Resources for (English) Language Teaching

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A few months ago Leisha sent a book my way entitled What Works in K-12 Online Learning; I’ve just now finished it. It was a bit disappointing because it was written in 2007, so much of it is dated, but I earmarked the pages with links to see what was still live and if anything was still good. A number of the links did work and some seem helpful, so here’s the list:

  • Cloze Generator. Full sentence is input and then sentence-with-blanks is input. Limit of 10 per cloze. Becomes an interactive web-based exercise. Can be saved as html.
  • Sentence Scrambler. Input up to 10 sentences and then it will scramble them. No interactivity but is generated in printable-worksheet form.
  • Flow Chart Creator. Gliffy.com allows the creation of flow charts and diagrams either in isolation or for use in other documents. The interface is a bit complex visually and it seems that the free account will only let you make five charts (though this wasn’t entirely clear) but it seems like a powerful tool.
  • Venn Diagram Creator. This is an ingeniously simple little site. It gives you the two circles of a Venn Diagram, allows you to add additional circles, and to add elements to the circles.
  • Clip Art Resource. A series of clip art images specifically for language. They are listed by categories and then in groups of 10. The individual images aren’t identified so they have to be browsed but there are 1500 different images.
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1:1 Resources from Free Tech for Teachers

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Saw this post today (thanks @patrickmlarkin and @rmbyrne) with what look like some good resources for a 1:1. I’m especially interested in exploring YouCanBookMe, WordDynamo, and maybe Penzu. I’ll start checking those out over the summer.

Ziploc Equals iPad Rain Protection

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I use GameChanger to score the softball games on the iPad and it does a great job, covering pretty much every eventuality on the field (and there are a lot) and crunching all of the numbers for us. This is the first year that I can’t not use it. On varsity we need an official book for the game. On JV if I missed a few this or couldn’t use it because of the weather, it wasn’t a big deal but nit so in varsity. So obviously rain had to be factored in.

I half-heartedly looked for a waterproof case but liked my good ol’ fashioned Apple iPad 1 black flip case and didn’t want to give that up. The plan was a Ziploc bag. J figured it would cover the iPad, let me put my hands in there to control the iPad, and as long as I kept it angled up, everything would be fine.

So yesterday was our first game in the rain and out came the Ziploc. Kind of a pain but doing its job. Until some of the girls on the bench told me that the touch screen worked through the bag. And lo and behold they were correct. Who knew? (Well, they did.) But that made life much easier. I could seal the bag and still work the iPad.

If anyone does have a waterproof case they like, I’d like to hear about it but for now my trusty Ziploc works just fine.

Technology Free: Good to Shake It Up (Literally)

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I’m teaching the Archaeology course this year as a sixth, i.e. extra, course. I agreed to it because I’ve not taught it in a few years and I wanted to get it out there as a viable course (hasn’t seemed to work; it’s not running next year…). But I’ve been using it as a bit of a lab course, i.e. trying things to see how they work. We’ve done a lot of electronic assessments, project-based work, and independent learning, using a lot of material from my online version of the course.

In talking to the students one day, though, they said that they expected more, well, archaeology (the archaeology part of the course reflects how much of our knowledge of the ancient world comes from artifacts). So a quick search of the files and I found something that I thought might work.

The class before April break, they chose groups. The assignment: create an alphabet of their own using symbols and shapes (no letters or numbers) and create a message using the alphabet. Their homework over the break: bring in a 4 to 6 inch terracotta pot. The class back from April break they decorated their pots with the alphabet-message (and in general) and then the fun began. We went outside and shattered (and I mean shattered) those pots (note to self: thin bags = no bags).

The students, in their naivete, thought the fun was the smashing. Oh were they mistaken. The next class I arrived with the shattered pots in their (now repaired) plastic bags, we went outside again, and their job was to sketch each piece, both shape and decoration, and reconstruct the pot (the students were hoping for glue, but I settled for theoretic reconstruction).

It was a fun project. The students enjoyed (although one student did opine that he was going to find an archaeologist, write to him, and tell him how bad he felt for him) it, at least the active / engaged part of it, and gave them a glimpse of at least part of archaeologists’ jobs.

Sometimes, in school and at home, it’s good to disconnect.

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Raising the Paperless Bar: Book Proofs

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As some of you know, I’ve published a few books and this year one of the textbooks (really a workbook) was up for revisions. So after doing the revisions in the fall, after editing, further revising (of the revisions), and more editing, we were finally ready for the page proofs, i.e. .pdfs of the book that are the final opportunity for editing / catching mistakes.

I assumed that at some point this would happen, that I would receive a large .pdf and be forced to face the decision of print or no-print. I had always done my editing by hand (it always seemed a bit more organic and would slow me down a bit, despite the fact that I do most of my editing / grading of student papers on the computer) but figured, well, if I was going paperless, I was going paperless.

Originally, I figured I’d use Air Display to have the proofs on my iPad and write notes in the email back to the editor. But this meant I would have to be more descriptive (and so take longer) in my email. I realized that using .pdf-Notes would allow me to highlight the mistake I was talking about and so keep my email / text spare.

It worked great. With simple red circles or a few simple annotations (admittedly in lousy finger-written script) I could easily highlight where the mistakes were and connect my email to the proofs. I then used the Dropbox feature in .pdf-Notes to save the annotated .pdf and attached it to the email, both getting it to the editor but also saving a copy for myself.

So once again .pdf-Notes proves useful and user-friendly. It is my .pdf reader / annotator of choice.

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Ted.ed for Flipping the Classroom

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Our technology coordinator had emailed me the Ted.ed website and a brief description of what it did and I largely ignored it. It seemed like a cool thing but I never quite figured out how or when to use it. I did run a brief experiment with it with my archaeology class; they had a vaguely Roman video there which I figured would give me a good sense, but through a combination of a lack of preparedness on my part (I had forgotten about the possibility of students making accounts) and some funkiness in the video / process (all of the answers for the multiple choice questions were given to them; not sure what that was about) turned me off.

But as I was approaching manuscript week with my Medieval Lit class, in which we spend a week looking at the process of constructing Medieval manuscripts, I had a few videos that I used that I thought might work well with the Ted.ed website, so I revisited. And I’m glad I did.

With my own video (ok, a video that I used from the Getty Museum via YouTube) and my own questions, things worked much more smoothly. I also made sure to have my students make accounts before watching the video, so I could see results.

So what my students got (and I’ll admit that this was not flipped; we watched it in class because I wanted to see how it worked) was a 2.30 video on the construction of Medieval manuscripts with questions along the way about terminology and other information presented in the video. Using the bookmark feature, I also connected each question to the time in the video where the answer was given, so that if they got a question wrong they could go directly to the part of the video where the answer was.

The students enjoyed it, both the video and the questions, and I suspect enjoyed the video more because of the interactivce nature of it. So Ted.ed (after an ill-fated attempt) gets a thumbs up. It’s a cool tool that’s easy to use and can bring a level of interactivity to class. Anyone else using it?

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