Friday, December 12, 2008

New Fiction Titles In The CFL

The Carlyle Fraser Library is always buying new fiction titles for the collection to suit the needs of a wide cross section of readers here on campus. New titles are added weekly to a cumulative list that includes both book covers and a short synopsis. The New book page also features an RSS feed for those who use an aggregator to keep up with sites of interest. Enjoy!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Nystic 2, The Web 2.0 Blogging Source

Super3boy, the online pen name of a Westminster school student, constantly amazes me with his technology prowess when discussing and exampling Web 2.0 applications. One of his new ventures is the Nystic 2.0 blog wherein he, along with collaborators, shares news and tutorials including everything from Blender to digitizing vinyl records. The Nystic 2 blog is definitely a valuable resource for those interested in finding fresh young voices for staying informed in the Web 2.0 world.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Release The Comic Strip Creator

I have a severe lack of skill when it comes to drawing despite a life long love of art and comic books. As a child I checked out the instructional drawing books such as the Marvel comics book to the left from my library hoping to recreate the superheroes, animals and crazy cars created through guided steps. My results usually lacked the finished touches of the book examples but I kept on trying into my teenage years. Now, the internet and a host of comic creating websites have alleviated my lack of drawing prowess with ready made drawings, panels, word bubbles, fonts, and other assorted features that allow the most artistically disadvantaged among us to create our own comic strip creations. Below I have alphabetically listed six of the most dependable sites along with some personal observations regarding their pros and cons. The fifth and sixth sites listed below are my favorites.

Comic Life features an easy to use interface with tons of really cool page templates featuring every possible page configuration you can imagine. Once the page templates are chosen, images from your computer or an image sharing site such as Flickr can be uploaded along with varying modifications including word balloons, fonts and colors. The program does not come with ready made cartoon drawings so any artwork would have to be uploaded from your computer. Your final creation can be saved, printed and shared with an online community. The program also requires a sign up fee ($24.95) but does allow for a 30 day free trial period. Final verdict - I love the templates but the lack of ready made art to manipulate limits what you can do. This would be my third or fourth choice from the list.

Comiqs has a very simple interface and features limited editing in comparison to the other comic creators. Images from your computer or sites such as Flickr are uploaded and added to a choice of ten different templates with varying comic strip panel layouts. Word balloons and graphics can then be added to the comic panels from a limited selection. Comiqs is free and only requires a login to share your creations. Comics you create can be shared with an online community, printed, or saved to your computer. Final verdict - Comiqs is fine for adding captions to an image but the lack of editing tools in comparison to other online comic creators really disappoints.

MakeBeliefsComix is great for anyone who wants a selection of already created drawings to manipulate. The drawings include fifteen different characters rendered from the shoulders up. Multiple characters can be added to a panel and adjusted to change their expressions, position and scale. Users also have the ability to change background colors, add various word balloons, change panel prompts and panel layouts. MakeBeliefsComic is free and features a wonderful repository of ideas. Completed comic strips can be printed or emailed. Final verdict - This is a fun and very simple program that would benefit from a little more versatility in the scope and range of already created character drawings.

Pixton includes a "quickie" and an "advanced" version with already created drawings of characters, settings and props. In the quickie version you choose a comic strip with completed art that only lacks text for the word balloons. In the next step you can add dialogue and leave everything the same or manipulate elements such as characters, background, scale, color, et cetera. The advanced version requires users to build a comic panel by panel with the same editing tools available in the quickie version. The site requires a fee but does have a free trial. Completed comics can be saved to an online forum, printed, or saved. Final verdict - The stock drawings have a somewhat generic stick figure like appearance that makes everything seem somewhat one dimensional. The site is good for creating a story with ready made drawings.

ToonDoo is probably my favorite online comic strip creator because of the range of choices presented. After creating a free account users are presented with a wide range of already created and easy to edit characters, backgrounds, props, texts, captions, et cetera to manipulate in a myriad of ways. The site also allows users to upload their own images, making this the only application wherein site generated artwork and personal images can be combined. ToonDo also features a rich collection of user content, forums, groups, and how tos. Final verdict - I wish the site had more layout templates to choose from, however, the range of editable artwork and ability to combine photos from your computer with site generated art makes this the most versatile comic creator site I have encountered.

Toonlet has the look of an Edward Gorey comic strip filled with weird site generated characters rendered in black and white. Users "build" characters from the waste up using a set of options including clothes, hair, facial expressions, et cetera, in a manner similar to a paper doll. After constructing characters users can add text and background color to their comic strips but have limited ability to change anything else. Only one character can be added per panel. Toonlet requires a free sign up to create a comic for online sharing, printing, or saving. Final verdict - I love the look of the comic strips given their Edward Gorey, Robert Crumb feel, but the limitations on editing the drawings can be annoying.


How To Draw Comics The Marvel Way is a Marvel comics product and copyright

-Christopher Bishop

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Google Maps and Google Earth

Google Maps and Google Earth are amazing resources and tools used by many people for a variety of reasons including everything from finding directions, to locating cheaper gas, or looking up their home address for the fun of it. Transforming users of new tools such as Google Maps and Google Earth into producers of their own content is key to harnessing these tools for truly enriching educational purposes. I am always looking for ways to introduce technology into the classroom as a way to reinforce classroom lessons through the use of what will hopefully be exciting and engaging new tools for displaying student learning. This semester I had a chance to collaborate with history and Spanish teachers as we introduced Google Maps and Google Earth to students as a platform for class projects.

Students in two history classes were assigned to groups with specific questions concerning geographic terms. Both online and print atlases were used by students to locate specific geographic areas that matched the questions. Each group then used Google Maps to illustrate the geography terms and locations through the use of text, pictures and external links. Students then presented their finished Google Map in Google Earth. The research guide and student work are available online.

In the Spanish classes we decided to do something along the lines of Google Lit Trips, a repository for Google Earth "tours" based on locations, characters and themes in varying literary works. Students were divided into groups of two with specific terms to illustrate from LadrĂ³n de la mente, a novel they read in class. Each group used pictures, text, and embedded links to illustrate their assigned terms. Additionally, each student created a VoiceThread using images and their own audio spoken in Spanish for embedding in one of their Google Map posts. The research guide, student examples and VoiceThread directions are available online.

The learning curve with Google Maps and Google Earth is fairly small given the number of resources available to assist with both creating and finding inspiration for your own projects. I find Google Maps to be the easiest resource for creating personalized maps due to the very user friendly interface, however, some people prefer to create maps in Google Earth. Google Maps are viewable in Google Earth. Below I have listed websites containing everything a new user would need to create their own Google Map or Google Earth project.

Google intros Maps mashups for dummies
This site has a very concise and highly informative video explaining how to create a map in Google Maps using the "My Maps" feature.

Google Maps User Guide
Very easy to follow directions and a good place to start.

Google Earth User Guide
Again, easy to follow directions with lots of images for clarification.

Educational Uses
A wonderful repository of class projects and ideas spanning the curriculum.

Google Earth Education Community
Educational ideas divided by discipline.

Ireland in 1898
A fascinating historical project using photography from the turn of the century to recount Irish history.

Google Maps and the exploration of Canada
An ongoing project to map the settlement and exploration of Canada.

- Christopher Bishop