Tuesday, December 04, 2007

All Levels: Elluminate Live

see article in TechLearning (Nov. 15, 2007) for an example of how this was used at a conference and other info: http://www.techlearning.com/story/showArticle.php?articleID=196604804

also the Elluminate website: http://www.elluminate.com/

This is actually software, and sells for about $36. per seat. What it does is create a real-time online session that does not differentiate between operating systems, ability or available bandwidth. It can integrate with other tools such as Blackboard, Moodle and WebCT. There is a two-way video component that allows both moderators and participants to project video images that look nothing like the old 'lips moving, sounds not matching' issues of the past. Participants can take notes in a separate window during a live session, and save or share. Notes can also be edited while in review mode. Includes multiple streams of closed-captioning, auditory event notification, shortcut keys and screen reader access. There are also tools such as Breakout Rooms to allow for small group discussion within the context of a large meeting.

I've seen various iterations of this type of software, and some of it is freeware. The cost per seat is expensive, but in an online classroom environment is not outrageous. The interactivity with other tools (WebCT, Blackboard etc.) may appeal to instructors already familiar with those products, and those whose curriculum is already developed under those tools. You'll need Windows 2000 and higher (thorigh Vista), with a minimum 500 MHz processor and 256 MB RAM, and also works in a Mac OS (10.2 and higher), G3-G5 with at least 256 MB RAM. That may be problematic for the average online classroom that has a wider variety of OS and RAM, but in more controlled environments (such as courses that require or provide specific computers), labs etc. it can be quite effective. This would likely require an academic system buy-in.

Middle School to PhD: Study Curve

http://studycurve.com/ Study Curve

This is an interesting mix of a social networking environment, expert assistance, tutorials, and subject area focus. It targets middle school through PhD, and puts users together with similarly-minded individuals for ongoing help and collaboration. There is also an Expert Rating System, virtual study groups, and the pairing of business professionals and college professors with students. You can also host a private class forum, posting Q & As and locating classes across the country for collaborative projects. There is also a team that controls all content, display and distribution on the site.
For students used to sites like Facebook, finding a study buddy seems a good way to expand their technological expertise, and assist with coursework as well. Once again, it's a good example of how the process of education is changing, and how the emphasis is changing from straight research and design to collaboration. It will be interesting to see how this develops.

Also added to the 'Tech Tools Recommended' list on this Blog

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Commentary: Sotir: How Did I Become a Techie?

The concept of what technology is to education is often baffling to technologists and educators alike. I see myself as both, bridging the science of technology to the art of education. Of course, my career started as an educator. Technology was but a twinkle. Yes, we had the Sputnik fears and new math of the 50s and 60s, but 'technology' in schools was confined to items like filmstrips, 8mm projectors and punchcards, and of course the ubiquitous mimeograph machines (do any of you remember permanently stained purple fingers and the glorious scent of freshly printed mimeo copies?) Children, however, were basically taught as their parents were taught. Books. Blackboards. Lectures.

In the late 70s, the idea of personal computers took hold. We were fascinated as a society by the promise of computers to make work easy and efficient. Expensive calculators were all the rage, and they performed all the skills that the average 3rd or 4th grader knew: addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Debates raged over the horror of students using calculators. Eventually, once the newness wore off, people realized that children could still learn math, despite the curse of calculators. Towards the end of the decade, the word 'computer' was buzzed around schools. Of course the 'buzz' was from the adults. Teens were already using computers they built in their basements and garages, and learning programming language on their own or at Homebrew Computer Clubs. I started to think about reshaping my career.

The 80s brought the issue of computers and education to a head. School boards were debating the value of adding them to the curriculum. Many students wanted them. Many teachers feared them. But slowly, courses such as 'keyboarding' replaced 'typing' classes. Yes, many of the keyboard classes used typing texts, but the momentum was building. It wasn't as much a revolution as an evolution. But it obviously could not be stopped. On January 3, 1983, the Personal Computer was the first non-human to be announced as Person of the Year by Time Magazine. And Apples started to reshape my career.

In the 90s we had the IBM clone companies: Compaq, HP, Gateway and Dell. Everyone wanted their own PC. Windows hit the marketplace, making Apple only a minor player. I researched the newly developing technology and wrote and developed a grant to become a 'Center of Excellence' for the Illinois Community College Board. We received the grant, and a flurry of activity ensued. We were awash in equipment. PCs and laser discs and massive (and extremely expensive) software applications. 'Media' was not enough. I requested 'multimedia'. I still remember an IT director who asked why I needed it. Sigh. I had now catapulted from a purely educational vision to an educational technology vision. I left the classroom and entered the newly created computer lab. I hired other educators who were not afraid to take on the challenge of the future. And PCs started to reshape my career.

By the mid 90s, hardware was was losing ground to the Internet. I had used the Internet for a while, in the form of a BBS (Bulletin Board System). I didn't really know what it was in the early 90s, and needed my daughter's boyfriend to explain it to me, set it up and answer the thousands of questions I had. My languages of comfort were more that of Shakespeare and Middle English, not programming languages. But slowly I developed a respect for them, and could upload to my BBS page with some ease. And the Internet started to reshape my career.

The late 90s saw the WWW take hold. The cumbersome language of BBS was but a memory, blurred by the rapidly developing Web. We developed Web pages. More programming issues. By now, I knew enough about programming to get the job done, but just enough. I never lost the focus of what I wanted technology to do, which is to help students learn. And the WWW started to reshape my career.

We survived the Y2K crisis without ever looking back. While hardware dominated the 80s and software the 90s, the 2000s are all about the Web. I became the queen of Blogs and later Wikis. I look at my lab today, and see that we still have a lot of software integrated into our curriculum, but the focus is moving more towards the Web. Web 2.0 draws us into and further defines the art of education. My new favorite language includes words such as Gabcasts and Mojitis, Twitters and Wikis, Hotlists and Blogs. And for the record, while I haven't abandoned PCs, I am back to my old Apple roots. They're just easier to use when working in the 2.0 environment.

I never set out to be a technologist. I just like to teach, and like to define the process of teaching. I'm not sure how I got to where I am, but I am quite pleased with how it turned out. Along the way, my staff and I learned together. I am thrilled that their passion matches mine, even if it is a click or two behind. I revel in the 'collective intelligence' that reigns supreme in the AELC. We've proven that technology and education can coexist elegantly. And we'll always be experimenting and learning.

Monday, November 26, 2007

New Poll for December

Vote on the best tech tool of the year...your vote counts!

California Distance Learning Project (CDLP)

http://www.cdlponline.org/ California Distance Learning Project

This free site offers great listening to stories coming from the news, for Adult Basic Education and Intermediate to Advanced ESL learners. Some stories also have a video component. Possible life skills topics include: working, law and government, family, school, health and safety, housing, money, science and technology, services, going places and nature. Some are generic while others have some relevance to California, namely Sacramento County.

In addition to just listening to the story, read at a moderate speed by a native speaker, learners can go over hearing key vocabulary words, mastering their spelling and then utilizing hasic comprehension in a multiple choice format. Some lessons also have a matching game, a what did you learn activity, a writing activity and additional links to other Web sites.

(originally reviewed on this Blog in 2005, this current review is by instructor Robin Bosworth)

11/29/07: Char Rokop was also impressed with this site, and is creating a flowsheet to help students through the vast library of materials this site has available.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Another AELC 10 Minute Wonder! Mojiti Video Annotation

2/26/08 Update: This site seems to have disappeared. The Web giveth and the Web taketh away...

For those of you who have asked me why I consider podcasting a Web 2.0 project, check out the tutorial associated with this site. The trick is not in finding the tools, because a simple search will provide as many as you can use, but in using them effectively. Tools such as this give us the ability to think differently about how we teach and how we learn. It's always amazing.
Mojiti make it easy for you to personalize any video. Use Mojiti Spots to narrate your personal videos, add captions or subtitles in any language, or just comment on any scene to share your thoughts and opinions.
Also see the YouTube video entitled Web 2.0 in Just Under 5 Minutes by:
Michael Wesch Assistant Professor of Cultural Anthropology Kansas State University

Also added to the 'Tech Tools Recommended' list on this Blog

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Educational Media Collection


This is a compendium of sites for ESL instructors and students. While I have many of these sites already listed and reviewed on this Blog, it's worth looking at to see what else is out there. Great resource site.

Commentary: Sotir: Syncing Technology Effectively

An instructor stopped into my office this morning to borrow a digicamcorder, and said she was having some problems with the video output of the CDs that she burns for her students. Students record their speeches using a digicamcorder, and then she reviews them and adds comments. While she has a clean recording (using Windows Movie Maker) at home, there are clicks and pauses when it is played back on other computers. I suggested that she look to the Web as a better tool and upload the videos to a site such as Teacher Tube (www.teachertube.com). There is a new video on Teacher Tube discussing just that subject:

TeacherTube Tips: Creating and Uploading Reliably! (http://www.teachertube.com/view_video.php?viewkey=385758d31890a4bca996)

Here is the Teacher Tube intro:
Having trouble uploading to TeacherTube? I do. But I found a couple of things that make both creating and uploading far more dependable.
- Using Windows MovieMaker, choosing the right settings to save your movie will make it much more likely to upload smoothly to TeacherTube.
- Long uploads tend to timeout on TeacherTube. But logging in in another tab of the browser keeps you logged in to finish your upload!

For her purposes, I suggested she create a class Blog to allow students to easily view the finished portfolios as a group.

Another option, if video is not always necessary, is to use a simple podcasting site like Gabcast (www.gabcast.com). This will give the students an opportunity to listen to and review their pronunciation and only requires a telephone and a computer. It's quick, easy and effective.

The advantage of both of these methods is that students would have access to the speeches on the Web, instead of via a CD or DVD. It's great that instructors are moving more into 2.0 but the key is syncing all of the technologies used effectively. There are new Web tools being developed daily, and if older technologies are proving problematic, it pays to search for more effective solutions. I'll keep adding the to list this on the 'Tech Tools Recommended' listing in the right hand column of this Blog.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Zamzar File Format Conversion Tool


Are you looking for a free online file format conversion tool that you can use without downloading? Zamzar may be what you are looking for. It's easy to use and you can either use a URL or the file itself. For example, it allows you change from a .FLV file from YouTube to a MP4 or AVI file format. Quick and easy.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

CESOL: Computers for English and Speakers of Other Languages


update 11.5.07: American TESOL Institute launches two Websites http://www.tesolabroad.com/ and http://www.tesol-jobs.com/ .

The Computers and English for Speakers of Other Languages website is for teachers who are interested in integrating technology into primarily the adult ESOL/ ESL/EFL classroom. We are advocating a computer-mediated approach that includes but is not limited to:

* teaching computers to ESOL / ESL / EFL students in a way that integrates technology into the curriculum; *using computer technology as a tool for improving teaching English language learning;
*developing project-based, cooperative use of computers and the Internet;
*utilizing software appropriately in the computer-assisted language learning (CALL) lab.

Note: Although there is some links to topics related to distance learning, there are many other sites that cover this topic in greater detail. Do, however, see the new articles on Podcasting.

This is packed with good information and lesson plans and is geared for adult ESL in particular. Very useful.

Podomatic: World News for ESL Learners

http://esl.podomatic.com/ World News for ESL Learners

World News in Slow and Clear EnglishFor English as a Second Language (ESL) listeners.The English is spoken very clearly at about 80% the speed of regular news announcers.

Contact Info
podMail: esl@podomatic.com
Can also be used to find and create podcasts. Excellent for early listening levels.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Gabcast: Audio Podcasting

As you know, I am always looking for new and easy ways to do the things we want to do. Here's a method of creating an audio podcast using only a phone. This is the Gabcast address: (http://www.gabcast.com/) To hear my first Gabcast (and don't I feel like calling Watson...), click on the underlined phrase "Using Podcasts #2, Using Gabcast" that is above the Gabcast icon located in the right hand column of this Blog. It will take you to my channel. Click on the 'PLAY' button to hear my podcast.

Obviously I need practice, but the process was simple. I called in to the 800 number from my office phone, gave them my channel number and password, and then read my script. When I was done, I could listen to it and accept or change it. Then I hit the # sign to upload. I then went to the Gabcast page and found the code to add the script I read to this Blog, copied it to my 'Add a Page Element' and I was done. Here are the steps involved:

Creating Gabcast episodes
Recording your own Gabcast episodes is a breeze!
Signup & Login
signup and login to the website (it's FREE!)
Create a channel
visit your My Account page and create a new channel
Use a phone
call one of the Gabcast access numbers listed on the right side of this page
start gabbing - tell the world what's on your mind!
publish your recording, either via the phone, or via your My Account page
tag your episode to make it easier to recognize and to make it searchable!
That's it!
subscribers to your channel will be notified via this website, iTunes, web portals, rss clients, and email

The Gabcasts are saved into an MP3 format, which can easily be inserted into a PowerPoint if you want. Kristy suggested this would be great for dictations for students to listen to and transcribe. Since the only equipment you need to create it is a phone (and a script), it should be simple to use. I'd like to have several of you try it out and let me know the results. Try both a college phone (land line) and possibly a cell phone to see the differences in audio quality. I'd also like your ideas on how this could be used. Effective podcasts are usually quite short and have a narrow topic.

Email the Gabcast channel and password to me so I can check it out as well. Sign up before using, but there is no fee. You will need to create a channel account before you begin your first Gabcast. When you have, you will get a screen such as the one below, which will give you the channel number, password (must be numeric), meeting password (if you want a conference channel) and then you can tag it to help with searching. This Web site also supports a link to add to a new or existing Blog (yes!) :

JSotir's channels
Create a new channel Manage your channels and episodes
(don't forget the importance of tagging your episodes)
channel number: 13724
channel password: 32256
meeting password: 312
channel type: Free space usage: 0 MB
Using Podcasts
Describing the process of creating audio podcasts using Gabcast Education / Higher Education http://wccniuesl.blogspot.com/
manage episodes edit channel delete channel

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Commentary: Sotir: Happy Birthday, Sputnik! (October 4, 1957)

It's been 50 years since that little 183 pound ball of aluminum made Americans sit up and take notice. It was about the size of a basketball, but the impact it had on the future was staggering. Americans were stunned and unnerved by the event, and everyone demanded that the U.S. respond. On February 7, 1958, President Dwight D. Eisenhower established the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA) which had, as its mission the charge of preventing technological surprises. So they launched, and we launched...and launched. It changed our lives, our furniture (remember the Sputnik-inspired lamps?) and our society. Of course, as society goes, so goes education. It became fashionable to do math and science became a major focus.

By 1960, ARPA was moving full steam ahead, funded with what seemed to be endless dollars all with the goal of putting America back on top. In 1962, ARPA established and funded the Information Processing Techniques Office. Although the title seemed less than inspired, the new director, JCR Licklider, was anything but commonplace. In 1960 he had published the much heralded 'Man-Computer Symbiosis' and showed the world his vision of the future. This article anticipated the development of many information technologies, including the Internet itself. While the Department of Defense had computers for quite some time, the new vision was to have those computers freely sharing their information. While the rockets still launched into space, the developments on this planet were staggering. ARPA funds were given to MIT to start Project MAC, and the inclusion of academic research combined with government agencies (and money) spurred on progress. The interesting factor was that Licklider had both the money and the talent to achieve amazing success. By the end of 1968, new technologies such as the mouse and hypertext links were forming the base of computer to computer communication. The first Arpanet host-to-host message was sent from UCLA to Stanford in 1969, which led to the first 'internetting' project linking various kinds of packet-switching networks.

It's hard to imagine a world without the Internet, or the World Wide Web. When I first got involved in technology, there was no Web, only a very rudimentary system called the Bulletin Board System, or BBS. Within a relatively short time, the BBS morphed into the WWW, and lives were forever changed. With visionaries such as Licklider and his talented teams from both government and academia, we have bounded into the future. All those 'Modern Math' classes that we had as children in response to the Sputnik-mania formed young minds and gave a base (of something other than 10) to the future. Children today do not know that there was a world without computers. I wonder what their children will know?

Monday, September 10, 2007

Commentary: Sotir: Web 2.0 and Beyond

I get a lot of questions about the Web...and many of them center on the idea of Web 2.0, 3.0 and higher. Since these phrases are now beginning to trickle into the mainstream, I explain it this way: the original, out of the box product was the version 1.0 asynchronus Internet itself, and it was a series of one way streets. You were able to find an incredible amount of information quickly, but there was not a lot of interaction going on and if it was, you'd have to drive backwards to get it. Sure, you could send the Web host an email, and there were a few ways of communicating, but basically, it was a WYSISYG...what you see is what you get. Web 2.0 is the synchronus two way street...you can not only see the information, but respond and react to the information. Web 2.0 is all about the blogs and the wikis and the podcasts, all of which have interactive components. Web 3.0 is the superhighway that we were promised at the outset. This is more for developers, and just tweaks a lot of the Internet into making the Web more usable. In education, Web 2.0 is the holy grail of technological use. With 2.0, you can access, manipulate and challenge the Web to give you what you want from it. 3.0 just gives us some additional options to explore, and expands the relative ease of use. As in all technology, each version has some incremental increases...2.1, 2.5 etc., even if they are all called 2.0.

Another good example is phones. The original 'cell phone' was the big and clunky 'brick phones' that we were all so captivated with when they were first introduced. I am always amused when I watch old movies to see the characters using the 'portable mobile phones' . Then the cell phone revolution took hold, ala 2.0, and we moved with lightening speed to add features such as Bluetooth, email, photos, movies, TV, texting and even the Internet itself into an object that could fit into the palm of your hand. Then the i-Phone hit the market and it does all of those things but does them with a new interface and finesse that steps it up a notch to the 3.0 level. I am sure the next level of phones will offer a lot more interaction, with more virtual reality (VR) components and ease of use. I noted that when I got the i-Phone, my old cell phone, barely a year old, suddenly seemed soooooooo last year. It's not just the cool look of the i-Phone, but features such as 'rolling' rather than typing, or even something seemingly simple like the automatic access to all of your email accounts, without putting in a user name and password each time you want to access your account that makes it a gotta have. It's easier, it's cleaner and yes, it's infinitely cooler. However, with technology, you can bet that within a relatively short time you'll laugh as the movie character picks up his i-Phone and has to use his finger to type. The new 'Apple i-MindPhone' will be ever so much cooler, capturing your thoughts as it seamlessly transfers your calls. Perhaps the holographic VR assistant will handle all these tasks for you, and offer a massage as well...oh, you get the picture.

Whatever the version, there is a newer version on the horizon, poised to win hearts and wallets. Educators will have to accept the challenge and continue the race to stay ahead of students who are at least 2 versions newer and better equipped. And they have fewer wrinkles, too.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

ESL: Grammar/Verb Conjugator

http://www.verbix.com/webverbix/ Conjugate Verbs Online

WebVerbix is a free on-line verb conjugator. It's an online version of a more feature-packed shareware product called Verbix for Windows. There may not be a lot of uses for conjugating verbs, but for some students, it is helpful. There are ancient languages listed as well as modern.

Google Page Creator


"Create your own web pages, quickly and easily. Google Page Creator is a free online tool that finally makes it easy for anyoneto create and publish useful, attractive web pages in just minutes. As you edit your page, you're seeing exactly what it will look like when other people see it. No complex tools to learn. No web designers to hire." This really is a do-it-yourself project that works.

Writing: ESL, ABE/GED Story Squared

http://www.storysquared.com/ Story Squared

"Want to be creative but don't have the time? Start a story on StorySquared and see where it goes. Friends and family contribute to a story thread that you create. The results can be funny, imaginative, or just plain strange. Try it out now and see!
Start your story “Once upon a time…”
Send it to the people you want to contribute.
You and your friends read the story as it unfolds! "

Above is the lead into this site. It's an interesting tech twist on an old writing technique that would be great for imtermediate and higher level ESL students, and would also obviously work on an online environment. There are public stories that you can add to, or create an entirely new story.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Fun and Interesting Websites

I probably should have come up with this during the summer, but here is a Filamentality Hotlist of fun and interesting websites: http://tinyurl.com/yrdv77

I posted the address in the Professional Development Hotlinks area in the right hand column, just for easy access. This has sites for travel (getting refunds on airline tickets, or Europe on the cheap), shopping (bargains and coupons), tech tools (need a fix?), entertainment (what's a good TV program?) recipes (want to know a secret recipe?) and other things that make the Internet so much fun to have around. If I find more I'll add to it, but it isn't all about academia...sometimes you just need some entertainment. Of course, Websites come and go, but these are all 'hot' today.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Commentary: Sotir: Apple iPhone Fever

OK. I admit it. I have iPhone fever and I don't care who knows it. I spend a lot of my day prowling through the Web, looking for the newest and the best and the most exciting technologies and sites. So is it any wonder that I may have crossed paths with the reviews of the newest 'gotta have it' a few dozen times? Of course, being in education, you always have to justify the hype. Sure it's cool, but what can it offer? With the latest streaming towards podcasting, I think quite a bit. This is a such an exciting time for education. Not only is technology out there, it really is the current generation that is shaping its future. This is the world of today, and for those who are not afraid to try it, a maiden voyage into the world of tomorrow.

Think back to the carpel tunnel days of taking endless lecture notes in class. Using technology, you can now walk into a classroom equipped with a Smart Screen (rear projection of course, front loaded LCD projection is so last century). You walk up to the computer and take out the PowerPoint that you have stored on the keydrive hanging from your keychain. Pop that into the USB and get going. Now, a good instructor will tell the students not to bother with taking notes...that only takes the concentration away from the subject and inhibits interaction. The Smart Screen lets you annotate the PowerPoint on the screen, and you can simply print out the notes for students afterwards. Of course, it would be better to upload the notes to your Portal so that students can access and download them 24/7. Did I forget to mention that the video camera was running throughout the class? A simple upload to a source like YouTube can create a podcast that students can play over as many times as they wish.

So what does this have to do with the glitzy glam of an iPhone? Well of course those podcasts can be viewed on an iPod, any browser equipped cell phone, computer or MP3 player. But you, the technology inspired instructor, can't wait to do it on your very own iPhone. Or is that the voices in my head again? It's the fever, I tell you. I made it through the Blackberry fever of the 00's, but this one may be the ONE. Until the next 'gotta have it' comes out.

Update 7/27/07: I have succumbed to the fever: Oh yes, it is as cool as it looks, and inspires phone envy wherever one goes. It is different enough that strangers tend to come up to you and ask, 'can I touch it?' Amazing. Are there issues?
Oh yes. I'm sure that subsequent versions will fix things like memory and battery life. The touch keyboard takes time to get used to, but the Apple promise of about a week to get used to it seems about right. And it is much easier than other text messaging phones.

But it also employs one of the best subliminal marketing ploys I've seen in a long time. Sure, the commercials are enticing, but the best marketing comes with every SMS text and email message sent via the iPhone: a subtle line which says: 'This message is sent from my iPhone.' It's really hard to avoid the subsequent "YOU have an iPhone???" Oh yes, they are good. And it seems to be working quite well.

There are blogs and chat sites dedicated solely to the iPhone. It isn't often that a tech gadget takes the world by storm. Yes, the original sales estimates were over-inflated, and the problems understated. But it is an instrument of change, and that never ceases to fascinate. And in education, its promise is as big as its hype. Hopefully, there are enough cutting edge educators to make that promise a reality.

8/6/07 Update: I've had the phone long enough to feel that I can make an honest assessment of the product. It's well-made and intuitive, and even the text messaging is nicer on a qwerty keyboard. It took me about a week to learn how to use the keyboard efficiently, but now it is quite easy to use. The phone also got used to me, and it is interesting how well it anticipates words and corrects typing errors. As a funny note, I have a friend who feels the comment 'sent from my iPhone' is, in his words, 'snippy'. I sent him back a message and whenever I started to type 'sni' it typed in 'snippy' for me. Now THAT is a snippy attitude.

The camera could be easier to use, and a little zoom wouldn't hurt, but the photos are very clear, and the 'camera roll' feature which allows you to quickly flip through your photos is great. The photo at the top of the article was shot on the iPhone in poor lighting, but it is still quite clear. I really like how easily it allows you to adjust the text size on Web sites, so thanks, Apple, for realizing that not all users will have 20/20 vision. I'm not sure why You Tube has to have its own icon, but it's interesting. Many people have commented on the clarity of the videos. The maps function has saved me at least a half dozen times from going astray while driving. I can figure out the technologies, but still can't usually find my way from here to there without assistance. GPS (which I have on my old phone) would have been nice, although the satellite view is fun. SMS texting is much easier than on other phones, and having a thread of the messages is a nice feature. I can also now press an icon and instantly know the current time anywhere in the world so that's, well, it's
nice to know, I suppose.
Phoning is simple and the voice quality is quite good. Voice recognition (which I also have on my old cell) would be nice on this one. I love that I can read all my email with one touch of an icon, and that when a new message comes in, a small 'dink' sound is heard. If I am waiting for an email, this is really a lot more efficient than constantly checking to see if it has arrived. Deleting messages is a breeze as well. And of course, having a built in iPod is wonderful. However, you can only use the Apple earbuds, and the sound could be better. Battery life could also be longer, but given the amazing features built into this phone, is not a surprise at all. Overall, it's an Apple, and true to the company philosophy, it is easy to learn and use.
I have to say that I've always been fascinated by cell phone functions, whatever model. I always want to know all it can do. I realized that I am probably in the minority. when, as a joke, I mentioned to a group of people that I would do a workshop on how to use all the features of a cell phone. 17 people asked me when I would be doing the workshop, and when could they sign up. Hmmmm, this just might be a new business venture...

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Commentary: Sotir: Blogs and Wikis

I've read more than a few articles lately about the 'death' of Blogs and Wikis as communcative tools. New technologies and applications come out literally daily, and it certainly is hard to keep up with them all. I don't see the Blogs and Wikis leaving us anytime soon. Widgets and small apps such as Blogarithm or Site Meter make them easy to use and track. Adding a post is as easy as writing an email. I love to try out new apps...the Babel Fish Translator is interesting, and so are Cluster Maps. You can get feedback using tools like Survey Monkey or Poll Daddy. Most Blogs and Wikis have a defined purpose, and are easier to track updates with RSS feeds.

And as for use...this tiny little academic Blog has been read in over 1000 cities and educational institutions in the U. S., and all 50 states. It's also been read in 92 countries, and over 600 cities around the world. I started out using the Internet before the WWW, using BBS or Bulletin Board System to post pages. Sure, you needed to know things like FTP File Transfer, and it took a while before you got your words uploaded, but the promise of being able to quickly share information across town or around the world was there. It's just easier now. A LOT easier.

Are there more changes on the horizon? Of course, and I can't wait to try them out. I've talked about the iPhone (as have more than a few others), and noted its positives and negatives. Subsequent generations will be better, and easier. Most of the flaws will be corrected. But back when I used BBS, could I have ever imagined the ability to see pages on a 2" by 4" handheld device, without a cord or cable in sight? Could I have imagined podcasting lessons for students that can fit inside a shirt pocket? Could I have imagined Interactive White Boards, LCD projectors, or Portals? The world is spinning more rapidly, but those of us with imagination are holding on tightly. It's worth waiting for, and just as exciting as it is frustrating. I'm ready...are you?

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

New Technologies: Writing Quizzes and Test on an iPod

McGraw-Hill Higher Education Delivers Interactive Learning for iPod

NEW YORK, July 9 /PRNewswire/ — College instructors now have the capability to quickly access millions of questions and deliver them in the form of student quizzes via iPod. McGraw-Hill Higher Education, a premier provider of print and digital teaching and learning solutions for the post- secondary and higher education markets, is the first major educational publisher to offer college-level content for the iQuiz game application, recently launched by Apple and designed for iPod. iQuiz is available from the iTunes Store for $.99 and works with all fifth generation iPods.
Any instructor who uses McGraw-Hill Higher Education's EZ Test Online program can create and deliver multiple-choice or true/false quiz questions using iQuiz for iPod. EZ Test Online combines high quality content with the ability to prepare and deliver tests to students in a variety of ways. To set up and deliver a quiz to students via iPod, instructors simply press the iQuiz button in EZ Test Online to export a quiz ready for use with iQuiz. Once students download the quiz into their iPod, they can use the interactive iQuiz to practice and learn the content specific for their course. Students can quickly self-assess and receive their quiz scores instantly.

EZ Test Online may be used with McGraw-Hill textbooks, which are available in hundreds of academic courses. It gives instructors access to hundreds of textbook question banks and millions of questions when creating their tests and quizzes. When tests are created and delivered with EZ Test Online, each one is immediately scored, saving instructors valuable time and allowing them to quickly give test feedback to students.
Instructors can register for EZ Test Online by visiting

The ubiquitous iPod can be used as a tool for students to take practice tests and quizzes, or even actual tests.

ABE/GED, ESL: Ways to get Started Writing

http://www.litwomen.org/perspectives/2007/prompts_wp2.doc Women's Perspective

This is a lesson plan to get students started with writing. There are pre-writing exercises, and writing prompts.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Teacher Tube

Check out the post from the Instructional Technology Greenhouse on the subject of which is an instructional version of You Tube.

TeacherTube is IT
It's like YouTube, only for Teachers and Students-- which means there's now a place to watch and post educational video clips without fear of being blocked, denied or otherwise thwarted by filtering software. Take a few minutes to explore TeacherTube and think about the possibilities. Here's my favorite video of the week, about attitudes toward technology. Your comments (click "comments" below the video screen) are most welcome, especially if you've never commented on a blog before-- consider it a learning opportunity. :) Isn't the music compelling? And the message... suffice it to say I've watched this video several times.

See http://technologygreenhouse.blogspot.com for the actual post and a video posted by Kat on 5/11/07.

ESL: The English Learner Movie Guides

http://www.eslnotes.com/ The English Learner Movie Guides

Each individual guide is a detailed synopsis of a popular movie that consists of the following:
a summary of the plot
a list of the major characters
an extensive glossary of vocabulary and various cultural references that even advanced ESL learners would often not understand
questions for ESL class discussion

I really like this site, and it can have a lot of uses in a variety of ESL classes. Movies range from the classics: Wizard of Oz, To Kill a Mockingbird etc. to more contemporary flicks such as When Harry Met Sally or Legally Blonde. The plot summaries are great, but one of the best aspects is the glossary and cultural reference sections. I can see classes studying the plot, vocabulary and other references, and then watching the movie together. What about using It's a Wonderful Life before the holidays? A wonderful tool for speaking and listening activities. Lots of possibilities here.

ESL Hotlist: Writing Plus


Hotlists are new favorite of mine, and this one is very well organized. This covers many of the areas concerning writing, and also some broken down by levels and subject area. Worth a peek!

ESL: Cool Sites for ESL Students

http://www.uic.edu/depts/tie/coolsites.htm : University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC)

ESL Writing Assistance

http://www.dartmouth.edu/~writing/materials/student/special/esl.shtml Dartmouth Writing Program, Special Writers, ESL Writers

This is more for upper level ESL students, but the information is very clearly written, and easy to understand. I especially liked the American Paragraph and the English Sentence. One page, with good links.

ESL: Writing: Resources

http://academic.reed.edu/writing/esl_resources.html ESL Writing Resources: Doyle Online Writing Lab

Topics include:

English as a Second Language Resources
General Interest sites for ESL students
Basic Tips for ESL Students: Writing for an American Academic Audience (Purdue)
Writing an American Academic Paper (Dartmouth)
Grammar and Style pages for ESL students
ESL Grammar links A few pages identifying the eccentricities of the English language.
ESL Idiom Page Lists, meanings, and examples.
Phrasal Verb Page Lists, meanings, and examples.
Activities and Study Guides
Complete List of English Irregular Verbs (Susan Jones) A list of irregular English verbs with quizzes.
Focusing on Words Learn English vocabulary by studying selected poems and stories.
Grammar Safari (U. of Illinois) Provides ESL students with ideas for practicing the rules of English grammar.
Interactive English Language Exercises Exercises on grammar, vocabulary, and idioms.
Interactive Language exercises on the Web (Ruth Vilmi)
Quiz Center Quizzes on a variety of subjects designed for ESL students: history, people, grammar, slang, writing, world culture, etc.
Self Study Quizzes for ESL Students Quizzes on grammar, reading comprehension, writing etc. geared toward problems frequently encountered by ESL students.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

NEW Blog Feature: Babel Fish Translator

If you look in the right column of this Blog you will see a new feature: I've added a Babel Fish Translation widget. Click on one of the flags of a supported language, and in a few seconds this Blog will be translated into that language. It does take a few moments to work, but the end result is impressive. I checked the German translation and while not perfect, it was close enough to be readily understood.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Now Showing in the AELC: Interchange Interactive Software

Interchange Whiteboard Software
Do you want to see a new way to teach using the ESL Interchange texts? Then come up to the AELC and see the new whiteboard software that correlates with the Interchange text series used in ESL.
Within minutes of setting it up in the lab, students and teachers were saying 'wow, can I try it?' With just you fingertip you can choose the lesson you want from the book, choose the page and the skill, and start working on the lesson. Each lesson is represented, and there are additional videos and listening lessons. Many of the pages have an audio component. which is quite effective in a classroom setting.
Cambridge says about the program " This innovative software allows teachers to display the elements on the whiteboard screen at the front of the classroom and use them interactively to enhance English-language learning skills. This cutting edge technology allow you to play the class auio and video programs, display scripts and answers, highlight and annotate text. You can even select and organize elements to create your lessons."
Equipment needed : electronic whiteboard, computer (min. Windows 98), an LCD projector and the software. Set-up is easy, and the learning curve is quite short. Within 15 minutes we had loaded and started the program from scratch. Subsequent start-ups were just turning on the equipment and clicking on the program icon. Staff and students found it intuitive and easy to use.
We'll have the program in the Center until the summer semester ends. Please come up and try it out. Classes are also welcome. We are using Level I Interchange. Call x 4118 for a tour appointment.
Interesting reactions from people viewing the program. While setting it up, students looked more at what we were doing than at their own computers. Finally, one student had enough courage to say ' that is very nice'. We invited her up to try it out, and then laughed as they all lined up to try it. Teachers reactions seemed to center around 'volunteering' to try it out in their classrooms. Apparently, this program fits the category 'if you build it, they will come...'

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Beginners' Guide to Using a Computer


Need to teach how to use a mouse, keyboard and computer screen in an interesting and interactive way? Once again, the BBC has a very good program to teach those skills. Students will enjoy it (and the British accent).

Beginners' Guide to Using the Internet


Just because it was not made in the USA doesn't mean it isn't good. And this site is actually quite wonderful. WebWise is the BBC's guide to using the Internet. It's done in Flash, and is quite compelling. It's an Internet beginners' course to using the Web, and includes topics such as:







One of my favorite areas is called 'Jargonbuster' which is a nice listing of words related to the Web. Of course, there will need to be some adaptation from the UK to the US, and a mention of the spelling differences is needed. The content can easily be used in a classroom or by tutors.

Web Based Lesson Plans for Adult ESOL

One of the great advantages of the Web is that sometimes you find things while looking up other things. This is one of those sites. It wasn't exactly what I was looking for, and I almost left it without further research. It is very well done, and can be used to address state competencies and lesson plans for adult ESL learners. It is conveniently divided into skill levels, from literacy on up, and has a wealth of information and structure that can be used and developed.

"Lesson Plans for Adult ESOL were written by classroom teachers in Palm Beach County over the past three years. Although originally designed as curriculum resource books, they have been converted to a web based format to provide easy accessibility to teachers throughout Florida and beyond. The basic premise for writing these lessons is that if teachers are to be held accountable for student outcomes under performance based funding, it is the responsibility of the School District of Palm Beach County to provide teachers with every tool possible to promote student success.
The lesson plans are designed to be used as a starting point or spring board for the delivery of good sound instruction. They are specifically designed so that teachers can add their own ideas and activities to enhance the basic lessons.
Activity sheets have been developed for most lessons so that teachers can use the lessons even if they cannot access the textbooks listed. None of the activity sheets are copyrighted and can be legally photocopied without the need to obtain permission."

Click on the competency.
ESOL Literacy/Foundations - LCP - A
ESOL Low Beginning - LCP - B
ESOL High Beginning - LCP - C
ESOL Low Intermediate - LCP - D
ESOL High Intermediate - LCP - E
ESOL Advanced - LCP - F

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Commentary: Using RSS and Search Engines

I have a love/hate relationship with the Web. Sure, it has all the information I could ever want. But then again, it has ALL the information I could ever want. Somehow having so much information is almost as bad as having no information at all. I recently did a Professional Development workshop on using search engines. This went beyond the Google ' Results 1 - 10 of about 114,000,000' response to the less is more approach employed by meta-search engines that allow Boolean Operators such as Clusty (http://www.clusty.com/) or Surfwax (http://www.surfwax.com/). Cha Cha (http://www.chacha.com/) even allows you to ask a real person for help. Of course, knowing how to use a search engine is as important as knowing what you are looking for. The advantage of these newer search engines is that they offer a lot of clues into how to search effectively. Those that deal with Blogs and Wikis (such as http://www.technorati.com/ or Del.icio.us http://www.del.icio.us.com/) show tags and keywords to help you refine your search or search for related aspects.

RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds also help you cut down on the clutter. First of all, you have to love technology that starts with the words 'real and simple'. If a Website that you like has one of the little orange boxes with RSS or XML on it, or gives an RSS address, you can get an RSS feed, or list of new articles and content (usually with just a title and short content description line) to decide if you want to learn more. You click on the little orange button or enter the RSS address, and you have a link to that feed. Then simply subscribe to that feed with your email address. The new content is automatically sent to you when it appears. For someone like me, who trolls the Internet incessantly searching for new and better sites, this allows me to know immediately when one of my favorite sites has been updated.

The process is simple. First you need an RSS reader program. Go into your favorite search engine, type in 'RSS Feeder' and try a few out. Once you have selected a reader, right click on the orange RSS button and choose 'Copy Shortcut' (or on a Mac, control-click and select 'Copy Link') . Open your reader, and select 'New Subscription'. Paste the link into the subscription box and press 'Enter'. (Sites such as Google and Yahoo! allow registered users to create custom home pages using feeds, which have your selected feed listed right on the home page. )

Now your reader gets to work by following that link and posting a list of new articles and content. If one of the articles interests you, simply click on the title and your Web browser opens the full article. You can subscribe (and unsubscribe) to as many sites as you wish.

To get a sense of how a feeder works, check out the 'Blogarithm' site at the bottom of this Blog. Type your email address into the box, and you will receive an email with the newest posts daily. If I am taking a break, you won't get a mailing until I post again. The RSS address for this Blog is : http://wccniuesl.blogspot.com/atom.xml. Start using the Web more effectively!

Also look in the right column of this Blog (it's a handy place) to find lists of recommended search engines, reading lists, other Blogs and Wikis I recommend, a translator to translate this page into another language etc. There's even a word of the day. It's a little gold mine of information.

Math Help


Math Goodies was a pioneer of free math help. Educators from around the world have helped students in our moderated forums since 1999. The site has over 500 pages of math resources for students, educators and parents.There are interactive lessons, puzzles and worksheets you can use at your own pace. Includes Algebra, pre-Algebra and Basic Math.

Charts and Graphs


Educational Resources for Adults has put together a page entitled 'Learning About Charts and Graphs'. Areas include:
Lesson 1: The types of Graphs
Exercise 1: Choosing Graph Types
Lesson 2: The parts of Graphs
Lesson 3: Reading Graphs
Exercise 3: Reading Graphs
Lesson 4: Creating Graphs by Hand

Spanish GED Resources


I am always looking for resources for Spanish GED. I think I finally found one. Portland Community College has a site with excellent resources for Spanish GED students for math, reading and writing, science and social science. Not all the links are accessible, but there is still quite a bit available.

Computer Tutorials: Online Practice Modules


Online practice modules for assistance with training on Microsoft Office and other computer skills. Includes things such as PowerPoint Viewer - for those that do not have PPT. Other programs such as Dreamweaver and Webquest are also highlighted.

Civics Online


Developed for Michigan, this site has a wealth of information on Civics issues and activities. The section on Resources is particularly good. Activities can also be found by entering core democratic values as an indicator. I also like the civics glossary http://www.matrix.msu.edu/~civics/glossary/search_results.php?type=1.

Paradigm Online Writing Assistant


One of the questions that pops up from instructors at almost every workshop is 'Where are there good writing Websites?' and my answer is, ' I'll keep looking...' This one may give some hope that there are sites available. I called the Paradigm Online Writing Assistant, and has help with organizing, writing and editing, along with some specifics on various essay styles. One of the best sections is entitled "Six Problem Areas" which covers topics such as subject-verb agreement, shift in tense, shift in person etc. Each topic is explained, examples are given and there is an accompanying activity. If you are looking for some solid help with writing, this may just be the source.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Commentary: Sotir: Past and Future Still Quite Tense

I spend a lot of time and energy thinking, reading and talking about technology. As I've often said however, KNOWING technology is not the same as really USING it. The landscape of education has dramatically altered from the 20th to the 21st century. Case in point: most of the major universities (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MIT_OpenCourseWare) are now putting not just course outlines and reading lists online, but the entire course, including things such as tests and quizzes, lecture notes, textbooks and even streaming video of the professor teaching the course. The information content is no longer the main purpose of education. Information is available everywhere and any time, at the drop of a keystroke. Content alone is not proprietary. The key is learning how to find, filter and use that content effectively.

My high school age nephew said that he just can't function without My Space. Most adults, if they've even heard of My Space, manage to exist quite well without it. For kids, it is their social network. Previous generations have networked in everything from malt shops to Woodstock. This generation not only uses the Web for academic and job related skills, but it is also their preferred method of social communication. Since continued use of a tool increases the skill in which you use it, the sky is truly the limit for the next generation in terms of how effectively they will use the Web.

Web 2.0 addresses the interactivity of the Web. Instead of the static Web sites of the past, today's sites, Blogs and Wikis draw you into them, allowing for both input and feedback. Every day I run across new and amazing tools to make information easier and more accessible. And each builds on the information and skills learned in the past, even if the past is now measured in days and months, not decades.

Consider the number of codes and passwords you use to register and login to these wondrous sites. I realized many years ago that the single index card I kept in my wallet was woefully inadequate. Today I have the information on a Rolodex (how retro), and I am on my second set of Rolodex cards. Theoretically, keeping them on my PDA or cell phone would make sense, but I could lose one of those, or, as in the case of my cell phone, mistakenly throw it in the washing machine. That Rolodex isn't going anywhere. I remember a former colleague who kept notes on old punch cards. That always impressed me, mostly because I wondered where he was able to still find so many of the 'ancient' (in computer years) punch cards to use for that purpose. I suppose it was his link with the past. The old Rolodex is part of my past, but it is continually being populated with my links to the present and future. There's a nice rhythm to that, I think.

"If you do not think about the future, you cannot have one". John Galsworthy, Swan Song

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Review: Filamentality

http://www.kn.sbc.com/cgi-bin/fil3.pl Filamentality

I really have to learn to be less excited when I find great new tools, but I get excited at the hardware store too, so...
Filamentality is an AT&T site that lets you create your own categorized lists of URLs in a Hotlist. And yes, it is a Web site which gives you a URL site that hosts your list. And it puts them in the categories of your choice. How can anyone NOT be excited by this?? It's very easy to do, and a sample site I put together within minutes can be viewed at: http://www.kn.att.com/wired/fil/pages/listadultedjs.html

However, since having all the cool tools means I can also use them, you can see the same hotlist address at:
http://tinyurl.com/2rfvhm because the Tiny URL site was able to reduce the 56 characters to 25. I may need oxygen...

Also, you can use this site to create and host Webquest for your students. As if the Hotlist was not enough.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Review: Sony Reader ebook


Reading is one of life's most impressive pleasures. I love the smell of a brand new hardcover (a.k.a. the 'new book' smell) as I open it on a lazy summer afternoon. Reading on a computer is obviously possible, but has never 'felt' the same as reading from a real book. Scrolling makes me crazy, and you just can't get comfortable. The other issues are flicker, and general eye strain. And I can't see a thing when reading a screen in sunlight. So when I got a glimpse of the new Sony Reader, I thought...in my best 'I majored in Lit' snob attitude...ha! this is just not the real deal.

But, I may have spoken too soon. This device is a little smaller than the average hardcover, and light, about 9 ounces. Easier to fit into an average sized purse than a hardcover. Flicker? Nope. Able to be read by my quickly aging eyes? No problem, just increase the text size. Scrolling? Not that either, since it shows a page at a time, and you click a forward button to change to the next page. The reader accepts both Memory Stick and SD flash memory cards, so it will also play your photos. And there's a USB plug, so it could be used to download and read websites, JPEGs or PDF docs. And you can share your ebooks with several of your electonically equivalent friends. Ah, but battery life...that's always a concern with electronics said I. Not so. The battery life, as they are selling it, is equivalent to "7,500 page turns" between charges. Even with my love of reading, that's darned impressive. I wanted to hate it. Really I did. But...

Wow. That's it. All I have left to say is 'wow'. And if anyone is looking to buy me the perfect gift, I hope they read this review. And have about $349.99. I'm worth it.

Wikipedia on the Reader:

The Sony PRS-500 Reader is an ebook reader for the U.S. market. It uses an electronic paper display developed by E Ink Corporation, that has 166 dpi resolution, four levels of grayscale, is viewable in direct sunlight, requires no power to maintain the image, and is usable in portrait or landscape orientation. The $349.99 reader uses an iTunes Store-like interface to purchase books from Sony's Connect eBook store. It also can display Adobe PDFs, personal documents, blogs, RSS newsfeeds, JPEGs, and Sony's proprietary BBeB ("BroadBand eBook") format.
The digital rights management rules of the Reader allow any purchased eBook to be read on up to six devices (at least one of those 6 must be a PC). Although you cannot share purchased eBooks on other people’s devices and accounts, you will have the opportunity to register five Readers to your account and share your books accordingly. At this time Sony has no plans to introduce time-expiring books in the U.S.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Bright Idea: Tiny URL's


Sometimes the smallest idea makes the biggest sense. Clipmarks and I-Lighters are tools we can use. Here is another that eases the pain of technology, at least a little. Tiny URL (http://tinyurl.com/) takes those incredibly long URL's and cuts them down to size. Their site says:

Are you sick of posting URLs in emails only to have it break when sent causing the recipient to have to cut and paste it back together? Then you've come to the right place. By entering in a URL in the text field below, we will create a tiny URL that will not break in email postings and never expires.

You put in the long URL, and it makes a short one for you. How sweet is that!

Note: You can also add a link to your browser toolbar to make it even easier to use. Directions are on the site.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Review: ClipMarks: Web/Blog Save Tool

If one is good...then others will follow. I recently wrote about my unbounded joy with the i-lighter product: I-Lighter http://www.i-lighter.com/ which allows you to keep only the parts of the Web site that you want to keep. As a researcher, this is a wonderous tool.

In technology, where one appears, so do others. The newest tool similar to I-Lighter is called Clipmarks. Like the I-Lighter product, it is a free site which offers an easier way to access information. Sure, you can use RSS feeds to guide you to the sites you crave, but Clipmarks will let you grab pieces of news or blogs and catalog them. You will need to download the Clipmark program (which puts a nifty little clip into your tool bar and lets you access the tool quickly).

Well then, you say smugly, why not simply hot link the URL? Of course, if you want to share the entire Web site, that is always possible. But others might not want to read all of the site, and you might want to share only the salient portion.

To use, highlight the parts of the Web site you choose, and save them to the Clipmark site: http://clipmarks.com/. Or post them directly to your Blog.

This works for videos (such as You Tube sites) and photos and...well, see it. I bet you will use it, or that your friends and colleagues would wish that you did.

also see: Tech Tools: I-Lighter http://www.i-lighter.com/

Friday, May 25, 2007

Commentary: Curriki.org, A New Way to Learn: Update

I have to admit that I have a nasty habit of saving Web sites to my cell browser to review later. I also admit that it has come in handy when I am waiting on line at the grocery, or waiting for the freight train to pass. So, the other day I went down the list while watching a train go forward and backwards across the only route I could use to get where I was going. I accessed Curriki.org, which I had marked with a star indicating it was worth a more in depth review.
Curriki was developed by Scott McNealy, the chairman of Sun Microsystems (talk about using resources efficiently). He wanted to develop a Website where you can get anything you want to learn, K - 12, browser-based and free. He used Wikipedia as a model to create a collection of online courses that can be updated, improved, vetted and added to by innovative instructors throughout the world. Curriki.org started in January 2006 and now has more than 450 courses percolating, and more than 3000 members. Anybody can study and learn any of the courses available. It isn't meant to replace schools but to supplement them, and the courses it offers may not be available locally. What a boon this is for small towns and school districts with limited resources. Teachers can access classroom-tested content materials and assessments that are current and multimedia-based. See it at: http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Main/WebHome

Update: 6/8/07:
Dear Curriki member Judith Sotir,
Thank you for being part of the Curriki community!
Curriki continues to work in support of a global education community - one that makes available the best content and curricula for teaching and learning.
We've been adding content and updating our tools to help you and the other 30,000 Curriki members-to-date develop, publish, and access open source curricula. Check out the new Curriki.org, including:
Currikulum Builder:
Available as of June 1, this first-of-its-kind editing tool enables members to develop curriculum materials through a collaborative, wiki-based platform. View the Stoichiometry lesson that one educator created using the Currikulum Builder here: http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Coll_rmlucas/Stoichiometry

To create resources or develop a collection of resources using the Currikulum Builder, or just to add one of your favorite resources to the Curriki repository, log in to Curriki and use the orange box buttons on the member home page. Use your personal member section, My Curriki, to access all your contributions and collections.
Content Partnerships:
Curriki strives constantly to build our repository of learning resources through partnerships. We are currently working with organizations in South Africa, Canada, the U.K., India, and the U.S. to bring more curricular content to the international community. Access the contributions of current "Featured Partners" here: http://www.curriki.org/xwiki/bin/view/Main/FeaturedPartners

Are you part of an organization or institution that can share high-quality content and curricula with the global community? Please send any information or inquiries to Curriki at info@curriki.org

Curriki is YOUR community, so let us know what you think of the site’s new features and tools, and send suggestions to info@curriki.org about what you’d like to see in the future. If you would like to volunteer to test new Curriki tools as they are built, review content, or lead a Curriki project, visit

PLEASE NOTE: As part of our recent re-launch, all resources that members uploaded to the Curriki repository prior to 6/1/07 have shifted from the Creative Commons 2.5 to the Creative Commons 3.0 license type, since the latter is the Curriki default license. If you do NOT wish to share resources under the Creative Commons 3.0 license, you must remove your resource(s) from the repository or change the license type. For information about license types, visit http://creativecommons.org/about/licenses/meet-the-licenses.

Thanks for being part of this unique open source education community!
--The Curriki Team

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Review: Tablet PC's

I am an unabashed fan of tablet PC's, and really don't understand why they don't cover a larger market share. Perhaps it's the weight issue, or the newness of writing on a tablet versus typing on a keyboard. Whatever the reason, they haven't caught fire in the marketplace. Perhaps the new Dell Latitude Tablet PC due out later this year will make a difference in the pen and touch category. It's a very lightweight convertible, and just might shake things up. See it in action at: http://direct2dell.com/one2one/archive/2007/05/18/15193.aspx

Monday, April 30, 2007

What's a...Widget?



a generic term for the part of a graphical user interface that allows the user to interface with the application and operating system. Widgets display information and invite the user to act in a number of ways. Typical widgets include buttons, dialog boxes, pop-up windows, pull-down menus, icons, scroll bars, resizable window edges, progress indicators, selection boxes, windows, tear-off menus, menu bars, toggle switches and forms."
from Technology and Learning April 2007 edition

Want to put Sudoko on your Blog? Check out www.widgets.yahoo.com for more info and other interesting and useful widgets.

Authentic News for ESL/EFL Learners


Check out this great site for some comprehensive news selections for ESL learners. Author and Webmaster Sean Banville prepares some ready to use lessons based on breaking news stories. Several new stories are presented each week at different levels with wonderful links; stories can be downloadable in Word.doc + PDF formats and range from very current ones to those dating back to Nov. '04. News articles can be viewed chronologically or by specific themes, including: Business English, Environment, Health, Issues, Lifestyle, Famous People and Gossip, Technology, and World News. These selections include a great variety of pre-reading activities to enhance vocabulary and overall comprehension and discussion questions with answers included. Listening is also available. In addition, Mr. Banville offers a free sample (PDF) showing various parts of his book, "1,000 Ideas & Activities for Language Teachers." Free website with donations accepted. You will be quite impressed with how comprehensive this site is!

Thanks, Robin. I would use this in conjuction with:
Today's Front Pages http://www.newseum.org/todaysfrontpages/
ESL Business News: A weekly podcast of international business news read in slow, clear English. Listen to the podcast and follow along in the accompanying script. http://www.eslbusinessnews.com/
Randall's ESL Cyber Listening Lab http://www.esl-lab.com/

Also, from Wikibooks: http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/ATALL/Input#Speed_Control_.28Variable-Speed_Playback.29 This is a method for slowing the speed on computers of any spoken programs:

Speed Control (Variable-Speed Playback)
"Intermediate-level FL learners will undoubtedly find that many of the radio programs produced for domestic audiences use language that is simply too fast for good comprehension. While there is nothing one can do about this for normal broadcast radio, there are ways to control the speed of Internet radio.
Versions 9 and 10
Windows Media Player (WMP) for Windows XP includes a variable speed playback control for locally stored files in WMA, WMV, WM, MP3 or ASF format. Speed can be varied continuously from half (0.5) to twice (2.0) normal speed without changing the pitch of the audio (avoiding the “chipmunk effect”). (Users of WMP 9 should note that only slow (0.5), normal and fast (1.4) speeds can be selected from the Play command (Play > Play Speed). To set the playback speed anywhere between 0.5 and 2.0 (including negative speeds for backwards listening of some files!) go to View > Enhancements > Play Speed Settings.)
Although WMP speed control cannot be used for live or recorded (on-demand) streaming audio, some providers of FL Internet radio allow users to download their archived audio programs. Radio France Internationale, for example, allows users to download (“télécharger”) all of its recent news broadcasts in both RealPlayer and WPM format (go to
audiocarte). One can download the desired broadcast in WMP by clicking on the WMP icon (an arrowhead inside of a multicolored circle) and then play it back as slow as 0.5 using the WMP 9 player for Windows XP.
QuickTime Player version 7 and higher (free) for Macintosh and Windows also permits speed control on playback of MP3 and some other types of audio files as well as MP4 (video). To use this feature, go to Windows -> Show A/V Controls and move the slider anywhere from 1/2 to three times normal speed. The ability of QuickTime Player to vary the playback speed of MP3 and MP4 files means that it is possible to play any audio or video podcasts at a slower or faster speed than normal. By right-clicking on an audio or video podcast in iTunes and selecting "Show Song File," the selected file can be opened and played with QuickTime Player instead of with iTunes which does not provide speed control.
iTunes does not allow variable-speed playback. However, by right-clicking (control-click for Macintosh) on a desired track and selecting "Show Song File", it is easy to find the actual MP3 file. Then right-clicking on the file will allow you to play the file using Windows Media Player or QuickTime Player. On the Macintosh with OS X, it is possible to drage the file into the QuickTime Player icon if you have this on your task bar to play the file."

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Commentary: Sotir: What, Now It's Web 3.0??? (Updated 4/30/2007)

All I can say is that I hope you were all paying attention when I noted that the WWW has been upgraded to Web 2.0. I say that because this morning I ran across an article in informationweek.com about Web 3.0. Basically, the concept is to create a 'semantic Web development environment and database that will make computers smarter.' According to Information Week, 'Semantic technology, which helps computers understand data better, is particularly useful when combining large data sets...A keyword search generally returns only documents that contain the queried keyword. A semantic search would return ones related to the specific meaning of the search term (i.e., military tank but not water tank), as well as those related to synonyms (i.e., armored vehicles). '
OK, I think I have effectively embraced the interactive/collaborative/participational/'we are the world' side of Web 2.0 but before I even feel totally comfortable with that ( BTW: my original Web 2.0 commentary has not even been archived yet), they start developing Web 3.0. Hey, I use the browser on my cell phone several times a day. I check my Blogs AND I can download the newest Podcasts off of my phone. I am there, baby. Oh yeah. Bleeding edge blah,blah,blah. But now Web 3.0 touts an effort to make computers even smarter. Uh,what about us? Who's working on making US smarter?

I don't know about you, but I have to go upgrade my memory chips and take an aspirin 4.0.

update: April 30, 2007: For a very comprehensive article on Web 2.0 with an educational bent, check out:
http://www.techlearning.com/showArticle.php?articleID=196604380 The Web 2.0 'Pocket Dictionary' is especially good.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Chat and Email in English


The English Maze allows students to find other English students worldwide to practice English skills. Students from any age (to 60+) can find online 'friends' to converse with, and can choose by occupation, country, age etc.

English Idioms and Proverbs


Meanings and examples of idioms and proverbs, with drawings by students to illustrate.

Diagramming Sentences


Do you ever wish you had a site that will help with diagramming sentences? Here it is~!

Using Microsoft Word


Modules for lessons on using Microsoft Word.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Commentary: Sotir: Mom Blogs

When major media freaked at the news last month that moms in droves were ditching TV morning shows in favor of mommy blogs, one group wasn't at all surprised – the mommy bloggers and readers themselves.
Because the reality behind the startling statistic – nearly 450,000 women TV viewers lost last season (a decline of about 10 percent) – is as up close and personal as your next-door neighbor. One reader of my blog captured this intimacy perfectly:
"I really see the blogging community, for moms, as an 'over the back fence' community. Our grandmothers would visit with other neighbors as they hung out the laundry, they would chat with the milkman maybe, or catch up at the butcher shop, but in modern times we live in a world of strangers. It really brings in a sense of community."
Christian Science Monitor: Moms help moms through blogs: By Barbara Curtis, Tue Apr 3

Why would anyone think this is a surprising statistic? Think about the age of the average new mom. In her twenties or early thirties, and if she didn't have technology at the moment of her birth, she had it by the time she went to grade school. Sure, its changed dramatically since that point, but while TV worked for the Boomer moms, this group needs more interaction, and venues such as I-Village and Blogs makes sense. Balancing work and kids and marriage means time is at a premium. Sitting down to watch a TV show, even with TIVO, is a major time commitment. The Internet is open and available 24/7. It's the middle of the night and your baby has colic? Get on the computer and the entire world will give you advice. Does it take a village? Yes, if it's a virtual one.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Commentary: New Tools: Citizendium

From TechLearning (http://www.techlearning.com/content/ednews/index.php#article5)

Wikipedia Rival Goes Live
Citizendium, a new, free, user-created online encyclopedia, is designed to avoid some of the pitfalls that have bedeviled Wikipedia. While anyone can read and edit Citizendium, they will have to use a real name to do so. Larry Sanger, one of the co-founders of Wikipedia, believes that anonymity contributes to some of Wikipedia's more publicized faults. The volunteer contributors to Citizendium are expected to provide their real names, have that identify confirmed and submit a short biography. And their contributions will be reviewed for accuracy by experts in given fields. Sanger originally conceived of Citizendium as a fork of Wikipedia. A fork copies everything in a given product and then goes off in its own direction. But he decided that it made more sense to start from scratch than to first mine the Wikipedia content for any potential "gold." Given the increased barriers to participation, it's likely to be some time, if ever, before Citizendium, approaches Wikipedia's three million member accounts. Citizendium currently has about 900 authors and 200 editors. Of its 1,100 articles, only 11 display the green check that indicates that it has been "approved" by editors.

A lot of the workshops and lectures I do on technology center around Blogs and Wikis and podcasts etc. The question 'how many know what a Wiki is?' is generally followed by blank stares, until I give them Wikipedia as a base. Ah yes, most have heard of Wikipedia, and many have used it. For several years now, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia (www.wikipedia.org) has been drawing us into an interactive format for providing information. I tend to think that it epitomizes the Web 2.0 school of thought, where information is in constant flux and readers are more active participants.
Citizendium is the new kid on the block. Like everything else, it was inevitable that even the venerated Wikipedia would need a 2.0 type upgrade. To be fair, Wikipedia itself has evolved through its rather short life, but as with many things, there are inherent 'flaws', not the least being the relative anonymity of its authors. Citizendium takes on those flaws and ups the ante.
I see Wikipedia as more the free-spirited, few rules hippie-type, and Citizendium being its more matured boomer type brother. Viva revolution! Check it out: http://en.citizendium.org/wiki/Main_Page

Commentary: Words of Wisdom

Tech Learning Quotes of the Month
The annual SUN Worldwide Education and Research Conference was held in February in San Francisco, with this year's theme being Education 2.0: Education in the Participation Age. The following quotes are from a student panel addressing educators, business executives, and researchers.
"In the '00s, information is being recognized as more valuable than ever before, and we're exchanging information at a much higher level than the previous age group."—University of California Berkeley student Darian Shirazi, explaining why universities should not limit information access through filtering.
"When college kids go on the Internet, they're not browsing. They know what they're looking for."—Santa Clara University's Lori Ma on how students are going to Google and other Internet sites for initial research rather than the campus library.
Also in February in San Francisco was the 26th annual Teaching Reading and Learning Diversity Conference, sponsored by reading software company Don Johnston. More than 600 educators and research professionals shared innovations and insights relevant to all aspects of technology and literacy. Below are a few highlights:
"By the year 2020, intellectual property as we know it will not exist." Mike Hall, technology director for the State of Georgia, on one aspect of the future impact of digital content.
"They're tech savvy, but not for teaching."—Sheryl Abshire, administrative coordinator of technology at Calcasieu Parish School System, on the high turnover rate of first-and second-year teachers and the need for high-quality professional development.
"The only people ready to use all the technology all the time are the students."—Eugene, Oregon's Howard Elementary school principal Kim Finch, speaking of her school's "journey of digital infusion."
source: http://www.techlearning.com/showArticle.php?articleID=196604309: Technology and Learning Magazine

I am a sucker for good quotes, and these really made me stop and think. The first quote "In the '00s, information is being recognized as more valuable than ever before, and we're exchanging information at a much higher level than the previous age group."— refers to universities not limiting information access through filtering. That is a valid point. Much of the learning applied today is through information gathering, not just the information itself. Filters, while arguably necessary, often filter the good with the bad, limiting access.

The second quote "When college kids go on the Internet, they're not browsing. They know what they're looking for."— also drives home the same point. While the campus library is still a viable resource, it is the ability to access information from many sources that defines the education process of today. We have become 'googlized' with the availability of search sites growing exponentially. Tools such as Technorati( http://technorati.com/) allow us to pull information from specific sources such as blogs, and give us the ability to further winnow down the information to the most relevant. And do the kids know how to search? By the time they get to the college level, yes. There is no way they can get through the amount of information available without developing that skill. However, with new technologies and search engines developing daily, that is a skill that requires constant upgrading to remain viable.

The quote on intellectual content: "By the year 2020, intellectual property as we know it will not exist."— also makes sense. Look at the number of top flight universities putting their intellectual content online, without cost. You can virtually 'attend' these institutions without leaving home. Streaming videos and podcasts give you access to the best professors, and even textbooks, long a bastion for intellectual content rights, are being made available online. It is no longer the information that is valuable, but rather the way the information is analyzed. As I have often said, merely having access to information is not the same as being able to use that information effectively. We were all bombarded with the phrase 'critical thinking skills' in the last part of the previous century, and that skill is even more necessary today. I think we have probably moved from 'critical thinking' to 'critical analysis', but the ability to sort through available information is indeed a critical skill.

"They're tech savvy, but not for teaching."—is unfortunately too true. Just having the tech skills does not mean you can use the skills appropriately to teach. What I see often in professional development is the lack of base understanding for using the skills being taught effectively. My sister-in-law is a teacher who wants to use technology in her classes, but is a late immigrant to the tech revolution. She said that often professional development programs sound like the 'wa wa wa' of the teacher from Charlie Brown. A lot of talk, but, without the base skills to put context into what she is supposed to be learning, it all flys over her head. Her base of knowledge is not appropriate to utilize the skill.

In addition to getting everyone on the same page prior to teaching a new skill or program, it is essential that the timing and experience coincides with actual use. Imagine learning how to use a computer without the computer in front of you. You see all that it can do, but with no actual hands-on use, the learning process is severely compromised. Professional development needs to be professionally developed as well. In some cases, it may be effective to give instructors a pre-test prior to the professional development program to determine the experience level of the audience. That survey may mean the difference between an effective PD program and a waste of time and resources.

I don't necessarily agree with the last quote "The only people ready to use all the technology all the time are the students."— Students are not all equally tech savvy either. It's true they are probably less afraid to use technology, but that does not equate with having the actual skill for using the technology. I think it is short-sighted to assume that we don't need to teach students how to use technology effectively. They may have been doing PowerPoint since the first grade, but that does not mean that they can create an effective PowerPoint presentation.

I can go to my high school and college-aged nephews and still make them say 'huh? what is that???' when I bring up the newest tech toys and tools. There is just too much out there. These are kids who were brought up on technology. Their father is an IT manager and their mother is a teacher. They can pull apart a computer with ease (and I often go to them to do just that), but it's hard to keep up with the newest technologies. That's when they come to their aunt. I think that today's kids are born cable ready, but that alone is not enough. I believe that the previous quote about new instructors being tech savvy, but not for teaching, bears this out. We need to re-design the curriculum from the students up to the instructors, without making assumptions on the way. Just as in any curriculum, skill levels tend to vary. We have to understand those differences, and learn to teach accordingly. As Aldous Huxley said, it is indeed 'a brave new world'.