Tech Writers

As part of our Media Production course here at USM, I asked my students to critique a website, a application on their Mac, an app that they used on their smartphone or a piece of hardware.

Below is our first submission.  Patty did a great job explaining and showcasing iMovie.  I am very proud of the writing part of this submission.  The video also explains how to do a reverse motion movie within iMovie.

I would love to give my students some authentic feedback from an authentic audience.  Please be so kind to add a comment and remember, if you have nothing nice to say…


Here is the link to the video tutorial.


iMovie is an easy program to use, and I do really like this video editing program. You can use iMovie for multiple different projects. IMovie is fun and so many people use it. I think that it is very easy to make reverse motion, stop motion, slow motion, fast motion, movies, movie trailers, and you can even import music you made yourself into iMovie to make your project even more interesting.

I did some projects for school on iMovie myself; I created a reverse motion movie. In the main window of iMovie there is an adjustments bar in the top right corner. If you click on adjust, a turtle, along with many other tools will appear. Once you click on the turtle button, three options appear. You can click the reverse button and then it will turn your clips into a reverse motion.

This is very easy to do; I also used iMovie for a stop motion project. All you have to do is select all of the photos you want to include, and then go to the information button, inside the adjustments button. Then inside that, there is a duration button, and you can make each picture appear on the screen for only 1 second, if you type in the number “one”. The only confusing part about this, is that you have to go really fast when hitting the enter button to change the duration, otherwise it won’t change. This was extremely easy and the only time consuming part was taking all the photos. You can also make a movie trailer in iMovie. I created a trailer in 7th grade, and it was very simple.

To make your projects more interesting you can add music from iTunes, and you can make your projects have themes. You can also make your projects black and white and you can choose how loud your background music is. You can use an effect called Ken Burns found in the crop button in the adjust tab. Ken Burns only works on photos. Ken Burns is an effect that allows you to zoom in or zoom out, or both, on a particular photo. You can change where it starts to go in and out and when to stop it. There is also an enhance button next to the adjust button. It makes the video a crème color. IMovie makes many projects fun and interesting.

IMovie can be slow at times, but that is only if there is a lot of photos being imported at once, or many special effects overlapping one another. Make sure that you update your iMovie so that you get the latest project creations and movie trailer creations. iMovie only comes with apple products not Microsoft or any other software’s. You can get iMovie on your phone and your Ipad, not only your computer. If you have a new Apple device the iMovie app comes with it. If you have an older device, it is $4.99. If you don’t have it, you should get it on your apple devices.

I would suggest iMovie for teachers and students. It is a simple, non-time consuming way to make projects for school, for lessons, or just to make things for fun. The main point is I would recommend iMovie for many different people and projects. I had a blast creating my projects in iMovie and I hope others do too!

Have You Been Nerdy Or Nice?

Have you been Nerdy or Nice?… I hope you have been a bit of both, but if you have been lacking in the nerdy department, I have some suggestions for you!

Below is a list (that I have checked twice) that will help you find your inner Nerd!  Please keep in mind that this is not a definitive list and if you find other items, please leave a comment with your suggestion.


1.  GoldieBlox










2.  LittleBits – Snap Your Ideas To Life





3.  MakeyMakey – An Invention Kit for Everyone






4.  Arduino








5.  Raspberry Pi

Raspberry Pi









6.  Lego Mindstorms









7.  Ollie – The app-controlled robot driven by adrenaline.








8.  Sphero – The app-controlled ball that does it all.








9.  Cricut 












10.  Kano









11.  Sewing Machines








12.  Play-i Robot – Bo and Yana will help your child learn to program.


Magazines and Books

1.  Make Magazine


2.  The Art of Tinkering

the art of tinkering












3.  Maker Dad

maker dad











4.  Making Makers: Kids, Tools, and the Future of Innovation

 Making Makers



Hopscotch – A great iPad app that is free and teaches the basics of coding with a very user friendly interface.

Game Press

Game Press – Free – Create and design your own video game. 


CargoBot – Another free app that is extremely fun to play.  My daughter and I lost some serious time figuring out some of the challenges posed by this app.  I saw her wheels turing (and smoke coming out of her ears at times) when faced with a challenge.


Codea – CargoBot was completely created using this app.  Who said creation and creativity dies on an iPad?


Kodable Pro

Kodable – This app is intended for children of 5 years old and up.  It is a great introduction to programming.  A first step before hopping on over to Hopscotch.  It teaches programing, sequencing, loops and functions.


Daisy The Dinosaur – Like Kodable but with a Dinosaur and it is free.


AppCraft – Another app maker similar to Codea but this is free.

Amazing Alex

Amazing Alex – Rube Goldberg for your iPad.  This is a free app until you complete all of the challenges then you would need to shell out a buck to keep on playing.

Thanks for reading and as always, please post a comment, question or suggestion!

Or better yet, stop in Nerdvana to see what is going on in the Middle School.

Thank you!

Tom Mussoline



Canva – Michaela Gives Us A Great Review

Canva is a great website for designing. You can choose from a wide selection of designs, such as a photo collage, poster, presentation, and many more. All of these designs come with their own layouts and designs.  If you want to, you are allowed to customize your dimensions.

First to get started, you can go to, and a window will pop up asking you to either sign up with your email or a Facebook account. Either one works, but once you have done this, you will be directed to the “design page” as I call it. You can then choose which design you would like. After you have done this, you will be directed to a new page with a blank design.


Then, once you have been brought to the page, it will show the wide selection of layouts, and you don’t have to use a layout, but I chose to use the bakery layout. If you want a use a basic layout, but want to use a little more creativity, there are layouts available that aren’t as advanced. Once you have chosen the layout that fits your liking, you can start by either searching for pictures or uploading your own. One problem with searching for pictures is any picture with Canva written on it, or a dollar sign next to it, does mean it is available for purchase. If you would like upload your own images, you can do this by clicking the upload arrow. Next, you can upload photos from your computer, or Facebook if you are logged in with your Facebook account. Once you have uploaded photos, you can either drag them into the design, or you can just click the picture and it will show up over your layout. If you would like to change the filter of the picture, just click on it and click filter. You can also change the brightness and contrast.


If you would like to add text sticker, click on the T for text button on the sidebar. If you would like to add one of the text stickers onto you design, just click on it. To change the text, double click on the type, and type what you would like. To change the color of the text, click the colored circle, and choose what color you would like to use. To change the size of the text, click on the numbers, and either type in your desired text size or choose a default size. If you would like to change the font of the text, click on the box to the farthest left, and then choose your desired font. To resize a picture, sticker, or text box, click on the item, then click on the little circle in the corner of the item and drag until you have the size to your liking.

When adding a sticker or little picture, click onto the magnifying glass on the sidebar. Most of these stickers are free and come with the site. You can choose from any category you would like, and then easily just add it to your design.

To add a background, you are going to click the striped box on the sidebar, and if you just click on a background, it will show up behind your layout.  If you would like a solid background, you can just choose from the colored circles above the other background selections. Once you are finished, you can share or make a new design. To go back to the “design page” just click the Canva button, and it is automatically saved for you.

In my preference, this is an easy website for anyone to use. You can really make a blank page grow into a cool project. The first time I used this site, I had minimal difficulties. My only problem was the cost of some pictures, and at times the website did make my computer slow when I overwork it. I really enjoyed using this website for this project.

Please click here to see the video tutorial.

Holly Explains Makey Makey – Tech Writers – Part 2

As part of our Media Production course here at USM, I asked my students to critique a website, a application on their Mac, an app that they used on their smartphone or a piece of hardware.

Below is our second submission. Holly did a great job explaining and showcasing Makey Makey. I am very proud of the writing part of this submission.

I would love to give my students some authentic feedback from an authentic audience. Please be so kind to add a comment and remember, if you have nothing nice to say…

Here is a video tutorial of Makey Makey made by Holly.


Makey Makey

Makey Makey is a really neat technological tool because just by connecting a couple of wires to it, and to a computer, it becomes a whole controller at the tip of your fingers (literally).

The materials that come in Makey Makey are: the main control panel, a USB cord that connects from the control panel to any computer and seven different colored wires with alligator clips at both ends that connect to the Makey Makey control panel and any other object.

The Makey Makey control panel includes an up arrow, a down arrow, a right side arrow, a left side arrow, click, and space. With these controls you can do many things.

The small side of the USB cord will go into the Makey Makey on the top. The other bigger side of the USB will be put in either side of your computer. The Makey Makey will flash green and then a pop-up will appear on your computer telling you that a new network has been detected; however, this window is not needed, and you can just press cancel.

Then you are going to want to take the 7 colored wires and hook one up (it doesn’t matter what color) to the Makey Makey, where it says “earth”. Once you have that finished, you are going to want to add as many wires (with clamps) onto the other open spaces on the control panel, so for example the up arrow or the down arrow.

What I did was just connect them all to the other open spaces, leaving the original wire clamped to “earth”. After that is completed, you are going to pick up the wire that has one end connected to “earth” and hold the other end in the tips of your fingers.

Then grab another wire with a clamp (doesn’t matter which one) and touch the top. If you have a word document open, for example, you will see that touching the clamps connected to the control panel will make these actions happen in your document. If you touch the space button, it will create a space.

You can also connect the wires with a clamp to a piece of tin-foil, and you can draw arrows on the tin-foil. Then you can connect the arrow wires to the same arrows on the tin-foil and play a game like that. The arrows on the tin foil will activate a character to make the moves in the game. You can also connect Makey Makey to a music system and create music. Or you could connect the wires to bananas wrapped in tin foil! And make music with bananas! How cool!

Makey Makey is a great way to make learning fun! A quote from the creators says, “We believe that everyone is creative, inventive, and imaginative. We believe that everyone can create the future and change the world. So we have dedicated our lives to making easy-to-use invention kits.” I like this quote about Makey Makey because it explains it so well! Makey Makey is a great way also to become creative, inventive, and imaginative! Makey Makey is explained with those words because you have the opportunity to create something amazing with wires and your fingers! You can make a step piano, banana band, and so much more!

I was really lucky to work with Makey Makey and figure out how to assemble it, create music, and I got to show other people. I would highly suggest getting Makey Makey because it makes learning and creating fun even thought it already is!

Common Sense Media

24 Video Games You Can Say Yes to After School

Above is a link to a great article by a wonderful source, Common Sense Media.  With colder days and less sunlight right around the corner, Common Sense Media has provided a list of video games that are fun and your son or daughter might even learn something!

Have a look and if you have any other video game suggestions, please add them in the comment section of this blog.

What a Transformation! Computer Lab to NERDVANA!

This year in the Middle School Computer Lab/MakerSpace/Nerdvana was a transformative one.

The space originally started as a computer lab.  Rows of PCs that were outdated…so out they went.  We now had a room with countertops but nothing to put on those countertops…so out they went.  A peninsula, that housed some outdated technology and served no purpose except as an obstacle to quickly get to the other side of the room…so out it went.

You may ask, “What was left?” and the answer is absolutely nothing.  Exactly the way I wanted it.  Let the transformation begin…a clean slate, an open canvas, a blank Maxel XLII-90 minute cassette tape.

Here are my 5 steps to start a MakerSpace or as we call it at University School – NERDVANA!




Do Ink – Green Screen App

Do InkFor about an hour now, I have been working with an app that has made me forget that I was actually working.  Do Ink’s Green Screen app is a wonderful new(ish) app that allows green screen video editing to be done directly on the iPad.

Simple enough to work with, it also comes with a very informative tutorial to help you navigate the work space.

Here is a quick tutorial of how it works.

Coupled with the original Do Ink App that can make animations, these 2 apps can provide a powerful 1-2 punch.

This app can be an easy way to create an inexpensive classroom studio.  With some bright green poster board and this app, a studio can be created for about $20.00 (minus the iPad).



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