Help Students Use Icons and Photos in Narrated Slideshows

My wife (@sfryer) is starting a narrated slideshow media project tomorrow with her third graders. About a week ago, all the third graders at our school went on a field trip to a local kitchen where they prepared soup for the homeless in our community. This was part of a service learning project, and launched their new novel study in language arts on “Granny Torrelli Makes Soup” by Maine author Sharon Creech (@ciaobellacreech). One of Shelly’s parents created a short slideshow of photos from the field trip, which Shelly made into a video last week that captured the event well in 70 seconds.

As my wife’s unofficial technology learning coach, I’ve been helping her (this weekend) plan how she’ll help her third graders plan scripts for their narrated slideshows, select photos to accompany each frame of their slideshow / video, and then record their narration with the iPad app Shadow Puppet EDU. This afternoon during lunch, I suggested she not only provide students with access to a Google Drive-shared folder of photos from the field trip to use (accessed via QR Code and the i-nigma iPad app), but also a folder of ICONS. I’m a big advocate for visual storytelling, and icons from The Noun Project are one of my favorites when creating presentation slideshows. Shout out to Tony Vincent (@tonyvincent) for sharing The Noun Project several years ago during a conference presentation!  You’ll see a lot of Noun Project icons in the recent and upcoming slideshows I’ve presented and helped co-present at our school on “digital citizenship” themes this year.

Shelly created a Google Drive “parent” folder for this entire narrated slideshow media project, and shared it with me. Inside that folder, we created a folder for “Photos” and also for “Icons.” Shelly copied many of the best parent photos from the field trip into the photos folder. I just uploaded 83 icons into the Icons folder, based on a brainstormed list she gave me of words, terms, and vocabulary which described / was relevant to their field trip.

If Shelly had more class time for this project, it might be great for students to help brainstorm this list of icon keywords, and also help select the icons from The Noun Project‘s huge library which could be included in their shared folder. As it is, however, time is limited… so she’ll reduce the amount of time students will need to spend selecting images to use in their projects. There are plenty to choose from, so students will still have the opportunity to make substantive choices in the media they’ll include in their narrated slideshows. Hopefully by pre-selecting images, most or all students will have time to complete this project in the allotted / available classtime.

Using a folder of pre-selected images for a media project, but providing more choices than students will be able to use so they can still “choose,” is a great technology integration strategy I first learned about from Hall Davison (@HallDavidson) 12 years ago in a keynote. Unfortunately the website Hall referenced (Kitzu) is offline, but you can still read my post about this, titled “Multimedia Project Kits.”

The basic steps of this narrated slideshow project in Shelly’s classroom this week will be:

  1. Students write bullet points / speaking points for five different project slides, using the project template Shelly is creating tonight
  2. Students take a photo of their completed planning sheet / storyboard, and upload it to their Seesaw learning journal.
  3. Students select an image to use for each slide, using the project photo and icon galleries Shelly and I co-created (saving each desired image to their shared iPad camera roll). Ideally, each selected image will directly relate to / amplify the ideas they are sharing on each slide.
  4. Students build their slideshow with images, using Shadow Puppet EDU, and record their narration for each slide.
  5. Students export their video to their iPad camera roll, and then share their final project to Seesaw.

I may also help Shelly create a project rubric, which she’ll share with students at the start of the project and she’ll use to assess student work throughout the project… not just at the end. Emphasizing the value of the PROCESS, and not just the ‘final project,’ is one of the reasons I’ve suggested she have students share a photo of their completed planning sheets / storyboards to Seesaw.

I’m sure Shelly will be posting about this project after it’s finished to her professional blog, shellyfryer.com, in upcoming weeks.

If you’re interested in more resources related to this narrated slideshow project, check out:

  1. The Badgelist badge for “Narrated Slideshow” which I created a couple summers ago for iPad Media Camp
  2. The “Narrated Slideshows” page of ShowWithMedia.com
  3. My $3 eBook on Narrated Slideshows / Screencasts

Have you used a “multimedia project kit” with your own students, or in projects you’ve completed during professional development? It’s a great strategy which can help jumpstart the media creation process and workflow. If so or if you have questions, please reach out to me on Twitter @wfryer.

Go forth and empower your students to develop their digital literacy and communication skills with narrated slideshow videos!

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

Using ffWorks and FFmpeg for Video Compression

Almost every week on Wednesday nights I co-host “The EdTech Situation Room” (@edtechSR) webshow and podcast with my friend and fellow educator, Jason Neiffer (@techsavvyteach). My Thursday evening routine, therefore, usually includes post-production of the show so it’s shared on edtechSR.com, with both audio and video archive versions linked from Amazon S3. In this post I’ll share how I’m now using the shareware software program ffWorks paired with the open source video compression software FFmpeg, along with iTunes, to create our compressed 16 kbps audio and 360P video archives.

We livestream our EdTechSR webshows each week on YouTube via a Hangout on Air. This allows us to automate the creation of an updated YouTube playlist of all our episodes, and also provides a video archive of the show each week which I can download. Even though YouTube automatically encodes episodes at varying bitrates / quality settings / screen dimensions to accommodate viewers with slower Internet connections, it’s not always easy to download those lower quality versions. Even though the cost of hosting our audio and video archives on Amazon S3 is very small at this point (related to our small but highly devoted fanbase!) it’s beneficial to archive a lower bitrate video than the 720P version YouTube lets creators download directly from their “YouTube Creator Studio” dashboard.

I’ve used a variety of different third party websites over the past couple years to download smaller (360P) video versions of our shows. Those sites have included en.savefrom.nety2mate.com, and some others which are now offline or have changed to the point where I’m questioning if they are still reputable / safe sites that are malware free. This is a cat and mouse game: Google/YouTube has historically tried to prevent the downloading of videos other than those you personally upload. Now it’s possible to download offline versions of videos if you subscribe to YouTube Premium (formerly YouTube Red,) but that isn’t something I’ve paid for or at this point am interested in paying for. So here’s the challenge: What’s a free and relatively fast way to compress video when the only source video format you have is 720P from YouTube?

My new answer is the shareware software program ffWorks paired with the open source video compression software FFmpeg. I use a MacOS laptop, and ffWorks is Apple-only. FFmpeg works on other platforms (it’s Linux-based) but it’s a command line tool. ffWorks isn’t free, but permits 10 free trial uses, and provides a more user-friendly GUI (graphical user interface) for accessing and using the powerful options in FFmpeg.

The image I embedded above shows my video compression settings. I used the H.264 video compression codec, changing the 1280 x 720 size of my source video to 320 x 240. I lowered the audio quality to 64 kbps. The image below shows file sizes for the different source and target files I used and created in post-production tonight. This also shows (dramatically) why you do NOT want to just export as 480P from QuickTime player:

My final two files have green dots by them in the above image. This was a 66 minute webshow. The 360P video version is 111.6 MB in size, and the audio version (32 kbps exported from iTunes) is a 16 MB mp3. Those are relatively lightweight yet good quality podcast files. This matters because folks around the world can and do download these files, and everyone isn’t on a blazingly fast Internet connection. Some people pay more (over mobile connections, generally in the U.S.) by kilobyte for downloads. So keeping file sizes small matters when you’re a considerate podcast publisher.

The middle file in the screenshot above is the originally downloaded YouTube 720P version of our show video, and it’s 440.2 MB in size. For comparison sake, in Quicktime Player for Mac (running MacOS 10.13 High Sierra) I exported as a 480P video. You’d think that file would be smaller, but you’ll see it as the second file in the above screenshot: It’s 1.16 GB in size! This demonstrates how much better YouTube’s video compression algorithms are than the default algorithms in QuickTime player. Of course this is by design: YouTube is optimizing for streaming online, while Apple’s QuickTime Player default settings are optimized for localized playback.

The first file in the screenshot above is the exported, audio-only version of the downloaded original YouTube 720P video using Quicktime for MacOS and default settings. It’s a .m4a file with a file size of 64.5 MB. When you share audio podcasts, it’s still best to use mp3 format, and I prefer 32 kbps versions exported via iTunes. See my August 2016 post, “Audio Podcasting Workflows,” for more about audio podcast post-producation options.

Have you tried using FFmpeg with or without ffWorks for video or audio file compression? I’m pleased with the results so far. I may continue to try and use third-party websites for YouTube video downloading, but it’s good to have a viable, efficient, and affordable local software option for video compression. I want and need my post-production workflow for the EdTechSR podcast to be as simple and fast as possible!

See this Google Doc I created in April 2017 to view all the post-production steps which I’ve used in the past for the EdTechSR podcast. At some point I may modify/update that to include these new steps using ffWorks with FFmpeg, but for now I’ve just linked this blog post on it.

See the “Radio Shows” page of ShowWithMedia.com for more tools, tutorials, and resources releated to creating and sharing podcasts. Please reach out to me on Twitter @wfryer if you have feedback or questions about the ideas I’ve shared in this post.

Happy podcasting!

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?

How I’m Voting and Prepared to Vote in Oklahoma City November 6, 2018

I’m thankful to share that this year as a voter and citizen in Oklahoma City, USA, I’ll be headed to the polls more prepared than ever to cast my ballot. For this important mid-term election, I used the Online Voter Tool from the Oklahoma State Election Board (@OKelections) to generate a PDF sample ballot.

Then, I used DocHub to fill out the PDF, which I’ve linked and embedded as images below. I used many of the articles from NonDoc.com (@nondocmedia), Oklahoma Watch (@OklahomaWatch), The Oklahoma Policy Institute (@okpolicy) as well as candidate websites and other news sites to vet candidates, particularly ones with whom I was not previously familiar. This included all the judge races. I sheepishly admit that every other time I’ve voted as an adult in a U.S. election, there has been at least one ballot question or position for which I was unprepared to vote. If political parties were specified, that could be a fallback to help me make a decision, but in the case of judges a political affiliation is not specified in our state. So I’m VERY happy to feel more prepared than ever before to cast an informed ballot tomorrow. This preparation is also important since we have several important ballot initiatives to vote on.

If you are reading this post before you head to the polls in Oklahoma on November 6, 2018, I encourage you to download and view this PDF of my completed sample ballot, in case this can help you make some decisions prior to voting. As you’ll see if you look at my choices, I’m NOT a straight party voter. In many cases I’m voting for the person, their record and their professed agenda rather than just the political party they represent.

I was also thankful to have the opportunity to participate in this past Sunday evening #OklaEd Twitter chat, which focused on our upcoming elections and was led by Oklahoma school superintendent Rick Cobb (@grendelrick). The discussion and shared ideas from this Twitter chat especially helped me become more informed about our proposed state questions, and decide how am choosing to vote on them tomorrow. Woo hoo for democracy and voting! Our system is not perfect but it’s better than what folks have in many parts of the world… and it only works when citizens take civic responsibility seriously and participate in the process! Whatever your political persuasion, get out tomorrow / Tuesday and VOTE!

If you enjoyed this post and found it useful, consider subscribing to Wes’ free, weekly newsletter. Generally Wes shares a new edition on Monday mornings, and it includes a TIP, a TOOL, a TEXT (article to read) and a TUTORIAL video. You can also check out past editions of Wes’ newsletter online free!


Did you know Wes has published several eBooks and “eBook singles?” 1 of them is available free! Check them out! Also visit Wes’ subscription-based tutorial VIDEO library supporting technology integrating teachers worldwide!

MORE WAYS TO LEARN WITH WES: Do you use a smartphone or tablet? Subscribe to Wes’ free magazine “iReading” on Flipboard! Follow Dr. Wesley Fryer on Twitter (@wfryer), Facebook and Google+. Also “like” Wes’ Facebook page for “Speed of Creativity Learning“. Don’t miss Wesley’s latest technology integration project, “Show With Media: What Do You Want to CREATE Today?