Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

If They Could...What Would They Say?

Speculation about possible conversations between historical figures and fictional characters springs up from time to time in professional networking chats as well as in discussions with students.  Thinking about notes possibly exchanged between Leonardo da Vinci and Orville and Wilbur Wright on the theory of flight would be fascinating.  Maybe tips on survival in northern climates could be shared between Brian Robeson, the main character in Gary Paulsen's Hatchet, with Johnny Raven, Gabe Rogers and Raymond Providence, protagonists in Will Hobbs' Far North.

About three weeks ago I previewed a new application designed by Russel Tarr, Head of History at the International School of Toulouse and author of ActiveHistory called BrainyBox.  BrainyBox, along with Fakebook (reviewed here) are only two of many teaching tools Tarr has available at ClassTools.net . Just a few days ago Richard Byrne, educator and blogger at Free Technology for Teachers tweeted about another new item to be found at ClassTools.net, the SMS Generator! Now writing and research skills can be honed to selecting the best words to convey the most meaningful thoughts through the sending of fake text messages.

Free to use without registration, it's perfect for the classroom.  When accessing the home page click on Fake SMS to get to the workspace.
The image above appears.

Along the bottom from left to right the icons represent:  message from person A, save your message by entering in a password, creation of URL link, HTML embed code, QR code image, or download web shortcut, start a new chat and message from person B.  To begin click on either of the icons on the far left or right.  Once a message is created it can be moved around.  Place your mouse over it until the "cross" icon appears and drag it to a new position.  By selecting the small pencil a message can be edited or by choosing the "x" it can be deleted.  These appear when the mouse is moved over a text box.

If you happen to click on the new icon instead of the right message button, all will be well.  It does start a new message but in a new window.  (Whew!)  I recommend saving your text as soon as possible.  Once you have a password you can save any changes again and again by selecting the save icon. Click the save icon (floppy disk image).

You will be asked to enter in a password.  When the password has been entered, by clicking on the OK  button, a new window is loaded changing the URL at the top of the screen to a unique one for your messages.  (You will want to make note of this URL.) The messages will still remain on the screen at this time.

When you select the URL Link/Embed Code (blue button with a white flower in the center) a small window pops up showing both.  It is the same for the QR Code.  To save the QR Code do a right mouse click, selecting save image as placing it in a specific folder of your own. Choosing the Download Web Shortcut will send it to your download file. (I'm using Google Chrome.)

I highly recommend the SMS Generator designed by Russel Tarr at ClassTools.net for use in the classroom.  It's ease of use makes it accessible to most grade levels.  The messages can be as easy or sophisticated as the user desires.

Students could work in pairs storyboarding the conversation before using the app.  Simple research could be attached to the final product in a separate document.  By creating a message between fictional characters students demonstrate understanding of what they have read.  Placing QR Codes in books with conversations between characters would enhance interest or provide further insights into plot,

Here is my example of a conversation between Kel from Kel Gilligan's Daredevil Stunt Show written by Michael Buckley with illustrations by Dan Santat and David from No, David! written and illustrated by David Shannon. It is followed by the QR Code ready for scanning.

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