Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Smiling About Smilebox

Just recently I've stumbled upon Smilebox, a free scrapbooking application.  Yet, it doesn't limit you to just scrapbooking.  You can create newsletters, cards, postcards, collages, photobooks, slideshows, calendars, & more!  This is not all that dissimilar to other digital scrapbook applications.  Many of them do the same thing.  There are a few features that make Smilebox unique.

Smilebox offers thousands of templates.  Within those templates you can control how many pictures or videos you add.  Depending on the template you choose, your viewer controls when to view the pictures or video by clicking on them.  Each template has a certain style of music associated with it, but if you don't like the music you can change it to one of your own songs or one of the 1,000's they have stored.  Most of the templates allow you with the ability to edit the text.  And it allows you to edit text for each video &/or picture you load.

While this is a great application to use personally, for friends and family.  It has endless opportunities within the classroom.  Initially, as an introduction, my students used it for its intended purpose ~ they created holiday cards to send to their friends and families.  This provided them an opportunity to see what the application was capable of doing.  Once they witnessed the capabilities and EASE of use, most of them could not wait to use it for classroom experiences.

Click to play this Smilebox slideshow

Since finishing The Giver they could not wait to share their ideas about the book with people outside of their classroom.  They were moved to create something, enticing others to read it.  After carefully planning out what they are going to say about the book, many of them have decided to use Smilebox to share their thoughts.  One child is using the newspaper template to write an article.  A group is using the collage template to upload their video commentaries.  Other groups are using the scrapbook and slideshow templates.

Beyond book analysis, there are plenty of applications for this tool: portfolio, yearbook, documentary.  My friend, Sherry, had her 3rd graders use it to demonstrate angles and later for a phonics strategy.  Because you can search for images and videos online and include them, or use your own photographs and videos, the options are limitless.

But then there is the authentic audience.  The students are choosing who their audience is.  Once they decide they can then choose how to get it to their audience.  You can post your creations on facebook, twitter, and blogs.  They can email them directly to the recipient(s).  They can embed their creations into their websites.  They can even turn their creations into a video and burn it to a DVD!

If you haven't had a chance to check this out yet, give it a try!  Once you go to the site, you download the application, create an account and get started!  The beauty of it is that I have one account for my entire classroom, and I can access all of the creations online yet they can create on their own computers.  It emails you every time a creation is sent of posted.  While there are some limitations, and you can do more with the paid version, the free version does give you plenty of options!  Happy creating!