Thursday, July 31, 2008

Math Open Reference

Most of us know that math is better understood when it is visually assisted with manipulatives. Here is a site that explores high school geometry in a very visual format.

"Mission: A free interactive math textbook on the web. Initially covering high-school geometry. Over the past few years, enormous strides have been made in providing computers in educational settings to aid the learning process. This, combined with high speed access to the Internet have opened up many new opportunities in education. This open reference project has the goal of providing high-quality content for these computers free of charge to the end user, and provide numerous benefits over paper textbooks. Find out more.. Using interactive tools and compelling animations, it provides an engaging way to learn and explore the subject. Teachers will have new ways to teach, and the students a new way to learn that is fun and engaging. "

Commentary: Sotir: Technology Melting Pot

"The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet." WF Gibson

Nowhere is the above quote more true than in education. There really is no standard for how accepting educators are that technology is indeed a part of everyone's future, and how and when they access that technology. In every school there are the pioneers; those who have never met a new technology that they don't at least try, if not embrace. But educational technology is a pyramid, with a select few at the top and the majority filling out the rest.

I'm often surprised when I work with high school and college students by how little educational Websites are actually used. The main reason is that they don't really know that these sites exist. While some social networking sites such as My Space or Facebook might be ubiquitous, tools to make study easier or more effective, say StudyRails or StudyCurve, are not as well known. I'm also surprised by their inability to search with any engine other than Google (or even know that other search engines exist), and that they don't know even the most fundamental tips to make searching more effective.

With instructors, I find even less understanding and acceptance of technology. Educators from grade school to university level are overwhelmed with achievement gaps, standards-based educational reform and standardized tests. The mantra has been 'No Child Left Behind' but the reality is that we need a policy of 'No Teacher Left Behind'. If we want our children prepared for the future, we need to make sure that their instructors are sufficiently well-versed in tools that students will need to achieve success. In addition, administrators often disregard technology skill development training for classroom use. We need a top-down solution.

There is a societal difference in learning now that didn't exist 30 or even 20 years ago. In the past, teachers could teach with texts and lectures, and that was sufficient for students to learn and succeed. But just as previous generations were taught the Dewey Decimal System and how to use a card catalog, todays' students need to learn the skills necessary for finding information effectively. The general principles of learning still apply, but the methodology has changed dramatically. There is a wealth of information at your fingertips, but if you have not learned how to access it, it is merely a lot of wasted code.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

New Technology: Slide Share

"SlideShare ( is the world's largest community for sharing presentations.- Individuals & organizations upload presentations to share their ideas, connect with others, and generate leads for their businesses.- Anyone can find presentations on topics that interest them. They can tag, download, or embed presentations into their own blogs & websites.SlideShare is the best way to get your slides out there on the web, so your ideas can be found and shared by a wide audience. Do you want to get the word out about your product or service? Do you want your slides to reach people who could not make it to your talk? Are you a teacher looking to share your lesson plans? It only takes a moment - start uploading now, and let your slides do the talking!

Some of the things you can do on SlideShare- Embed slideshows into your own blog or website. - Share slideshows publicly or privately. There are several ways to share privately. - Synch audio to your slides. - Market your own event on slideshare. - Join groups to connect with SlideShare members who share your interests - Download the original PowerPoint / Pdf file"

New Technology: Voice Thread

Did you ever want to share a photo, and get comments back from viewers? Voice Thread ( allows you to post a photo or a diagram and allow for responses from the viewers. There is an extensive series of demos and tutorials, so pop onto the site and check it out. It really is quite awesome.

"A VoiceThread is an online media album that can hold essentially any type of media (images, documents and videos) and allows people to make comments in 5 different ways - using voice (with a microphone or telephone), text, audio file, or video (with a webcam) - and share them with anyone they wish. They can even be exported to an Archival Movie for offline use on a DVD or video-enabled MP3 player. A VoiceThread allows group conversations to be collected and shared in one place, from anywhere in the world."

  • By Voice (mic or phone), Text, Audio file, or Webcam. Simple voice recording within your web browser allows you to collect the voices of an entire group on a single page. All you need is a mic and Flash Player 7+. Capturing voices couldn't be easier.
  • Video Doodling allows you to control the playback of a video as you comment using a mic or webcam, giving you the power to voice comment over specific segments of video. Move to a spot, doodle, then move to another, all while commenting.
  • The Doodler is a new way of annotating. It captures your drawing as an animation synced to your voice or text commentary. Instead of seeing the final product of your thoughts, viewers can see the actual process. Doodling delivers a sense of live presence.
  • Put your VoiceThread on any site you want, or better yet, put it on many. Embedding is easy and allows you to add group collaboration to any website. Whether it's feedback, critique, or group story-telling, collect it how and where you want.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Add Full Documentaries to Blogs and Wikis and... SnagFilms has complete documentaries that you can quickly and easily add to things like Blogs, or use for class lessons. And yes, I am an educator, so yes, they need to be free. OK, there are a few short (seconds) of commercials interspersed, but did I mention the docs are FREE?
I can see this working either in or out of the lab, with ESL students listening to the films and individually answering questions to aid in speaking and listening skills, or with an LCD projector, in a group.
It's very easy to use. As an educator, also good words to hear. Click on the doc you want to add (in this case I chose Morgan Spurlocks' "Supersize Me"), click on 'Snag', choose your platform from the list (in my case I picked the Blogger icon), put in your Blog ID and password, and then tell it where you wanted to add it (in this case, right below this post). To view, click on the doc and voila! The little doc widget magically appears as a post on your Blog. Doesn't get a lot easier than that. There are categories of films from history to sports to the environment, and surely it would be easy enough to find one and create a lesson plan.

Many thanks to Nancy McKeand and her Random Thoughts Blog post If you want to watch a good documentary…
( for pointing me in this direction, and good luck to Nancy on her move from LA.

Snag Film Example

Try this to check out the quality and note that the commercials really are unobtrusive and short.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Curriki homepage has a new design. Included are:

It's a good site and worth a second look.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Commentary: Sotir: Email

This is an email I recently received. Receiving comments on my Blog is a great treat for me. I enjoyed Wordelizer (see link below) very much. Wordelizer is indeed a wonderful way to spend excess minutes. Merci!
As for how we can be 'saved' from time saving devices...alas, there seems to be little hope. For example, I spent the weekend adding more apps to my iPhone. At the touch of an icon I can now find the 'cheapest' gasoline in town ('cheap' being relevant), play Mahjohng, and listen to a radio station that plays the kind of music I like to hear. I now have a handy shopping list I can check off when I run out of mustard or bread, and can find the calorie count at the restaurants I frequent (unless I prefer to ignore them and order with abandon). Yes, I can now waste time much more efficiently than before. I don't even need to enter a URL. I'll add these too. One never knows when they will come in handy.
Received 7/21/2008:

I was on ATT's knowledge explorer and found your blog and filament ESL Technology Websites

nice work

I too have a love/hate relationship with technology and gadgets. What is worse is my wife does too. How can we be saved from time saving devices? Oh well..I thought I would suggest just three of my pages to "waste your time" ;-))

one is a virtual thermin that you "play" with your mouse

the second is the Wordelizer which is a sort of interactive dictionary page that I constantly try to up date each school year (suggestions welcome.)

finally robot anxiety a cooky short story.



Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Commentary: Sotir: A World in a Frenzy

When will we all realize that the 'time-saving' gadgets that are invented daily are actually insidious in the way they use up all the spare time we have? I've often commented on the fact that I frankly love technology. I've mentioned that there are relatively few widgets I can pass up. I've alluded to the fact that there are a few things, like iPhones and MacAir and iPods and...well, perhaps even more than a few gadgets that I just can't do without. At home, my doors and windows talk to me and announce things like 'Patio Door Open', and my refrigerator reminds me if I fail to shut it completely or when the filter is due for a change.
I Twitter, I Jaiku, I Jott, and therefore I am always accessible. I love making my own ring tones from my favorite music (and believe me, you DON'T want to be assigned the 'Bad to the Bone' tone...). My iPhone has a minimum of 175 songs I can't be more than 2 foot away from at any given time. Why, what if I am waiting for a train? 'Leaving on a Jet Plane' might soothe my tension. And speaking of tension, 'Breathe In, Breathe Out' might help some. Too many errands? 'Chasing Pavements' makes sense. Hungry? There's always a 'Cheeseburger in Paradise'. Tax day looming? Try 'Day Too Soon'. And if I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring, well, 'You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet'.