Whether writing a paper or painting a picture, there are lots of software tools young people can use to create. Browser and mobile apps are quickly changing the way people write and create.
Children and young adults can use creativity resources to develop exciting classroom projects that involve writing, drawing, recording sounds, and incorporating video. Think of these as the tools of technology.
Just as students use paper, pencils, markers, calculators, rulers, and other traditional classroom tools, they can use software to assist them with designing, developing, and delivering effective communications.
Go to Toontastic. This app provides children a fun tool for creating characters, cartoons, and great stories.
Go to Educreations. This engaging, interactive tool uses a whiteboard to teach concepts across the curriculum.
Read Beyond Words in Word: Writing in an iPad, Transmedia World by Annette Lamb to learn about how tablets and other mobile devices are redefining writing. Be sure to explore all six sections: history, re-defining writing, new environments,features, real-world issues, and conclusion.
Electronic writing tools such as word processors have been popular since the late 1970s. However with the recent emphasis on emailing, IMing, text messaging, the nature of electronic text is changing.
Professional productivity tools such as Microsoft Word or Apple Pages can be used for writing projects at most levels. However, some educators prefer to use software designed specifically for children and young adults. Max's Toolbox provides an age-appropriate interface for Microsoft Office. It includes MaxWrite, MaxCount, and MaxShow.
Stationery Studio from FableVision encourages children to write stories, reports, letters and other writing projects. Curriculum based borders and shapes are available for topics including animals, insects, holidays, seasons, earth, space, people, places, school, home, and more. Try the free demo for ideas (see examples from the FableVision website).
With these creativity tools, students can easily view writing as a process rather than a chore. Prewriting activities such as brainstorming, listing, questioning, freewriting, clustering, webbing, and outlining are designed to make writing easy. With the computer hooked to a large monitor, the teacher can lead students through the writing process as a large group.
The ideas generated in the prewriting stage easily flow into the composing stage where students write prose, rearrange information, and elaborate on ideas. Projects can be stored and extended at any point.
Revision activities such as polishing, clarifying, rewriting, and rearranging can be easily directed on the computer. In the past, many teachers and students became frustrated with the editing and rewriting process because of the physical tasks associated with paper and pencil. In addition, word processing allows peer writing and critiquing without complaints about penmanship.
Editing has become a much less time consuming stage with the addition of spelling and grammar checking software. Instead, students can concentrate on improving their word selection and sentence structure.
|Writing Ideas for the Classroom|
Read The Impact of Digital Tools on Student Writing and How Writing is Taught in Schools from PewResearchCenter.
Publishing and Visual Tools
Publishing has become more professional. In addition to adult tools such as Microsoft Publisher, and Adobe products, many software tools are available for kids.
Students can add attractive, eye-catching graphics and color report covers to their projects. Print Shop and Print Master by Broderbund and Kid Pix by MacKiev are long standing favorites for children wishing to create signs and draw color pictures.
In addition, most popular animated films from companies such as Disney have their own printing studio software to create signs, banners, and greeting cards.
Knowledge Adventure’s Kid Works is another useful package for beginning writers. With large text, lots of pictures, and painting tools, even young children can be successful authors. Some software combines reading and writing tools.
Tools like Comic Life have many options for exporting. You can save your project as a JPG image, PDF file, or create web pages that can be uploaded to the Internet. Connect Comic Life with reading comics or graphics novels. Or, think about ways that young people can create their own comics for subject area projects.
Comics are a quick and easy way for students to share their understandings. It's easy to incorporate original images and artwork along with historical primary source materials.
You don't need use Comic Life, consider other software in your school. For instance, use the speech bubbles in Microsoft PowerPoint to simulate a conversation among famous historical figures. Keep the project simple by working in small groups and using existing technology tools.
Tools such as Poser, Anime Studio, and Manga Studio by MySmithMicro also provide tools for creating comic projects.
Read Sequential Art, Graphic Novels, & Comics and Graphic Novels, Photo Essays & Illuminated Term Papers by Annette Lamb for ideas.
Visual learners enjoy using Kidspiration or Inspiration. These tools for visual thinking provide students with a way to create concept maps, idea maps, webs, brainstorms, outlines, and many other visual diagrams to explore patterns, interrelationships, and interdependencies. Templates come with the software. Increasingly creativity tools are being produced in a variety of formats. For instance, Inspiration is available for Mac, Windows, and mobile apps. Webspiration is a web-based version.
If you're looking for some fun tools, consider ProtoZone Interactives. Use their software including DollHouse, Collage Machine, KaleidoPix and KaleidoDraw for a wide variety of projects.
Concepts: Smarter Sketching is an easy-to-use sketching and drawing app.
Electronic databases and spreadsheets are popular computer productivity tools for adults as well as students. Students need skills in locating, evaluating, analyzing, classifying, comparing, calculating, and drawing conclusions based on a set of information. First graders classify animals, fourth graders compare and contrast information about states, and high school government students analyze political systems. Middle schoolers conduct what-if's on business ventures, and senior math students graph trigonometry problems. The computer is a logical tool to help store, calculate, retrieve, and visualize information. Although some classrooms use adult tools such as Microsoft Excel or Apple Numbers, others are discovering data tools designed for K-12 students.
Some tools have been developed to help students explore and analyze information in particular subject areas. For example, Geometric's Sketchpad, Fathom, and TinkerPlots by Key Curriculum Press are designed to help students explore concepts related to mathematics. This software is also available for iPad.
Graphing is a skill that crosses all content areas. Tom Snyder's The Graph Club help students learn to gather, sort, and classify information. They then construct graphs and analyze data.
Timeliner XE allows students to add to, edit, and merge ideas into timelines on many different topics.
Also, try InspireData. This tool combines that power of a database, spreadsheet, and graphic tool. Students can investigate, analyze, and represent data in many ways.
Download a trial version of InspireData and explore their sample data and activities (see example below).
Data Ideas for the Classroom
Spreadsheet Ideas for the Classroom
When selecting data tools, consider your goal. Will students use a product that already contains information or will they be creating or locating the data themselves? If students will be entering data, who will check for accuracy? Misspellings, misplaced decimals, and notation can all cause problems.
If students are entering data, consider a peer-proofing approach. What do you want students to do with the data once it's entered? Consider higher level questions. Rather than "listing the state bird," try comparing the populations and square miles of states. If students are studying inventions, explore the agricultural inventions. How many were before 1900? Is there a relationship between time periods and the types of inventions produced? What and why?
From sketching and audio recording to journaling and photo editing, many creativity tools are being produced for mobile technology. In PBS Kids Photo Factory, children add characters to family photos.
iPad apps such as Storyboarding allow students to visualize the plot, sequencing, setting, and action of their story.
Multimedia has emerged as an effective way for students to develop projects that incorporate text, graphics, sound, and video. Many K-12 students use Microsoft PowerPoint as a tool to create presentations and multimedia projects.
Explore tools such as Animation-ish from Fablevision (shown on the right). A trial is available for this easy-to-use drawing and animation tool.
HyperStudio by Mackiev was a popular tool in the 1990s and has been reintroduced with Web 2.0 features such as YouTube connections. It provides tools for creating interface features such as menus, popup text, and pictures. The multimedia chapter provides information about creating materials using HyperStudio (example below).
Many tools are available for students interested in creating, manipulating, and editing visuals such as photographs. For example, Adobe's Photoshop and the entry-level Adobe PhotoElements can be used to modify photographs
Many children like a mixture of on and off-computer activities. For example, Clay Animation Kit by Tech4Learning provides the materials to create animations. There are many other examples at the publisher's website.
Tech4Learning has a suite of tools including Frames, ImageBlender, Pixie, Share, and Wixie that are great for young creators. Their website has lots of ideas for parents and teachers. Their software is available for all platforms including tablets.
Go to Tech4Learning. Explore the software for children and young adults. 30 Day Trials available.
Many of the the popular software publishers have created mobile app versions of their software. For instance, Adobe Photoshop Express allows users to edit and share photos (see below left). Keep in mind that most of the free apps only provide basic tools. Tools such as Brushes is available at a small fee, but contains many image creation and editing tools (see below center). Sketchbook Mobile by Autodesk is a powerful drawing program. Many apps allow young people to morph or modify images. For instance, Goosebumps PhotoShock is from Scholastic.
Whole suites of tools are available for specific multimedia needs. For example, for young adults wanting to develop web materials, Adobe Creativity Suite is popular. Containing Photoshop, Firework, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, InDesign, and more.
Audio and Video Tools
Whether recording a lecture, taking notes, or recording dictation, audio tools are useful for simple audio recording. Some tools such as Dragon Dictation will even turn your audio into text.
From designing a home to building a family tree, there are many design tools available. Although designed for adults, many of these tools are easy enough for children or young adults.
Explore the many great tools for creating 3-D objects. The 3-D modeling tool GollyGee provides activities that involve students in creating many 3D projects that promote spatial reasoning.
Home Design Studio by Punch is one of many software packages for designing homes and landscapes.
Organization and Management Tools
Whether you want to record your calories, track your bike trip, or organize your lego bricks, there's an app available to make the task easier.
Calorie Tracker from Livestrong.com helps users track calorie consumption, weight loss and fitness goals.
As you explore tools, think about the value of portable devices. For instance, MyNature Animal Tracks is a tool that can be used to identify animal tracks, keep field notes, and listen to animal sounds. You can even learn to make plaster casts. It's perfect for outdoor activities.
Many apps are designed to help young people organize their assignments, projects, and tests such as My Homework.
Web-based Creativity Tools
A growing number of creativity tools are available online. These tools are often available at no cost and can be accessed anywhere, anytime. However keep in mind that because the resources are free, they may not be available forever. Always has a "back up" plan when using online resources.
Paint brushes, virtual pianos, mind maps, and graph makers are just a few of the tools available online. Most of these tools are designed specifically for young people and are easy to use.
Go to the following online interactive tools related to art and have some fun: Artist's Tool Kit, Cloud Dreamer, Destination Modern Art, Hands-on Crafts, Make Your Own Art, NGA Kids, Professor Garfield ArtBot, Red Studio.
Go to the following online interactive tools related to music and have some fun: Arizona Opera, Arts Alive, Freaky Frank's Music Machine, Professor Garfield MusicBot, San Francisco Symphony, and New York Philharmonic.
Go to the following online interactive tools related to writing and have some fun: ReadWriteThink tools. The website has links to their many organizing tools.
- Alphabet Organizer
- Biographer's Interview
- Character Trading Cards
- Circle Plot Diagram
- Comparison Map
- Drama Map
- Essay Map
- Fractured Fairy Tales
- Graphic Map
- Hero's Journey
- Letter Generator
- Literary Elements Map
- Mystery Cube
- Persuasion Map
- Plot Diagram
- Profile Publisher
- SoundTrack Song Chart
- 2 Circle Venn
- 3 Circle Venn
- Word Matrix
Over the past 20 years, many tools such as Lego have provided students with computer programming experiences.
Minecraft is an increasingly popular tool for world building and great for practicing programming.
Read Gauquier, Erica & Schneider, Jessica (January 1, 2013). Minecraft programs in the library: if you build it they will come. Young Adult Library Services, 11(2), 17-19. Available through IUPUI.
Scratch is the latest addition. Produced by MIT, this free tool allows students to create blocks of commands and put them together to create stories, games, and animations that can be shared online. Explore some featured projects.
Read Scratch: A New Approach to Programming for Young People by Annette Lamb. Explore Scratch, a free easy-to-use programming tool that addresses 21st century skills while promoting creativity, problem solving, reasoning, and collaboration across grade levels and content areas. Consider a school or public library programming club!
Today, the creation of mobile apps is a popular programming activity. Lots of tools are available for creating high-quality apps. This is a great activity for a teen club, afterschool activity, or class connection.
Social Media Tools
During the past several years, a growing number of social technologies has been introduced. These resources allow users to share text, graphics, audio, video, and animations with the world. People from around the world can then make comments and seek personal connections. Although these are wonderful tools, it's important to help young people make wise decisions about their use. In particular, it's easy for teens to get caught up in using tools such as Facebook.
Social Networks. Social networks provide spaces where people can connect with each other. Tools are provided for posting discussions, embedding images, videos, and links, and other features. You're probably familiar with Facebook.
Set up an Edmodo to create a safe area for teaching about social networking.
Although blogging is often thought of as a social activity, it originated as a journaling tool. While some people use it as a tool to share their experiences, inquiries, and thoughts, others use it as a tool for reporting and sharing with the world. Blogging is also a great way to connect to the world and see outside comments and ideas.
Blogs are web logs that arrange postings (i.e., text, graphics, audio, video entries) in reverse chronological order. Most allow comments.
Blogs. Designed for longer postings that can include text as well as audio, video, images, and interactive elements.
- WordPress. Provides the most powerful tools for page and posting layout and moderation.
Microblogs. Microblogs are designed for short, concise entries.
- Twitter. The most popular microblog. Users can post on their own feed or follow others.
Seek ways to use these tools in productive ways. For example, students at Barrett Elementary School post creative projects on their blog. You can see their drawings, read their writing, and watch their videos online.
Explore other examples of how young people are using blogs in learning such as Student Reflections on Night by Elie Wiesel.
Back Channels. Back channel sites allow users to ask questions, discuss, and post ideas.
- TodaysMeet. Create a room for a specific length of time. Provide users with the URL provided.
Go to TodaysMeet. Try it as a quick way to gather class ideas. Rather than answers, ask questions that promote thinking, ideas, and alternative solutions. Create one and ask others to add to it.
It's important for students to cite the works they use in their assignments. Citation tools make this easy.
Create the same citation using each tool. Compare the tools. Select one that best matches the need of your grade level or school.
Storytelling and Project Creation Tools
From animation creators to postermakers, a wide range of online tools are available for youth to share their understandings.
Animation tools allow students to create short animation projects and share them on the web.
- GoAnimate. Try the free version, then consider the subscription option for more resources.
Consider the needs of your project. Is voice recording necessary or will computer-generated audio work? Are visual elements such as avatars or visuals needed? Would a movie or slide show tool accomplish the same goal?
Basic tools allow voice recording or computer-generated voices.
- Voki. Users create avatars then record audio or text for computer-generated voices. Check out the educational services and lesson plans.
Advanced tools provide features such as audio commenting, slideshows, and other enhancements.
- Voicethread. Users create slideshows with narration and the option for comments. Explore the educational options housed at ed.voicethread.com.
Although the software package Comic Life is very popular, there are many free, online options too. For those services that don't provide an option to print or save, consider creating a screen shot.
- Pixton. Use the free version or consider the school version.
- Arthur Cartoon Creator
- Bitstrips. Need to sign-in to save.
- Cartoonist from Creaza
- Comic Creator
- Comic Master
- KABAM. Restricted to the story and theme provided.
- Lego City Comic Builder
- Make BeliefsComix
- Make Your Own Graphix
- Myths and Legends
- Professor Garfield. Provides characters for stories.
- ReadWriteThink Cartoon Creator. Make a comic strip using a set of visuals
Ask youth to create a comic on the topic of digital citizenship dealing with an important teen issue such as texting and driving, privacy, use of passwords, social networks, copyright, etc. Check out a Pixton example below.
Concept Mapping Creators
Concept maps are a great way to visualize all kinds of youth projects.
- Bubbl.us. Very easy to use. Try it without signing up. No distracting tools, choices, or options.
- Exploratree. Many online map starters. Create for specific, focused activities that require a particular type of map. Try it without signing up.
- Animal Inquiry Starter
- Cacoo. Create diagrams and concept maps.
- Creately. Create diagrams and mindmaps. Try it without signing up.
- Diagrammr. Very easy to show relationships. Try it without signing up.
- DropMind. Create mindmaps. Must sign up.
- Gliffy. Works great, but very annoying signup reminders. Try it without signing up.
- Graphic Map from ReadWriteThink
- Lovelycharts. Create charts. Must sign up.
- Lucidchart. Create a flowchart or concept map. Try it without signing up.
- Mindmeister. Create a concept map. Must signup.
- Mindomo. Create a mindmap. Must signup. Three maps for free.
- mind42. Create mindmaps with links. Must signup.
- Mywebspiration (free, best option, may soon become subscription related to Inspiration software)
- Popplet. Creat concept maps and post-its. Must signup.
- Scribblar (whiteboard and concept mapping)
- Slatebox. Creat mindmaps. Must signup.
- Spicynodes. More an a mindmap. Includes lots of space for text, links, images, etc. Try it without signing up.
- SpiderScribe. Create maps and include notes, documents, images, etc.
Although Microsoft Excel is a popular tool for creating graphics, it can take time to learn. To save time, consider some of the following easy to use online tools.
- Create a Graph
Infographics are very popular with youth. Keep in mind that you can create simple infographics with tools like the SmartArt and SmartCharts in the Microsoft products. Or, try an online tool.
Image Editing Creators
Many tools help students create or edit images. These are free alternatives to expensive software packages like Adobe Photoshop.
- Photo Flex. Easy to use photo editor.
- Aviary. Provides a great web widget to embed on your website.
- Befunky. Photo editing tools.
- BigHugeLabs. Lots of fun activities like making magazine covers and posters.
- Dumpr. Lots of fun filters.
- ImageChef. Lots of options.
- Kerpoof. Very easy to use Make a Drawing feature.
- Kizoa. Online photo editing.
- Flipbook. Make a flipbook by drawing pictures.
- Pho.to. Photo editing. Fun shapes and additions.
- RedKid Science Generator.
- Rsizr. Great for simple resizing activities.
- SumoPaint. Easy, quick drawing tool with no sign-in.
- Tuxpi. Photo editing.
- Kids tools for making images
Interactive Image Creators
Interactive images are created by making hotlinks on an image.
Explore examples of online interactive image projects:
Go to Thinglink for an example using a work of art.
Add your own ideas and resources to popular maps or create your own.
- Google Maps
- Google Mapmaker
- Historypin. Add information about historical locations.
- Mapskip. Combine places, stories, photos, sounds, and people in this education-based project.
- MyGreatMaps and MapMaker 2.0. Perfect for elementary and middle schools.
- National Geographic MapMaker Interactive
- National Altas Mapmaker
- Old World Map Maker. Great for elementary school. Create an "old world" map.
- Scribblemaps. Add writing and drawing to maps.
Poll and Survey Creators
Encourage youth to create their own polls and surveys.
Rather than focusing on copy/paste activities, look for ways to promote deep thinking through digital posters. Online poster makers can incorporate text, images, audio, video, and links onto a single page. Notice the elements found in The Constitution.
- Glogster. Provides tools for creating digital posters with text, audio, video, and other resources embedded. Use the educational version.
- Muzy Photobox. Add images to create a collage.
From basic presentation tools to full-featured multimedia authoring tools, you can find many options online. Keep in mind that many of these tools are intended to sells memory books or online services.
Basic presentation tools provide options similar to Microsoft Powerpoint online.
- Google Docs Presents. Create or collaboration on the creation of a presentation. Share privately or with the world.
Intermediate presentation tools provide additional features such as interactivity, animation and other features.
- Prezi. Provides tools for creating dynamic presentations. Be sure to check out theeducational services.
Go to Ms. Wilson's 5th grade class prezi projects.
Create a presentation in Powerpoint or another tool and share it on the web.
- Slideshare. Upload slideshow that includes video, audio, and links. Must sign up.
Online spreadsheets are great for collaboration.
Tools are available for all ages who want to create online stories.
- Storybird. A teacher version is available so teachers can create student accounts.
- Art of Storytelling. Experience, tell, and picture a story.
- Boomwriter. Read, write, compete and get published.
- Dog's Life. Write a comic-like story.
- Kerpoof-Story. Very easy to use Tell a Story feature.
- Kidsspace. Easy to use library-sponsored tools.
- Myths and Legends. Contains images and animation options.
- Littlebird Tales. Upload images and record you voice on each page.
- Picturebook Maker. Create picturebooks with limited images.
- Simplebooklet. Create documents of different sizes.
- Storyjumper. Create your own book.
- Storymaker. Simple and free library-sponsored tool
- Tikatok. Try for free.
- ZimmerTwins. Both still and animation.
- ZooBurst. Create your own popup book.
- App-based Tools
Help youth visualize chronology through online timeline tools.
Video production doesn't need to be time consuming or expensive. Follow these rules:
- Record it three times and take the best.
- Use what you have.
- Keep it short! (3-5 minutes)
- Animoto. Combine photos, video clips, music, and audio into great multimedia projects. Free version contains only 30 seconds of video. Great for very small projects. For more complex projects, create an educator's account. Check out student explorer projects.
Most of the online tools are now subscription services. However try the following options.
- Masher. Combine video, music, and photos.
- YouTube Video Editor. Combine and edit videos from YouTube.
- Creaza MovieEditor. Online editor.
- Vizlingo. Enter some words and choose images or clips to go with the words to create a short video.
- YouTube Create Videos. Provides a great list of online video makers
- Turtlepond Video Maker. Use existing video to create a short movie.
Examine student productions for inspiration.
Once youth have created projects, use one of the following video sharing sites.
- Vimeo. Upload videos. Check out my Digital Detective series.
Sticky, or virtual walls are like interactive bulletin boards where notes and ideas can be posted and moved around.
- Lino it
- PrimaryWall. Simple stickywall. No signin required. If you sign-in you have more controls. Designed for elementary grades.
- Scriblink (no sign-up, math symbols, share URL)
- Twiddla (no sign-up, math symbols, annotate web page, upload images, share URL, collaborate)
Go Consumers through History padlet example. Notice how students can post their primary source document and brainstorm questions.
Go to Then and Now. Add an idea related to this image.
Web Page Creators
Although it's important that youth learn HTML and programming skills, web-based development tools are wonderful for quick projects.
- Weebly. They have a nice education version.
Word Cloud Creators
Word clouds are an interesting way to visualize ideas using text. The result is a graphical representation of word frequency.
- Wordle (use a tilde to combine words such as word~cloud
Word Processing Tools
Basic word processing and collaboration. Sometimes you want a quick, one-shot tool for student collaboration.
- QikPad. No sign-in required. Give the page any name.
Advanced word processing tools allow collaboration, saving, and options for access and publishing.
- Google Docs
Online tools are available for writing, calculating, creating concept maps, and many other activities. Most of these tools are easy enough for young people to use.
Google Docs & Spreadsheets are collaborative tools for writing and calculating. It also has a Presentation option that's compatible with Microsoft PowerPoint. If you're looking for a collaborative web develop tool with social aspects such as comments, try Google Sites.
A generator is a tool that helps you create something.
Go to The Generator Blog. It's a great way to learn about these cool tools.
There are some fun tools available for making certificates, flashcards, and puzzles. Discovery's Puzzlemaker is very popular.
For each of the following activities, students build, save the image, and insert into a word processor. Then, write a story, create a problem to solve, or create directions. Design activities that ask one child to work from the creation of another student.
- Build a House. Write about who lives in the house.
- Build a Car. Write about a trip in the car.
- Color, Draw, and Paint
- Make a Christmas Tree. Write a story about a lonely Christmas tree.
- Make an Easter Egg. Design an egg for someone special. Write about who gets the special egg.
- Make a Face. Create two characters. Save each. Write a conversation.
- Make a Gingerbread House. Describe what it would be like to live in a Gingerbread house.
- Make a Pizza. Write the directions for making the pizza. Or, figure out the cost of making the pizza.
- Make a Pumpkin. Write a story about a pumpkin that comes alive.
- Make a Robot. Create a robot. Describe the elements and design to a classmate. Figure out the cost of making the robot.
- Make a Snowman. Create a snowman based on a description from a card. Can you match the snowman to the card?
- Redkid - Sign Generators
- Fake Newspaper. Create a fake newspaper for your story.
- Packland. Create cool looking comic backpacks to include in storytelling.
- Trading Cards
- Warning Label Generator
- HugeBigLabs - create lots of fun visual images with photos like magazine covers and movie posters.
- Movie Clapper Board Generator - Creates a movie clapper image.
- Newspaper Generator - Creates a newspaper front page.
- Shelter-Ecards - Create a video newspaper e-card.
- Use FotoFlexer to post your game points.
- Image Generators
- HugeBigLabs - create lots of fun visual images with photos like magazine covers and movie posters.
- Movie Clapper Board Generator - Creates a movie clapper image.
- Newspaper Generator - Creates a newspaper front page.
- Redkid - Sign Generators
- TiltShift - Turns a photo into what looks like a miniature world.
- Chopper Builder
- Fake iText
- Fake receipt generator
- Randomly Generated Identity
- Typo-Generators - creates text from photos
Creativity Tools in the Library
Lots of software, apps, and online tools are available for youth creators of all ages. Let's explore some of the possibilities for your library.
Open Source Software
Software can be expensive. Increasingly, librarians are seeking open-source solutions to meet their technology needs.
Go to GeoGebra and download free mathematics software. This tool is a great way to make a teacher connection.
Consider identifying a set of open source software that can be installed in your library and that patrons can also download at home.
Explore five tools that are popular with young people and can be downloaded at no cost:
- Audacity - for recording audio
- CMap - for concept mapping; like Inspiration.
- GIMP - for image manipulation; like Photoshop.
- Open Office - for word processing, spreadsheet, draw, graphics, presentations; like Microsoft Office
- Tuxpaint - for paint graphics for children; like Kidpix.
The graphic on the right was created in Tuxpaint.
An increasing number of companies are creating software applications that accompany products. For instance, Lego became famous for their plastic bricks for construction. In the 1980s, the company began connecting computers with their construction materials so young people could create robots and other computer-based materials.
Known as Lego Mindstorms, these tools continue to be popular today. Check out winners of the robotic pet contest. Today's version can even be controlled with an Android smartphone using the MINDdroid Application.
Lego also provides software tools that can be downloaded FREE for designing projects. Users can then build the designs using their own Lego bricks or purchase the materials online. Designers can even create the cover for their Lego project box.
Go to Lego Digital Designer for either Windows or Mac OSX. Download and try to software. It's lots of fun making virtual lego projects.
Regardless of whether you run the Macintosh or Windows operating system, you'd be surprised how many "freebies" come with your system. Be sure to check out Photostory for Windows and iPhotofor the Mac. These are two wonderful tools for creating simple, yet effective projects with photos.
Read Freedom or Nightmare: The Implications of Open Source Software by Annette Lamb to learn more about the implications of using open source software. Also, explore ten treasures of open source.
While some young people love the thought of using Microsoft Word to write a paper or Tuxpaint to draw a picture, others are overwhelmed by the choices. Think about ways that you can help young people by providing prompts, pictures, and other starters to help facilitate their work.
For example, let's say students are learning about alternative perspectives on social issues. Rather than a traditional paper, how about recording audio reflecting two different perspectives. Provide photos that young people might use to represent "characters." Then provide a tool such as Microsoft PowerPoint where students can paste the photo, add bubbles, and record audio.
Go to Desktop Learning Spaces to find examples of PowerPoint Starters. Think about how you could use PowerPoint in new ways.
Go to At-A-Glance Comic Tutorials and explore a few examples. What could you create to help others learn?
Combine creativity tools with curriculum area standards to create powerful learning experiences.
Just for Fun
Sometimes learning apps are just plain fun. Create MadLibs on your mobile device.
Increasingly companies are creating apps for product promotion and character visibility. For instance, the Dora Explorer Apps provides a fun creativity tool, but it also promotes the Dora the Explorer television show and other programs and products. For instance Disney Apps include movie connections like Tron and television connections like Handy Manny.
Sometimes youth come to the library with a general idea about a project they'd like to complete. They may need some help visualizing their idea. Or, you might have a teacher who wants to get out of the rut of assigning old-fashioned term papers. Encourage youth and adults to think of themselves as storytellers regardless of whether they're working with language arts, social studies, or even science content.
To help students become more effective storytellers...
- Discuss the use of public domain and open source resources.
- Talk about citing sources.
- Discuss the use of Creative Commons licenses.
- Talk about what can legally be shared and reposted.
- Does your school filter some choices? If so, look for others. For instance, use the education version of YouTube, Vimeo, or SchoolTube.
- Does the service limit uploads? How much space is provided for free?
- What kinds of ads are placed along with the item? Are they appropriate for the age of your students?
- Can features such as ratings and comments be moderated?
Use the following activity starters to practice the role of storyteller:
- Entertain. Convey a story, imagine a world, illustrate an idea
- Emote. Express a feeling, illustrate an abstraction, move an audience
- Inform. Analyze information, explain causality, visualize ideas
- Instruct. Show strategies, explain concepts, teach others
- Challenge. Create dilemmas, envision problems, kickstart projects
- Engage. Announce events, document experiences, reflect on lessons
- Provoke. Arouse emotions, heighten awareness, change attitudes
- Persuade. Support arguments, show perspectives, convince others
Use the following product ideas to practice the role of storyteller:
- Debate. Create an online debate following official debate rules.
- Experiment. Share the entire process of a science experiment from idea to conclusion.
- Encyclopedia. Create an encyclopedia for a particular topic. Explore Wikibooks Wikijunior.
- Field Guides. Build field guides for a specific flora and fauna. Consider a project that focuses on a local area, habitat, or biome.
- Glossary. Create a visual glossary including definitions, images, animations, and videos.
- Inquiry. Share the process of a personal inquiry from questioning to reflection.
- Legislation. Track legislation and create your own fictional bills.
- Literature Circles. Share the progress of your literature circle.
- Local History. Create a local history project. Collaborate with the local library, genealogy group, or commuity members.
- Maps. Share biographies on maps.
- Mock Trial. Share a mock trial online including text and video.
- Mystery. Pose a mystery, provide clues and background information, the provide the solution.
- News Service. Create an online news service with articles, photographs, cartoons, and video.
- Oral History. Create an oral history project. Focus on a particular topic such as a time period, occupation, or geographic area.
- Portfolio. Create a portfolio that reflects your best work in a particular class or series of classes.
- Presentation. Create a multimedia presentation.
- Reader's Guide. Build a guide to your favorite book including summaries, chapter questions, insights, and new ideas that extend the book.
- Recipes. Create a recipe file. Consider a theme such as family, culture, healthy eating, or other topics.
- Reviews. Share reviews of books, articles, movies, and other types of entertainment and information.
- Scrapbook. Use collage, news, photos, and other ideas to create a scrapbook for a class or topic.
- Speech. Use video to record, edit, and share a speech.
- Storytelling. Write a story. Try some collaborative approaches such as a "choose your own adventure," multiple author story, chain story, add a chapter to a favorite book, or other approach.
- Study Guide. Help others by creating a study guide for some aspect of your class.
- Trace. Track the history of a person, place, or object.
- Tutorial. Create step-by-step instructions for completing a task.
- Virtual Field Trip. Record experiences in a local place and create a virtual experience.