Monthly Archives: November 2013

Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Using Google Earth.


by Heather Harris Brady

I could actually change this post to second grader, because second graders are tooling around Google Earth too! Regardless, one of the first assignments elementary ipad users receive is to find their house on Google Earth. Authors can use it to enrich their user experiences by mapping the travels of story characters.

In my lit trip, above, I have travel paths marked for my two main characters, as well as a ship that plays a key part in the story. On key destinations I have embedded photos of special items my characters encountered along the way:


If you click on the pushpins you can see the images. You can download and view my entire lit trip here. You do need to have installed Google Earth first though.

If you’d like video tutorials on any of these IT posts please send me a request in the comments. I’m keeping them short on purpose, but I can always add more!

Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Augmented reality.


by Heather Harris Brady

If you took my hint earlier and downloaded the Layar app (Android, iphone/ipad), then you see this when you view my blog through the app. Hidden stuff! Pretty cool right? You can see a little slideshow with some little factoids about me, and a few other tidbits. (This is a photo I took of my ipad viewing my blog.)

Teachers have started using augmented reality in the classroom to embed richer information in graphics, posters, etc. Writers, of course, can use it as I have here – or you can use it to dress up your promotional posters, book covers, – pretty much anything! I’ve just done a simple demonstration here, but you can get crazy with videos that open up out of the page, etc.

The question becomes, how then, to make this magic happen. Well to do that you need two things:

  1. a creation site to allow you to build the hidden elements, and
  2. a viewer that will allow other people to see them through their phones, web cams and computer cams. Future web browsers will likely have this feature built in, but for now you have to download a viewer.

There are several easy, augmented reality options including Layar and Aurasma. Most work the same way:

  1. Choose a trigger image. For the example above I used my blog header.
  2. Add overlays/auras.
  3. Assign actions to each overlay through pictures, web links, mailto links, etc.

The scripting is done for you behind the scenes, and includes handy features like the slideshow I used above. The free versions of these products are fully functional but ad-supported.

Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Voice narration.


by Heather Harris Brady

We all know there are many good reasons to read your work out loud, you can get a good feel for the flow, catch mistakes, etc. If you want to multitask and have someone read it to you while you’re busy with something else than you might want to check out Natural Reader. There is a free, limited version or you can pay a bit to get more voices.

Teachers and students use this utility to explain lessons, add voice to projects, etc. If you want to get fancy set up Natural Reader in conjunction with iMovie or another recording device!

Are you smarter than a 5th grader? Using Padlet.


by Heather Harris Brady

In the first of a series of posts focusing on apps and techniques from classrooms, I’m going to start off easy. If you already use Pinterest then Padlet is going to be a breeze for you. You have the option to start building right away with the center button, or you can sign up for a free account first. I’d recommend the second route, because then you can create your own password right off the bat.

To get started, just click the + sign in the upper right to create walls dedicated to whatever topic you like. You can name them for recognizable direct links.

You can choose to arrange them in rows like blog posts, or you can just stick them up willy-nilly. In the classroom it works nicely for showcasing student work, group collaboration or a writing prompt. I’ve seen a nifty wall where a teacher had students post examples of figurative writing passages along with photos supporting their concept. Here are more ideas.

For writers it can be a handy way to keep track of story ideas, research or a way to enrich the background of your story with supplemental materials. Here’s a quick example I put together for my story, The Case of Paris Couture. Do¬† you have ideas for padlet? If so we’d love to hear about it in the comments!

Oh, one other thing – since I’m a writer I think there’s some kind of rule that I need to remind you Nanowrimo (National Novel Writing Month) starts today. Yes, I’m participating! Whether you start a new novel from scratch or just use it as a way to rejuvenate your writing goals it’s all good IMHO. What you might not know is that they have some amazing writing resources for kids on their website. I know I learned a lot from them!