Reitz High School

Reitz High School
Evansville, IN

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Goodbye XtraNormal, Hello Go Animate!



            I am always looking for great web 2.0 tools.  I like to have a good 10 tools on hand all of the time.  I want them to be user and teacher friendly and most of all, free.  As teachers, we are on a tight budget and really do not have a lot of time to learn a new tool that is difficult to use.

            One tool that I introduced to my teachers last year was http://www.xtranormal.com/ .  XtraNormal is a digital entertainment site that produces do-it-yourself animation software for the web and desktop. It turns words from a script into an animated movie using text-to-speech and animation technologies.   It allows users to create videos by choosing from a menu of predesigned characters and sets, and scripting their own dialogue.

It was great.  Teachers used it to introduce lessons and students used it to create projects.  I specifically remember a health teacher that had her students create a short video where one character in the mini movie convinced the other character that using drugs was a bad idea and gave good reasons why.  The students were engaged and really got into it.

Just recently, I realized that XtraNormal is now charging after your first video creation.  I guess all good things must come to an end.  Now, it is still a great tool and the prices that they are charging isn’t going to kill anyone’s pocket book, but it makes it difficult for a classroom of students to use it.




The problem is now solved.  I was reading from The Journal, a digital newsletter put out by FETC.  I found from the Tech Smackdown, there is another tool that does pretty much the same thing that is totally free.  From what I have found, there is not a limit to how many videos you can make.  There is a limit to how long it can be and some downloading options, but it does not limit you to one video.  The site is called goanimiate.  The link is http://goanimate.com/ .  I made my first video yesterday.  It is very easy to use and I think runs even smoother than XtraNormal. 

So if you have been looking for a great XtraNormal replacement, look no further.  Check out goanimate.  I think you are going to like it.

Friday, February 22, 2013

The Dance Debate

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             Since the first time my wife and I heard the song “The Dance” by Garth Brooks, we have had a debate about it.  It amazes me how two people can listen to the same song and have two complete opposite opinions about it.  I believe it is one of the greatest love songs ever written.  In fact, I have told my wife, if I pass away early in life, I would like it played at my funeral.  She, on the other hand does not want to play it or even listen to it.  She claims that it is just plain too depressing.  If you have not heard it, you really need to listen to the song as a prerequisite for reading this article. 

            In case you have not heard the song, here is the basic gist of it.  The song talks about how it is best that we do not know what lies ahead in our future because it would change the decisions we are making now.  The song refers to a woman that has lost her husband early in life.  If I remember correctly, the music video showed footage of JFK and the First Lady in Dallas the day he was assassinated.  The song goes on to say that the time they spent together was awesome, but if she had only known how it was going to end, she may have married someone else to save her from the tragedy, but in turn would have missed out on the best part of her life.  The chorus says, “I am glad I didn’t know the way it all would end.  I could have missed the pain, but I would have to have missed the dance.”

            As I said, I don’t think this is a depressing song.  It is a song that makes you think.  I would hope that most married couples feel that the time they have spent with their spouse is worth it, especially if it ends early due to an uncontrollable circumstance such as a vehicle accident or a health problem.  If something like that would have changed your decision to marry them, then you probably are not married to the right person.  If you are not willing to say, “No matter what happens in our life, I would marry you all over again,” then you are not married to the right person.  Just to set the record straight, I would.  From here on out, no matter what, I would marry my wife over and over again.  She is the best wife and mother to our daughters.

            So, I leave you with this.  If you knew years ago how things were going to be right now, would you go back and make a different choice that would change your life?  What would be the trade off?  Would you then miss out on the best parts of your current life to avoid some pain?  Would it be worth it?

Friday, February 15, 2013

One Way Street Blogging




              I would like to begin by saying this is not a gripe session.  I am just expressing my feelings about my blog.  I started this blog in October and have been very consistent by getting out an article each week.  I really enjoy writing the articles and am very excited about the stats that show me how many views they get and how many different countries from around the world are reading them.  Many times in my articles I ask for feedback or answers to a particular question.  This is the part that is somewhat frustrating.  I am not getting any comments in the comment section. 

Now, I am guilty of reading blogs and not leaving any comments as well.  I have good intentions, but after I have read it and closed it, I don’t usually go back and leave that intended comment.  I am not expecting everyone to make a comment, but a few once in a while would be awesome.  Maybe my articles need improvement.  Don’t hesitate to tell me that.  I want my blog to be a good one and one that people enjoy reading and can learn from, from time to time.

            Regardless of the reason, sometimes it feels like I am talking to myself.  I am not looking for huge, profound solutions and answers to my questions.  I would love to have just a short statement or two.  Even if it is to say, that you have thought about what I am speaking of before and do not have a remedy at the moment.  At least I would know that my readers are actually reading my posts.  Please feel free to ask me some questions as well.  Any feedback would be appreciated.  Some of you leave comments on Facebook.  That is perfectly fine, but they don’t show up on the actual blog, so it appears that no one is making any comments at all.

            I want to thank all of my readers.  If this is the first time you have read this blog, please go into the archives and check out some articles of weeks passed.  Please give me a little feedback once in a while.  I would really, really appreciate it.  Happy Valentines Day and Presidents Day.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

If You Only Knew What You Know Now

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            I could not sleep the other night, so I started channel surfing and ended up stopping on a movie that I had never seen before.  The movie was titled Touchback.  It was about a high school quarterback that led his team to the Ohio State Championship and ended up getting hurt in the championship game.  Because of his knee injury he lost his scholarship to Ohio State University and his cheerleader girlfriend left him to go on to college and marry his best friend.  The injured quarterback ended up staying in his small town; he married a girl from the band that was a wonderful wife to him.  They had two children; he became a farmer and a volunteer fireman.  This was a far cry from the way he pictured his life.  While picking beans, he breaks his combine by hitting a piece of wood in his field.  He fears his crop is going to be lost along with his farm and the respect of his family.  He then sticks a rag in the tailpipe of his pickup truck, sits in the cab while the exhaust begins to appear all around him he passes out.  


 
            The very next scene is his best friend banging on his truck window.  He immediately discovers that he is back in high school the week before the big game.  The only difference is, is that he remembers everything about how his life was before he has been given this second chance.  He is much nicer to people he obviously mistreated the first time around.  He also pays less attention to his cheerleader girlfriend and seeks out his wife from the band.  He did make his life better by the way he treated people, but no matter how hard he tried, the outcome of his injury ended up the same.  At the movie’s end, he wakes up in his truck where he tried to take his life.  The truck had run out of gas and didn’t put enough carbon monoxide in the cab to kill him; it only had knocked him out.  However, all of the changes he made during his second chance had really taken place.  He made his way back to the bean field to find all of his friends and practically the entire town helping him by picking his bean crop by hand.  He is overcome with emotion and realizes his life is really pretty good.

            That got me to thinking about how I might do things different if I were given a second chance.  I would love to go back and treat people better than I did when I was in high school.  I would have saved and invested more money by getting on the Dave Ramsey plan before I hit twenty.  It would have been awesome to know the stocks I would have invested in for example, Intel, Microsoft, and Apple just to name a few.  I would have made much more mature decisions regarding buying a car or two that I would have been better off without.  I would have eaten better and would never have stopped exercising.  I love the job I am doing now and probably would have made a move toward getting this position sooner.  I totally would have married the same girl all over again for sure.  I generally would have had more patience with people and would have been much slower to anger about things.  Most of the things in life are not worth worrying or getting upset about.  In fact, most of the things I worried about never even happened. 

            Think about it.  If you could go back to a point in your life, would you change it?  What would you have done differently?  Would it have made a difference?  How would your life be different?  Please share your story.