Wednesday, April 26, 2006

ABE/GED/ESL Reading Speed General: Ultimate Speed Reader

One of the best programs for increasing reading speed is Ultimate Speed Reader, originally published by Davidson, which then became Knowledge Adventure. The program was out of print, but I have found a reliable resource for the product at Smart Kids Software:
They are currently listing the program at $247.95 for a 15 site license, and $559.95 for an unlimited network license. They also sell stand alone versions. If you have been searching for a source for this program, I contacted them today and they said they have the program in stock. Their phone # is 888-881-6001 for more information.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Commentary: Sotir: Tablet PC's

I have written about Tablet PC's before, but perhaps a quick overview might make them easier to understand. Have you ever gotten tired of typing? Wish that you could just write what you want and see it magically appear as typed text on a screen? Well, then Tablet PC's might be for you. I know that voice recognition computers seemed to be the way to go, especially if you were in the Star Trek set. However, getting a good voice recognition program is dificult. You do need to 'teach' it your voice and intonation, so training it takes quite a bit of time. For example, years ago I used a Dragon Speak program for voice recognition. My daughter's name is 'Heather', but no matter how hard I tried, it always typed 'Feather'. So I gave up, started calling her Feather and moved on. She's (slightly) more adaptable than the software. Also, it's hard to work in a crowd or a classroom if everyone around you is talking to their computers too. The Tablet PC is a good alternative. While most Tab PCs have some voice input capabilities at an operating system level, they still require training and may have difficulties with accents and voice inflection.

A much better tool is handwriting recognition which does not need training and is built-in as well. Yes, there are some tricks to making it read your writing better, but basically, you write, it prints. Actually, script works better than printing for recognition. Digital ink allows hand-written notes and drawing to be entered directly into Office applications. So, if you are an English instructor, you can have students send you their writing assignments in MS Word, and you can annotate directly on them using your Tab PC. And red is not the only ink color, so you can do spelling errors red, grammar errors in green, and smiley faces in yellow.

If you are doing a PowerPoint presentation, you can write directly on top of the presentation, and then choose whether or not to save those annotations. This gives the Tab PC more of a whiteboard functionality. If you want to add a diagram, you can write the labels directly onto the diagram. Since you can hook-up and load a Tab PC directly from your desktop PC, you can add photos, drawings, text and other documents from any source. Classroom notes and lectures can be printed or sent to any other computer. Since all Tab PC's have built-in wireless connectivity, the most exciting application is that in a wireless environment, you can walk around the class with a Tab PC. There is no need for a mouse, since it is a pen operated device, and it can be used in both landscape and portait modes.

For students, taking notes is a snap. They can write directly on the Tab PC screen, and then organize and print the notes after class. Brainstorming and sharing as a group is easy, simply emailing their ideas to others.

I understand that having new technology is not always exciting to instructors, since it requires training and is sometimes accompanied by frustration. But think of the Tab PC as OLD technology. It works pretty much like the old slates that were popular in classrooms of previous centuries. But...they are a whole lot cooler. And cooler is always better. If you want to see how Tab PC's are used in education, check out the Tablet PC Education Blog: (

Monday, April 24, 2006

Commentary: Sotir: Splogs and Spings?? Oh NO!!

I know that you are still reeling from terms like 'Blog' and 'Wiki'...not to mention 'RSS and Atom'...or even 'Vlogs' (video blogs). Now new terms have been coined due to the rash of spammers who have branched out from email and are now posting unwanted and potentially harmful fake blog posts or comments. The term for this is 'Splogs', for Spam Blogs or 'Spings' (recalling that legitimate sites like Blogarithm can keep track of your interests by 'pinging' your email when a new post of interest comes up).

As a Blog administrator, these are more than annoying. There are methods to thwart the buggers (or Sploggers). Some sites ask for word verification, a particularly annoying method of asking you to read letters that are uneven and write them into a box before your post is published. While these usually workbecause 'bots' or robotic readers can't read them, frankly, neither can I, most of the time. Other methods allow for moderating comments or posts from anonymous sources. I prefer this method, so if someone is not registered as a Blog member, their posts go into a holding site that allows me to agree or not agree to publish them. Not foolproof, but not too bad either.

According to an article on by Christopher Heun:
"The people who create splogs - or, more accurately, the people who write the programs that do it for them - rarely intend for anyone to actually read their posts. They're just building a giant clump of links that refer back to some other site - that, say, promotes gambling or sells something like Viagra - and thus increases the page rank of that site on different search engines.

Then, in the odd chance that anyone might actually read their junk posts, the creators put ads on them that generate a small commission, usually a fraction of a dollar, for every click. "

The underlying factor is that if someone wants to annoy you, with a little effort, they can. Buggers.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

English Instruction for Learning Disabled Adults

This is an informative article written for the instructor trying to assess whether or not a student should be considered 'Learning Disabled'. It has a good section on understanding how ESL students studied in the past might be indicative of how they will study English. Many are not learning disabled, but instead have little or no educational experiences to draw from, which consequently puts them behind their peers. Bringing those education skills up can help the student succeed more quickly.

ESL/IEI/VESL: All Levels: Conversation Lesson Plans

Conversation Lesson Plans for English Learners at All Levels

Trying to find conversation starters for ESL is difficult at best. Here is a list of free English conversation lesson plans for beginning, intermediate and advanced levels of English learning in ESL classes as well as business English classes. Each lesson provides an introduction, step by step teaching guidelines and printable student worksheets.

ESL/IEI/VESL: English for Business for Business, Work and other Special Purposes
Adult Education English for special purposes including business, commercial, financial, legal, insurance and human resources sectors as well as help with resumes, job interviews and cover letters.

Informational: Center for Adult English Language Acquisition

The Center for Adult English Language Acquisition CAL is pleased to announce the opening of the Center for Adult English Language Acquisition (CAELA). CAL has received funding from the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Vocational and Adult Education to operate this center for three years (October 2004-September 2007).
The purpose of the Center is to assist states with emerging populations who are learning English as a second language (ESL). Center staff will work with state representatives so that they will have the capacity to promote the English language learning and academic achievement of adults learning English.
CAELA has replaced the National Center for ESL Literacy Education (NCLE), also housed at CAL, which (since 1989) has provided information and technical assistance to professionals who work with adult English language learners.

Commentary: Sotir: Cool Tools

It's a bird, it's a plane...well, no, but it is cool. I wouldn't preclude the ability to fly in some later version... but while it won't fly just yet, it IS a Palm Treo PDA 700w smartphone...which starts at about $400. What makes this so cool? It runs Microsoft Windows Mobile Operating System (Windows XP), so you can download directly from your PC. It's a smartphone, which means that you can have a portable media player (like MP3), handheld computer (which can run Word and Excel and even PowerPoint) and it's a cell phone. How cool is that? Software developers are writing education oriented software specifically for these PDAs. You can keep grades and attendance on these. Student portfolios? No problem. Of course they are also a great PDA for use as a calendar, reminder, and all the other neat things that can be done on a wireless phone, including hooking up to the Internet. It can store files of just about any type. This is a techie's dream toy.

So what other kinds of tech toys can see their way into the classrooms? Well, consider iPods and MP3 devices. These little babies have taken the world by storm. So sure, you love them for playing your fav tunes, but in the classroom?? But of course. In addition to playing tunes, these little media players are small, relatively inexpensive (and dropping in price as we speak) and have a lot of memory in a compact space. On some, students can record video and audio (great for portfolios) and then download it to a computer, or play it as is. They can play electronic books. You can even use it to back up a hard drive, if you don't have a key drive handy. The bottom line is that the newest generation of computers don't much resemble their predecessors, and can truly revolutionize how computers can be used in a classroom.

Commentary: Sotir: New Horizons in Educational Technology

Ultra Mobile PC/Samsung Posted by Picasa

Look behind you...the latest and greatest new technologies are already creeping up! Check out the Ultra Mobile PC (UMPC) that will be available this summer. As with any new technology, the first versions of the products need some tweaking, such as extending the battery life. However, it is compact and much smaller than a laptop, which is a big draw for portability and storage. It comes pre-loaded with Microsoft's Touch Pack for Windows XP and weighs in under 2 pounds. It has a 7 inch LCD (bigger than a cell phone or Blackberry, but smaller than a laptop), has a 30-60GB hard drive and an average battery life of of about 2 hours per charge (THAT won't set well with the mobile techies!) Prices will range from $599 - 1000, and could include GPS features, Webcams, and digital TV tuners. You can use it by a touch screen, a stylus or a dedicated onscreen thumb keyboard. If you need more flexibility, you can hook up a regular keyboard and mouse via USB or BlueTooth.
So how could this be used by Adult Educators? In the soon to be new world (at least in Aurora) of free Wi-Fi, these can be used in our classrooms. Since they are small and light, they can be easily stored in a lockable cabinet in the classroom. They are more affordable, and therefore can fit more easily into budgets. This is a new direction in computing, and one that should seriously be considered. Rather than the current configuration of dedicated 'labs' which limit the amount of classroom space, any room could become a lab by bringing in a cart on wheels with portable computers inside. If you have a three hour class period, three classes can each be a 'lab' for an hour of that time. One set of these per department can be all that is needed to bring computers into the classrooms. It's a new world, but one worth exploring.

ABE/GED Math: Graphs Create a Graph

Complete site redesign featuring tabbed interface with active help, examples, and templates.
No number size limitations
Decimal values allowed
Data source name
Graphs can be saved and edited later
Better printing graphs
Print graphs with table of data
Graphs can be downloaded in many new file formats (PDF,JPG,PNG,SVG,EMF,EPS)
Hundreds of colors to choose from with new Color Picker tool
Choose from 10 different fonts for graph labels
Bubble and Scatter graphs added.
Up to 6 data groups with up to 50 items each.

Monday, April 10, 2006

ABE/GED: Coping with Math Anxiety This site may have changed, and is now available on:

Good information in easy to understand format to help students with math anxiety.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

GED Math: Math Anxiety, Algebra, Study Skills, Learning Styles
"This site provides information about basic math, algebra, study skills, math anxiety and learning styles and specifically addresses the needs of the community college adult learner. A student who is frustratedby college math can be helped by identifying his individual learning style and recognizing the instructor'steaching style. This site provides links for students and teachers to information about learning styles, study skills tips, and ways to reduce math anxiety and gives the students access to tutorials, algebra assignments, math videos, and a forum for discussing with the professor a variety of math topics."

There are also video snippets on algebra and pre-algebra topics. These are short videos to help students remember common topics. I really liked the student tutorials on math fundamentals and elementary algebra:
"Students helping students is an important part of classroom learning. On this page you will find links to math tutorials on varied elementary algebra topics authored by students to help others having difficulty with mathematics. "

This is an excellent site developed by a true teacher. Highly recommended.

GED Math: Tech 21 Math Training Model Tech 21 Math Training Model
" The purpose of this course is to explore technology-based resources and tools that can be used to bolster the math concepts tested by the GED. While identifying resources and tools is one part of this process, the more important parts are the teacher's ability:
to evaluate resources for their usefulness; and to consider how the resources could be used most effectively.

This course consists of 5 sessions. The first session provides a general overview of some of the larger issues related to teaching math to adults; the next 4 sessions focus on the topics of:
Problem Solving; Geometry, Spatial Sense, and Measurement; Data Analysis, Probability, and Statistics; and
Sessions 2-5 are similarly structured in that they consist of 2 sections that each raise an issue and require exploring particular websites to inform a response to that issue.

GED Math: Instructor Resources Math Forum at Drexel University

This page offers a selection of good sites to visit for information about adult numeracy. To find more recommendations, search or browse Teaching Issues/Strategies : Special Contexts : Adult Education in the Math Forum's Internet Mathematics Library.

ESL: Teaching with Music Teaching ESL through music

Compendium of sites that help instructors to teach ESL using music. Here are some online resources that can help you integrate music in ESL teaching.
Teaching with Music - Songs and Chants for Children Lyrics - Music Clip Art - Irish Music - Christmas Music Other Useful Music Resources - français - Español - Portuguêses

Other sites include: "Take advantage of the power of music and use it in your ESL classes. We've created this page to provide resources, lessons, and ideas on teaching with music. There are printable materials for classroom use, lessons, lyrics, and ideas. We also have two discussion forums and links to other web sites about music. Get ready to jam." "The new site now features additional articles supporting the use of music as well as an annotated bibliography of books and CD's that teachers will find particularly helpful when they use music to instruct English. As before, this site was created for educators who are interested in promoting the acquisition of English through music.
Here teachers are provided with the tools which they need in order to foster the acquisition of English through music. Therefore, in this site, teachers will find the following:
teacher-made and tested lesson plans materials such as books, videos, and tapes/CDs which have been helpful to other educators as they use music for second language instructional purposes articles supporting the use of music in the ESL classroom
Feel free to copy and disseminate information which you obtained from this Site to other "ESL-Music enthusiasts."

New IBT TOEFL test information,0,w TOEFL Test Info

This is a good review of the changes from the previous version of the TOEFL test to the new, which was released in September 2005. The changes center mainly around the emphasis on grammar. The old test used grammar as the base, but the new version incorporates grammar and vocabulary within the Writing, Reading, and Speaking and Listening sections. There is also a 'test drive' section of this article, so you can see the changes in the test. Good information.

Lehigh University gives its ESL faculty the following information on the new test:
' Based on Communicative Language Pedagogy, the speaking test on the new TOEFL will cover these areas of communication:
Remembering the most important points in a lecture
Understanding instructor's directions about assignments and their due dates
Recognizing which points in a lecture are important and which are less important
Relating information that they hear to what they already know
There will be questions about personal knowledge subjects such as a familiar place or event and on a personal preference about a situation. For the academic speaking questions, students will be asked to listen to academic conversations, university lectures, and readings on academic subjects. Students will need to respond fluently and coherently to problems that are based on the information that they've heard. '

Other good sites for information on the new test: (includes free practice tests) (free TOEFL help forum) Practice tests