Monthly Archives: February 2011

  • 0

Lessons Learned from Finger Puppet Theater on Vimeo

Category : Tips

This past weekend for the 5th grade Sunday school class I co-teach, I helped students create short (approximately 60 second) finger puppet skits which we videoed and posted online to our class blog. I’ve done this kind of project from time to time the past three years I’ve taught this class, and in this post I’ll share some of the technical lessons learned from past iterations as well as this past weekend. These videos are all short and a bit silly, but they provide a great way for students to be creative and demonstrate some independent thinking based on the ideas we’ve been discussing in class. In addition to those cognitive benefits, they are also a lot of FUN to make and watch together afterwards, and that’s always a big plus when it comes to classroom learning.

Lunch Money from Blast Cast on Vimeo.

Over the past few years I’ve experimented with various sites and methods for sharing media, and a class blog continues to be a favorite platform. For this weeks’ videos, I decided to create a new (free) channel on Vimeo and post our videos there. Everything worked out fine, but it did take about 3.5 hours for the videos to transcode / convert on the site since I have a free account and don’t plan to upgrade at this point to “Vimeo Pro.” Unlike YouTube, which transcodes videos immediately and usually as you upload, free Vimeo accounts are handicapped by design to encourage upgrades. This isn’t a big deal, but means you have to put up with a little delayed gratification in sharing your videos with others as soon as you upload them. Planning is key. Attendance in our class is irregular for many students, so I’ve found it’s important to have a self-contained lesson that usually builds on concepts from prior weeks, but doesn’t require “work” from the previous or subsequent Sunday. I gave the kids ten minutes to plan their finger puppet skits with a partner and write down some kind of script or storyboard. We have created different kinds of videos a few other times this year, so it also helped that we’ve practiced this kind of partner work and quick production / recording workflow.

Finger Puppet Theater

Kids love puppets and finger puppets. I picked up two new sets for something like $10 at Ikea over the Christmas holidays, so it was fun to have so many different choices for the students to choose from this week. I’ve found it’s good to let students look at the puppets, but not take them back to their seats during their planning time. If they do, they tend to get more distracted and be less successful writing down their plan.

Finger Puppet Theater

I’ve tried doing these kinds of videos with DV cameras and fancier (XLR) microphones, as well as just iPhones and programs like StoryRobe. This week I opted for the “full on equipment” option, because with finger puppets you want to zoom in and audio quality is REALLY important. I used an older DV camcorder I picked up a few years ago for $150 at a local pawn shop, but since I have a newer MacBook Pro I had to use a firewire “small male plug” (I don’t remember the pin out) to Firewire 800 cable.

Finger Puppet Theater

Finger Puppet Theater

Audio-wise, I used my M-Audio Mobile Pre to connect a Shure PG-58 XLR mic to my computer via USB, with a longer extension cord which could reach from the laptop table under the table which served as the “puppet theater stage.” Since we had girls in dresses, I also taped a plastic tablecloth in front for privacy, which was a good thing I hadn’t thought to do in previous lessons. Finger Puppet Theater

Finger Puppet Theater

For the actual “stage” where the students record their finger puppet shows, I’ve found it’s handy to tape some yarn just outside the visible frame of the camera after it’s all setup on the tripod and zoomed in like I want it. This provides an easy way for the students to know if their finger puppets are “on stage” or “off stage,” as long as someone doesn’t bump into the tripod and mess up this PRECISE setup!

Finger Puppet Theater

Finger Puppet Theater

Last of all, I recorded these directly on the laptop using QuickTime Pro 7. It’s still available as an optional install when you customize a Mac OS X 10.6 clean install. I like the editing / trimming options available in that version, but for most videos we’re able to simply web-post them “as is” without editing. I always love to find ways to publish some kind of student-created media which we create in our class every few weeks, in the hope that it will catalyze some conversations between students and their parents when they get home about “what we talked about in Sunday school.” At the very least, for parents who are interested, it provides a way for them to get a virtual “window” into some of the topics we’ve been discussing and ask their children about those things. Conversations are an important key to learning! Creative fun also helps too! Have you tried creating and sharing finger puppet videos with your students? I like how this activity naturally invites students to get creative, be more expressive with their voice as they take on different roles, and takes away many of the fears both parents and kids have about web-posting student created media since the only “images” on-screen and online are those of the finger puppets. 🙂 One of my student teams (they worked in pairs) recorded their video in Korean, and I don’t have an English translation yet. They had some trouble translating what they wrote down in Korean into English, so I just encouraged them to record in Korean. I’ve reached out to a few people for help on this, but don’t have a translation yet. If you can assist, please let me know!

Cross-posted from Moving at the Speed of Creativity

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

  • 5

Set Up a Moderated Class Blog on Posterous

Category : Tips

In response to a question posted by Kansas teacher Marsha Ratzel, I created an eleven minute screencast this evening describing the steps for creating a moderated class blog (for FREE) on the website One of the most significant advantages of using a Posterous blog as a class website is that rich media (text, images, audio files and video files) can all be posted to the site via email. Your students can email their work to your class blog, and as the administrator of the site YOU can approve (or delete) submitted posts as well as comments. New content is sent to the email address, “” – For example, to submit a new 5 photo story to my blog, email messages including five image attachments can be sent to the address “” and then I can moderate them in the approval queue.

If you have questions or comments on the strategies or ideas shared in this screencast, please let me know! I made this screencast with Screenflow software and posted the HD version directly to YouTube from the program. Learn more about sharing text, images, audio and video safely to the web on my new book and website project, (Incidentally, that’s a website I’ve created with Posterous!)

Technorati Tags: , , , , , , , ,

  • 0

Platforms for Interactively Sharing Student Work

Category : Tips

This is a short article I wrote for the November 2010 Educational Technology Newsletter of Gadsten City Schools in Alabama. Feel free to republish this with attribution. This is cross-posted from “Moving at the Speed of Creativity.”

Personal computers have been with us for over thirty years.1 In the last five years, mobile devices like smartphones and mp3 players have become much more common in our homes and classrooms, but it is still rare to find classrooms in our schools which regularly share student work in an INTERACTIVE online space. While it has been possible to publish text as well as multimedia on STATIC webpages since the mid-1990s, the opportunity to publish interactively is still relatively new. A great deal of FEAR as well as IGNORANCE limits many educators from sharing online as we can and should. I challenge you to think about the ways you and your students can publish and share your work interactively in the weeks and months ahead. Think of this as “online show and tell.” Not only can we provide safe, moderated spaces for student work to be showcased for peer as well as parent feedback, we SHOULD provide these “digital sand boxes” so students can practice the skills of responsible and ethical digital citizenship in our information-rich, attention economy.

In his pre-conference keynote for the (free) 2010 K-12 Online Conference in October, Canadian educator Dean Shareski argued sharing is a moral obligation for teachers.2 In Dean’s words, we are each a “remix” of ideas and influences which have touched us along our own journeys of learning as professional educators. Today we have opportunities to not only be influenced by other educators separated from us by space and time, but also have opportunities to share with others working in contexts very different from our own. No matter where we are in our professional careers, we can always get better.3 While we may think our ideas are imperfect and not worthy of sharing, the fact is WE ALL GET BETTER when we share. The simple act of putting words onto paper (or in this case, a screen) models the kind of reflective practice which we want our students to demonstrate as lifelong learners. Vibrant learning communities like Classroom 2.0 ( with almost 50,000 members as of this writing in late October 2010, provide welcoming online spaces for educators to collaborate and share.

The interactive web shows no signs of going away. Interactivity is not only a hallmark of the most utilized websites on the Internet today, like YouTube and Facebook, it’s also increasingly a characteristic of websites which students and parents alike are learning to expect. Newspaper and magazine websites which are static and non-interactive are going the way of the dinosaur. Our school and classroom websites need to embrace the interactive potential of the social web as well. In today’s classroom, time seems more precious than ever. How can you, as a classroom teacher, reasonably expect to regularly share content created by your students online?

One of the first steps in this process is creating your own, professional space for sharing and reflection. While blogs have been around for awhile now, I’ve been amazed in the past year at the simple, straightforward way the website empowers people to share online. Virtually every educator in the classroom today can competently use email. Posting text, links, photos, and even audio recordings or video to Posterous simply requires that you use email. You do not even have to setup your account in advance: Simply send an email with the information you want posted to the web to Posterous will automatically create a website for you with the information you’ve provided, and you can add some changes and customizations to the site later. When you’re ready, you can also permit students to add posts to your Posterous site or another Posterous site which you create for FREE to serve as a class website. If you can send an email message, you can post to your Posterous websites. Unlike an email message, which has a defined number of recipients, a post on a Posterous site can have an unlimited number of visitors and can be archived for years instead of getting buried in people’s already overloaded email inboxes.

Posterous is one tool which permits teachers to create online platforms for publishing and sharing. Visitors to your site can comment, but you can configure Posterous so those comments are MODERATED. This means comments will not show up on your site until you APPROVE them. I’d encourage you to look at different examples of elementary, middle school and high school teachers using websites like Posterous, WikiSpaces, and Blogger to share their ideas as well as the work of their students online. I’ve compiled a list of world-class educator sites from the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Great Britain on the following page I encourage you to visit:

In addition to sharing text with images and video, we need to find ways to empower students to also share their recorded voices online. is one of my favorite websites for doing this, since it is free and permits phone-based recording, or phonecasting. Free iPadio applications are also available for iOS devices (iPhones, iPads, and iPod Touches) as well as Android phones. The link above also includes a classroom iPadio site which students in Britain used to share reflections on a field trip they took with their class to Normandy.

Whether or not your students are able to take a field trip to an engaging destination, chances are good they can be richly engaged with assignments which challenge them to reflect, synthesize, and share their ideas online using multimedia.

Where is your classroom’s online portal for interactive sharing? If you don’t have one already, I challenge you to create one in the next two weeks using Posterous. It’s free, and literally as easy to use as sending an email message.

We’ve been living in the 21st century for a decade now, and it’s time more of our classrooms looked like it. The good news is that process is not only easier than ever, it’s also easier to receive support as well as great ideas from colleagues around the world. We’re living in the best era of human history for learning. Help contribute to the learning revolution, by sharing your own ideas with others on the open web.

1 –
2 –
3 – Rushton Hurley speaking in Holland, Michigan, on 22 Oct 2010.

Wesley Fryer writes the blog “Moving at the Speed of Creativity.” On Twitter as @wfryer, he describes himself as an “educator, author, digital storyteller, husband, dad. I’m here for the learning revolution.”


  • 3

10 Ways to Write Better Blog Posts

Category : Tips

Writing on a blog is different in many ways than writing for print. The following are ten suggestions I’ve created which can help bloggers write better posts. Please chime in with your own ideas and suggestions, I’m sure there are lots of things I’m leaving out! For more assistance, refer to Steve Dembo‘s great 2008 series of posts and project, “30 Days to Being a Better Blogger,” and ProBlogger’s 2007 post series, “31 Days to Building a Better Blog.”

Moo cards for blogging workshop
Creative Commons License photo credit: Mexicanwave

  1. Focus: What topic or category(ies) do/does the post fit into? More than one can be selected. Use categories on your blog to help readers identify the main themes on which you focus.
  2. Brevity: Blog posts do NOT have length limit, like print publications, but generally people are more likely to read a short post rather than a long one. Shoot for something generally no longer than 5 – 7 paragraphs. (This guideline can be completely ignored, however, if needed or appropriate.)
  3. Hyperlinks: Good blog posts include hyperlinks which provide pathways for readers to get more information. Use hyperlinks to your own blog/site (past posts which relate) as well as outgoing links to other sites.
  4. Quotations and Links: Many good blog posts include quotations of material posted on other blogs and sites/resources, as well as links to those original sources. These cross-links are important for search engine ranking, and also because many blog platforms notify owners of “incoming links.” These are called trackbacks on some blogs, including WordPress.
  5. Images: Use at least one image in every blog post. Like other guidelines this can be ignored at times, but using an image helps your post visibility in several ways. When a post is shared on Facebook, by default it can include a thumbnail of an image included on the post’s link. Customized digitial newspaper applications like Flipboard utilize post images prominently when creating the ‘layout’ of a news feed’s contents. Ideally this image should relate directly to your post’s content. Consider using Flickr Creative Commons (CC) Attribution-Only images for this purpose. CompFight is another good source to use to search for CC images. PhotoDropper is a great, free plugin for WordPress that can be used to insert CC images into posts, and includes nice attribution links below the image. Remember to always include attribution links back to the source image website. Attribution is required by CC licenses, but is not part of a “fair use” calculation under US copyright law if you choose to use “All Rights Reserved” images from another site. The safest way to use images on blog posts (or other sites) is to use your own images (homegrown media) or CC licensed content.
  6. Tags: Include “tags” or keywords for your post which might be topics others would search for to find your content. Blogs like WordPress provide a field to include tags with each post. Using tags is like providing instructions for search engines including Google. You’re essentially asking search engines, “When people search for these keywords, point them to this post.” Use a lot of tags. There is no penalty or cost for using too many or too few tags, but err on the site of generous tag usage.
  7. Title: Like a newspaper editor, give some careful thought to the headline you choose for your post. The post title is your main tool for attracting the attention of potential readers, when they see the title in a tweet, Facebook link share, in their RSS reader, an email, or elsewhere. The title you select is also very important as your post is indexed by Google and other search engines. It can be helpful (as far as blog traffic goes) to use catchy titles which include words people are likely searching for (or will search for) online.
  8. Tone: Blog posts don’t have to be “just” informational. Many of the best posts invite feedback, discussion, and debate. On some posts, experiment taking a different tone which is more conversational and inviting for comments. Comments are RARE in the blogosphere in general, but some bloggers are much more adept than others at inviting comments. Study blogs of others on topics of interest and analyze why some posts get more comments than others. Some of this may have to do with the tone of the post. It also can be the overall culture of the blog’s followership. Will Richardson’s blog is a good one to study in this regard, his posts almost always have lots of comments. You can include some self-promotional links or links which promote your organization, but don’t use a “salesy” tone. Most blog readers aren’t interested in infomercials. Share your ideas, perspectives and voice in your posts. Leave the formal sales pitches to official press releases and the marketing department, if you’re writing for an organizational blog.
  9. Transparency: Do not be afraid of sharing who you are, what inspires and moves you, and what defines you as a person and professional in your blog posts. Transparency is one of the most important aspects of social media, and it invites others to follow you and continue reading what you have to share. Update your blog “profile” with links to your personal blog, Twitter account, professional Facebook account, etc, IF (and only if) you’re sharing content on those sites which is professional and which might be of potential interest to your blog readers.
  10. Engage with your Audience: After writing a blog post, it’s very important to read and respond (as appropriate) to comments left by others. Social media is all about interactivity and multi-directional communication. If you’re using WordPress, consider using a plug-in like “Subscribe to Comments” which permits anyone to receive email notifications on specific posts of interest. If you’re contributing to a team blog, consider subscribing by email or RSS to the posts you write, to insure you’ll get a “heads up” whenever someone else leaves a comment your posts.

Are there any other “top ten” ideas or recommendations you’d add to these suggestions for writing better blog posts?

Cross-posted from “Moving at the Speed of Creativity”

  • 0

Adding links and embedded video to a blog post

Category : Tips

Good blog posts include hyperlinks to other websites. The following two screencasts demonstrate how you can add both hyperlinks and embedded videos to blog posts shared a the free KidBlog site and a free EduBlogs site. These are examples of embedded videos in this post.


This screencast demonstrates how to create a link and embed a video in a post on a Kidblog site. Run time is 11.5 minutes.

This second screencast demonstrates how to create a link and embed a video in a post on a free EduBlogs site. Run time is 8.5 minutes.

  • 0

Creative Commons licensed images in blog posts

Category : Tips

Q: How can we find and use Creative Commons licensed images in our blog posts for class?

A: I created a 4 minute screencast answering this question. The links I referenced are Flickr Creative Commons Attribution-Online Search,,, and’s Images page.

Your cart is empty

Get Wes’ ebooks!

Order your copy of Mapping Media to the Curriculum: Vol I" and "Playing with Media: simple ideas for powerful sharing" by Wesley Fryer, Ph.D. Individual book chapters for the first six media products in the "Mapping Media to the Curriculum" framework are also available in the PlayingWithMedia eStore and as eBook singles from