of the writers and readers in this genre of fiction are teenagers.

What is Fan Fiction?

One of the fastest-growing literary genres is fan fiction, a term for stories about characters or settings written by fans of the original work, rather than by the original creator.

Writing fan fiction involves the creation of stories and books around already existing characters from a previously published work of literature or other art form (television, movies, etc.). This type of story cannot be published for profit as the characters belong to the original author.

Writers of fan fiction are technologically savvy, having grown up in the internet age. They have thereby discovered ways in which to share their work with others – not for profit – but to develop a fan base and to get feedback on their writing.

fan fiction

What is Wattpad?

Wattpad is a place to discover and share stories: a social platform that connects people through words. With Wattpad, anyone can read or write on any device: phone, tablet, or computer.

When my daughter first approached me to ask about downloading “Wattpad”, I was skeptical. “You already have an e-book reader app, Sweetheart.”

“Yes, but this one has more than classic books, Mom. With Wattpad, you can share your own stories and read the stories that other kids write. My friend K told me about it and she says there are a lot of great fan fiction stories.”

My daughter is not a reluctant writer. She has always enjoyed the craft and completes assignments without complaint. Wattpad, however, has inspired her to write more frequently.

In the past, she seemed to only want to write stories about cats – akin to the popular Warriors series by Erin Hunter. Now, she has expanded her repertoire, exploring human characters and emotions.

Writing Fan Fiction

Students can learn a great deal about the fiction writing process from writing fan fiction. The advantage of writing fan fiction is that the characters are already familiar to both the writers and most likely to the readers; therefore, young writers can concentrate on manipulating the plot as they are already familiar with the characters and settings.

Students can also create new characters – as my daughter has chosen to do with her Harry Potter fan fiction, “The Special”. The main character in her story is Aira, the twin sister to Scorpius, and the only daughter to Draco Malfoy.

Homeschool With Wattpad

With Wattpad, students can write stories and publish them chapter by chapter. Along the way, others can comment on their work, allowing the writer an opportunity to change things, delete things, and make improvements immediately.

Wattpad stories are free. Whether you’re online or off, use the devices you already own to carry an entire library wherever you go. The interactive, social aspect is one component that makes it such an appealing app for youth.